Letters to the Editor

No contract

In the October 3, 2005 article in The Hatchet about my decision to withdraw from teaching this semester from the Elliott School of International Affairs (“Prof. quits over pay,” p. 3) Tracy Schario, director of GWU media relations, made a false statement. She alleges that I “signed a contract to teach a class for a semester.” She then goes on to claim that I “reneged” on that contract once the semester had begun.

The truth is that I never signed any contract nor, to my knowledge, is it the normal practice for any adjunct professor to sign a contract to teach at The George Washington University. Instead, the vice president for academic affairs mails a letter of appointment to an adjunct professor a few weeks before each semester begins. This letter makes clear that “appointments are contingent upon sufficient enrollment to justify a course offering” and emphasizes “this is not a benefited position.” This language gives the University the right to cancel a class after the semester has already begun, and the adjunct professor is left with no legal recourse to demand the anticipated salary from the cancelled course. These same statements were reiterated in the letter the vice president for academic affairs mailed to me on September 19, 2005 where he again repeated that my salary would remain frozen for the sixth year in a row at $ 5,000 per course.

The right of adjunct professors to enter into a binding contract with GW before the semester begins is precisely one of the issues that the union a majority of GW adjunct faculty voted to represent them last October 2004 is demanding. It is the current GW administration that refuses to be bound by a contract and prefers the present climate of insecurity for shortsighted economic reasons. What was different this year is that an adjunct professor finally reversed the tables and underscored why maintaining the present system is not in the best interests of either the University or its students.

It is a well-known fact that GW is one of the most expensive universities in the United States. At the same time, more than half the faculty at GWU are adjuncts paid an average of $3,500 per course. I hope my decision to withdraw from teaching this semester will spur students and their parents to question where the $45,000 or more they are paying in annual tuition and fees is actually going.

-Thomas Andrew O’Keefe, former professor

Bipartisan hackery

Where does one begin to address the flaws in Kyle Spector’s article “In 2008, we need the truth”? (Oct. 6, p. 4) For starters, his assertion that Bill Clinton’s impeachment merely “amounted to a few sexual encounters with an intern” is needless partisan historical revisionism. Although this transgression itself was worthy of resignation, Bill Clinton was not impeached for defiling the Oval Office. He was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice – two felonies that he clearly committed while being investigated for sexually harassing Paula Jones.

Next, Spector refers to the “still-unified Republican front” that Democrats must face today. For sheltered liberals on campus, it may come as a shock that conservative dissatisfaction with George W. Bush has been mounting over a host of issues, such as his signing of the unconstitutional McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that restricts free speech and the expansion of Medicare and other government programs. Conservative ire reached a fevered pitch with the nomination of the unknown Harriet Miers. In 2008, conservatives will revolt if Establishment Republicans try to serve up a stale glass of Bush-lite.

Spector goes on to complain about the “quagmire” of Iraq without providing a good alternative to cutting and running. He then calls for a “decisive plan for energy independence” without acknowledging the difficulties in producing such resources or mentioning that Bush has pledged much money toward renewable energy research.

After finishing Spector’s article, it is clear that one of the greatest problems facing this country is blind partisanship. A great test of whether one is a partisan hack is to ask oneself what one would have thought of a particular issue had it involved the opposite political party. I find it hard to believe that Democrats would have defended George W. Bush had he been impeached under the same circumstances as Bill Clinton. I also find it hard to believe that Republicans would have supported the same government expansion if it had been proposed by a Democratic president.

But there is one point on which Spector and I can agree. Just as he believes Democrats should stop “pandering to the middle,” so too should Republicans stop their shift to the mushy middle, ditch their talking points, and have a principled debate on the issues that divide this nation.

-John McCormack, junior

Raise the fee

Every year it’s the same routine. Every student organization complains that they didn’t receive enough funding, and naturally, it’s the Student Association who is at fault. “We have more programming, we help more people, we are the best student org on campus,” they cry. Understandably, a student who spends countless hours attending events with the College Democrats or College Republicans will make each of these claims for the CDs and CRs. Similarly, the 300-plus students in the International Affairs Society demand that the SA recognize their contributions as the best on campus. What do we do about the Out Crowd, the NAACP, FMLA, OLAS, MSA, or even the Cigar Smokers Forum and the People Watching Association? Who’s to say that they’re not the most important orgs on campus?

The problem with having more than 400 student orgs and only $500,000 to allocate is that there simply isn’t enough to go around, especially if everyone considers their organization to be the most important. During allocations, the Senate Finance Committee is forced to take a step back, disregard their affiliations from student organizations for a few weeks, and objectively consider all 400 of these student organizations. Organizations like the Student Bar Association (SBA) represent around 2,000 students and provide programming year-round, hence their hefty allocation. EMeRG, however, has a membership that is a twentieth of the size of the SBA, yet EMeRG demands the same recognition. The money that the SA allocates to EMeRG is not used to buy medical equipment or to save lives; the $6,000 that EMeRG receives from the SA goes to social events like BBQs and end-of-year banquets. Why should EMeRG, whose social events are closed to the general public, demand more money than the CRs, whose events are open to every student on campus?

The battle over EMeRG is a unique one, and can certainly be fought until the cows come home. The real issue, however, lies in the current financial constraints of the Student Association. A conservative Finance Committee becomes essential with our wimpy $15 fee, making it outright impossible to give every organization the funds they demand for the year. The SA only has $500,000 to allocate each year to these 400 organizations; most schools our size have $2-5 million.

Take a moment to imagine if we just doubled the student fee to $30 (a mere one-twentieth of a percent increase in tuition costs). Imagine a doubling in funding and programming for all student organizations; imagine a world where everyone’s funding would be more than they asked for. The CDs and CRs could operate on budgets upward of $20,000, allowing for more speakers, more campaign trips and more community outreach. Or imagine the possibilities for WRGW, who hopes to become one of the first college radio stations to provide podcasts through iTunes. EMeRG would likewise be able to hold all of the social events they desire to reward their members for their thankless and grueling work. Imagine an allocations process that goes smoothly and leaves organizations with positive outlooks, rather than bitter attitudes and reduced programming. Let’s stop imagining a smoother allocations process and let’s starting working towards one – raise the student fee.

-Vicky Pollard, junior

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