Monday, December 21, 2015

Professor Fired Over Loyalty Oath

By Professor Doom

     The terrorist attack in Paris brought a strange memory back to me. Yes, there were similarities between the Paris attack and the 9-11 attack, but it wasn’t a sense of déjà vu, although plenty of that was justified. There was just something…familiar. No, it wasn’t the weird suicidal assault on a pointless target (commercial buildings, restaurant-goers) when high value targets were nearby  (there were many better targets than those buildings, and the President of France was vulnerable and five minutes from the shooting, guess the terrorists didn’t want to go after a political leader?). No, it wasn’t the conveniently found “dropped” passport quickly identifying the culprits (maybe these guys should start investing in fanny packs or something?). And no, it wasn’t the quick and convenient claiming of responsibility by the group involved, allowing for a quick plunge into war for France without any investigation. Much like back then, I annoy people when I ask questions about how neatly this is all done…but people are too angry right now to consider more thoughtful responses (again, déjà vu…).

      But it wasn’t this familiar script that brought back a memory. No, what I thought back upon was the loyalty oath I suddenly had to swear to the state, in response to the 9-11 attack. Most faculty shrugged and swore the oath, and I did the same. It struck me as silly—does anyone think, in this day and age where horrific crimes are committed every day by the people that rule us, that a signed slip of paper swearing perpetual loyalty to state masters is really going to matter? I found it quaintly medieval, and I had other battles to fight.

      Anyway, loyalty oaths are back in vogue. A beaten-down faculty generally don’t resist such silliness, but sometimes some faculty can afford integrity:

     The novelist is an adjunct, the "temporary worker" that is now quite common in higher education, and has been one for 14 years at a community college in Arizona. It seems I’ll never run short of community college stupidity, and I admit this is hardly the worst I’ve seen….but it’s just one more straw on the back of our incredibly incompetent higher education system. If loyalty oaths were so important, why did the college wait 14 years to enforce it?

     The college is hiding behind accreditation as an excuse:

Officials at the college told the station that it had no choice under state law but to require Sallis to sign. The officials said that, in preparation for an accreditation review, the college reached out to 800 adjunct instructors -- Sallis among them -- and found that some of them had never signed the loyalty oath, and that they have been told they must do so to keep their jobs.

     Ah, admin sure does like to obfuscate. The college in question is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It’s simple enough search their policies and see there’s nothing about loyalty oaths there. Maybe it’s a state law thing…but why not fire the administrators who were in violation of state law for 14 years? These guys are paid a fortune, after all. As always, I think some questions need to be asked here, even over something so piffling as loyalty oaths. If the adjunct can be fired over these “important” things, why not the administration who failed to keep proper paperwork for 14 years? Oh yeah, that’s right, community colleges violate so many other laws regularly this is hardly worth mentioning.

     But he goes on to say that the issue is a serious one. "Signing an oath under such circumstances isn’t an expression of loyalty, however. It’s blackmail."

     Indeed, “sign this oath or be fired” is hardly a way to win loyalty, especially for adjuncts, who, like most community college faculty, can expect nothing but a kick in the teeth if they try to act with integrity.

     And so the school loses a teacher with 14 years of experience, a successful novelist who knows more about real writing than faculty at many prestigious institutions. 

      As always, the question comes up: why would you expect a quality education from an institution which treats the teachers like this? If administration at community colleges can force the teachers to engage in this empty gesture, if administration is more concerned about useless and meaningless forms than quality teachers, why would you suspect the education will have any substance there?

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