Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Once again, it has happened. As my readers know, I’ve been let go from my adjunct professorship. I own this; it is my own fault. It must be. I’ve been released from so many recent jobs that, eventually, the reality just has to be accepted that the fault is my own. My friends support me, and keep reassuring me that I’m a good person, but honestly, even they have to be wondering by now. I know I am. And while I’m going to own this, I also want to explain my side of the story, something the college administration never gave me the opportunity to do.
Before I begin, let me just point out the way things work in the modern world. See, I’m not allowed to know who complained about me; all I was told is that students (and I was told it was plural, but I have no way of knowing if they, whoever they might be, all agreed or were supporting each other) were complaining. But I’m not allowed to know who, exactly complained, but it’s more than that. Because I’m not allowed to know who it is that complained, I’m not allowed to know the details of the complaint because, if I knew the details, I might be able to deduce who it is that complained. This puts me in the awkward position, as has happened in the past, of being asked to defend myself without knowing the actions that I am supposed to defend. Just an awkward conversation that begins, “there are complaints” and ends “how do you respond?”
What’s more, even as I own that, whatever it is, it must be my own fault, there is also no way for me to change my offending behavior. If I knew what it is that I did, and why the students were complaining, I’m doomed to repeat it since I cannot change behavior that I don’t know is the problem. This, as much as anything, is why I am done teaching. I’m doing something that is making students uncomfortable, which I certainly don’t want to do, but cannot change what I don’t know needs changing, while working in an environment where students won’t give me the professional courtesy of speaking with me first, and administrations who won’t even ask my side.
But, based on what I have been told (and asked not to do), here is what I have determined. First some background. As an adjunct, I do not have an office, so I cannot have normal office hours. Besides, as an adjunct professor, I’m part-time temporary anyway, and they certainly don’t pay me enough to sit in the office in an off chance that somebody might stop for help. Because I don’t have an office, I also do not have an office phone. So, I have been forced to try to find ways to overcome these problems for the students who might need extra help. These efforts seem to have been the source of the discomfort from what I have been able to ascertain.
Because I don’t have office hours, I told my students that I am happy to meet with them individually if they need outside help, either in person on campus or on videoconferencing. Apparently, the students were uncomfortable meeting with me, even on videoconferencing, and I was told that I was not allowed to meet with any of them outside of class time either on campus, or via video conference. How I am supposed to help students in need of help under these circumstances is beyond me, but while I was told not to meet with students, never did the school ask why I offered to meet outside of class with them.
Because I don’t have an office phone, I put my personal phone number on the syllabus. I had problems accessing school email a couple of weeks ago, I reminded the students that if they need something that is time-sensitive, they can text or call my cell phone. Apparently, and this is an interesting quote, the students took this as “fishing” for phone numbers for the entire class. Yep, the students claimed, and the administration believed, that I hit on the entire class at once (it’s a woman’s college). To me, that just sounds exhausting, but it surprises me that if I did misuse their phone numbers, they apparently don’t know how to use “call blocking.” But because the students felt uncomfortable that I was “fishing”, I was ordered to take my phone number off of the syllabus. How they could get ahold of me if they needed something seemed impossible, unless I happened to be on email at the moment, but since I was not allowed to meet with them, I guess it was a moot point anyway.
Yesterday (as of the writing of this post), my students met their new professor. Changing to a different professor midterm is difficult, but I’ve spoken of the added complications previously. But, like I said, whatever the problem is, it must be my fault for this to keep happening. So, I’m out. I hope the students are happy with their victory.