Opinion: Why Students Should Support Striking Teachers

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By Jordan Kunkel

As we reported, non-tenure-track and part-time faculty in Loyola University Chicago’s College of Arts and Sciences and the English Language Learning Program held a one-day strike yesterday.

I was one of the many students who left class to show my support for the adjuncts and non-tenure-track faculty members I’ve grown to respect and admire during my four years as a student at Loyola.

I feel particularly qualified to speak on this subject – I am a Dance major and almost all of my classes have been led by adjuncts.

I spend 20 to 30 hours a week in the dance studio or in dance-related classes.

For at least 80 percent of that time, I’m working with and learning from adjunct and non-tenure-track faculty.

My fellow majors and I decided to utilize the skills they’ve taught us to show just how much we support their fight for fair wages, benefits and contracts.

Instead of holding protest signs, we danced.

At 2:00 p.m., we rushed into the intersection outside the Mundelein Center (during red lights, of course) to perform improvised movements in front of the stopped cars.

Other picketers joined in. Those standing on the sides began chanting, “Dance is Democracy.”

That gave me goosebumps, and not just because it was cold outside.

WHY WE SUPPORT OUR TEACHERS:

I was shocked to learn that the dance instructors who have taught me so much don’t have the same benefits and job security as tenured faculty members at Loyola.

Because adjuncts usually keep real-world jobs, I learn invaluable lessons from them about what dancing professionally really entails. 

Only one faculty member in the dance program, Director of Dance Sandra Kaufmann, is tenure-track.

Kaufmann attended the strike with her fellow faculty members.

At least two of the part-time dance instructors at Loyola, who have been teaching here since the dance program began ten years ago, have never received a pay raise.

Mei-Kuang Chen, a modern and ballet instructor, told me that she recently took on a fourth job.

Between teaching, grading, and performing professionally, she works seven days per week.  Chen believes she deserves more respect from the university.

“I love teaching at a university because I am able to work with devoted and ambitious students. I want to teach at Loyola because I learn from thinking at higher level and pushing my students to work at a higher level. But this takes so much more effort and preparation on my part, and I’m not compensated enough for that effort,” said Chen. “I only wish Loyola University can provide us with more respect of what we do with a fair contract.”

As a student, I just don’t understand why I pay so much tuition (which increases every year), but my best teachers have never received a dime more in pay.

Even worse, they have no idea if their contracts will be renewed at the end of each year.

In the dance department (and a few others, I suspect), this isn’t just about workers rights – this is about women’s rights.

One man teaches dance at Loyola. The other teachers are women.

And most of them are mothers.

We often hear a lot about the importance of achieving a work-life balance. But those are just words.

How much are companies and institutions like Loyola really doing to support people trying to achieve a work-life balance?

Dance represents all that’s good in life.  So why are we treating those who teach us how to dance so poorly?

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