Professor Daniel Friedheim resigned from his position as an adjunct political science professor April 26 after sending his students e-mails describing his displeasure with working conditions for adjunct professors at GW.
In his resignation letter to Professor Lee Sigelman, chair of the Political Science Department, which was also sent to 31 students and The Hatchet, Friedheim cited “unprofessional working conditions” and “lack of facilities for exploiting the University’s Prometheus system,” as problems he faced at GW. He also wrote that “undergraduates continue to pay top dollar for inferior courses taught by exploited adjuncts.”
Sigelman refused to comment on Friedheim’s resignation or GW’s policies for adjunct professors.
Friedheim, who was previously an assistant professor at American University and a visiting instructor at Dartmouth College, taught Comparative Politics of Eastern Europe and the Post-Soviet States this semester. He also taught courses on U.S. foreign policy in 1997 at GW. He has a doctorate, master’s and baccalaureate degree in political science.
Friedheim said an accumulation of incidents caused his resignation.
“It all began when I agreed to teach this class. (The Political Science Department) never got around to sending me a contract . I started the semester without a contract,” he said in an interview. “The clerical staff never bothered to tell me how to place myself on the payroll, and when I asked they were unresponsive. It is adding insult to injury having to demand to be paid on time . it makes one feel like an interloper.”
Friedheim said he has noticed improvements since he last taught at GW, most notably with the introduction of Prometheus to the University.
“From having taught here in ’97, I can say from experience that Prometheus is one of the biggest improvements,” he said. “However, as an adjunct professor I am asked to utilize Prometheus in my course, but am not given the proper equipment to access it.”
There is no computer in Friedheim’s office and he must drive 45 minutes home to get access to Prometheus, he said.
Friedheim holds three degrees from Yale University and is a consultant in the social development department for the World Bank. He was a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State from 1983 to 1989.
“What shocks me the most is the absence of collegiality in this department,” he said. “Professional collegiality . that is the reason why you accept being paid less than most of the private sector, because of what is shared between you and your university colleagues.”
He said adjunct faculty members are not allowed to attend department meetings, and there was no written orientation or information about student evaluation procedures.
Friedheim said most universities give a written orientation for the adjunct and part-time faculty outlining exam expectations, benefits and the evaluation process. Friedheim said GW’s actions violate the American Association of University Professors guidelines for part-time and adjunct faculty members. Political science professors declined to comment.
According to the AAUP Web site, non-tenure-track faculty should be included in faculty governance within the university and the department in which they teach. Universities should provide appropriate office space, necessary supplies, support services and equipment, according to the site. Faculty members’ performances should be regularly evaluated with set criteria appropriate to their positions, according to the Web site.
Friedheim said GW’s Political Science Department violates all of the AAUP’s suggestions. Sigelman had no comment.
Jo Johnston, a junior in Friedheim’s class said Friedheim “has a knowledge and genuine love for Eastern Europe and Russia, virtually unparalleled at this University.”
Johnston said although he did not know the details of Friedheim’s departure, “GW has a responsibility to its students to provide the best quality faculty they can.”
“By not accommodating Professor Friedheim, they have failed to do this, and I am deeply disappointed,” Johnston said.
Friedheim said he is unaware of GW’s Graduate Teaching Adjunct Alliance, an organization that promotes better working conditions for teaching assistants and adjunct professors. He said he was an activist at Yale University when adjunct professors tried to form advocacy group.
Friedheim said he was aware New York University’s adjunct faculty formed a union that was recognized by the National Labor Relations Board last month.
“It is my understanding that professor Friedheim has agreed to complete (the course) this semester, a decision that the political science department welcomes,” said Professor Susan Wiley, undergraduate coordinator of the department.