Faculty Voice Newsletter: September 2017: Faculty Profile: New Adjunct Chair Katie Woolsey

by David Lau

For this issue’s Faculty Profile, I interviewed Katie Woolsey, adjunct instructor in the English Department and incoming Adjunct Chair for CCFT. Katie holds degrees from UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. She is a valued and trusted colleague in our department and the executive board of CCFT already benefits from her new energy and vision.

David Lau: How is the semester going so far? What have you enjoyed? Any challenges?

Katie Woolsey: The semester is off to a strong start! This is the fun part of the semester, when I’m getting to know students, their writing, and their perspectives as people. I think that our best work is very much informed by who we are and the unique vantage each of us has. So at this point we’re all meeting each other’s perspectives, and the grades stuff comes later. That said, the biggest challenge so far this semester has been trying to figure out how to support students through a period of serious political turbulence. The recent back-and-forth announcements about DACA and the DREAM Act have thrown emotional as well as practical chaos into many people’s lives. The President’s willingness to toy with people’s sense of their own future (“We’re killing DACA”; “It’s OK, we’re going to make a deal”; “No, there’s no deal”) is unconscionable. The Germans have a word, weltschmerz, which means “world-hurt”: there’s a pervasive sense of pain in the world, and you’re anxious and worn out. I see a lot of this feeling in a lot of people, and in particular many students, right now, and I just think we need to continue to be here in support and to fight for them in every way we can.

DL: What has it been like to join the executive board of the union as adjunct chair? What goals do you have in your new position? 

KW: I’m really happy to be joining the Executive Board as Adjunct Chair. I’ve got to fill the really big shoes of Sadie Reynolds, who held this position for several years before me, so that’s a tall order. Right now, I’m trying to do a lot of listening, to hear what our adjuncts are concerned about so I can represent them well. The big things, as always, are pay parity and job security. I know very well the stomach-churning dread of losing work and not knowing where next month’s housing budget will come from (more weltschmerz). But I’m an optimist, and I think that we have some good opportunities to move toward meeting Cabrillo’s own stated goal for pay parity as well as the state’s new mandates around adjunct reemployment. 

The adjunctification of higher education is primarily about decreasing instructional budgets, but it has another function: creating a false logic of scarcity and competition, so that we’re fighting each other over scraps while our share of the state budget is steadily shrinking. I think that we can be resistant to that logic, especially as unions are under sustained and heavy attack nationwide. Locally, as a college, we’re figuring out some really deep and structural changes — the ones I see most in the English department are Pathways, acceleration, and multiple measures assessment — and these can be tremendous opportunities to think about what versions of these changes might impact all faculty in various ways, and hopefully for the better. 
DL: What are you looking forward to in your teaching this year? 
KW: I’m actually looking forward to being able to engage with the same thing I invoked as a challenge: the sense of upheaval that many of us are experiencing. I’ve retooled my classes to include a much more explicit element of exploring what influences our worldview and shapes our values, especially in terms of media. In one of my classes we’re going to try our hand at creating fake news and misleading memes to see how it all works. This, to me, is always the greatest part of teaching college: whatever the world throws at us, we’re here with a whole critical thinking toolbox to meet it. And since we’ve got a 7 AM final in that class, I’m already looking forward to coming in with coffee and snacks and seeing what my students will come up with!