Upset and sympathy in teacher ranks

Upset and sympathy in teacher ranks

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Penny Scott
Editor-In-Chief


What follows are comments from three of the teachers who met with Lane president Mary Spilde and other senior college administrators on Jan. 20 to discuss increased class sizes:

Gina Szabady, PhD
Instructor
Language, Literature, & Communication

“The conversation had a very positive tone, and I gained a much clearer understanding of the administration’s perspective. It informed the way I see the situation.”

Szabady said that she remains after her classes for 20 to 40 minutes, speaking to students individually. She said, however, that some students must leave during that time. “(When that happens) every single time I worry that it’s somebody that I’m not going to see again.”

She commented that her Lane classes are the largest she has ever taught. Prior to coming to Lane, she taught at three other learning institutions, two in Hawaii and one in Arizona. She said that at Lane her Writing 115 classes were previously capped at 18 students, but now have 22 or more students and her Writing 121 class has 28 students.

“I do my best to give them what I can,” Szabady said.

Kenneth Zimmerman
Instructor
Language, Literature, & Communication

“I was very pleased that Mary Spilde and the administration agreed to meet with us. That was a positive step,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said that if class sizes were returned to the previous maximum “we could do our job with integrity again,” adding that overloaded classes are not only bad for students and faculty, they damage the reputation of Lane.

“The choice of which classes to overload was made on a strictly financial basis,” Zimmerman said. “The knowledge about what occurs in a writing class was ignored.” He added that the role of the college is to educate, not make money, emphasizing that the increase in class sizes is about reaching an economic goal.

He said that some students are aware that classes are being overloaded. Others, he added, know nothing about the situation, and he expressed concern that they don’t know how much better Lane was last year.

Peter Jensen
Part-Time Instructor
Language, Literature, & Communication

Cutting the number of sections per year means that students are squeezed to find open sections, according to Jensen. “I know they [the administration] have to make difficult decisions and cuts, but math and writing are required sections,” Jensen said.

Jensen commented that he has taught over 400 writing and literature classes at Lane and Linn Benton community colleges since 1986. “But since I switched schools and retired from full-time teaching, I have no seniority at either college after almost 30 years of teaching,” he said.

He added that students can transfer class credits from one community college to another, but not faculty. “It’s two separate schools with different sets of rules, and I know I have no rights,” Jensen said, adding that in Minnesota, which has 11 community colleges, there is only one union representation.

“Here we have local representation, but neither the union or administration told us this was what they were going to do when they finished negotiation,” Jensen said. “By adding students to classes and cutting sections they cut part-timers with the least seniority from the payroll. There is new language in the contract, but it is vague. It seems like a back-door way to lay off part-timers.”

Jensen said that he and other teachers were not kept informed. He said that he was told by the department secretary that he didn’t have any classes in the fall, adding that he has no classes in winter term and doesn’t expect to have any in the spring.

“You want to know what your paid representatives have negotiated behind closed doors. If you don’t know, you can’t vote in your own best interests,” Jensen said. He added that for 13 years in the 1980s and 1990s, he was the union vice president at Lane and he communicated with part-time teachers through two contractual negotiation cycles.

“There have been lots of emails about this. There are accusations. I still get the emails because I’m in the part-time enrollment pool,” Jensen said.

Jensen said that he understands that painful cuts have to be made, “but I don’t know what other options there were,” Jensen said. “State funding has fallen behind, so the college presidents get shafted too. I have sympathy with the people who made the cuts, but when they cut my job I have sympathy with me.”

Many Lane students are very motivated and are fun to teach, commented Jensen. “The majority of them have a lot of dialogue with teachers,” he said. “It’s like getting a whole new bunch of relatives every term. They want to get their money’s worth, and we want to give it to them.”

Teachers do well when they find their special niche, Jensen said. “Lane is a good fit for a lot of teachers. I feel useless not being able to teach.”

LCCEA union president Jim Salt did not respond for comment by print time.

 

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