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monique john

Students are shortchanged with adjuncts and visiting professors that cannot be fully present on campus. (Tavy Wu/The Observer)
Students are shortchanged with adjuncts and visiting professors that cannot be fully present on campus. (Tavy Wu/The Observer)
Students are shortchanged with adjuncts and visiting professors that cannot be fully present on campus. (Tavy Wu/The Observer)

By MONIQUE JOHN
Opinions Editor
Published: February 20, 2013

When I think about the future I sometimes see myself in a classroom—only this time I’m standing in front of school desks, not sitting in one. My thermos is in one hand and my copies of “Longing to Tell,” “Feminist Theory” and “When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost” sit under the other as I look out from the projector. My students are captive and inquisitive. They invest hours throughout the week to explore the authors I present to them, freely offering their insights with their classmates with me inside and outside of the course.

But that daydream is now dying after I read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on a growing trend of visiting professorships. A significant population of our educators are being denied job security by getting stuck in visiting and adjunct positions and it is not only unfair to the hard working professionals that do their best to educate us, but it is negatively impacting our lives as students.

What are visiting professors? These people are educators that are being hired on limited contracts (only for one to three years) to fill teaching positions while keeping down budget costs for schools. Visitors are compensated relatively well for their work, earning salaries close to tenure track faculty with assistant titles as well as health benefits. But while they can be smart financial move for colleges, visiting professors, like adjuncts, are much less likely to eventually receive tenure and risk leading dead-end careers hopping from one university to the next.

The whole college community is impacted by this trend, as professors that are visitors or adjuncts are not allowed to engage in important departmental affairs that enrich the academic lives of their students and colleagues. As Margaret Schwartz, an assistant professor on the tenure track in the communication and media studies department explains, this means that visitors and adjuncts can’t be involved in faculty committees to discuss developments in curricula and university-wide initiatives, labor rights for educators, goal evaluations for academic departments, decisions in new hires or support for one another’s research. They also can’t serve as advisors for students and student organizations, leaving larger workloads for tenured faculty.

The impact upon students doesn’t end with the fact that visitors and adjuncts can’t serve as advisors. There is also the problem that despite their extensive capabilities as educators, visitors and adjuncts are often teaching syllabi (sometimes in important core classes) that are not finalized or overseen to ensure that they align with the goals of their academic departments. As a result, students can finish these courses without being as prepared as they should be.

I’ve heard a few Fordham professors complain about these problems during my time here as a student. It’s no wonder they do; though there aren’t many visiting professors in our university, adjuncts make up 30 percent of our arts and sciences faculty alone, and they’re working for substantially less than visitors and assistants on the tenure track. According to faculty sources, a starting salary for a new visitor or assistant professor at Fordham could make approximately $65,000, but an adjunct receives less than $5,000 for each class they teach for a whole semester. Even worse, they don’t receive health benefits and are likely to have long commutes because they can’t afford to live nearby campus. With the challenges that these professors’ livelihood, they cannot be present and supportive of their students in the way they should be.

Proponents argue that being a visiting professor or an adjunct is a great way to rack up experience. But don’t they say the same thing about internships? How would you feel if you were posed with the prospect of continuously jumping from one internship to the next, even it were a paid position? Would you honestly be satisfied with the career that’s been laid out in front of you? And sure, educators may not be forced into working in higher education, but when these are the only positions universities and colleges are making available for hire, what else are these people supposed to do?

Building experience is essential to a good career but having job security is just as important. Our educators deserve better and so do we. Universities may be looking to place employees in these positions as a way to save money, but those methods aren’t helping anyone if they’re causing so much stress to students and faculty. If our academic institutions are going to prosper, quality of life and education must always precede profit.

By MONIQUE JOHN, HARRY HUGGINS AND AYER CHAN
Opinions Editor, Editor-in-Chief,  Photo Co-Editor
Published: December 6, 2012

On Dec. 4, Fordham College at Lincoln Center’s Rainbow Alliance held its first “Queer Prom” after students and faculty lobbied to Fordham administration to approve the use of the word “queer” in social programming on campus. Officially called “LGBT Prom” in years past, dozens of FCLC students danced and socialized in the dimly lit Cafeteria Atrium to celebrate. Though the Queer Task Force that campaigned for the use of the word “queer” achieved its goal to change the name of the event so it could be more inclusive of various sexual and gender identities that are represented in the Fordham community, members insist their efforts are not over. Some are concerned that the word “queer” is still not allowed to be used in student club names or club literature. This year’s prom theme was old Hollywood glamour. In addition to music and dancing, prom attendees dubbed both Charlie Martin, FCLC ’14 and president of Rainbow and Thomas Welch, FCLC ’15 and treasurer of Rainbow, “Best Actor” while Effy Donovan, FCLC ’15 was named “Best Actress” of the night.

 

Though once dispatched to protect citizens, stories of police officers and SWAT teams killing innocent victims are making headlines. (Karen T. Borchers/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)
Though once dispatched to protect citizens, stories of police officers and SWAT teams killing innocent victims are making headlines. (Karen T. Borchers/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)

By MONIQUE JOHN
Opinions Editor
Published: November 14, 2012

Hands on the steering wheel at 3:30 in the morning, I sleepily peer out through my windshield at the white lane markings on the Bronx Expressway. My (now ex) boyfriend is riding shotgun, passed out after an evening of empanadas at Havana Central and reruns of “Black Dynamite.” I envy him, desperately wanting to go to sleep myself, but someone’s got to drive him back home and I’m the only one with a driver’s license.

This was the routine for our weekly dates, all summer long. You’re probably wondering why Sharpie didn’t just take a taxi or a train to spare me. For one, taxis are terribly expensive—especially if you’re traveling from Westchester all the way into the Bronx. Plus, the waiting time for a train at that hour of the morning would have been brutal. But the reason was a lot more serious than that: I wouldn’t let Sharpie take a train home at night because I feared for his safety. Ironically, he wasn’t in danger from the hoodlum he might run into on his way home from the subway stop.  He was in danger of the police.

The very things about Sharpie’s dress and physical appearance that I loved made him a prime criminal suspect in the eyes of NYPD: cocoa-toned skin, pouty lips, slightly-sagging jeans, the unsure bopping gate of a 22-year-old man. It didn’t matter how spotless his record was or how smart he was, or that he stood by his mother in a church pew every Sunday. He was young, black and male; therefore he fit the profile, giving police an excuse to abuse their authority and harass Sharpie in his own neighborhood almost everyday.

It is this abuse of authority that is feeding into my mistrust of the NYPD. This mistrust is not only based on Sharpie’s run-ins with idle policemen. It’s also rooted in the tragic, continuous stories of police misconduct (and the resulting fatalities) that have made headlines in recent months. It is exhausting to listen to stories of innocent people being molested by the very figures that are supposed to protect them. I urge my fellow citizens and our country’s law enforcement institutions to pay closer heed to these stories and to enact more severe punishments for police officers’ wrong actions that match the damage they have done.

Sometimes I feel like my late night drives with Sharpie were futile. It seems as though none of us are even safe within our own homes, much less our streets. Doubly concerning, the problem isn’t limited to New York. On Thursday, Nov. 1, Baltimore policeman Adam Lewellen was charged with planting false information in a search warrant affidavit so that he could enter a suspect’s private residence. On Friday, Oct. 25, the parents of 16-year-old Andrew Messina told CBS Atlanta that a SWAT team killed their son after the mother called for only one police officer to their home to persuade Andrew from killing himself. Then there is the story of Ramarley Graham, the 18-year-old that was followed by the police as he walked to his Bronx home (not far from Sharpie), then shot in front of his own grandmother and kid brother inside their bathroom on Thursday, Feb. 2. The police suspected Graham was carrying a gun, only to find he was only armed with a bag of marijuana.

The elderly aren’t immune to police violence, either. On Sunday, Nov. 19, 2011, 68-year-old veteran Kenneth Chamberlain was tasered, shot and killed by police in his White Plains home after he accidently called Life Alert on his medical alert pendant. To add to the tragedy, officers were ordered not to go into the house by the Life Alert agent that was on the case because Chamberlain’s call was just a mishap.

Left without convictions held against the officers that killed their son, the Messina’s are leading a lawsuit against the Cherokee County Sherriff’s Office. Though charged with manslaughter, the policeman that killed Graham was released on $50,000 bail. The police officer that killed Chamberlain was cleared of all criminal charges.

The statistics are just as horrifying as the stories. According to Term Life Insurance, 5,986 reports of police misconduct were reported from April 2009 to June 2010.

382 deaths were connected to those misconduct reports.

I see the grim faces of Graham and Messina’s mothers, realizing I could have easily have been that woman mourning a man I loved who died at the hands of New York’s Finest. Hearing the stories and reading the statistics, it’s not such a distant, melodramatic thought. We know that anyone can be a victim of police misconduct. But we must ask ourselves: are we going to hold police officers liable for the careless, unnecessary violence they spread in our communities? Or will we continuously sweep it under the rug, pretending our lives are somehow less valuable when in the presence of law enforcement?

What do you think you know about this woman without knowing her?(David Trotman-Wilkins/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

By MONIQUE JOHN
Opinions Editor
Published: November 6, 2012

The slothful, hypersexual, manipulative welfare mother has plagued headlines once again with the withdrawal of a recent Pennsylvania House Bill on Oct. 24. Drafted by Republican and Democratic state representatives, the Pennsylvania House Bill 2718 ruled that families currently under assistance with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) would be refused coverage for newborns—unless the mother could supply proof that her child was a product of rape as well as the identity of her rapist.

What do you think you know about this woman without knowing her?(David Trotman-Wilkins/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

The last clause is extremely difficult for me to swallow.

Though it is hard to see, the representatives that drafted 2718 had somewhat good intentions. Obviously they were trying to reform welfare in their state to promote their idea of a stable, model family while doing what they believed would conserve state funds and reduce fraudulent use of welfare benefits. But what happens to a woman who accidentally becomes pregnant and doesn’t have the money for an abortion? What if her religion prevents her from having one? Or what about the woman who loses her job once she becomes pregnant? And how could legislators expect to create effective legislation by glossing over important, complicated facts surrounding rape, children’s rights and family structures that construct welfare recipients’ home environments?

The bill’s mandate implies that lawmakers are concerned about women falsely claiming rape to take advantage of welfare benefits. But did they forget that according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, less than half, exactly 46%, of all rapes are actually reported? The problem is not that women are falsely claiming they’ve been raped. The problem is that not enough women are reporting they’ve been raped. Given the societal pressures surrounding a woman’s assault such as fear of retaliation from her attacker, severe trauma and humiliation, and even disbelief from authorities, there are plenty valid (though extremely unfortunate and problematic) reasons as to why a rape isn’t reported. Besides, is a woman’s rape only legitimate if it’s been filed with the authorities?

Legislators don’t even have a plausible reason to be concerned over welfare fraud. In a 2010 report from the United States Government accountability office, only four percent of allowances to families within the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as the food stamp program, were incorrectly distributed. Within that four percent, two-thirds of them were errors on the part of SNAP caseworkers.

In attacking their parents, we’re indirectly harming the children that need the aid the most. Regardless of how they were brought into the world, a child is a dependent being that deserves the resources they need for healthcare, proper nutrition, and a prosperous education to grow.

With the overwhelming response from journalists at the Pennsylvania State House offices, the bill was revoked only hours after it was reported by various news outlets. However, even though the bill was struck down by those who drafted it, it is one of many government policies of its kind that has left a lasting impression on the American public with long held myths and stereotypes of those living on welfare. For one, in only giving aid to impregnated women who have been raped, the bill promotes the idea that most mothers on welfare are immoral, manipulative sexual deviants, using their children for checks. If it is only the woman that has been forced into conception is a valid applicant for assistance, then we are left with the implication that the pregnant woman who had consensual sex lacks work ethic and self worth, complacent with living in poverty.

As in any social service program, there is a population of people who abuse the system. But this is just a stereotype that disregards the fact that two-thirds of single mothers on welfare work outside of their homes. Furthermore, the aid that families actually receive from TANF is hardly extravagant. A family of three is only given up to $5,000 for a maximum of five years while on TANF, a program that only services two percent of Pennsylvania’s population. It’s not realistic to entertain the idea that mothers on welfare want to live as a dependent on the system (much less use their children as forms of profit) because the amount of money they receive from these programs is so meager. Plus, average middle and upper class Americans are quick to forget that are dependent on financial aid and other forms of welfare programs from the government themselves, with access to public education, mortgage deductions, Social Security and corporate tax breaks and in many cases, inherited wealth.

We are in the third wave of the feminist movement, but it feels like the first. The decision of whether or not a woman is worthy of receiving public assistance is based on her prior relation to a man as opposed to her personal merit, and lawmakers have found yet another way to humiliate welfare recipients by invading their personal lives, putting their (oftentimes painful) sexual past on display. In a year that has fostered such a large discussion on women’s rights, it’s unbelievable that our government officials have put forth yet another effort to gain control of women’s bodies and reproductive rights.

By MONIQUE JOHN
Opinions Editor
Published: October 24, 2012

 

 

Opinions Editor Monique John takes her problems to a booth at the Fordham hot spot, The Flame Diner, and discusses fighting back against older individuals’ stereotyping of today’s youth. John proves that the current generation isn’t that lost after all.

Now that the theatrics of the debates have come to the end, is the public actually going to be left with a suitable president? (Richard Graulich/Palm Beach Post/MCT)

By MONIQUE JOHN
Opinions Editor
Published: October 24, 2012

After a frustrating debate season, I found the fourth and final presidential debate on Oct. 22 to be somewhat of a relief. I’m sure the setting of the debate had a lot to do with it: this time, the audience didn’t make a peep, the cameras’ tight shots on each candidate’s face never moved once for the whole occasion, and President Obama and Governor Romney sat face to face with their moderator, Journalist Bob Schieffer. Without any interruptions from the audience and under close surveillance from the cameras and their moderator, Obama and Romney had nowhere to hide. They couldn’t serenade the anxious college student in the front row, hoping to impress young people with romantic speeches on how they would get jobs for our generation. They couldn’t strut across the stage to model their machismo as they were talking, or duck their heads from the camera when they were embarrassed or at a loss for words. All either could do was answer the question posed to them.

In that sense, the fourth debate was more satisfying. I’m leaning toward the candidate with the funny name and odd resemblance to my father (of course, not for those reasons!), but the old man with the white-stranded temples argued some decent points in his own right throughout the debate as well.

However, is this fourth debate going to have a lasting impression on the American public? It seems that ever since the debate season has started, commentators and average citizens alike are fixated on Obama’s “failure” in the first round, exponentially increasing people’s doubts of whether or not he is competent enough or passionate enough about being president for a second term.

This is the root of my frustration.

Doesn’t anyone remember when Obama meticulously picked apart all of the problems with Romney’s plans for using vouchers in Medicare, only for Romney to sheepishly follow up Obama’s monologue by listing his plans for vouchers─the very same ones Obama just finished refuting—and unable to explain why his policies were better than Obama’s? Doesn’t anyone remember the ridiculous lies Romney spewed about current conditions in America’s hospitals and Obama cutting funding to college students throughout the debate? I know none of you have forgotten about Romney’s 47 percent gaffe!

But I suppose none of that resonated with people. It seems all anyone cares about in these debates is theatrics—smoke, mirrors, perfectly coordinated outfits and some damn-good hair gel. It doesn’t matter that Obama answered each question in its entirety, unlike his opponent; all people saw and heard were his dipped eyes and lukewarm inflection. What commentators perceived from Obama’s reserved demeanor as apathy and lack of preparation, I perceived as frustration and exhaustion, Obama being dryly amused by his competition.

This debate season became even more of a disappointment when Obama started resorting to theatrics by the third debate, mimicking his opponent’s humorous, yet rude behavior: going over his allotted time to speak, egging on the moderator to highlight his opponent’s mistakes, obnoxiously interrupting his opponent and fighting for the last word.

On one hand, it’s good that Obama is being responsive to what critics are saying. And I think we can all agree that Obama is under an immense amount of pressure this election season. But ultimately the man is stooping to a level that I think is hurting, not helping, his public persona as a confident leader. Let’s be honest with ourselves—if Obama had actually been as feisty as everyone says he should have been in that first debate, would he really have come off as the aggressive, self-assured leader we all want? Or would we have just seen him as an angry black man, tense with the fear that had completely lost his grip on the support of Americans? Based on the reaction to Melissa Harris-Perry’s “blow-up” on her show last month, I’m convinced the latter would have been the case.

The fact that people’s words and actions take on different connotations based on their race, class, gender, age and even their looks is highly bothersome to me. But I am even more bothered by the fact that this season of presidential debates is clearly prioritizing candidates’ theatrical performances as opposed to the content of their answers. Naturally, citizens and media outlets will gravitate toward  photogenic candidates that give sexy sound bites. But does anyone actually care that fact checkers are finding a significant amount of untruths in what the candidates are saying? What would happen if in two years we’re in another war and job rates have miraculously plummeted to 70 percent employment? What would our president—the same one that we once deemed as victorious in his debates—be able to tell us then? Would he have a feasible and effective strategy to solve our country’s problems? Or would he blow some hot air in a television camera, hoping an eloquent quote would be enough to distract the masses from their misery? Do undecided Americans actually have the answers they need to help them decide who they believe is best able to lead our country? When Election Day finally comes, are we going to be ready?

Perhaps a better question is: “What if our nation dared to be intelligent?” These are Maya Angelou’s words, posed to Perry in an interview from one of her recent episodes on MSNBC. If only our candidates, and their viewers for that matter, were intelligent enough to look away from childish, unfounded attacks on fellow politicians, granting merit to those thoroughly able to articulate their plans to improve our country and not to those with the most bellicose voice. That would be a different debate entirely.

By MONIQUE JOHN
Opinions Editor
Published: October 10, 2012

Think you have food issues? In the third episode of OBS TV’s series, Mo’ Problems, Opinions Editor Monique John talks about her unusual and frustrating food cravings due to stress and a million other things at once.