The Epistle of Q — Chapter 191

Should I be angry, sad or disappointed? Probably none of the above…

A few weeks ago, a long time friend and colleague who was hoping to retain me to teach a course or two each year at his university, got in touch again. We had met last autumn and the meeting was very cordial and prospects looked good. I enjoyed my time previously at the University of Saint Paul (UStP), always had good course/teaching evaluations by the students. During my six years as an Adjunct previously, I had created several new & innovative applied ethics courses including: Public Face/Private Person (examining the ethical challenges a person faces when going into public service – many intriguing guests including an Ambassador, a Cabinet Minister, a City Councilor, senior public servants); Ethics & Leadership (an intensive look into the moral conundrum we often face when leading others); Environmental Health (how do we navigate improving the health of our environment with ensuring economic strength). I even deployed an intriguing timetable process: Friday 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – one weekend each month for a semester! This was particularly appreciated by the graduate students from various governments as it allowed participation without requiring requests for time off. All in all, it was a positive and productive experience in my teaching life.

Now, however, the request was for an up-dated curriculum vitae (C.V.) so it could be presented to the Philosophy Forum Group (the team that oversees the program). His application (for me to become, once again, an Adjunct Professor – a position I have also held at Simon Fraser U for five years, Cape Breton U for 6 years (+ a time as a Visiting Scholar), UPEI for 6 years, and Concordia University of Edmonton (CUE) for 24 years) was denied. The reason: The others in the Group want adjunct professors to have standard academic publications. Hence I don’t have the support to move your candidacy further. I am sorry that it ended up like this.

My reply was relatively short:
Not surprised Richard… I present and have been otherwise involved in three different professional organizations but I never think to document that in a formal way. My bad, I guess!
Oh well, it’s slowly becoming clearer that my “best before date” is rapidly approaching.
One aside: I have never seen &/or heard any of your colleagues present at either of the two main ethics conferences I have been regularly attending this millennium and nothing has shown up at AME to my knowledge. It’s a small and perhaps “snarky” comment but I fund 100% of my trips to all my conferences, also usually support a grad student’s attendance and occasionally underwrite a special session. My idea of “applied ethics” is obviously not academically based enough, but the next generation of leaders approves and that’s important to me.
In any event, thanks for trying. I guess that also rules out my returning to teach which is a sadder moment for me.

End of story? Well, not quite!

You may wonder why I bring this up at all. The academy is getting more and more off track in my estimation. I am constantly reading about how one prof or another is targeted for the weirdest issues including: being too demanding of their students, or that they require students to be respectful of each other, or they are trying to be too balanced in their teaching. The criticisms usually emerge from the phenomenon known as D.I.E. (Diversity/Inclusion/Equity: note the word equality is not used) creating universities that are, for lack of a better term, too woke. Students are not being challenged but must be coddled. Don’t offend, just hug (figuratively, definitely not physically)!

In the midst of this, now there is a concern that an adjunct is not academic enough? What’s the connection? First of all, an Adjunct, by the very nature of the term, is supposed to be outside the norm – an individual who does not fit the usual criteria and that is why that person is brought into the academy. – to give a different perspective, a unique approach to curriculum &/or pedagogy. An Adjunct is someone who is not normally qualified for tenure-track positions but has attributes regular faculty don’t possess, and provides a technical benefit in that the contract has an automatic sunset clause: as soon as the assignment is done, that individual is finished: ironically, one could argue the very definition of a D.I.E. candidate (in this instance: a newly endangered species on campus the old, white, male).

How better to show the world that UStP is not becoming too entrenched than to have as an Adjunct one who is respected in his professional associations for his unique background that includes having operated a consulting firm in the private sector for thirty years, who is constantly trying to move institutions to get to better, who for the past two decades has given extensive time to organizations on a pro bono (free) basis to enhance their strategic planning &/or ethical leadership.

UStP wants to be a dynamic alternative to the larger U of Ottawa, with which it is affiliated. Yet it also wants to be a standard academic institution. How many papers presented to limited listeners at academic conferences would it take to be considered standard? Why does the concept of Applied Ethics not seem to be more central? Where does innovation or at least uniqueness come from if not from those who think/act differently? Why does the ability to teach successfully not measure on the initial evaluative scales? Maybe D.I.E. is really DIE and does mean death to the academy?

While it would have been great to return again to UStP as I enjoyed the students and the ambiance of that learning environment, I can’t be angry or sad or even disappointed –> obviously I don’t fit anymore. But what is quite bizarre about this decision? It comes from/within the School of Ethics, Social Justice and Public Service – aspects of living & serving I have been involved in all my professional life (and in some senses, even before that). Oh well, it’s time I got back to preparing for my spring & summer teaching gig at CUE where I am a successful and desired Adjunct!!

Again I am reminded of Avery Toller’s admission in The Firm: I take rejection well

We are approaching Holy Week – take time to reflect on how you fit in this world…