OCC-AFA Newsletters

Adjunct News

May 2020

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When I put out the invitation to some of you to share something of your sheltering-in-place life, I expected a few lines written in return.  You wrote missives!  I think all of us miss greeting each other in the hallways, chatting in the lounge, catching up with each other and exchanging opinions and teaching tips in the Division offices.  Here is what we have missed.  Enjoy.

from Sun Choi, Art:

I am doing OK, but feel like I am always chased for time.  Even when I have time, there is not enough time to prepare for virtual classes I used to take Yoga Sculpt classes but can’t now even though I can access some free yoga classes.  So I go to Flick Park in Glenview and walk for an hour in the morning.  Naturel brings me fresh air and a calm spirit.

Here is a photo of a stack of my artwork for virtual art classes.

From Phil Prale,  Education:

I am staying well. Whenever we have decent weather, I head outside to bike, run, walk, or simply enjoy the longer days.  On-line experience has been a work in progress,…using the virtual classroom, the whiteboard, and polling in the BBB…I’m reading Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, after finishing Patti Smith’s Just Kids, Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School, and Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age.  Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House is in the queue, as is Roth’s The Plot Against America.  Series? I finished The Outsider, and Season 10 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Season 3 of Fauda. Here is a picture of me from last summer, hiking in Estes Park Colorado.

From Linda Karlen, English/ESL:


This semester has required extra doses of patience and compassion. Like most faculty, I’ve had to upgrade my at-home equipment/broadcast space and my online teaching skills for remote learning. Like so many adjunct faculty teaching at two institutions, I’ve had to make the adjustments on two different communicative platforms (in my case, D2L and Blackboard). Teaching is learning, and no more so than this semester. In addition to teaching, I’ve started an ION course on online teaching/learning. I’m encouraged by the perseverance of my students, many of whom are also experiencing huge adjustments in employment, pandemic protocol, and online learning. A one-day-at-a-time approach along with frequent communications with students, colleagues, family, and friends have helped me immeasurably. Also, almost-daily walks, journaling, and staying in contact with nature are my life savers.

Am I the only one who doesn’t subscribe to Netflix? My college-aged sons do and give me occasional recommendations as do my students. Can’t reciprocate for now. I have taken some extra time for leisure reading. The other day I walked up to my bookcase and pulled out Jack Finney’s Time and Again, a book that has survived many purges but one I’ve never read. Now is the time. Though I don’t miss my commute to work, I do miss listening to audio-books in my car. In brief drives to the grocery store or forest preserves, I’m continuing with the The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Anne Weisgarber.

Rachel’s struggles with self-worth, drought, hunger, social-distancing (in the South Dakota Badlands!), parenting, prejudice and racism are peculiarly hopeful.

From Shannon Sloan-Spice, World Mythology:

I must say I am so grateful for the Kairos moment we find ourselves in! What a perfect time to be a mythologist and to be able to fully teach the richness of these sacred stories. I am mindfully observing how the old way of life is crumbling away and realizing how unsustainable and exhausting it was. I have a fantastic ceremonial community and we have been doing weekly virtual sweat lodges. There is nothing more comforting than having an intentional community to share the ebb and flow of courage

I have experienced a flourishing of creativity in photography, and had an awesome accident happen with Zoom virtual backgrounds. Here are a few self-portraits working with landscape images I took in Ireland, and portraits of myself with my parents and with my partner, Jimi. It was so much fun working with images, especially with my ancestors!

I began knitting again, grew plants from seeds, am already out in my garden. I discovered I write more creatively with pen to paper, so I have been journaling. I am enjoying cooking so much more and eating with my family every night. We have been picking up trash on our dog walks, admiring the horizon over Lake Michigan, no longer sullied by a smog line. Loving the birdsong that can be heard well into the evening. I am honored to announce that I was the recipient of a Milwaukee Artist Relief Fund Grant from Imagine Milwaukee as all my theatre work was canceled this spring.

My new obsession has been with Dr. Martin Shaw, a most fabulous eco-mythologist in the U.K. What a fantastic storyteller!!! You can find him at Cistmystica.com.

From Jan Nagowski, English: 

My on-line teaching was exhausting but fine. For some reason, I felt closer to many of the students communicating with them on-line. Right now I have no time for hobbies or books. I’m trying to encourage students to get a bunch of late and final papers in; I’m giving my first on-line exam. I have only gone out a few times, mostly to the grocery store. I’ve not been out since the required mask rule. I’m on-line for hours teaching my virtual classes, answering student e-mails, and grading. I flop into bed at night and watch PBS News, BBC News, Amanpour and Company, and countless Covid-19 reports. Late nights I watch again and again (or sleep through) old movies on Comcast. Two new ones I liked were: Green Book and The Best of Enemies. Fresh lemons are feeding my spirit right now in the form of hot lemon aid. Daniel Cleaver (BJD) would respond, “What a gripping life you do lead.”

From Barb Cohen, English:

I am safe, healthy, and bored. I do keep to a routine: Check and update D2L though sadly, most of my students have dropped or disappeared. Exercise (treadmill or bicycle). Shower. Wear real clothes. Complete the daily Tribune crossword puzzle.  Avoid the tv until 4pm. ZOOM Happy Hour with friends. Order pizza from Lou Malnatti’s. I really miss the local library though happy to download books onto my Kindle. My favorite new authors are Mark Pryor and Simone St. James. At night I have watched 800 Words, Grantchester (season 5 starts June 20), Hamish Macbeth (need subtitles unless versed in Scottish) and Captain Marleau.

My family is also safe and healthy though everyone is working or in full-time childcare mode (no daycare) so cannot say they are bored, just very busy. My younger daughter moved her wedding date out a full year since it clearly is not happening in a few weeks; she also took a webinar and is now trained to deliver speech therapy online. My son’s new job of Events Planner disappeared but he found work for a moving company (yes- people are moving). And with my grand-kids walking distance, I see them at least twice a day. I am so lucky to have that opportunity, despite keeping our 6 feet distance; makes me glad my backyard still has the 1992 swing set. If you’re in my neighborhood, my home is easy to spot- the driveway is decorated every day with new chalk pictures, a hopscotch board and dinosaur footprints.

Yes, I miss the Face-to-Face contact with my students but truly miss my Oakton colleagues. I am looking forward, hopefully, to seeing everyone soon.

From Randy Felsenthal,

I was sitting in a convention hall with 1100 educators on March 6, 2020. An announcement was made that the National Education Association annual meeting scheduled for June, would be cancelled. What? This epidemic must be more serious than we think.
Soon after the college closed, academic continuity plan implemented, and non-essential work force sheltered in place.  I was already teaching an online class and had designed my two in-person classes with a continuity plan. Thanks to Ileo, Marc, and Tracy for your persistent messaging to create the plan.
The first home week I wanted to send an encouraging message to my neighbors. I created two yard signs, one thanking all essential workers for their service. The other sign asked for all of us to practice more civility, common sense, compassion, and courage. Many walkers came by and waved or gave thumbs up outside out window.
Look forward to Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays when I teach. My students have expressed the same sentiment. They’ve been a good time to share personal stories about coping with the sudden change of life.
Spend most days with exercise, food, reading, TV, long walks, phone, and video meetings with family and friends. My wife and I are married 45 years; we’ve both learned more about each other during these close quarter times – some quirks and some emotional.  We’ve become good at creating interesting meals, many reaching back to parents and grand-parents’ recipes. We’ve sated our Starbucks cravings by finding you tubes to make frothy coffee drinks and baked many carrot, banana, and cinnamon cakes.
Overall we feel very fortunate to be healthy and safe.  Our oldest son and daughter did have covid 19 but have since recovered and are feeling well now.
I’ve participated in a Passover Zoom Seder and Torah study and am reading Winds of War, Hopkins and Roosevelt, and Battle Cry of Freedom.

From Linda Berendsen, English/ESL:

I’ve never worked so hard in my life!  It feels like I never leave class, but a class with no students in front of me.  Meeting them during regular class-time with Google Meets helps all of us keep the little community we had created in class. Working at home is challenging.  My 21-year-old daughter and her 2 large dogs have been staying with us; they are energetic and affectionate, and just love to get up close and personal.     There are baby quilts for family to make, my garden to tend (my goal is to eliminate any grass to mow), and the 2 art classes I am taking at Oakton to keep working on.  I must say, figure drawing does not adapt well to on-line learning. My husband and I are devoted to British mysteries and have just recently joined the rest of the world and subscribed to Netflix.  And have you checked out the new Masterpiece Theater, Baptiste? It’s great!

From Bill Tong, Earth Science:

I have worked from home for the EPA since March 13.  I have a designated basement office, so it has been relatively comfortable to work from there. My wife, daughter and son (both adults) and I are in good health.  I figured out to convert my traditional earth science (EAS-100) class to on-line after spring break by computer recording my lectures (PowerPoint and other documents) using Flash Express, and uploading the videos to a YouTube play list:


I have converted my written exams to be taken on D2L. Lab has been a bigger challenge, but I was able to create a rock identification exam using photos that I got from my students (I created photo pages for them to study from, and for the exam, I used Microsoft Paint to remove the identification numbers.)  I also have been holding Google Hangout video meetings on our normal meeting times on Monday and Wednesday evenings, for lab and lecture review and to answer questions.

Although it has been exhausting, I have solved a long-standing problem for me, but updating my teaching and presentation materials and creating a future study resource for my future students; the videos may be used as a resource for reviewing before exams, or for students who missed a lecture or lab.  I’ve kept the videos unlisted, because I don’t want students to cut class.

I have lost my summer teaching assignment (EAS-125-850, Survey of Oceanography) because I don’t have an approved on-line course.  But I can use the time off, and I will create lecture videos for the first half of EAS-100 to complete the project.

I haven’t been able to get together with my musician friends to jam since Feb. 29.  So, here are some songs from home:


from Sue Uribe/ECE

I am coping with our new “at home” situation.  Taking long walks by myself with my face mask, gloves, and music is feeding my spirit now.  I’m noticing the many birds that are in the area and their sounds.  Some days I’ll take the walking path and meet my daughter along the way.  We walk 6 feet apart and talk to each other on the phone.  When we are done, we give each other a virtual hug.  It is the highlight of my day.

On-line teaching has been a positive adventure.  Thanks to the wonderful tech support from the IT department, I’m really starting to enjoy it.  It’s becoming fun and sometimes frustrating at the same time.

My main hobby has always been fitness – dance, weight lifting, swimming.  I’m still trying to figure this out.  I’m cooking more.  I try to laugh every day.  I mean “really” belly laugh so I try to find a sit com or a Staying connected to my friends and family through Zoom is also helpful.  I’m also working hard to finish the video that is just funny.  It helps my spirit.  semester and very grateful to be working!

I recommend  Unorthodox on Netflix and also River.  Hoping that all my colleagues at Oakton are staying healthy and content.

From Dave Williams, Economics:

Every day I wake up healthy is a good day.  Since the beginning, I’ve often thought of an old spiritual I heard sung by a male quartet at a church in St. Louis a few years back.  It was written by Kris Kristofferson, and is one of those country/crossover tunes, called One Day at a Time.  Kind of like Old Town Road, if you know what I mean.

My students have been outstanding.  I would not have imagined so many of them would stay engaged.  I use Big Blue Button through D2L.  Most of the students join in listen only mode, so we make more use of the chat room, which is a different vibe, but interesting.  Sometimes it feels like a support group, which is fine.  A chance for students to communicate.  And some have told me they actually look forward to class, as a break from boredom and bad news everywhere.  We dissected the latest GDP report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and spent more time than usual on Costs of Production, which I think will help if they are restarting businesses.

I’m reading a couple of books.  Just completed The Great Influenza, by John Barry.  A thick, slow, ponderous text of about 500 pages. Not an easy read, but worth it.  Alas it offered no insights on the post pandemic economic recovery, which is what I was looking for.  But it did help me understand the science of the virus.  According to this text and others, viruses are a “not quite life” form, 1,000 times smaller than bacteria, and may have “climbed out of the primordial soup, before we did.”  As near as a layman like me can understand, they are fragments of genes, RNA, wrapped in a protein, that hijack the reproductive capability of other cells. They are the ultimate parasite, a mutating swarm.  My high school Biology teacher, Mr. McMahon, engaged us with his contagious enthusiasm and tendency to personalize cellular, biochemical processes: “Protons don’t like neutrons” that sort of thing. And it seems to me that the people who do approach things that way, get it.  Like Dr. Fauci saying that the virus has its own timetable.

I’ve also been reading The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield, the Chicken Soup for the Soul, guy.  Turns out he’s a protege of W. Clement Stone, he of the skinny mustache, one of the original self- improvement gurus.  It’s got so much “Positive Mental Attitude” in it, some of it is bound to rub off, even on a skeptic like me.

And then just a few pulp fiction novels, for fun.  I’m not indulging much with the whole Netflix / streaming thing.   Instead I’m trying to exercise and not eat too much.

Overall, I’m blessed.  Fortunate that I have a job that allows me to work remotely, and just taking it, One Day at a Time.

From Jennifer Dadivas-Hong, English/ESL: 

I’m a move-around-the-room kind of teacher, so I miss being with students and helping them understand the material when I can see some confusion on their faces. (I can’t see their faces now since most of them have cameras off during our virtual class meetings!). Also, as the writing placement (WSAT) coordinator, it has been very challenging adapting the WSAT to be taken remotely. I am actually looking forward to reading placement essays on paper when campuses reopen!

The upsides: Prior to the shelter-in-place order, my family and I were usually not home until 8:30 pm on weeknights and weekends were busy with the kids’ extracurricular activities.  We now spend quality time together, and I love getting to really talk to my kids and laugh and have fun with hem.  We’ve really enjoyed binge watching “The Good Place” on Netflix. It’s such a creative way to present and discuss ethics!

Books?  I’ve read or will read during SIP (photo): I’m reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” again since my son is reading it for his high school English class. One book that I recommend that is not in my photo is “The Alice Network”, a historical fiction novel about the actual Alice Network made up of female spies during World War I.

I hope all of you and your families are staying safe!

Would you like to join the conversation?  E-mail me at Laberendsen@gmail.com and I can compile a new edition. 


March 2020


Download PDF of 2020 March AFA newsletter

Come to AFA Board Meetings You are welcome to attend the monthly AFA Board meeting. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, March 24, at 4 p.m. in Room 1264 in Des Plaines. 

Spring Membership Meeting Friday, April 3, 4 to 6 In RHC

The Spring AFA Membership meeting will be held in Room P103 in Skokie. Come learn about what your union has been doing, enjoy some appetizers and sandwiches, and cast your vote for the next AFA president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. You can also learn how adjuncts can make presentations through the CPD, resources our library has for teachers of on-line courses, and what is going on in the various committees adjuncts serve on. 

Nominations for AFA Board Every three years elections are held for the Executive Board of the AFA: the offices of President, Vice-president, Secretary, and Treasurer. Nominations are needed! AFA members may nominate themselves or someone else. If you are nominating someone else, be sure to check with that person to make sure they actually want to be nominated, are able to be an active participant of the union and are aware that offices are for a three-year term beginning in the coming academic year. If nominating someone else, you’ll need their address, telephone number, and email. The nomination form can be downloaded from the AFA website at oaktonadjuncts.com; nominations are to be sent to Nelson Wainwright via his email at nwainwr@gmail.com and must arrive by midnight Monday, March 16. 

More elections Each July we send representatives to the Representative Assembly of the NEA (National Education Association). This is a huge assembly of representatives from unions from all over the nation that will meet in tlanta to approve the NEA budget, set the dues amount, and modify the legislative platform and the NEA by-laws. The election for a representative to attend will be held on both campuses on Tuesday, April 21. 

“Serfs of Academe”? The March 12 issue of The New York Review of Books features a lengthy review of eleven books related to adjuncts and higher education. They range from a ‘satire-cum-horror-comedy’ Adjunct 

(our lives in a nut-shell?) to The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite. For those of us who still have hopes of a full-time position, the article notes that in 2017-2018, there were an average of 122 applicants for every tenure-track position open, in a system resembling “a lottery.” It states that the most obvious cause of adjuncts’ lack of security and poor salaries is the ‘decline in public support for higher education,’ noting that the state investment for each student fell by 26 % between 1990 and 2010, so that the wide gains in salary and working conditions gained by unions hardly keep up. Meet the Trustees You will have a chance to meet and talk with the Oakton Board of Trustees at a reception organized by the AFA. Administrators too often attend. It will be in Des Plaines before the regular Tuesday evening April 21 Board meeting. It is a rare to chat with the Board members one on one, to share your views and to hear theirs. More details to come next month. 

Paper vs Screens The current issue of on-line AdjunctNation features some research on comprehension differences between reading on paper vs reading on digital media. Students certainly prefer reading on their screens, and of course there are benefits to less use of paper. However, in three studies, students were asked to read text in print and on a device. They were then asked to report the main ideas of the reading, list the key points, and give any other information they thought was important. They were also asked how well they thought they had done. They did indeed read faster on screens and felt that their comprehension was better. When questions were general – questions such as what the main idea is – the students’ comprehension was better 

on the screens. On the other hand, when students read the printed texts, they comprehended more when asked specific questions. 

Email your senators Email your senator to support S. J. Res. 56, a bipartisan resolution introduced by Dick Durbin that has passed the House in Washington and is now headed to the Senate. According to NEA, this bill would undo Betsy DeVos’s policy of making “it more difficult for students defrauded by unscrupulous colleges to cancel their federal student debt.” If passed by the Senate, it will take effect on July 1 of this year. DeVos’s policy puts the burden of proof on students and ends automatic loan relief for students whose colleges close before they graduate. 

Wedding Bells are ringing over Spring break for English lecturer Kate Magnuson. Congratulations, Kate! 

January 2020

Click to download or print the 2020 January AFA newslettter (1)

Welcome back!

Take a break from orientation and class preparation and check out the new adjunct faculty lounge in Room 2162 in Des Plaines. There is a large table and chairs for sitting with colleagues for lunch, a refrigerator and sink, a donated Keurig coffeemaker plus a couple small couches and large screen. And the ambience! – Art Gallery curator Nathan Harpaz has even provided art work for the walls. This large room is flanked by two meeting rooms with tables, chairs, white boards, and large screens.   That narrow adjunct faculty office that was down the hall has been replaced by a much larger space in Room 2167 with computers in cubicles and a printer.

Are you new here?

Are you new here and feel like you don’t even know where your classroom is? Then keep reading. I was chatting with a colleague last week who was not new but who did not know what the procedure was to order textbooks through the bookstore or how to find the generic syllabi on-line. Is this you? There is help. Mentors are already signed up and trained, ready to accompany you, answer questions, and introduce you to the ins and outs of Oakton. Mentors and mentees are matched according to discipline and are paid.   Applications are being accepted. Email Cari Paterno at cpaterno@oakton.edu.

On Head-count?

Watch your numbers in your class list. If your headcount increases or reaches ten, take a screenshot before it disappears. If the count

reaches ten, you will be paid for ten even if it again goes down, but you must take a screen shot of that so that you can document it. “Oakton” will not know that your class reached that number; you need to have a record.

CPD Workshops and Seminars

The Center for Professional Development is offering five workshops and seminars this term. Topics cover students with disabilities and higher education, the Persistence Project and 1st Year Experience, how to gamify your classroom, the 1st year experience and service learning, and a writing intensive with hi-impact practices (for teachers in any field). Participants for all of these are paid in LHE’s, so be sure that you have ‘room’ in your LHE load.


Have you been bumped and wonder what your rights are? READ the contract. Our contract is at the AFA website, oaktonadjuncts.com. See page 11 Part C, Course Reassignment.

Babies Needed

Adjunct Nation has published some interesting research which first appeared in the Harvard Business Review on declining American fertility rates and their probable effect on higher education enrollment. The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) projects the number of high school graduates by state and notes that their peak numbers have already been passed in the Northeast and Midwest and will continue to diminish during the next decade. Although highly selective institutions are not expected to be as affected by the declining fertility rates, two-year colleges and non-selective four-year schools will feel the decline in numbers of incoming students. It is predicted that retention rates will become more important, on-line tools will be pushed to lower costs, and price competition will increase. A comparison of the figures in each state can be found in Knocking at the College Door at the WICHE website, https://knocking.wiche.edu.

Recommended Reading

The Academic Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Documenting Teaching, Research, and Service by Peter Seldon and J. Elizabeth Miller was reviewed in Adjunct Nation. This 300+ page paperback would be a useful source for any upwardly mobile adjunct competing against equally qualified candidates. It provides a how-to guide to creating a ‘personal academic portfolio of your best work for purposes of performance appraisal’ in three areas: teaching, research, and service.  Three-quarters of the book contain sample portfolios drawn for a wide variety of disciplines.

You may not like meetings, but

If you commit to attending 6 out of 9 division and department meeting during the term, you will be paid for your attendance. They meet in Des Plaines from 2:15 to 3:30 two Mondays a month, and if the time fits your schedule, consider signing the commitment form when it comes. You can get a better idea of what is going on at Oakton and what kind of changes we can expect.

What is the AFA?

It’s your union, protecting and fighting for the rights of all adjuncts covered under the bargaining agreement between the college and the AFA (anyone teaching at least six LHE’s in any of the three previous terms).

This Term’s Oakton Board of Trustees Meetings:

January 21

February 18

March 17

April 21

May 12

June 30

Meetings are in Rm. 1506 in Des Plaines at 7:30 p.m.

 The Board needs to see the real people who they make decisions about.

   Come join us

You are welcome to attend the monthly AFA Board meeting. The time and place of meetings will be posted shortly.

November 2019

Click to download or print the 2019 November AFA newsletter

Fall AFA Membership Meeting a Success

The Fall AFA Membership Meeting was a success.  Many agreed that the late Friday afternoon 4 p.m. time was less intrusive on their weekend than Sunday afternoon, and the Skokie campus location was convenient and a money saver for the union.  The thirty-some members who attended dined on sandwiches and fruit and vegie trays, and the meeting ended almost promptly at 6:10. The budget was approved, questions answered, and discussions held.  

Lots of information was shared:  On-Line Learning Dean Ray Lawson announced that Oakton’s contract with D2L ends in June 2020.  He is asking adjuncts who teach at other schools for their opinions of other learning management systems they are familiar with.  If there is one you particularly like, let Dean Lawson know. Our AFA contract ends in August 2021; in preparation for those negotiations, expect a survey from the AFA asking what your concerns are.  There were other announcements as well. Ruth Whitney has been in charge of AFA elections; Ribhi Salhi will be taking over that responsibility in January. Ruth Whitney will also be handing over management of the AFA website to Gwyn Stupar.  Barb Cohen has been running the Mentorship Program; Cari Paterno will be assuming that responsibility in January.  

Wondering how you got bumped from a class in August?  Someone asked how to see the seniority list. You are entitled to it.  Division staff have to share that with you so you can see where you stand on that important list. 

Benefits for Adjunct Faculty

I wrote my will last week.  Like many of you, I presume, I put it off and put it off, until I found an easy solution.  What is it, you ask? A benefit Oakton offers, to adjuncts included!! Through ACI Specialty Benefits, one can choose from a range of legal services such as document preparation, landlord/tenant issues, mediation, or motor vehicle issues; one can get an initial assessment and then a 60-minute in-office or phone consultation.  Support is also available for financial services, i.e. tax preparation, credit counseling, and lease/purchase issues. After nearly twenty years as an adjunct, I may check out their debt management help and look into the short-term therapy that is also covered. You too can get 30 days of  financial coaching and a 90-day Financial Wellness Action Plan at no cost.  Where do you start? On the Oakton website, go HR, Payroll, and CPD. Then, in Health & Wellness, click on Benefit Forms and Information. Within that area, go to Employee Assistance Program at the very bottom of the list.  All for your benefit. 

You also might not know that adjuncts are entitled to free use of the Fitness Center; you just need to watch a 10-minute video before using it.

Miles Add Up

Have you been commuting between campuses for classes or meetings this term?  You can be reimbursed for that one way 10-mile trip when you do. With the end of the term approaching, check your calendar and jot down the dates you have done this; make a note to yourself to submit it at the end of this academic year in May. 

Talk to Your Colleagues

Did you know that as a result of the ‘Janus’ Supreme Court decision that public employee unions could no longer charge non-members a ‘Fair Share” fee for union benefits they receive, just one union member has asked to leave the AFA?  However, the loss of added income does of course have an effect on the union coffers.  Money aside, our current contract is up in August of 2021. When we go back to the bargaining table, the more members we have, the more seriously the administration will take us.  Do you know of colleagues on the fence about joining the AFA? Could you remind them that we are the highest paid community college in the state? Could you mention that over $300 is available for professional development outside the college? That we are paid to attend meetings and serve on committees?  Like unions or not, these benefits exist for us because of the union. Won’t they join? 

The Gates Influence

Bill and Melinda Gates have had a long-standing interest in education; they were major funders behind Common Core.  They now have The Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Value Commission, which is attempting to measure the value of certain degrees or certificates.   

 According to an article in AdjunctNation.com, this past summer Bill and Melinda Gates launched a lobbying arm, the Gates Policy Initiative.  Its stated goal is to focus on ‘educational outcomes of black, Latinx, and rural students’ in order to bring them up from poverty and into employment.  It wants to do this by focusing on skills that can be marketed immediately. What concerns Dr. Nickolas Tamplo, a political theorist who has researched education policy, is because the Initiative is a

501 (c)(4), a ‘social welfare group,’ they can now talk directly to legislators about laws.   Tamplo asks if certain majors will be worth federal aid. With the Gates Foundation whispering in their ear, could Congress make it harder for students in certain majors to get loans or grants? 

What is the AFA?

It’s your union, protecting and fighting for the rights of all adjuncts covered under the bargaining agreement between the college and the AFA (anyone teaching at least six LHE’s in any of the three previous terms). 

This Term’s Oakton Board of Trustees Meetings:

November 19 in DP 1506

December 10 in DP 1506

All meet on Tuesdays at 7:30

Let the Board see the real people who make up the adjunct faculty.    

Come join us

You are welcome to attend the monthly AFA Board meeting.  This month we meet at 8:30 a.m. in the Far Side Room in Des Plaines (DP 2444)

February 2019

Click to download or print the 19 February 2019 – AFA newsletter

Meet the Oakton Board of Trustees

Your AFA is hosting an hour-long Meet & Greet with the Oakton Board of Trustees from 5:45 to 6:30 in Skokie in P103. Come and meet the Board members over hors d’oeuvres and while you are there, introduce yourself, ask questions, and offer opinions to the Trustees. Let them meet the people who teach most of the classes at Oakton. Then stay for the Board meeting at 7:30 in P104.

Oakton Board of Trustees Candidates Forums

The April 2 municipal elections will fill three Oakton Board of Trustees vacancies. The Trustees are important for the college’s direction and our future. Who are these people? Find out at two upcoming candidate forums. The first is on Tuesday February 26 from 3:30 – 5:30 at the Des Plaines campus, Room 1604, sponsored by OCCFA, AFA and CSA. A question and answer session will follow short introductory remarks by the candidates. There is a second forum sponsored by OPAL (Organization for Positive Leadership and Action) in Evanston on Thursday February 28 from 5:15 – 8 p.m. at Chute Middle School at 1400 Oakton. There is a Meet & Greet from 5:15 to 5:45; the forum itself begins at 6:00.

Residents of District 535 (which includes Des Plaines, Evanston, Skokie, Glencoe, Glenview, Golf, Kenilworth, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Northfield, Park Ridge, Rosemont, and Winnetka) are eligible to vote.

Illinois Is at It Again

Illinois is trying to keep your salaries –and your future pensions – down. Right now there is 3% limit on our salary increases – a limit that would be reflected in our next contract. According to the IEA factsheet, “the 3% limit is being sold as a means to end perceived salary spiking for career educators.” (Have we heard that one before?) Right now there are bills (SB 60 and HR350) to repeal the 3% salary limit for SURS participants. If passed, the salary limit would return to the previous 6% amount.

What can you do? Contact your Illinois legislators and go online to the IEA website to read more about the issue and sign the on-line petition. Do it now, as this is coming up in the legislature in the next few weeks.


During Orientation Week, John Bishop shared his knowledge of our contract and answered questions, and Valerie Krejcie gave a presentation on a passionate interest of hers, cartography, and its newest hi-tech forms. You too are invited to share your expertise in subjects that you are passionate about – and be paid for your work.


The Fall IEA Regional Assembly election resulted in Randy Felsenthal representing the AFA and Cathy Willis representing us as the minority regional representative.  Expect a ballot in the mail after February 25 to elect representatives to the July National Assembly.

Heard of the Adjunct Channel?

Ever heard of the “Adjunct Channel” and wondered what the heck? Not a knob on your computer screen, it is a box in the lower right corner of the Teach and Advise screen. While there are no entertaining films of AFA Board meetings, it does provide some very handy documents (the AFA Contract, Deans’ Calendar of Meetings – ever wonder when those department meetings are going to be?), forms (the adjunct scheduling preference form, the continued eligibility form) and links to the CPD site and directory. Once you find it, it will save you time in the long run.


An Interesting Read

The Feb. 14, 2019, issue of Inside Higher Ed features an article onConfronting Biases Against Adjunct Faculty.” In it, the author compares the plight of adjuncts with the African American female scientists in the film Hidden Figures. She notes the tendency of some full-time faculty to see adjuncts as lacking “some aspect of ability, ambition or work ethic” and some administrators to consider us as “usually just figures on a balance sheet.” Adjuncts are compared to the main character in the film, doing the tasks “required of a high-status job but receiving neither the title nor the pay that should be attached — and facing the biases of the more privileged on a daily basis.”

Welcome, New AFA Members!

Daniel Golden, teacher of strings in the Music Department

Daniel Connolly, Writing teacher in the English

In Memoriam

We are sorry to announce the death in January of former English adjunct  Lisa Godde.

Oakton Adjunct Faculty Association

Cheryl Thayer, President

John Bishop, Vice Pres. and Member Advocate

Cindy Del Medico, Treasurer

Linda Berendsen, Secretary

AFA Office: Room 2470 DP

Voicemail at (847) 635- 2193

Web site: oaktonadjuncts.com

Email: afaoakton@gmail.com

Spring 2019 Oakton Board of Trustees Meetings:
All Board of Trustees meetings are held on Tuesdays at 7:30

Feb. 19 RHC P104

March 19 DP 1506

April 23 DP 1506

May 28 RHC P104

June 25 DP 1506

October 2018

Click to download or print the 18 October 2018 – AFA newsletter

Janus Decision

You are probably aware by now of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Janus case, which eliminated the obligation of “Fair Share” adjuncts – who benefit from the union’s accomplishments but elect not to join the union – to financially contribute to the union. How do all of us benefit from the AFA? We are the best paid community college in the state, for one. We are invited to attend college meetings, and be paid for that. We can teach our colleagues in seminars – and take those seminars – and be paid for that. We can participate in college committees and be paid for that. When accused of misbehavior or have been unjustly treated, we can file a grievance through the union – and be accompanied by a union representative. We and our families can take courses offered by the college for free.

Without a union fighting for these benefits, they would not exist.

So, if you haven’t joined the union yet, please do so and add to the numbers backing up union initiatives. If you are thinking of withdrawing your membership, please consider how you have benefited through the union here at Oakton. Even more importantly, join your colleagues here at Oakton working together for everyone’s benefit.

Save the Date

The Fall Membership Meeting/Dinner will be held on Sunday, November 4. Details to follow.

Traveling between campuses?

If you are traveling from one campus to the other for either your classes or to attend a meeting, you can be reimbursed for the mileage – currently $ .545 per mile – of each one-way trip. Keep track and submit the reimbursement form available from your division staff at the end of the term.

Got a Conference on Your Calendar?

Adjuncts can receive $375 per academic year in Professional Development reimbursement according to the new contract. If you didn’t use it last year (the first year of the contract), that amount can be added to this academic year’s – so that this year you can receive $750. This makes those out-of-town conferences possible.

Continued Eligibility

After teaching for 10 semesters (normally every 5 years), adjuncts need to submit proof of “continued eligibility” to teach in the form of evidence of various activities – at the minimum, three activities over five years by July the year after you have been notified. Many activities “count.” Some of them are participation in a professional conference or workshop (including those offered by Oakton), continuing education credits, completion of a college course related to your teaching assignment, service on a committee, being a student club advisor, adjunct mentor, study breakfast participants, or taking part in a student success

Get Paid to Learn

Have you signed up for one of the seminars being offered by CPD?
You can be paid to attend.

Get Paid to Teach Your Colleagues

During Orientation Week, librarian Ruth Whitney gave a presentation on the Perseverance Project and English teacher John Bishop gave one on the new AFA contract – and were paid to do so. Think about what expertise you might share with your colleagues.

Get Paid to Help Students During the Study Breakfast

New this term is the opportunity to be compensated .022 LHE’s per clock hour for helping students review at the end of the term Study Breakfast. Up to four hours for a total of .088 have been allocated for each adjunct faculty member who facilitates a review session. This includes an hour of prep, up to two hours of hosting a review session and one hour of data entry for the necessary record keeping. Faculty can offer two-hour review sessions for students in your section or all sections of the course; these sessions may be offered from any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 28.  The Skokie Breakfast is from 12:30 – 4 p.m.; Des Plaines is hosting Breakfast from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Be sure you have the LHE’s available within your limit. For more information on the Study Breakfast, email Giacomo Cirrincione at gcirrinc@oakton.edu at the Learning Center. A Google form needs to be completed by October 10.

Committee Volunteers Needed

Two or three people are needed to help rewrite some of our AFA by-laws.  This is not a long-term project. If interested in helping out, email the AFA office at afaoakton@gmail.com.

Kudos to

Youngock Lee, lecturer in psychology, received the 2018 Ray Hartstein Award for Outstanding Professional Excellence in Teaching.

 Kasia Wereszczynska, lecturer in psychology, was recently recognized by the American Association for Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC) with the 40 Under 40 Award. She is also presenting on Spiritual & Religious Identities in Counseling: Speaking into the Unspoken at Annual Conference of the European Branch of the American Counseling Association, in Athens, Greece.

May 2018

Click to download or print the 18 May 2018 – AFA newsletter

Spring Membership Meeting/Dinner

A good crowd of members attended the Spring Membership meeting at Club Casa Café on River Road. Elections were held for the AFA Executive Board; the newly elected Executive Board for the next three years – Cheryl Thayer (President), John Bishop (Vice President), Cindy DelMedico (Treasurer), and Linda Berendsen (Secretary) – will begin serving on August 1.    The new location was spacious and comfortable, and there was spirited discussion about the upcoming Supreme Court hearing of the Janus case. The case will be heard in the near future; if it passes, people who now are “fair share” – fee payers to the AFA but not chipping in the extra $30 per academic year to become actual members – will no longer have to pay anything. They would, however, still benefit from the union negotiated contract – getting the highest salary of any community college in the state, being represented at grievances, and so on.   Of course, this would severely impact the ability of the IEA to function behind the scenes in the legislative and media arenas. Right now, the AFA has the lowest ratio of fee payers to union members ever.

John Bishop noted two important lessons that we need to learn from the recent dismissals of two adjuncts. One instructor viewed inappropriate websites on a computer in an adjunct faculty office in view of the public. John noted that Oakton takes this very seriously, and that computers are Oakton property and nothing done on them is private.   The second dismissal was for a non-related matter, but was overturned and the faculty member is back teaching. Why? Procedures protecting faculty were not followed. Proper procedures are important. If you are not sure whether an issue is or is not covered by the contract, please contact John.

Got your Fall classes?

If you have taught 22 semesters at Oakton, you are entitled to teach two classes. If you think you have not been assigned them due to a new hire in your department, let John Bishop know. This is an issue that can be grieved.

Do you commute between DP and RHC?

Many of us find ourselves commuting between Oakton’s campuses on a single day for classes or required meetings. One of the benefits of the new contract is payment of mileage for these trips, paid at the end of each term.   Check your calendars to see how many times you have done this, and ask your division office staff how to report it.


Increased Professional Development Allowance

Because of the $375 professional development now available to adjuncts as a result of the new contract, I was able to attend the international convention in my field held here in Chicago in March. This would have been impossible for me under the old contract. It also would have been impossible for me to pay the convention fee up front and wait a few weeks to be reimbursed by the college. I was able to attend, however, because the college will pay in advance – provided the check is sent directly from Oakton to the sponsoring professional organization. Your division staff can help you with this.



Now that adjuncts are being included in shared governance at the college, you may be invited to serve on one of the various committees. While serving is definitely a time commitment, we are paid to serve on these.   My recent participation on a search committee was an unexpectedly great experience: I got to know people in other areas of the college I would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, I learned more about the college’s inner workings, and was part of some really interesting discussions. I’d do it again. If you would like to serve on a committee as well, let Cheryl Thayer know.

NEA Benefits

Union membership also entitles you to NEA benefits such as

  • Car rentals that include benefits such as free mileage, free upgrades, emergency road service, free second driver, discounts on rentals
  • Auto insurance – members save an average of $495 a year.
  • Flood insurance, Pet insurance, Complimentary Life Insurance, Dental and Vision Insurance
  • 15% on monthly AT&T phone service
  • Discount tickets for live entertainment for Blue Man Group, the Color Purple, Dirty Dancing
  • 20%-50% off average retail prices of brand-name hearing aides
  • Restaurant certificates – $4 for $10 certificates at restaurants such as La Unica (Cuban) on Devon, Purple Sprout Café (vegan) in Wheeling, Maharaja Indian (Rosemont), $10 for a $25 certificate at Sweet Baby Ray’s (Elk Grove). A wide variety of restaurants are located all over the metro area.

Of course, you need to join to take advantage of these discounts.

Summer Reading?

Perhaps not beach material, but AdjunctNation.com reviewed two books of interest: Academic Apartheid: Waging the Adjunct War (ed. Sylvia DeSantis) is an “excellent, varied collection of narrative and reflective essays” by adjuncts, and Gypsy Scholars, Migrant Teachers, and the Global Academic Proletariat: Adjunct Labour in Higher Education (ed. R. Teeuwen and S. Hantke) is a collection of 14 essays written by adjuncts both here and abroad and written in a more “academic tone.”

             Teaching or not, at home or traveling,

   Have a wonderful summer!   


March 2018

Click to download or print the 18 March 2018 AFA newsletter

Spring Membership Meeting/Dinner

April 22   5 – 7:30 p.m.

The Spring Membership meeting will be held on Sunday, April 22. We will be at a new location: Club Casa Café at 353 N. River Rd. in Des Plaines, across from Holy Family Medical Center. As always, members are free; guests and non-members are $25. RSVP to Valerie Krejcie in Div. 3 or at valeriek1212@gmail.com.

The executive Board of the AFA is at the end of their three-year terms. Voting for the new AFA board will be at the meeting; voting will open at the beginning of the meeting during appetizers, so if you need to vote and run without staying for dinner, that is possible. (See #3 below for info on running for one of these positions.)

From the President:

  1. There are many union activities this semester. Last fall you voted for the IEA representatives to the Regional Assembly in Rosemont, identifying David Williams and Randy Felsenthal to represent us. Cathy Willis and I also attend as minority representative and Higher Education Board member to the Regional Assembly, which carries out the business of the Illinois Education Association, of which we are a part.
  2. The NEA Regional Assembly vote has passed. If you did not receive a ballot and envelope, please contact Ruth Whitney at:   aruthwhitney@gmail.com We need to ensure that our mailing addresses are correct.
  3. This semester at our membership meeting, you will be voting for your Adjunct Faculty Association Executive Board. Nearer the time, you will be notified so you may apply for candidacy for the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer. These are for three-year terms beginning in August, 2018.
  4. During Orientation week, the Oakton’s Chief of Police, Marvin Bornschlegl, announced that there is now an Emergency Management plan for Oakton. He stressed that many faculty had not updated or registered information in Alert Oakton through MyOakton. Alert Oakton notifies you of school closures due to inclement weather, flooding, or any serious condition, so please update your information as soon as possible.

The Chief also shared this additional information:

  1. Title IX training ended on February 28. If you have not completed the training, login to MyOakton, click on Employee tab and in the Announcements (middle section) click on the Title IX training. If it is not operational, direct any questions to Mindy Finnigan.

New Initiatives:

  1. Adjunct faculty have been invited for the first time to participate in the Faculty Retreat held on Friday of Orientation week. The AFA has agreed to help subsidize this event. More details will be forthcoming.
  2. As part of the finalized contract, an Adjunct Faculty channel was approved. The Channel is now       active and located in Teach & Advise through MyOakton at the end of the second column.
  3. On February 26, the Supreme Court heard the Janus case (Janus v. AFSCME). In a nutshell, Janus is challenging the right of AFSCME to collect fees from people who do not want to belong to a local union (Fair Share). The Supreme Court ruling may rescind previous Supreme Court rulings (for a more complete discussion go to: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/26/17053328/janus-afscme-supreme-court-unions-minorities Thus, the AFA is looking to establish a strategy group to address issues facing the membership as a result of the anticipated negative decision of the Janus case.. Engagement is one of the greatest issues we face. As a union we want to be more inclusive of all adjunct faculty and engage more of our members. To that end, an AFA Strategic Planning Committee is being formed and is open to all adjunct employees. It is a priority for all of us. Please send an email to:  oaktonafa@gmail.com if you are interested in being a part of this strategic planning group.

Trustee Reception a Success

Prior to the last Oakton Board of Trustees meeting, the AFA hosted a reception for the Trustees. Finger food was served, and many Board and various adjunct faculty were able to meet each other in an informal setting and chat. The Board was able to find out about our concerns and experiences, and we were able to share ideas and observations with Board members individually.

 Click to download or print the 18 March 2018 AFA newsletter

January 2018

Click to download or print the 18 January 2018 AFA newsletter

2017-2021 Contract approved

The AFA contract with the Oakton administration that will govern us for the next four years was approved by 91 % of those members voting and the Oakton Board of Trustees at their Dec. 5 Board meeting.    Among many improvements are raises, a vastly increased professional development allowance, and pay for participation in student success and strategic plan initiatives.  In a nutshell (thanks to John Bishop for his summary):

  • Beginning this past August, there will be a 2.99% raise each year of the contract. In your Dec. 29 paycheck, you will see the retroactive amount of the raise covering Fall term listed as separate line items labeled Contractual Retro. (questions? email payroll@oakton.edu, including your full name and Banner ID).
  • In year 3 of the contract, steps 15 and 17 will be added.
  • Librarians have had their faculty status (from “staff”) and pay restored to LHEs and adjunct salary schedule.
  • The Affiliated Adjunct contract will continue for two more years and then sunset in the third year of the contract (Fall 2019).
  • Adjuncts can have 12 LHEs in Spring and Fall semesters with a combination of courses taught and additional activities or responsibilities in the college (such as working on a committee or taking a CPD course). 13 LHE’s are possible with administrative approval. 27 LHEs cannot be exceeded in one academic year.
  • A pool of 12 LHEs per year will be available to pay adjuncts for participation in strategic plan initiatives and student success initiatives. We have tried to increase the voice of adjuncts and involvement in college policies; this allowance enables adjuncts to do so.
  • If a class is canceled ten days or less from the start of the semester, $150 will be paid. This is increased from 7 days and $91-$133/course.
  • Professional development reimbursement is raised from $125 a year to $375 a year. Use of the fund can be delayed and $750 can be requested the second year.
  • Professional development funds can also be used to pay membership dues in professional organizations or associations.
  • The pool of money available for development reimbursement will increase by $1500 each year of the contract.
  • There will be reimbursement for mileage between campuses for required meetings or classes.
  • An adjunct channel on myOakton with links to essential and helpful information will be set up.
  • There will be a mentorship program for new adjuncts; the joint planning committee for this begins Spring of 2018.

AFA President’s Comments to Oakton College Board of Trustees, December 5, 2017

re:  New AFA Contract and Health Care

As the President of the Adjunct Faculty Association and a member of the negotiating team, I would like to address the Tentative Agreement which you will vote on this evening.  The contract was ratified by 91% of the voting members last week.  We reached this end through an Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) process.  It was a collaborative and congenial process that used problem solving skills to address the interests of the administration and the adjunct faculty.  It worked!   You are about to vote on a Tentative Agreement that met the test of acceptability on both sides and is generally, and I think we can all agree, a “good” agreement.

However, there is one critical, ethical and social justice issue that needs to be addressed by both sides – and that is health care.  In the course of generating this agreement, both sides recognized that there is a need for health care and that in some respects, the past contract recognized this need.  The new contract leaves affiliated adjunct faculty who have benefited from health care coverage behind, as well as current and future adjuncts without real access to affordable health care coverage.

It seems that in order to provide for all, we continue to create a vacuum that leaves members and their families without health care coverage which can result in poor access to health care, including medications for asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure, therapies for autistic children and life-saving cancer treatments.  Our adjuncts and their families are in potentially life threatening situations which disrupt their ability to function well in the classroom. These are some of the real life examples that are now lost by our affiliated adjuncts.

Both negotiating teams had heavy hearts when the Tentative Agreement was reached with regard to health care needs.  We had spent many hours in AFA team meetings and hours in IBB sessions discussing health care and the impact of removal and the potential of creating an insurance pool.  Our duty, as with any agreement, is to meet the needs of the College and all adjunct faculty at Oakton.

We ask the Board and the administration to collaborate with us moving forward to find a solution(s) to this pressing issue for the health of our community, including leading the consortium of community colleges, of which Oakton is a part, to provide some access to health care for adjunct faculty.

Thank you.

Cheryl Thayer

The Persistence Project

Participating in the Persistence Project also counts toward Professional Development, and the new contract has made this easier.  To accommodate the time spent getting to know your students at the beginning of the term, one can reallocate some office hours to the first few weeks of class to accommodate the time spent with students as the project requires.  Your course syllabus and office hours form should reflect these changes.

Commuting Between Campuses?

Keep track of the days on which you need to commute on the same day beween campuses because of your class schedule or department/division meetings so that at the end of the semester, you can submit a request to be reimbursed for the mileage.  Each division might handle this a little differently, so ask your division staff how to request this at the end of the term.       

        Spring Membership/Dinner Meeting

The Spring Membership meeting will be

held on Sunday, April 22.  Voting for the new

executive AFA board will be held then; a

sexual harassment training is also planned.

Time and location to be announced.

You are welcome to attend the AFA Board meetings

Meetings will be held on the first Monday of the month
from 1 to 2 in the Far Side room (DP room #2444)

      February 5

 March 5

April 2

May 7

June 4

   Come to the Oakton Board of Trustees meetings at 7:30 on:

Jan. 16 DP

Feb. 20 RHC P104

March 20 DP

April 17 DP

May 22 RHC P104

Click to download or print the 18 January 2018 AFA newsletter