March 30, 2012

I appreciate David C. Levy’s willingness to spur discussion about the higher education system [“Do professors work enough?,” Outlook, March 25], but I was disappointed with his characterization of the faculty at Montgomery College and the work that they do.

Mr. Levy did not reach out to anyone at the college before leveling his criticism. Those of us who have worked as community college professors recommend that he do his homework next time before sharing such a narrow perspective.

Faculty members at teaching institutions are just as deserving of their salaries as faculty at research institutions. In particular, community college professors educate and prepare the nation’s future workforce. Judging them merely on the number of hours they spend in the classroom is like judging surgeons on the number of hours they’re in the operating room or judging attorneys on the time they spend in the courtroom.

Montgomery College’s dedicated faculty members do far more than lecture. They mentor, counsel, advise and more. They spend untold hours preparing lessons, addressing the different learning styles of students, developing and measuring learning outcomes, and updating and revising curricula to ensure a meaningful learning experience. Furthermore, all of the college’s full-time and part-time faculty members serve as critical links to the workforce community.

Community colleges are essential to educating and building the next “great” generation. There is no doubt that research faculty have a crucial impact on our society. But I would ask the more than 60,000 students who turn to Montgomery College every year which professors have had an indelible impact on their lives, and I guarantee the answer will be as black and white as Mr. Levy’s article — community college faculty change lives.

DeRionne P. Pollard, Rockville

The writer is president of Montgomery College.

I am concluding my first year of retirement after teaching geography at Prince George’s Community College for 42 years. My weekly workload consisted of 15 teaching hours and five required office hours. I taught five classes and a two-hour lab. At the time of my retirement, at the age of 73, I was earning a little more than $90,000. Add to this $26,000 that I have been receiving annually from Social Security since turning 65. Not bad for working a 20-hour week for what amounted to a little more than eight months’ work a year.

All of my classes were capped at 25 students, and they always were filled. I was considered to be an effective teacher, and most of my students succeeded, some beyond expectations.

Over the years I succeeded in publishing more than a dozen articles in a variety of professional journals and was a journal editor. This might be considered minimal if I were employed at a four-year college or university, but I was told by several administrators that it was exceptional for a community college professor. I have been recognized as a distinguished teacher as well as a distinguished scholar by two academic associations within my discipline. One college administrator, on more than one occasion, told me that I “was one of the good ones.”

So why do I agree with David C. Levy’s opinion that some professors, unless they are employed in research institutions, and especially those teaching at community colleges, aren’t working enough and are overpaid? With my reputation established, in the last few years of my tenure (with the exception of Wednesday afternoons when I conducted my two-hour lab), I was home by 1 p.m. And I wasn’t alone. A number of other faculty members did not work an eight-hour day. Upon departing from my office, I must admit, I had a sense of guilt when passing custodians at work as I exited toward the faculty parking lot.

I retired in the middle of the 2010-11 academic year. My replacement was an individual in dire need of employment. His adjunct salary was far less than mine. The college was not sorry to see me go. In retrospect, I can’t say that I blame it.

Sherman E. Silverman, Silver Spring

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