On April 11, St. Louis Community College – Forest Park held a Community Poverty Simulation Workshop as part of Social Justice Week. Participants were invited to “walk in the shoes of someone facing poverty” to emphasize the interconnected issues of poverty. I want to commend the important work the STLCC – Forest Park community and allied organizations do to lift up important issues like these. I also want to highlight that for many STLCC Forest Park educators like myself, poverty isn’t a simulation – it’s real life.
Most people think being a professor is a good, stable job. After all, master’s degrees and PhDs are an investment in time and money. However, over the years, more and more adjunct faculty have found themselves struggling to make ends meet.
What used to be good jobs that anchored our communities are now just unstable “gigs” that leave educators in the same boat as students – overwhelmed by debt, working multiple jobs, unable to move their careers or families’ lives forward, and forced to consider leaving the profession. Whether it’s teaching courses at other schools or delivering pizza, almost all of my coworkers and I work side jobs to put food on the table. STLCC Forest Park adjunct faculty don’t have the stability we need to support our families.
When educators struggle, the entire STLCC community suffers. Cutting our commitment to education has affected the faculty who make students’ education possible. It brings the entire St. Louis region backwards.
I’ve taught at STLCC – Forest Park for six years. I’m still struggling, and it’s time for a change.
STLCC has the opportunity to live up to the values espoused during Social Justice Week and invest in the school’s community, especially those already struggling to make ends meet. Since March, educators have been negotiating with the school over wages for the next academic year, but while we’re struggling to pay the bills, the administration has been dragging its feet, refusing to truly invest in the faculty, like me, who work hard keeping our campus running.
Stopping poverty in our region can start right here at STLCC. The Board of Trustees needs to recognize the important role educators play and offer the fair wage we need to support our families. We need meaningful investment to improve our campus for everyone. For too many educators struggling to make ends meet, poverty isn’t a simulation. It’s a harsh reality.
Russell Tallant has taught Spanish at St. Louis Community College since 2013. He is a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1.