Monday, October 01, 2007

death of the trash digging professor

Sometimes I think we understate the harm done to us by the abusive and discriminatory adjunct system because we are embarrassed. Few people are comfortable telling the whole world that their checks bounced, their significant other left them because they couldn't get a "real" job, or that they still live in parents' basement at 50. If you can't bring yourself to tell your story, tell this guy's, originally told by Barbara McKenna in AFT on Campus:

Adjunct teacher Marty Slobin’s obituary in the Dec. 12, 2000 edition of the Detroit Free Press is moving for its brevity. It memorializes the lecturer who had received a distinguished teaching award from the University of Michigan-Dearborn just the year before and who also taught at Wayne State University and Henry Ford Community College.

“Words cannot describe what this man does in the classroom,” a former student says.

Outside the classroom, Slobin commuted to his teaching jobs on three campuses by bus because he could not afford to keep a car.

“Marty’s whole life was devoted to his students and his teaching,” says a fellow professor.

Suffering from heart disease, Slobin could not afford the treatment—surgery—because the income he lost during a convalescence would make it impossible for him to keep up his health insurance premium payments.

Slobin had “succeeded in making the study of political science meaningful in the lives of his students,” the paper quotes Bernard Klein, a former interim chancellor of the university.

At one point, the university asked Slobin to stop going through the trash in search of the pop cans he returned to collect their deposit refunds.

“I attended his class on congressional elections earlier this fall,” says the university chancellor, Daniel Little, “and was able to see firsthand the respect and affection his students felt for him.”

Slobin, 55, died on Dec. 6 in his office after a heart attack. He was so poor, says Bonnie Halloran, president of the Lecturers Employee Organization (LEO)/AFT at the University of Michigan, that faculty at Dearborn and the neighboring community college took up a collection to pay for his funeral.


If your story isn't as extreme as his, it's probably because you have a job in another industry, a spouse, or some other relative who takes up the slack. Without one of those safety nets, most of us could be this guy.