August 19, 2017

AAUP Update: Testimony to Montgomery County Council

Testimony by Professor Harry N. Zarin
President, Montgomery College Chapter of the American
Association of University Professors (AAUP)
Montgomery College
To the Montgomery County Council

April 5, 2016

Members of the Council:

My name is Harry Zarin. I am a Professor and Counselor at the Germantown Campus of Montgomery College. I am speaking to you today in my role as President of the Montgomery College Chapter of the AAUP.

I am in the process of completing my 23rd year as a professor and counselor at Montgomery College. Each semester my colleagues and I see a new group of students arrive at the college with hopes and dreams, some with clearly defined career and academic goals, and many with undefined career and academic goals. They all know they need a college degree but many have no idea of what they are capable of doing or exactly what they want to do. Our students are also very diverse, coming from over 170 countries and speaking a vast array of languages. Some students arrive with academic skills at the honors and advanced placement level while other arrive with reading, writing, and math skills that are well below the college level. In addition, many arrive from other countries and have to participate in our American English Language Program in order to bring their reading, writing, and speaking abilities up to the college level.

Many of our students also enter college with what I’ll call “baggage.” Some come from dysfunctional families, some are single parents, some have been victims of abuse, or are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, others have psychological, physical, or learning disabilities. Some are struggling because they and members of their families have to work multiple jobs in order to pay the bills and put food on their table each day.

Now imagine you, as an instructor, arrive for your first day of class, knowing what I just said, and you have no idea of who is sitting in front of you in your class. Yet, as a faculty member, you are expected to be prepared to work with a diverse class of students and teach such subjects as chemistry, English, literature, biology, physics, calculus, the engineering sciences, networking and cybersecurity, history, philosophy, economics, art, and music. We also may be required to teach them how to fix cars, how to install an HV/AC system, how to do basic plumbing and electrical work, how to be a certified nurse’s aide or a variety of other subjects as part of our Workforce Development and Continuing Education division of the college.

In order for us to do this, we must be at our best all the time when we are working with students. This is true whether we are an instructional faculty member or a counseling faculty member. We are well aware that, in many cases, we are a major part of the support system students need in order to be successful in school and in life–and in many cases we are their only source of emotional support. As professors we educate, we change lives, we create opportunities, we counsel, we advise, and we mentor, support, and help our students become more mature and successful students. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on us to be our best so that we can provide our students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to be successful, whether they are leaving Montgomery College to pursue employment or to transfer on to a four-year university. This is a challenge that we readily accept and one that brings us great satisfaction. It is very fulfilling when we hear from former students once they graduate and find that first job or are admitted to a four-year university.

And it is now, once again, time for all of you to play your part in helping the College succeed and continue to provide for our students. There is an old saying, “You get what you pay for.” And at Montgomery College this means that when we are provided with the fiscal support we need, we can hire the likes of the following Maryland Professors of the Year:

Mary Furgol-History, Susan Bontems and Navart Tahmazian-Chemistry, Joan Naake and Greg Wahl-English, John Hammond-Math, Kenyatta Rogers-Theatre, Dawn Avery-Music, and Deborah Stern-Psychology.

By providing the College with the funds needed to continue and recruit, hire, and retain a diverse, quality faculty, we will be able to continue to provide for the needs of our ever growing student population. By providing the funds we have requested, you will help us keep Montgomery College affordable for our over 25,000 credit students.

As our older and more experienced faculty retires, we want to make sure that we have the funds during these difficult economic times available to continue to hire experienced faculty who are capable of meeting the needs of our diverse students who are trying to learn. Our ability as a faculty to create new programs, design new classes, maintain our level of expertise in our respective fields, keep up with technology, and revise our current classes, is only limited by the time we have and the funds available at the College to pay us to do our work and to be retrained.

Montgomery College is an integral part of the county and I encourage you to fully fund the proposed operating budget submitted to the County Executive by our Board of Trustees. On behalf of the faculty I thank you for your previous years support and for the support I hope will be provided to the College next year.

Thank you.

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