Friday, September 16, 2005

Biology dept wins teaching award & ignores staff

Looking at Frank Church's Oshkosh in the news feature this morning, I was reminded of my nagging criticism of the way the biology department handled its reception of the award.

It is great for the University to win another Regents teaching award, but what I noticed was that the department did not acknowledge the people who teach a significant percentage of their classes.

I know that most lower level lab sections in the biology department are taught by academic staff. They are the initial contact that most students have with the department and free the t-t faculty to concentrate on the majors. However, these people, both full and part time, apparently don't count in the regents process. At the opening day ceremonies, only the tenure-track folks were invited up on stage (not to mention the picture in the program).

It seemed to me to be in poor taste not to acknowledge a large percentage of your teaching staff when you win a teaching award. (The department even refuses to pay for phones in many staff offices)


Teri Shors said...

Hi there,
I'm a member of the Biology Dept. and I do know at least two staff were on stage. There was also a retired professor and the Director of the Medical Technology program on stage. Faculty in the department also teach some of the introductory labs but not all as you do correctly point this out. I believe staff were invited to attend the opening day event and go on stage to recieve the award. They chose not to and so did a couple of faculty. I am sorry that you are bitter about this. If you are an academic staff member of the Dept., please voice these concerns to the Chairs of the Dept.

Teri Shors

Lake Winneblogo said...

Thanks for your comments Teri. I don't know everyone in the department, but you don't mention the staff people who actually do the teaching.

If staff were invited, why did none show up? It suggests there is a big divide in the department.

As someone who has adjuncted and taught part-time, I am sensitive to slights of this manner. T-t faculty members tend to ignore staff and, especially, do not stand up for them in any significant way. The biology department is not unique, but indicative of bigger problems in academia.

This attitude represents the trend towards using cheaper academic staff and exploiting them. Wisconsin is better than many places in providing benefits to staff, but the pay is still abysmally low. The t-t faculty accepts the advantage of low paid labor so they can concentrate on research and upper-level students.

How many students are you teaching this term? How many are your staff people teaching?

Anonymous said...

I teach a 200 level service course for Pre-Nursing students. There are 150 in the class. All of them are in my lecture portion of the class and I teach 2 lab sections. Two academic staff teach 4 lab sections and another professor teaches another lab section. They are Rosemary Shade and Vicki Verbrick. I think both of them were on the stage opening day.

It would be helpful if I knew who you were. You shouldn't assume there is a huge rift among faculty and staff in all departments.


Anonymous said...

The Department of Biology and Microbiology would also like to respond “officially” to this blog posting, because the blogger was clearly misinformed:

ÿ All faculty, academic staff, and classified staff were invited to join the co-chairs on the stage during the award presentation on Opening Day, and a few did so.
ÿ The photo in the Opening Day program shows faculty (18), emeritus faculty (2), academic staff (7), classified staff (3), and a member of an associated program (1).
ÿ Telephones are an expensive operating cost for all departments. Our full time academic staff have phones in their offices. Our part-time academic staff do not have telephones. The departmental budget has not increased in over ten years (although costs certainly have) and it has been cut by 20% this year. We do not feel that we can afford to supply phones to individuals who teach on a part-time basis, and may not teach every semester. Providing phone service for our 2-5 part-time academic staff would cost approximately $550 per year and would require that we cut back on supplies and equipment for our teaching laboratories.
ÿ We support our academic staff in all ways possible and appreciate their strong contributions to our program. We would hope that the blogger would contact us directly so we could discuss these issues more fully.

Colleen McDermott and Bea Holton, Co-chairs, Dept. Biology & Microbiology

Lake Winneblogo said...

I have had conversations with many members about the situation there, but do not have any stake in what happens in that department.

As far as the other comments:

If there were more than tenure-track faculty in the photo, I apologize for the misrepresentation. I was struck by the absense at the opening day ceremony, as I mentioned in my initial comments.

To make the argument about the cost of phones strikes me as exactly the problem. Non full-time staff are second class citizens--why would they need phones for office hours, or to catch messages from students?

The phones were not turned off in the last few years, in any case, so to claim that it is only for budgetary reasons is disingenuous.

Part-timers and adjuncts are in no place to advocate for their position. It is too easy for the people in authority to announce that there just weren't enough sections to go around and send them packing. UWO and the biology department is not alone in this power dynamic.