I’m Robert Moorehead. I’m an associate professor of sociology here at COD. I want to talk to you about how our teaching matters because in the general public and on the board, there seem to be some misconceptions.
Before coming to COD, I taught at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. I taught students from all over the world. I helped them adapt to life in Japan, and to develop the skills they needed to succeed.
Before then I was doing research on a Fulbright fellowship also in Japan, working as a Spanish to Japanese interpreter, translator, and assistant teacher at a Japanese elementary school with a group of immigrant families from South America. My ethnographic fieldwork focused on the barriers to immigrant families’ success.
I brought these skills here to COD, and I draw on this experience consistently in my classes. I promote language classes and study abroad. I introduce students to the discipline of sociology, and I help them analyze our complex racial and ethnic landscape. I teach them analytical skills to understand our social world, and how to have courageous conversations about difficult topics.
I also offer a kind ear and advice to students who are struggling because they’re homeless. Or they’re near tears because our class discussions closely mirror the challenges they face daily. Or they’re trying to get their lives on track after a sexual assault and the prosecutor just dropped all charges. Or they have a loved one in rehab. Or they’ve been the victim of domestic violence. I’ve even saved a student’s life by having police go to his home before a suicide attempt.
As my colleagues and I do all this, we see our teaching devalued by a contract offer that would make us responsible for pretty much everything, from student self-esteem to raising money for the college, to community service, in addition to all we’re already doing. Our starting pay would be cut by $15,000, paying people with advanced degrees and expertise less than I earned with a bachelor’s degree more than two decades ago. When you add in vague criteria for promotion and a slower pace through the matrix, faculty also end up living on smaller retirements. COD has the highest paid administrators in the state, and wants to cut faculty pay.
We hear bold promises of COD becoming the cultural destination of the area, $4 million here, $50 million there. We’ve sat through presentations in which Dr Caputo assured us repeatedly that all is well with the college’s finances, that there’s no problem, that we’re doing great. Until the talk comes to the very people directly responsible for student success: the faculty. Then suddenly the college is a pauper in dire straits.
It seems faculty aren’t as sexy as shiny new buildings, new gadgets, or software packages. But our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. We all deserve better.