Letter to the Editor: The future of CFAC and adjuncts, as told by biology

By Letter to the Editor, by Michele Hoffman

The votes are in, and the incumbent union leadership has managed to maintain control of CFAC, but that is not really what I want to write about here. Instead, I want to offer [readers] some thoughts about the way forward and a vision for Columbia through the eyes of a scientist.

In the last few years, Chicago alone has seen the closure of [at least] 16 colleges, not including campus closures and acquisitions such as Kendall College and the bid by Roosevelt University to acquire Robert Morris University, to name a few. This reality is not unique to Chicago, so if you make a living teaching higher education and have not been paying attention to the nationwide epidemic of school closures and financial struggles, shame on you.

In biology we are taught that in the face of large-scale change to a system, living things have but three choices: to migrate, adapt or die. As the landscape of higher education continues to change, if we fail to adapt successfully as an institution, [we] will be looking for jobs elsewhere or finding [ourselves] out of work. This is not an opinion, it’s a hard and factual reality. If we aspire to adapt as a community, we need to aggressively change our attitudes.

What has long troubled me about the running of our union is the adversarial relationship they have cultivated with the administration fueled by pure hatred and acid rhetoric, which leads me to my second point: From an ecological point of view, well-established systems are rich in symbiotic relationships that help the system to better function as a whole.

Nobody wants Columbia to fail, and to think otherwise is shortsighted and, frankly, absurd—even parasites don’t want their host to die. Given that a new contract has been signed, it is time to shift our thinking away from what Columbia can do for you, to what you will do for Columbia to ensure the successful adaptation of our system. How do you plan to find ways to work with your department, the administration, and our students to restore health to our environment?

In physics we are taught that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. Therefore, it is my contention that we need to transform our energy right now. This is an opportunity for the CFAC leadership to do better than it has done in the past, and demonstrate that they are capable of adapting by changing the narrative. Will they heed the critiques of nearly 100 opposition voters and evolve? Only time will tell.

Michele Hoffman

Adjunct professor in the Science and Mathematics Department