Kudos to the Montana Kaimin for identifying this breach: Missoula College has way too many adjunct faculty members to permanent faculty per policy at the University of Montana.
Cassie Hemphill, president of the Missoula College Faculty Association, told the Missoulian the ratio has been slipping further and further from 25/75 percent split called for in policy, and faculty have had enough.
Hemphill, an adjunct herself, said the situation affects students, faculty and the college as a whole:
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be here. But there comes a point where you can only be taken advantage of for so long before it starts affecting morale."
The Office of the Provost has a goal for Missoula College to get back to the ratio identified in policy, no more than 25 percent of instructional faculty being "non-tenurable."
It probably will take a while. (FYI: Last I saw, the Kaimin story was in print only, so I don't have a link for you.)
Hemphill talked a little bit about the tough situation adjunct faculty find themselves in, essentially in limbo every semester. Writer Herb Childress is publishing a whole book about the life of the adjunct, and his column was published last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Some few will get in. Some larger number will not. But the peculiar cruelty of higher education is its third option — the vast purgatory of contingent life, in which we are neither welcomed nor rejected, but merely held adjacent to the mansion, to do the work that our betters would prefer not to do.
The prospect of intellectual freedom, job security, and a life devoted to literature, combined with the urge to recoup a doctoral degree’s investment of time, gives young scholars a strong incentive to continue pursuing tenure-track jobs while selling their plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
— Kevin Birmingham
Again, the rationalists might say that we should walk away, that we should refuse to support an industry that behaves as it does. But intellectual work is not solely rational. It is a form of desire. It is our identity. It is a community that we love, that does not love us back.
Hemphill too talked about joy of teaching and of witnessing students have an "aha!" moment, and she also talked about reaching the limit of tolerance for the treatment of contract faculty. The union proposed a strategy for ramping up the number of tenured faculty, so we'll have to talk to the new Missoula College dean once that person is on board to find out if the plan looks like it will work.
On another note, I wanted to share with you the most productive wander I had today at the Skaggs building.
On the way to an interview, I said a quick hello to Mark Pershouse, a faculty member who took the opportunity to share a brochure with me on the "Health Careers Opportunity Program," which he's talked about. It helps students from economically or disadvantaged backgrounds get into and be successful in health programs.
That's fantastic, and it also fits into the project reporter Cameron Evans and I are working on about economic mobility in education. Stay tuned.
Then, photographer Kurt Wilson and I met faculty member Kim Madson and recovering addict Levi Bessette for an interview about a class she is leading on the opioid epidemic. If all goes well, you'll read about it this weekend, and not only the course, but how it fits into a newer model for higher education.
We learned Madson actually had to move the class to a bigger space because she had too many students, 90 instead of 70. It's for pharmacy students, but students from all kinds of majors are taking it.
On the way out, Madson asked if I planned to call faculty member Rich Bridges, a neuroscientist who gave the first two lectures in the course. He talked to the class about addiction and the changes that take place in the brain, and then Bessette offered his experience, which was the on-the-ground reflection of the scientific explanation Bridges shared. Apparently, the students were captivated.
Anyway, I said yes, I would call Bridges, and then, we ran into him in the hall. And he filled us in on how this class illustrates the moving and shaking going on at UM.
So those were the fruitful laps in the Skaggs Building. Look for the story this weekend. I'll share it in the newsletter next week too, again, if all goes as planned this week.
Enrollment in neuroscience is going up, up, up, but if you missed it, reporter David Erickson had this story about housing prices in Missoula. This is ironic, but a Realtor was thanking lucky stars that enrollment wasn't going through the roof at UM overall.
In fact, local real estate agent Paul Burrow said that if it weren’t for the University of Montana’s steep enrollment decline this decade, housing prices in Missoula would be even more astronomical.
“If we hadn’t seen that (enrollment decline) we would probably be in big trouble,” he said, speaking at the Missoula Organization of Realtors’ annual housing report on Thursday.
Hmm. If it's a silver lining, it looks like a thin one.
I really appreciated a comment from Salish Kootenai College faculty member Aaron Brien, who offered several talks at the library about what Linderman got right and what he got wrong in the Plenty Coups story.
Anytime a foreign entity tells a story from the outside looking in, it will never quite go the distance. Yet (Brien) believes people are ready for unvarnished reality.
"I am finding people are coming to the place where they want the truth," said Brien, himself a member of the Apsáalooke Nation. "They want authenticity, even if it makes them perplexed."
Several other items in brief:
You might recall from this enrollment update that Native American numbers are down significantly at UM, and on the upswing at MSU. UM built the Payne Family Native American Center years ago.
On the research front, here's some ways that climate change is going to mess with Montanans, especially children.
Nick Silverman, a hydroclimatologist at the University of Montana and the co-author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, said all four of the last four years have been the hottest on record.
Additionally, Provost Jon Harbor penned this column about online education and UM's quest to expand it.
As a child, I learned how to do complex calculations on a slide rule, and I remember heated discussions about the educational impacts of allowing students to use the new “electronic calculators.”
Also, College of Business Dean Chris Shook is on his way out to a bigger school, and after just three years at UM, ICYMI.
And straight from UM:
- Montana Public Radio Spring Pledge Drive Begins April 7 April 2, 2019
Montana Public Radio will feature music celebrations, thank you gifts and pets — lots and lots of pets — during its annual Spring Pledge Drive this April.
- Montana Supreme Court Case to Take Stage at UM’s Dennison Theatre April 5 April 2, 2019
The Montana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Kalispell v. Thomas Salsgiver at 9:30 a.m. Friday, April 5, in the Dennison Theatre at the University of Montana.
- UM Theatre & Dance to Perform ‘Assassins’ in April April 2, 2019
The UM School of Theatre & Dance will present “Assassins” by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman to audiences this April.
- UM to Host Educators Career Fair April 8 April 1, 2019
UM will host the multistate Educators Career Fair on Monday, April 8.
- UM Business Dean Accepts New Position April 1, 2019
Christopher Shook, the Sprunk & Burnham Dean of the College of Business since 2016, will leave UM this June to serve as dean of the Gordon Ford College of Business at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
- UM Study: Tech Companies Thrive in Montana April 1, 2019
The University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research recently found that high-tech companies continue to be a critical component of Montana’s economy.
- UM Researchers Publish New Discoveries on Bacterial Viruses March 29, 2019
UM researchers have published new insights in the Journal Science on how bacteria cause infections, which may help with future infection treatments.
- UM Research Connects Big Data Marketing Tools, Land Conservation March 28, 2019
The same data used by digital marketers to sell products can also help inspire conservation behaviors, according to new research from UM.
- UM Culinary Institute, School of Art Collaborate for Tasting Event March 26, 2019
Tickets are now on sale for “The Tasting of Big Sky Country,” a special event featuring UM School of Arts ceramicist Ryan Caldwell and the Big Sky Culinary Institute’s Capstone Class on Friday, April 19.
- UM Family Medicine Residency Program Announces Class of 2022 March 26, 2019
After receiving more than 1,000 applications and conducting 125 interviews, UM's Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana has announced its 2022 class of incoming residents.
- Award-winning Broadcaster to Deliver Annual Dean Stone Lecture at UM March 26, 2019
Celeste Headlee, a 20-year public radio veteran, will present “Ten Ways to Have Better Conversations” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, in the University Center Theater.
- Northwest Horn Symposium to Draw International Musicians to UM March 29-31 March 25, 2019
The School of Music will host the Northwest Horn Symposium for the first time, featuring internationally and nationally recognized French horn artists in master classes, lectures and recitals.
- UM Sees Record Applicants for Counselor Education Program March 25, 2019
The University of Montana has received a record number of graduate applications in the University’s Department of Counseling, for those wanting to pursue careers as clinical mental health or school counselors.
- Montana Poll: Fewer Than Half Knew Montana Once Elected a Female to U.S. Congress March 25, 2019
UM’s Big Sky Poll recently launched a new online poll and asked participants, “From what you know, has Montana ever elected a female representative to the U.S. Congress?”
That's all for now. Thank you for reading, especially indulging my trip through Skaggs today.
— Keila Szpaller
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