At cash-strapped Va. colleges, adjuncts carry the load
Cash-strapped colleges across in the country, including in Virginia, are relying increasingly on low-paid adjunct professors to close teaching gaps, especially when schools increase the number of students without adding faculty.
Fully-trained and capable professors with PhDs are teaching seven, eight or nine courses a year and pulling down barely subsistence-level money. The predicament is breathing new life into a flagging labor movement that sees adjunct professors as attractive recruitment targets.
According to a revealing story in this Sunday’s Richmond Times Dispatch, at Virginia Commonwealth University,
the state’s largest school, only 35 percent of full-time faculty held tenure or tenure-track positions in 2012. In the early 2000s, the school added 8,500 students without adding faculty. Following this, the newspaper stated, budget cuts made jobs even tighter.
The school has 31,000 students, 2,048 full-time instructional faculty and 686 administrative and professional faculty members. They are buttressed by 1,205 adjunct, part-time professors. Many race from course to course to make ends meet.
One of these is Jennifer Garvin Sanchez, who makes an annual income of $18,500 (about poverty level for a family of three) while teaching seven religious studies courses a year. She says that maintenance workers earn more than she does.
The dilemma has prompted some adjunct professors to join the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members. Professors at Georgetown University joined in May, and American University’s adjunct faculty voted for collective bargaining last year.
More recently, in October, some professors at Tufts University, my alma mater, voted to join the SEIU.
Having such grossly-underpaid professors flies in the face of criticisms, especially among conservatives, that higher education is a cesspool of waste, ripe for MOOCs (massive open online courses), which, according to some, represent an inescapable and welcome high-tech future. The issue helped fuel the venomous situation at the University of Virginia last year, in which popular President Teresa Sullivan was ousted and then reinstated.
The sad part is that if anyone truly gets hurt by MOOCs, it is not likely to be overpaid administrators or sports coaches. It will be the adjunct professors, once again.
It’s fine to not build parking at Tysons Metro stations
Despite years of planning to transform Tysons Corner from a car-oriented edge city into a walkable downtown, some Virginia residents are surprised to learn that Tysons’ four Metro stations will not be surrounded by parking lots.
The questions seem to stem from confusion about what Metro stations in Tysons Corner are supposed to accomplish. Are they places for D.C.-bound commuters to board, or are they the destination stations for people working in Tysons? There will surely be some of both, but most users will be the latter, and they’re who the line must be designed to best serve.
If stations are surrounded by parking, that will reduce the number of buildings within walking distance of Metro. Not only that, it would also make the walk less interesting and more dangerous, since walking through a busy parking lot is hardly a pleasant experience. That in turn would reduce the number of people who could use Metro to commute to Tysons. That would undermine the entire project.
The main purpose of the Silver Line project is to transform Tysons Corner. Tysons is a behemoth, with about the same amount of office space as downtown Baltimore. It can’t grow or continue to prosper as a car-oriented place. Nor would it make sense to invest almost $7 billion in a new Metrorail line if it were not going to support a more urban Tysons, or serve easy commuting into Tysons.
Consider other walkable downtown areas, like downtown D.C. or Rosslyn. Would it make sense if Gallery Place Metro station were surrounded by parking instead of buildings? Of course it wouldn’t. Tysons will one day be the same. It may not look like that yet, but it never will if its best land is used for parking lots.
Yes, it’s true there should be enough parking along the Dulles Corridor for commuters into D.C. to use the system. That’s why there are large parking lots at the Wiehle Avenue and West Falls Church stations. There’s no need for drivers to enter congested Tysons Corner to find parking, when more highway-oriented stations exist specifically for that purpose.
[Continue reading Dan Malouff's post at BeyondDC.com.]
Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
What if Bill Bolling takes on Mark Warner?
The Post plows a bit of ground familiar to Bearing Drift readers: Which Republican can mount a serious challenge to Sen. Mark Warner? There are two GOP candidates in the race — Shak Hill and Howie Lind. Neither has much name recognition, and an objective observer would give neither much chance to beat the very popular Warner.
Ken Cuccinelli’s name is on the lips of many of his supporters. I appreciate the sentiment. But let’s be brutally honest: Cuccinelli blew his chance to take on Warner. Yes, he could still be a serious challenger. But I strongly suspect that if he decides to make another statewide run, it will be against Tim Kaine in 2018.
There’s a bit of a drumbeat for Sen. Jeff McWaters to make a run against Warner next year, and he may have the desire to run. His one downside? He could be vulnerable on health care. It’s not insurmountable. But you can bet the ranch Warner’s team is building a nice oppo file on McWaters based upon his time as CEO of Amerigroup.
McWaters’ clear advantage is that he could quickly become financially competitive in a race against Warner. Does he have the chops to run statewide? That’s the open question.
But there is another possibility — a potential candidate who has run and won statewide and who still seems to have the bug: Bill Bolling.
[Continue reading Norman Leahy's post at BearingDrift.com.]
Norman Leahy blogs at Bearing Drift. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
Montgomery County approves new bus plan
After five years of study, Montgomery County approved a plan for a 10-route, 81-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) network yesterday. If built, it could be the nation’s largest BRT network.
The County Council unanimously voted for a plan to set aside road space for BRT on several major roads, including Route 355, Route 29, Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road, all of which already have high rates of transit use. It proposes dedicated bus lanes in 78 percent of the network, whether by repurposing existing lanes or widening roads to add new ones.
Supporters say the plan will give travelers an alternative to sitting in traffic while supporting sustainable growth in places such as White Flint and White Oak. “There’s no real way forward in this county without transit,” says councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large), who first proposed a BRT network in 2008.
Now that the plan has been approved, the county can begin detailed work on specific routes. Department of Transportation director Art Holmes wants to look at Route 355, Route 29 and Randolph Road first, while the Maryland State Highway Administration is already studying BRT on Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road.
The plan has been controversial. While many civic, environmental, activist and business groups endorsed BRT, a vocal minority in some neighborhoods, including Four Corners and Chevy Chase West, fought the plan based on claims that it would take their property or endanger their children.
Dan Reed blogs at Just Up the Pike. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
A troubled school improves -- without relying on suspensions
Four years ago, Stanton Elementary School in Anacostia was the lowest-performing elementary school in the District and in danger of being closed. But partly thanks to an innovative alternative to suspensions, Stanton is now on the rise.
According to those who knew its “before” phase, Stanton now is almost unrecognizable. Before, says Ashley Johnson, who has overseen a nonprofit tutoring program at the school for years, “It didn’t resemble a school in any way.” According to Johnson and others, administrators weren’t administering, teachers weren’t teaching, and kids were running wild in the halls.
Since then, Stanton’s standardized test scores have more than tripled in math and doubled in reading. In terms of student growth on tests, it ranks 15th in the District. Home visits by teachers have led to an active and engaged parent body. Clear and consistent behavioral expectations have created an orderly environment where learning can take place. And for those few students who haven’t responded to the usual behavioral incentives, there’s a system that temporarily removes disruptive students from regular classrooms and also helps them learn.
[Continue reading Natalie Wexler's post at Greater Greater Education.]
Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education. She is a member of the boards of D.C. Scholars Public Charter School and the nonprofit One World Education. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.