Sunday, December 04, 2016

Did Retailers Who Start Playing Christmas Music Too Early Tip The Election for Donald Trump?

Did Retailers Who Start Playing Christmas Music Too Early Tip The Election for Donald Trump?

A thinkpiece by J. Robert Loftis

Social media and old media have both been on fire recently with people searching for the exact right way to place blame for the election of Donald Trump. Popular targets so far include the Clinton campaign, white women with less that two years college education, Jill Stein, and El NiƱo. People who like to overtly blame "The Jews" for things are, of course, overjoyed at Trump's victory, and not looking for scapegoats. However, many Trump opponents blame "The Media" and "Coastal Elites," which are generally code words for Jews. Actual Trump voters invariably rank low on people's blame lists, because this game is about expectations, not personal responsibility.

But what if everyone is wrong? Think about it. Most targets of blame since the election results have come in were actually targets of hypothetical blame before the vote. You remember all those posts from September saying "If Clinton loses this election, the fault will lie squarely with The Democratic Establishment/Stein Voters/The Polar Vortex." If we haven't changed scapegoats in light of the new information the election has given us, can we really say we are a reality based community?

What if no one we've talked about so far is really to blame for Trump's victory? What if the real people responsible are retailers who started playing Christmas music too early?

This theory has a lot of merit. For starters, no one likes those people. Also, there is a plausible narrative we can develop about how they tipped the election. Anyone playing Christmas music before November 8 this year was clearly playing Christmas music too early. And what kind of emotions does Christmas music evoke? Nostalgia. Comfort. Love of tradition. All the sorts of things that ignite the reactionary mind. Could it be that retailers in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania playing Christmas music during election season were a crucial factor in energizing Trump's base? Who can say? The research hasn't been done, nor will it be done. So the plausible narrative stands, ready to channel all the resentment people feel toward retailers who start playing Christmas music too early.

This theory has one last crucial advantage: retailers who start playing Christmas music too early won't be an important part of any coalition resisting Trump in the future. It doesn't matter if our blame alienates them.

So I say fuck those guys.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

More on Lorain PD use of force

While I wasn't paying attention, the dashcam video was released for the arrest of Pele Smith. Smith is suing the Lorain Police Department for smashing his head against a cruiser windshield.

Pele Smith was stopped for jaywalking, apparently after there were numerous complaints from neighbors about him selling drugs. He appears to have done something to resist arrest and possibly swallow drugs he was carrying. The video picks up with Smith already cuffed and on the ground. The police walk him to the cruiser whose dashcam we are looking through. Smith is yelling something repeatedly, possibly "Mom!" It doesn't look like he is physically resisting, though. When he reaches the cruiser, the police slam his head into the windshield of the cruiser hard enough to crack the glass. One of the officers says "Shut the fuck up. Do you have any weapons on you?"

During the ride to the hospital one of the arresting officer sits next to him and they argue about what happened. It is clear that they have had frequent interactions in the past. At various times during the argument, Smith admits to using drugs and carrying enough for his own use. Other times he says he didn't do nothing. At all times he strenuously denies dealing and denies resisting arrest, saying "I didn't fight you." The arresting officer, for his part, says that Smith brought all these problems on himself, and does this every time he gets in trouble.

There is also a video of a press conference with community leaders that I haven't watched yet.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pele Smith Sues the Lorain PD.

Researching use of force by the Lorain Police Department. Most of what I'm seeing fits the Justice Department's 2012 findings that there was a serious problem in the past, but it began to taper off after 2008, when the DoJ investigation began but before they released their final report.
There is, however, this case, where a guy named Pele Smith was stopped for jaywalking, but wound up having his face slammed into a patrol car hard enough to crack the windshield. As his lawyer notes, this fits one of the patterns mentioned in the DoJ report: excessive force for completely trivial stops.
The case has fits another pattern you see a lot: Smith eventually plead guilty (perhaps part of a plea bargain) to a bunch of charges involving resisting arrest and obstructing police business, without any mention of an underlying crime that might have triggered the stop to begin with. The police claim he tried to hide drugs by swallowing them, but no actual drug charges are filed.

http://www.chroniclet.com/Local-News/2016/08/12/Lorain-police-sued-over-excessive-force-claim.html

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Showing Up For Racial Justice North East Ohio has a project going where we study use of force policies for area police departments. I've been assigned the Lorain PD.


Dear Chief Rivera,

I am with SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice, Northeast Ohio Chapter), and we are conducting research into use of force policies at local police departments, in conjunction with the efforts of the Cleveland Community Police Commission. On April 29, 2015 the governor's Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations released its final report with a number of recommendations including that "all law enforcement agencies adopt, at a minimum, policies including, but not limited to, the use of deadly force, with the goal of enhancing the protection of all lives".  Subsequently, the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board was created to establish more detailed guidelines concerning use of force as well as the establishment of a certification process for local law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Searching the LPD website, I was not able to find a publicly available use of force policy. I did find the 2012 Justice Department letter to the city and police department, and the accompanying Technical Assistance Report. I was very glad to see that it found that the LPD did not have a continuing "pattern or practice of use of excessive force." However, I also saw that it made a lot of recommendations for changes to section 4 of your Standard Operating Policies and Procedures on "Aggression Response."

I am requesting that you provide us a copy of your policies regarding the use of force. I am also interested in learning if it has been updated in accordance with the Justice Department's recommendations.  This information will be quite helpful in reviewing the use of force policies of Northeast Ohio police departments.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

J. Robert Loftis


Thursday, June 02, 2016

Videos of the Allegory of the Cave [updated]

There are myriad videos of the allegory of the cave available, but most are not very good. Searching for videos mostly yields student projects, adaptation of classroom lectures, and videos that are using the allegory of the cave to push a religious or conspiratorial agenda. There are, however, some very good videos out there was well, suitable for classroom use. Three are listed below.

Weiss, Sam (Director). 1973. The cave: a parable told by Orson Welles Stephen Bosustow Productions. Animated. Time: 8:13


Comments: I highly recommend this. The script is a slight editing of the Jowett translation, read compellingly Orson Welles. The visuals are animations of evocative drawings by the illustrator Richard Oden, who among other things did some very striking illustrations for medical textbooks and ran the drawing program at Cal State University Long beach. Oden’s drawings can give the student a clear image of what is going on in the allegory and pack an emotional punch without being distracting. The music by soundtrack composer Larry Wolff is haunting.

The editing done to the Jowett translation is very slight. Mostly, they cut out Glaucon’s replies, sometimes working a few words into Socrates’s speech. A few words are changed here and there. The one major edit is at the end, right before 517b, after Socrates notes that anyone caught trying to free the prisoners would be put to death, the narration skips to a rougher paraphrase of 519d where Socrates says that the enlightened person is obligated to return to the people of the cave “partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not.”

Credits: Narrator: Orson Welles; Animator: Dick Oden; Music: Larry Wolff; Producers: Nick Bosutow, C.B. Wismar.

Publication and availability: As of this writing, an ok-quality copy video is readily available online (e.g. https://youtu.be/d2afuTvUzBQ), however it is not clear who the rights holder is. The sound in the version shared online is a little muddy and the picture a little grainy. The original production company seems to be Stephen Bosustow Productions, and education film company founded by one of the creators of Mr. Magoo. At some point, the movie may have been owned by McGraw-Hill Films, but it does not show up on the website for the current McGraw-Hill companies. VHS copies also show up in the catalogues of various libraries, but it is not clear that any of these would be higher quality than the version currently being shared online.



Ramsey, Michael (Writer, director, producer). 2007. The Cave: An Adaptation of Plato's Allegory in Clay Bullhead Entertainment. Claymation. Time: 3:10


Comments:This is a well done Claymation version, using an original script that is true to the parts of the text that it covers. The main problem, that because it is only three minutes long, it leaves out a lot of important elements, including the important multiple levels of representation, with the shadows representing the objects on the walkway and the objects on the walkway representing the objects outside, etc. It also leaves out all sorts of detail about the return of the cave. Instead, when the freed man returns to the cave, his friends do not recognize him, because he now appears as a shadow on the wall. The clip ends with the narrator emphasizing that the things outside of the cave are “not less real” than the shadows. He doesn’t say that the things outside are more real than the shadows, and he there is no depiction of attempts to free the other prisoners.

Credits: Claymation Artist: John Grigsby, Voice: Kristopher Hutson; Producer Tim Schultz; Photographed by Michael Ramsey and John Grigsby; Editors: Bruce Rudolph and John Grigsby; pyrotechnics: Jack Spivak; PA: Meaghan Lamond.

Publication and availability:Posted to YouTube by the production company that made it, also available at its official website http://platosallegory.com/
ETA:
Gendler, Alex. (Writer). Undated. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. TED Conferences, LLC.
Comments: Gendler is a TED-ed regular who has presentations on topics ranging from how Tsunamis work to logic puzzles. Gendler simplifies the presentation of the cave by eliminating the raised walkway and the puppets that cast shadows on the wall. Instead, the shadows are cast directly by the objects on the outside. This ruins the parallel with the divided line. However, there is still a sense of layering of representation, because he does talk about the escaped prisoner first only looking at reflections of objects in the water. The video concludes with a quick sketch of the theory of the forms. The animation is cute and accompanied by snappy sound effects. Animated. Time: 4:33

Credits: Alex Gendler: Writer/educator; Narration: Addison Anderson; Director: John R. Dilworth; Animator: Pilar Newton/Stretch films; Sound Designer: William Hohauser;

Publication and availability: The video is produced by the TED spin-off TED-Ed, and is covered by a creative commons (BY-NC-ND) license. There is also an online platform that comes with discussion forums and quiz questions and the possibility of creating further lessons that remain under the control of TED-ed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mount St.Mary's targets students with depression for pressure to leave the school.


The survey asked students whether the following statement applied to them during the last week: "I felt that I could not shake the blues, even with the help of family and friends." Students were told there would be no repercussions for their answer, when in fact, their answer would be used to determine whether they would be pressured to leave the school early in order to boost the school's retention numbers.

Every time a lie like this is perpetrated, people with depression become more distrustful of people who seem to be offering help. "I feel terrible all the time. This person might be trying to see if I need help, or they might be trying to identify me as weak so they can shun me." This survey contains the kind of lies that drive people to suicide.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fury Road is feminist in the exact same way Apocalypse Now is anti-war.

Last night while Joey Mined and Crafted, I watched Mad Max: Fury Road, so I can now finally weigh in on the "is it feminist or misogynist" debate. Vague spoilers follow.

Fury Road is feminist in the exact same way Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket are anti-war films. Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket were intended as anti-war films and received when they came out as anti-war. But check out what Anthony Swofford says in his memoir Jarhead:
We watched 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Full Metal Jacket' before we went to war. It was pornography for us. They opened up this historical and psychological narrative. This is what men do when they go to war, we thought. It's a received image of war through film.
also this
All Vietnam War films are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, no matter what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in Omaha or San Francisco or Manhattan will watch these films and weep and decide once and for all that war is inhumane and terrible...[we] watch the same films and are excited by them, because the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of (our) fighting skills. Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn.”
 The parallels to Apocalypse Now are especially deep, because both Apocalypse Now and Fury Road are about confronting militarized cults. Immortan Joe is Colonel Kurtz. In fact the Wikia for Fury Road tells me that before he was a warlord Immortan Joe was known as Colonel Joe Moore. I'm certain the reference is deliberate. Fury road is the Nung River. Apocalypse Now was a slow journey up the Nung River into the heart of darkness. In Fury Road we flee away from the heart of darkness down Fury Road, but then turn around and return.

People called Fury Road feminist because it is about women resisting sexual exploitation. It was intended to be feminist and received by some audiences as feminist, just as Apocalypse Now was intended to be anti-war and received as anti-war. However, some people called Fury Road anti-feminist because it seemed to be itself a form of sexual exploitation, where the suffering of women is used for titillation. But the titillation is only there for viewers like Swofford and his comrades. Most people are going to see the brutality and be horrified, and then find the victory over brutality cathartic. Some people, however, are going to see the brutality and be excited. The movie doesn't cater to this audience, they way some slasher films are said to cater to the audience that sympathizes with the killer. But it doesn't matter. It is still pornography to people who want to experience it as such.

Having made this comparison, you might think I believe Fury Road to be a bad movie, or shouldn't have been made. I don't. I think it is destined to be a classic on the level of Apocalypse Now. I think we need art that makes us confront the horror of these insane military cults, if only because the real world is full of them. The Khmer Rouge, The Lord's Resistance Army, the so-called Islamic State, David Koresh's Branch Davidians: these groups are real and can crop up anywhere. We confront them on the level of fiction so that we can tame our fear of them. We use the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Abortion FAQ, continued: reasons for abortion

As one who is "pro-life", I believe that 99% of abortions are uncalled for under any circumstance.
That's a really high number. Let's think about that a bit more. In this 2005 study, 1% of women seeking abortion said one reason they wanted an abortion because they had been raped. If this is the only justification you allow, then you have your 99%.

But most people also say abortion is justified if it is necessary to save the life of the mother. This makes sense, especially when you are look at situations like ectopic pregnancies, where often your choice is to continue with the pregnancy, and have both the mother and the fetus die, or abort the fetus, and at least save one life. The survey above doesn't list cases where the mother's life is at stake, but it does say that 12% of women list concerns for their own health as reasons for abortion. Of these, 4% listed a physical problem with their health as the "most important" reason they were having an abortion. It is not clear, however, how many of these cases are cases where the mother's life is in danger.

There are also cases where the health of the fetus can motivate an abortion. We've already looked at one case like that in this class: Tay-Sachs disease. A baby born with Tay-Sachs disease will live normally for about a year, but after that, their brain will begin to degenerate, and what follows are seizures, blindness and death by age 5. Many people would say that it is better to have not been born than it is to have such a brief life filled with suffering. Again with these studies, we don't have clear number for cases of abortion that are like the Tay-Sachs case. The 2005 study says that for 13% of the women seeking abortions, the future health of the fetus as a motivation, and for 3% of women it was the most important reason.As with the question of the mother's health, it is not clear what medical problems are being considered here.

So it looks like somewhere between 8% and 25% of abortions are in situations that people commonly view as legitimate reasons to have an abortion. (Gallup reports that 70% of Americans believe that abortion is acceptable in some or all circumstances, and rape and health of the mother are the most common exceptions.) Given this information, do you stand by the 99% number?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Bioethics FAQ, cont.

"A fetus really can feel pain at 8 weeks. I have a citation"

The link you gave is to the testimony of an "expert" before congress. Whenever you encounter expert evidence, there are three basic questions you need to ask.
  1. Does this person have the relevant expertise—are they in a position to know what they say they know?
  2. Is this person biased?
  3. Is this person's claim backed up by other experts?
In this case, the expert, Maureen L. Condic, passes the first test quite well. She is not just a scientist with a Ph.D. If you click through to her academic webpage, you can see she is a neurobiologist who works on fetal neuronal development.

Things start to fall apart a bit more when it comes to the issue of bias. Condic doesn't have any direct conflict of interest, like a financial stake in the outcome of this debate. However, googling around makes it clear that she is an activist. She writes for the conservative religious magazines like First Things and The Public Discourse. This makes it very likely that she is going to slant the facts as much as she possibly can in favor of her political view. Now this alone is no reason to discount her testimony. Almost everyone who writes on an issue like this is going to have strong political views of one sort or another. But this is something to bear in mind when considering her testimony

It is on the third question that the testimony here really falls apart. Condic's claim is not backed by what other experts say; it is contradicted by it. This article, by Susan J. Lee and colleagues, looks at all the relevant research. This is what they call in science a "survey article": It doesn't present original research. Instead it looks at all the research currently available to determine if all the evidence collected so far can give us a conclusion on an important issue. In this case, the authors dug through over a thousand articles in their examination of the evidence. Their conclusion: fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester."

So how does Condic reach a different conclusion than all the other researchers? The answer is illuminating: she is using different standards for what counts as evidence for the perception of pain. Lee et al. define pain as "a subjective sensory and emotional experience that requires the presence of consciousness to permit recognition of a stimulus as unpleasant." In other words, there has to be a brain present to be conscious of the pain, and there is no evidence of enough brain development for consciousness to happen until the third trimester. Condic, on the other hand, is just looking for a reflex reaction in response to stimulus: " The neural circuitry responsible for the most primitive response to pain, the spinal reflex, is in place by 8 weeks of development. This is the earliest point at which the fetus experiences pain in any capacity."

So the difference here is really philosophical. It is about what counts as pain, and what counts as evidence of pain. Condic is counting reflex responses to stimuli as pain. But even a detached cockroach leg can have a reflex response to a stimulus. This is actually an experiment you can do at home, as this video explains. Click here to skip to the part where a detached roach leg twitches in time to a Beastie Boys song. (You might not want to do that, though, if you are grossed out by roaches.)

Furthermore, the circuitry that is present in this detached cockroach leg is all that has developed in the fetus by 8 weeks gestation. The circuit uses serotonin and something called substance P. Its action is inhibited by endorphins. The machinery—or as philosopher Bernard Rollin put it, the "plumbing of pain"—is the same. It just isn't hooked up to anything. All of this can leave us quite confident that a fetus at 8 weeks gestation cannot feel pain.

(A lot of this is actually covered in Taking Animals Seriously: Mental Life and Moral Status, a book by one of your textbook authors, David DeGrazia. His focus is on the issue of pain in animals, though, not in fetuses.)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Abortion FAQ, continued: Why women have late term abortion

I keep a FAQ on abortion for my bioethics classes. I post the entries here, too, on the theory that if my students have these questions, other people might as well. Here is a post, from a student on the abortion discussion forum who is wondering about women who have late term abortions.

Most women find out they're pregnant at 4-5 weeks, why wait, if they know they're unhappy why not schedule an abortion as soon as possible?
The first thing to note here is that for the most part, women do have the abortion as soon as possible. As I explained in the abortion video, 88% of abortions are in the first trimester, and only 1.3% are in the third trimester.
The next thing to note is that a substantial number of women who have late term abortions are doing so for medical reasons. These are typically women who wanted to be pregnant, but have found out that something has gone wrong. Perhaps the pregnancy is endangering their life, or the child will not be able to survive after birth.
This still leaves a population of women who have abortion after the first trimester for something other than medical reasons. Here is an interesting study published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health on women who have abortions after 20 weeks gestation for non-medical reasons. In your question, you state that most women know they are pregnant in the fourth or fifth week. This is not true, however, of the women having abortions after 20 weeks in this study. They report on average, finding out that they are pregnant in the 12th week of pregnanacy.
Interestingly, the authors don't wind up using the late discovery of pregnancy as one of their factors explaining later abortion. They identify five profiles for women who delay abortion after 20 weeks. Together they account for 80% of the women in their sample.
  1. Women suffer from depression or drug addiction
  2. Women who were in conflict with their partner or perhaps experiencing physical abuse
  3. Women who were raising children alone
  4. Women who had trouble deciding and then trouble accessing a provider
  5. women who were young and had never had children before.
These categories overlap, so some women who delay abortion might be depressed and in a physically abusive relationship. I think some of these factors make the delay more understandable.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Words are not bullets

Ok, I'm just going to spit out an argument that has been on my mind:

Words are not bullets. The harm caused by offense is categorically different than any (any!) physical harm.

This is a thesis that needs to be defended, and at the same time qualified. Whenever people seek to enact speech codes they cite the harm that comes with offense. This makes perfect sense, because offense is a very real harm. Offense hurts the worst when it is applied systematically to people with very little power. The constant harassment of women and minorities in my discipline (philosophy) is an example of offense as a moral wrong.

That qualification in place, I want to draw as bright a line as possible between physical violence and verbal violence. I recognize that there is a lot of gray area here. Even John Stuart Mill admitted that it was one thing to say "Bread sellers are starvers of the poor" and to say the same thing, in front of an angry mob in front of a bakery.

I've got three reasons why physical violence is always worse than verbal offense. The first one is the most practical. Just as a matter of moral epistemology, we are better able to evaluate the harm caused by physical actions than by emotional offense. Doctors can tell us how hard you were hit, what bones were broken, and if you will live. Judging how offended someone is, really, is always guesswork.

The second argument is Rawlsian. Bodily health is a primary good. It is one that enables any other good you might seek after in your life. Harms to primary goods are always worse than harms to other things.

The final argument is the hardest for me to articulate, but I think it might ultimately be the most important. In the case of offense, person harmed has more control over the outcome than in the case of physical harm. This is not to say "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me." In fact, names can hurt a lot, especially when they are thrown consistently at people with very little power. After a while, even the most tough-minded person will feel the blows. Those of us with even weaker constitutions will crumble much more quickly.

That said, it is at least possible to shrug off the harm of an offense remark. You cannot decide not to let blood loss bother you. Names hurt, but we can mitigate that hurt by deciding not to let it bother us, and we are all a lot better off if we all agree to let some shit slide. Humanity's greatest strength is our ability to know. This is why things have basically been getting better for us for the last 35,000 years. Our ability to know depends on our ability to imagine all kinds of crazy shit. Even shit that seems to go against God.

Friday, December 19, 2014

What I did with my sabbatical

These 125 pages represent the bulk of my creative output this sabbatical. They are a part of a larger project to create a free, open access logic textbook that would be competitive with Hurley's A Concise Introduction to Logic ($152.90, new), Copi et al. Introduction to Logic ($144.24, new) and Baronett Logic ($84.30, new). My hope is to combine my own writing with existing texts by Cathal Woods and P.D. Magnus to create a text that can match the coverage of these expensive books. The resulting book An Open Introduction to Logic will available for teachers through the same outlets they are used to using, to make widespread adoption as easy as possible.

This sabbatical's output is just the section on Aristotelian logic. I haven't tried to be particularly innovative. I took the books by Hurley, Cohen et al., and Baronett to be my "cohort group," and surveyed them to determine what instructors were doing, and to establish that none of the methods here were anyone's intellectual property. I wanted to be sure that everything is just standard industry practice, so to speak. The table below shows how many pages our book and the texts in the cohort group to the two major topics covered, categorical statements and categorical syllogisms. More importantly, it shows the number of exercises the texts gives for each topic. Basically, my page count is in the same range as the cohort group, but I have 100 more exercises than even Hurley's book, which has a hell of a lot of exercises. Page totals do not include glossaries, bibliographies, etc.

Categorical Statements Categorical Syllogisms Total
Hurley 64 pages, 318 exercises. 52 pages, 107 exercises 116 pages, 425 exercises
Baronett 52 pages, 243 exercises. 70 pages, 188 exercises 122 pages, 431 exercises
Copi et al.: 41 pages, 130 exercises. 82 pages, 231 exercises 123 pages, 361 exercises
Loftis et al.: 44 pages, 274 exercises 69 pages, 297 exercises 113 pages, 571 exercises

The excerpts I posted will be chapters 10 and 11 of the final text. They appear as chapters 1 and 2 because I didn't compile the full textbook. Also, all cross references to chapters not in this compilation of the text will appear as question marks. The glossary, bibliography, and table of contents only covers these two chapters

These are my authors notes on my Chapter 10 and Chapter 11..

These documents compare the coverage of texts in the cohort group for categorical statements and categorical syllogisms.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Age of first use and addiction.

Saw an interesting panel on drug abuse here in Lorain County. The speaker gave an interesting stat about age of first use and addiction. I asked him for more detail and he referred me to his source. It turns out the source says exactly the same thing that he did:

“One in four people who used any addictive substance before they turned 18 have a substance use disorder, compared with one in 25 who first used any of these substances at age 21 or older.(41)”

Footnote 41, in turn, essentially just says "This was our analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health"

This is frustrating because it means that if I actually want more detail, I would have to run the numbers myself. CASA itself looks kinda like drug war propaganda, which is also irritating, because I was looking for something more data driven and helpful.

http://www.casacolumbia.org/addiction-research/reports/adolescent-substance-use

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Include disclosure of contingent faculty compensation and other working conditions

To: HEAA2014@help.senate.gov
cc: info@newfacultymajority.info

Sen. Harkin,

Thank you for sponsoring the Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA), and working to keep college accessible to all Americans. I am writing to ask you to make this bill even more effective by including provisions to address the reliance of colleges and universities on contingent faculty--adjuncts and other non-tenure-line faculty. As you know, part time faculty now comprise 50% of the faculty workforce, and 80% of the workforce at community colleges. These faculty are paid substandard wages, have to juggle positions at several schools, and are not compensated for spending time out of the classroom with students. All of this has a tremendous negative impact on the quality of education students are receiving.

You can help alleviate this problem by including a provision in your legislation requiring colleges and universities to disclose contingent faculty compensation and other working conditions. Transparency is already one of the four major goals of the HEAA. This goal should be expanded to include transparency on this crucial issue.

Thank you for your time

Prof. J. Robert Loftis
Lorain County Community College.