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The Opinion Shop

Welcome to The Opinion Shop, where members of The N&O’s editorial board offer an eclectic array of their individual opinion products and give you an opportunity to offer your own.

Choose a blog

Budget bites: The mental health reform edition

Here's a good (but long) letter recapping what went horribly wrong with North Carolina's mental health reform and imploring lawmakers not to cut community support. An excerpt: "I have to say that I have never come across an individual with schizophrenia recently released from John Umstead who feels like an empowered "consumer" with choices of where to get services.  Legislators looking down from 30,000 feet could not realize that someone with florid psychotic symptoms does not ponder his service options as if he were picking Target v. K-Mart." 

The ones left out of that Nielsen speech

Another too-long yet interesting letter about the N.C. State situation:

 A few letters, most recently by Prof. Phil Doerr on June 19, have been written in reaction to Larry Nielsen's speech to the N.C. State "faculty," from which the N&O printed excerpts on June 6 [read them here]. The speech is stunning on many levels, but it is most likely the most stunning to the "other faculty" who do not have a work situation even close to the reality about which Nielsen waxes so poetically.

Nielsen's speech addressed only the Tenured or Tenure-Track Faculty.  However, an increasingly greater number of faculty on college campuses across the country are Non-Tenure Track "contract" Faculty or Adjunct "class only basis" Faculty.  Even these two "other" levels of faculty are quite different.    

Non-Tenure Track (NTT) faculty teach higher courseloads, those courses with larger enrollments, and courses at less optimum times than the Tenure Track faculty.  Though fringe benefits (like health care and retirement) are included, the pay is greatly reduced ostensibly because of the lack of research requirements.  However, there are NTT faculty with Ph.D. and post-doctoral degrees who do engage in research and do participate in levels of service just as the Tenured and Tenure-Track faculty do, some out of a commitment to the profession and some out of the distant hope that they may be considered for a tenure track opening one day, though this rarely happens.  

Adjunct faculty are in the worst position of all.  They are hired as "temporaries" for certain classes on a class-by-class basis.  Some people teach a class or two because they like the university environment and it's some extra income.  But for those Adjuncts who try to use the position as a tenuous stepping stone to more permanent or full-time work, cobbling together a living wage with NO fringe benefits is very difficult.  Recall that the first number thrown out to the inquiry by Easley's assistant was only $4,000 per class.  Again, several Adjunct faculty with Ph.D. and post-doctoral degrees engage in research and service in hopes of one day landing a coveted permanent position (though often Adjuncts are overlooked in the permanent hiring process).

For both the NTT or Adjunct faculty, the pressure to perform and never get into any disputes with other faculty, staff and students is extremely ever-present.  There is no sacred principle of academic freedom to hide behind as with the Tenured faculty.  Indeed, these "other faculty" can be gone in a moment for little or no reason.   

It's interesting that the public thinks that the faculty of college campuses are liberal leaning, and yet a great number of the faculty (in the 40 percentile at NC State before the recent round of budget cutting ousted the underpaid adjunct faculty without concomitant cuts in staff) are treated as piecemeal, temporary wage earners in the knowledge industry. Many faculty rail against work conditions in foreign countries while doing nothing about the plight of other educational professionals on their own college campus!  And while it varies college to college on campus, the NTT and Adjunct faculty are clearly made aware of their lowly status by the Tenured faculty and the administration.

The N&O owes a service to these "other faculty" to set the record straight to the public on the extreme divisions in the priviledges of the Tenured/Tenure-Track faculty and the Non-Tenure Track and Adjunct faculty, the latter who — in Nielsen's own words — DO get evaluated routinely, not "every five years or so" where peers say, "Cool, go for it"; DO NOT enjoy "an incredible level of job security . . . and the promise of lifelong employment"; DO NOT get to "follow lines of inquiry and creativity without a close look to the bottom line," because as the recent budget cuts show, these faculty ARE the bottom line!

L.M. Green
Raleigh

The other 99 percent of NCSU faculty

A couple of more letters about the N.C. State University situation that didn't make it into the paper:

 With the media spotlight focused on regrettable events involving a handful of high-level administrators, it is easy to lose sight of what the other 99+ percent of us are doing at N.C. State, “the people's university." Among the UNC system universities, N.C. State is unique in its mix of education, research, extension and engagement, which reaches all 100 counties of this state.

With an enrollment of nearly 33,000 undergraduate and graduate students (the largest in the UNC system), N.C. State is integral to our economic recovery. During times of economic downturn, even more North Carolinians turn to N.C. State for a professionally oriented and well-rounded education, or for advice from top researchers and extension specialists on how to improve the economic and technical competitiveness of their businesses.

The entrepreneurship of N.C. State's faculty brings hundreds of millions of dollars of research funding into the state that supports students, advanced equipment, development of leading edge practices and technologies, and transfer of new knowledge into the classroom.

In the face of budget cuts nearing $100 million, we are facing difficult decisions in every department within every college about how much we need to cut back on our programs and employees, at precisely a time when our state needs us the most. The pending budget cuts will turn back decades of investment by the state in making N.C. State a flagship university. N.C. State needs your support.

H. Christopher Frey
Professor, Environmental Engineering
N.C. State University
Raleigh

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It is an outrage that James Oblinger and Larry Nielsen could be coming back to N.C. State as teaching professors drawing exorbitant salaries. I would not want my children to be taught by unethical professors and apparent liars. If N.C. State brings these two back to teach, or for any other reason, then they surely have no shame.

Robert Jones
Garner

Oh, the ire over the Easley hire and resulting fire

Lots of letters this week on the situation at N.C. State. Here are several online-only comments. Look for more letters on the subject on tomorrow's editorial
page and in Sunday Forum this week.

Budget bites: the mental health and human being edition

Groups and individuals affected by government budget slashing offer
their impassioned pleas for relief.  Here are letters about ending
speech, physical or occupational therapy; leaving the vulnerable to
fend for themselves; cutting teachers and gutting the Willie M law
gains.

Foster parents, social workers and EOG research

May is National Foster Care Month and Older Americans' Month. Find letters about that here. Also find a letter from a Western Carolina University professor of education who is seeking help with EOG research.

Budget bites: police and library edition

Groups and individuals affected by government budget slashing offer their impassioned pleas for relief.  The president of Raleigh's chapter of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association is less than impressed with City Manager Russell Allen's $10,000 pay raise.

Budget bites: symphony and school edition

Here are a couple of letters from readers upset about state budget cuts. One is regarding the N.C. Symphony and the other public school teachers.

Thank yous, and this and that

We often get letters about months, weeks or days that have been proclaimed as special, but we simply do not have room to run letters like that. So here are a few about special time frames, as well as a variety of other letters, including one about the Miss California gay-marriage controversy.

Two sides to torture

Here are a few more online-only letters on the torture debate. Find others on tomorrow's editorial page and in Sunday Forum.

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