Wake Tech turns instructors into ‘professors’

Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh has promoted a third of its faculty to “professor” status, reports the News & Observer. Till now, all faculty members have been “instructors.”

In part, the shift reflects community colleges’ drive for respect and recognition as post-recession engines.

Most of those promoted became assistant professors; two are now senior professors. Each new level comes with a 3 percent raise.

Racism talk leads to reprimand

discussion of structural racism led to a reprimand for Shannon Gibney, who teaches Intro to Mass Communications at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Three white male students complained they were singled out by Gibney, reports City Pages.

An English professor, Gibney also teaches African Diaspora Studies in a new associate degree program. About a third of MCTC students are African-American or African refugees. Overall, “people of color” make up 53 percent of enrollment and many students are the first in their families to attend college.

In a video interview with City College News, Gibney said she told Mass Communications students she was talking about “whiteness as a system of oppression,” but they took it personally.

[One of the white students asked,] ‘Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?’ I was shocked… It was not in a calm way. His whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.

Another white male student said, ‘Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?’

She told students to “feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.” So they did.

The vice president of academic affairs found it “troubling” that Gibney “alienated two students who may have been most in need of learning about this subject. . . . While I believe it was your intention to discuss structural racism generally, it was inappropriate for you to single out white male students in class. Your actions in [targeting] select students based on their race and gender caused them embarrassment and created a hostile learning environment.”

MCTC issued a statement:

At MCTC, we believe it is essential for our faculty to actively engage students in respectful discussions in the classroom regardless of topic and to create an atmosphere in which students may ask questions as an important part of the classroom experience. Questions from students in classroom discussions are an essential part of the learning process. We expect that faculty will have the professional skills to lead difficult conversations in their classrooms and will teach in a way that helps students understand issues, even when students feel uncomfortable or disagree with particular ideas.

“I don’t feel safe in the class anymore,” Gibney told City College News.

“I definitely feel like I’m a target in the class. I don’t feel like students respect me,” she continued. “Those students were trying to undermine my authority from the get-go. And I told the lawyer at the investigatory meeting, ‘You have helped those three white male students succeed in undermining my authority as one of the few remaining black female professors here.’”

A similar complaint was filed in 2009, after Gibney was invited to speak at a City College News editorial board meeting, a former student editor told City Pages. In talking about structural racism in the media, Gibney singled out white editors and criticized them for not rooting out bias, according to Ryan, who would not give his full name.

Ryan complained to Gibney about her “unprofessional tirade” in an email. When she circulated his email and her response to students and faculty, he filed a harassment complaint.

Gibney gives her account of the incident in Gawker.

Professor dies protecting friend

A Shoreline Community College professor, Troy Wolff, 46, died yesterday of stab wounds after trying to protect his partner from a knife-wielding stranger. Kristin Ito, 30, was attacked in Pioneer Square in Seattle. She is in critical condition. Police have arrested a man.

Troy Wolff, in a portrait photographed by Shoreline Community College alum Daniel Berman. Photo provided by Shoreline Community College.
Troy Wolff, in a portrait by Shoreline alum Daniel Berman.

“This is an unbelievably tragic loss,” Interim President Daryl Campbell said, in a statement. “Troy was loved by students, loved by his fellow faculty members, loved by all who knew him.”

Wolff chaired the English department at the college, where he’d taught since 1996.

Psych prof cleared in ‘gay pride’ assignment

A psychology professor’s assignment — wear a gay pride ribbon and write about the experience — didn’t infringe on students’ rights, concluded an investigation at  Columbia State Community College in Tennessee. Dr. Linda Brunton wanted students to experience prejudice against gays, reports the Columbia Daily Herald.

The Alliance Defending Freedom charged Brunton violated students’ First Amendment rights and discriminated on the basis of religion.

The investigation found:

◆ There was no evidence that Brunton “brushed off” some students’ concerns that their religious convictions prohibit them from showing support for “unnatural and immoral” gay conduct;

◆ The gay pride ribbon assignment was not mandatory, and students who objected were given options;

◆ Only four of the 43 students received a grade of zero. Two of them “who allegedly received a zero because of their religious beliefs” turned in an optional assignment that they knew was not written according to instructions.

One student who turned in an optional paper got a zero for the assignment, but an overall class grade of A.

Brunton’s comments in class could have showed “more sensitivity,” but were within the bounds of academic freedom, the report concluded.

‘Porn professor’ admits sexting

Pasadena City College‘s “porn professor,” Hugo Schwyzer will go on leave after his “sexts” with a porn actress were posted online,  reports the Pasadena Star-News.

The actress, identified as Christina Parreira, by therealpornwikileaks.com, said Schwyzer asked her to participate in a threesome with him and porn actor James Deen.

. . . Deen spoke to Schwyzer’s PCC class, “Navigating Porn,” in February. Schwyzer, 46, admitted sexting Parreira, 27, and acknowledged sending explicit photographs.

In a Facebook exchange between the actress and Schwyzer, she offered to have sex with him in front of his class and film it.

“Perfect,” Schwyzer replied. He went on to explain how his students would love to watch.

On his blog, Schwyzer said he’d stopped taking medication for bipolar disease, which “came back with a vengeance.” Teaching the pornography class was a “trigger” that led him to extramarital affairs, he added.

  Schwyzer had already earned the hatred of many feminist groups after admitting having inappropriate relationships with many of his students when he first began teaching at PCC. He also published an account of a 1998 episode in which when he tried to kill himself and his girlfriend. Schwyzer deleted the blog post after it went viral, but republished it on his blog this week to “answer a lot of questions.”

Schwyzer said none of his recent affairs involved PCC students.

In a series of manic tweets, Schywzer confessed to dishonesty, narcissism, sexism and a lot more. “I will never teach women’s studies or gender studies again,” he tweeted. “If I can get well and beat this, I will teach my Western Civ courses.”

Professor may lose job for Obama vote pledge

A math professor who told students to sign pledges to vote for President Obama’s re-election should be fired, President James Richey advised the Brevard Community College Board of Trustees.

Sharon Sweet, an associate professor of mathematics with tenure at the Florida college, is “guilty of electioneering, harassment, and incompetence,” concluded a report based on a three-month investigation.

“Professor Sweet strongly encouraged or mandated that students from several classes sign a pledge card that stated, ‘I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket.’ She also misrepresented her intentions to multiple students, indicating at various times that she was conducting voter registration for the college, that the pledge cards were non-partisan voter registration forms, and that the pledge was a ‘statistical analysis.’”

Sweet created a hostile environment for students, who told investigators they feared she’d lower their grades if they refused to sign the pledge.

Jill Biden’s pay amazes adjuncts

Jill Biden’s $82,o00 a year salary as a community college professor — revealed by a look at her husband’s tax returns — has amazed adjuncts, who thought she was one of their own, reports Inside Higher Ed.  Though Biden started as an adjunct, she’s now an associate professor teaching three developmental English classes at Northern Virginia Community College. The college says she works full-time, keeps office hours and attends faculty meetings. With 15 years experience teaching at Delaware Technical Community College, she earns an above-average salary.

Jack Longmate, a member of the New Faculty Majority and an adjunct faculty member who teaches at Olympic College, said he wished Biden would use her visibility to highlight the “plight of adjuncts.”

. . . “there is a dysfunctional two-tiered system in place in our colleges and it impacts the quality of instruction. I wish she brought attention to that. ”

Despite her full-time teaching job, Biden has been visiting community colleges with U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to promote partnerships between industries and community colleges. Yesterday, she spoke at Reading Area Community College in Pennsylvania with Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.

In January, Vice President Joe Biden raised academic hackles by blaming rising college costs of faculty pay. “Salaries for college professors have escalated significantly,” he said in Pennsylvania.  “They should be good, but they have escalated significantly.” Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience: His wife pay nearly doubled when she went from teaching two courses per semester as an adjunct to three as an assistant professor.