Ramapo College honors adjuncts at AFT awards

Photo by Scott Yunker

Long-time adjunct faculty members were honored for their life’s work in education by the Ramapo Federation of State College Teachers (American Federation of Teachers Local 2274) at its second annual AFT Adjunct Awards, held in the Alumni Lounges on Wednesday afternoon. Adjunct faculty members comprise 52 percent of Ramapo College’s total faculty and teach over a third of all courses offered by the school, according to an AFT press release citing the RCNJ 2017 Fact Book.

Despite adjuncts’ majority status on campus, the ceremony’s organizers believe their work at the College often goes unrecognized.

“They seem invisible. They’re not in the phone directory, their names are often not listed in the course catalogue,” said Jude Pernot, the Ramapo AFT union administrator behind the event. “We felt it was time for somebody to shine a light on their achievements and contributions.”

Those honored on Wednesday included Paul Sears, a teacher in the College’s Masters in Education Leadership program; Jacob Sloujitel, in math; and Walter “Chuck” Stead, in environmental studies. Sloujitel and Stead have taught at Ramapo since 1998. Sears has taught at the College since 1997.

“We all know the plight of the adjunct: No job security, no benefits, low pay. Sometimes referred to as ‘the invisible faculty,’ adjuncts are given little reason to make an investment in any institution,” Pernot said in her opening remarks. “And yet these teachers have shown commitment and dedication to both their students and their colleagues for decades.”

Sears was the first honoree recognized at the Awards. Associate professor Brian Chinni, in a statement read aloud by adjunct faculty member and Executive Vice President of Ramapo AFT Kathleen Shannon, said Sears’ longevity at the College represented only a fragment of his achievement in academia: “His performance exceeds the highest of expectations … Paul is an exemplary educator.”

Tim Judge, the vice president of adjuncts for Ramapo AFT, presented awards to Sloujitel and Stead, both of whom were lauded for their work. Stead was unable to receive his award in person due to an illness. His friend and colleague, professor of geography Howard Horowitz, accepted the award in his place.

“Chuck is a local boy that made good,” Horowitz said of Stead, who grew up in nearby Hillburn, New York.

Stead has made a lasting impact on the nearby community through his environmental activism, said Horowitz, spearheading movements to clean up toxic paint sludge illegally dumped in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains by the Ford Motor Company throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

Following the event, Judge noted the difficulty in long-term work as a part-time instructor. Adjuncts work from semester to semester with no guarantee they’ll teach the following term, he said. “To be able to put together 20-plus years [at Ramapo] is a significant achievement.”

Shannon agreed. To have retained positions at Ramapo, the award recipients “must have gotten good reviews over the years,” she said.

“These are really talented people,” Shannon continued. “Who are here for a love of teaching.”