My Maniacal Rant, Chapter One, Part Five

[Author’s Note: This writing project, The Maniacal Rant of a Community College “Professor,” started about two years ago, in the fall of 2012. I began writing a book that was intended to be a collection of memoirs. These memoirs were intended to testify about my experience as an instructor at Ivy Tech Community College in Northwest Indiana. My goal was to highlight the indignities I experienced, campaign for change in an unjust education system, draw attention to problems in our greater society, and share details of my incredible life story. I finished two chapters of the book, formed the majority of a third chapter, and planned fourteen more chapters. When I started this blog two months ago, I’ve found my goal as a writer has not changed much. I’ve decided it’s time to share the text from my memoirs. I intend to transcribe the text of my book periodically in this blog under the title My Maniacal Rant. Chapter One, titled “Profession as Confession, or the Professor Confessor” will be told in approximately eight parts. Enjoy.—SG]

It seemed the best option for a tenable college teaching position with the Master’s degree of English was to work at the only game in town when it came to community colleges in Indiana, and that was Ivy Tech Community College.

I was assigned a full-time position of English instructor for Ivy Tech Northwest’s Valparaiso campus in January of 2009, after working as an adjunct at their Gary and Michigan City locations. My annual salary had ranged from $33,000 to $35,000 during the full-time portion of my tenure, but I had been lucky to earn over $10,000 a year as an adjunct, part-time instructor.

At Ivy Tech, I could be promoted from an instructor to an assistant professor after two years of full-time work, and according to my contract, my primary function as instructor was to teach five English classes per semester. Teaching five English classes is a full load; the amount of time spent outside of class-time and office hours usually runs about 40 to 60 hours a week for grading, reading, and preparation. With a promotion to assistant professor from instructor, my fiscal raise would have been a whopping $500 to $1,000 a year on top of the former salary. An assistant professor at Ivy Tech teaches five English classes per semester, just like an instructor. There’s not much of a change, except for the lofty p-word that one gets to use when introducing one’s self at parties.

During my first two years at Ivy Tech Valparaiso, I was shocked to find that the duty of teaching five English classes is regarded as secondary to my duties as a full-time administrative lackey by those in charge. Administrators at my Ivy Tech region, many of whom earn more than twice the salary, regard themselves as more important than the educators, and they seem to work extra hard to make the job of teaching more difficult for instructors each and every semester, by allocating their projects and duties to the teachers, changing policies semester-to-semester, and generally telling teachers how to “do their job.” Administrators at Ivy Tech Northwest insisted that teachers spend their office time, which they believe should be at least 40 hours a week, since that’s an administrative schedule (several administrators have been known to whine about lazy teachers… “If I have to work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, why don’t those lazy teachers have to be here?”), chained to our desks, doing the following tasks:

• Talking to students with whom administrators would prefer not to speak
• Attending piles of convoluted, menial paperwork, in which every mark must be perfectly placed, and carbon copies must be ordered properly, or they will send the paperwork back to you…over and over and over again
• Reading and responding to endlessly draining e-mails, all of which are loaded with grammar and spelling mistakes, tons of vapid ass-kissing and self-promotion, and very little relevant information whatsoever
• NOT preparing, researching, and grading for class…that’s not what office work for a teacher is supposed to be
• Spending as much time as possible in inane, draining, useless meetings, in which administrators constantly refer to how to make more money, conduct additional paperwork, or refer to teachers who do not do enough for their stellar pay.

The teaching stuff is supposed to magically happen when you show up to class, and grading stacks of papers should be done at home on the weekends or at 3:00 in the morning. I did not imagine any of this. I experienced it firsthand, much of it in a state of disbelief. I’ve heard the words “Administrators are more important than teachers” and “I only took this teaching position so I could be an administrator and earn real money” out of the lips of too many people at Ivy Tech Northwest to deny it. Every day at Ivy Tech Valparaiso seemed to be an effort to fight unnecessary mental stress induced by supervisors that insisted the mental stress was necessary to prove myself as deserving of full-time status, all of which had very little to do with anything that happened in the classroom.

After two years at Ivy Tech, I refused to send in my request for advancement on a few ethical grounds.

• First, I had no desire to be an administrator, since I had seen such unprofessional, ignorant behavior from administrators and such a devaluation of the classroom teacher at the Northwest region of the Ivy Tech institution. I would have liked to continue my career as an educator primarily. The position of instructor at Ivy Tech seemed better suited for that goal than the title of assistant professor.
• Second, I saw little need to take on the important title and role of professor within a college environment without any type of significant pay hike, especially since “professor” at Ivy Tech equated with “whipping boy” to administrators.
• Third and most importantly, I did not feel worthy of the title of professor. It just seemed too easy in light of what it takes to become a professor at four-year institutions. Also, I witnessed too many professors at Ivy Tech who are clearly not worthy of the title. I would not be comfortable with the title of professor as part of a faculty that throws the title about so liberally to those who did not seem to deserve it. It seemed to me that Ivy Tech rewarded obedience with promotion, as many of my office-mates proved by reveling in the ability to use the title, as if it was the same as being a professor at a four-year university. I had noticed that the practice of title-building in the corporate environment of Ivy Tech Northwest fostered the need to throw weight around at everybody else. Basically, power-hungry corporate sucking-up was preventing teachers from carrying out the primary duty of teaching the students. Educating students in a classroom was considered the least common denominator on the scale of authority.

After those full two years as a full-time English instructor at Ivy Tech’s Valparaiso campus, I chose not to file for promotion (basically, sending an e-mail to the dean stating, “Hey, I’ve worked here two years!”), and I did not rise in rank to E-3, an assistant professor of English. Instead, I spent another year and a half at E-2 Instructor rank before I stepped down from my position.

I remember shedding some tears of relief at the beginning of my tenure, as, at the time, I had finally obtained a viable salary, and I might finally remove myself from the constraints of poverty. I wanted to prove myself worthy of being granted the position of instructor, and I wanted to formatively become a professor of English. I showed some emotion back then.

The tears I shed at the end of my full-time run at Valparaiso were also of relief, but it was relief at not having to endure the devaluation of my discipline and the insincerity of the Ivy Tech community college institution any longer.

When I began my time as a full-time instructor at Valparaiso, I was a healthy young man, unconcerned with any real physical ailments. When I left Valparaiso, I suffered from increased bouts of mental depression, sustained sleep deprivation, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis, with recurring instances of authentically disturbing, stress-induced bleeding.

My book (and blog)’s title indicates that I am a professor, in quotations, because I do attempt to be a worthy college professor, but I have never held the title professionally, nor have I earned the right to address myself as a professor without the punctuation that indicates sarcasm and falsehood.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

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