MLA’s president Sidonie Smith has posted an article to the MLA blog titled “One MLA Serving All Faculty” in which she explains why the MLA should encourage more community college members to join the organization (there are currently about 800 out of the 30,000+ members).
She begins by acknowledging the need to articulate with those colleges where the majority of students begin their college educations. Then she warns her readers that community colleges are the canaries in the coal mine–they foreshadow the horrors that will trickle up to the more illustrious institutions of higher education. At the same time, those community colleges actually have, you know, jobs, so “our” graduate students need them.
The MLA has been reaching out to community college faculty member since the 1980s; in the 1990s I was invited to a breakfast for community college faculty. The Committee on Community Colleges was established to provide a forum for our members to become involved in the work of the MLA. In recognition of our minority status, the Delegate Assembly has special interest slots for two community college members so that our perspectives are represented within the governance structure. The MLA offers incentives for local community college faculty to attend certain convention sessions for free, recognizing that many of us do not get professional development funds. Two years ago, there was a pre-convention workshop for community college faculty members.
We are certainly not being ignored. In fact, we are being courted.
I’ve enjoyed attending conventions for the last 18 years, and have felt included in the professional organization in which I’ve chosen to invest my time, energy, and money. I’ve presented papers, I’ve participated in roundtable discussions, and each year, I take pages (pre-netbook) of notes on new books, new ideas, new classroom activities that I learn at this annual convention.
So, this article surprised and disturbed me.
Professor Smith does attempt to seek common ground with her first reason: we need to work together for the sake of all students. However, after that, the article is clearly addressed only to the 29, 200 members who are NOT community college instructors. It sets a tone that is, unfortunately, not inclusive. It was written ABOUT us, as if we weren’t in the club.
This is undoubtedly not intentional. And perhaps, silly me, I shouldn’t have read it until after I finished grading final essays and dealing with stressed out students. I may, admittedly, have my own inferiority complex. But this article from the President of my professional organization seems unfortunately condescending when that is not at all her intention.
I need to craft a detailed response with specifics (the article is posted on a blog after all) after I’ve finished dealing with the essay that is 71% plagiarized; after I finished grading the remaining 45 essays on my desk; after I finish some work I have to do for the MLA Convention in LA. A rational response, that doesn’t ooze with the angst from that chip on my shoulder.