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Ending the Exploitation of Experts Begins with Educating Them about Employment, Empowerment, and Opt

Oh, the stories I could tell you about the innards of Academia: I would be happiest to tell you that Academics and Administrators are vanguards of intellectual integrity, support for fellow Professors, and that these peoples' highest commitment is to truth and reality itself, and secondarily to setting ablaze the passions of the hearts and minds of those they teach, lead, and supervise; I'd be the first to spin around in flower fields like a professorial version of Julie Andrews singing a rhythmical rendition of "The Hills are Alive with the..Passions of Education and Intellectual Integrity." But a pollyannic representation of my observations would be a misrepresentation of the realities I have seen and experienced. I have seen university president's lie to their students, expel experts for the sake of maintaining their own petty powers and preferences, and I have seen entire academic administrations lie in unison to their boards of trustees and their accreditation commissions. I have seen schools blackmail excellent professors and leaders in education with gag orders, legal threats, and financial bribery (range US$25,000 up to $250,000) to buy their silence about institutional corruption. Sorry if I am the first to tell you the news, but academia is a battlefield of politics and incompetence shrouded by glossy brochures, colorful catalogs, and manicured campus landscapes. Meanwhile, some passionate and talented --occasionally even gifted-- professors endure all that they can while trying to teach and inspire the next generation of students, young adults, and future professionals and citizens. Eventually, even the strongest are exhausted from administrative micromanagement and false pleasantries; their innate commitment to truth and respect for reality repulses them away from the corrupt quagmire of lies, inverted truths, and overt ethical and legal violations that emanate from the offices of senior (mis)management.

Intellectuals and passionate teachers are easy targets for exploitation: Passionate teachers will tend to say "yes" when offered an opportunity to share their knowledge and passion for life. Also, because they are inherently rational, other-oriented, and honest, such professors commonly transfer these inner qualities to others in the form of easy agreement and generous good will before accurately assessing the details of agreements and contracts. Because they are inherently rational, other-oriented, and honest, professors tend to assume that others are, too. Further obscuring their accurate assessment is the use of positive phrases within the text of contracts such as "teamwork", "sharing", "inspiring", and "collaborative"--all of which are agreeable terms and concepts that can shroud details and clauses that essentially enslave and exploit the very professors and experts being hired. ....

Part 1: Educating the Experts about Employment Exploitation: Teaching “opportunities” (eg, passion, sharing, instruction) take material form as legal contracts, frequently devoid of goodwill and loaded with pollyanna and cheerful phrases while obligating the professor/teacher/expert to an intolerable load of responsibilities—including out-of-pocket expenses—and obligations to “participate” and “build” and “contribute” countless unpaid hours. This is where passion and enthusiasm must be reigned, lest the intellectual beast of burden be overloaded and eventually crushed. If you as an instructor are hired with a contract specific to the teaching of one class for a fixed amount of payment, you cannot be obligated to participate in other meetings, trainings, certifications, exercises and committees. Any such contract is almost certainly illegal and unenforceable because it violates employee protections against wage theft and misclassification of employees. ....

• "When an adjunct carries similar responsibilities as full-time staff but for less than half the salary, colleges may be evading their legal obligations as employers." • "Independent contractor misclassification is sometimes referred as 1099 fraud because employers will send their misclassified workers an IRS Form 1099-Misc at the end of their year, rather than a W-2 Form. The employer’s designation of the worker as an independent contractor does not determine whether a worker is legally classified as an independent contractor." • "Another way is payroll fraud, when employers intentionally call people independent contractors when they are really employees." • "An overarching problem in the arena of wage theft is misclassification, which occurs when employers treat employees as independent contractors rather than as employees. ... No matter what an employer calls a worker, the law determines whether that worker falls under the category of employee or contractor."

Curbing Enthusiasm to Preserve Enthusiasm: Conclusion to Part 1: Don’t be so fast to sign that contract, but if you sign one as bad as the example above, my judgement is that you could probably escape from it on the basis of employee misclassification and wage theft because the school has misrepresented your position—even if they gave you a title such as Adjunct Professor—because they are working you like a full-time professor (work that is salaried per hour with a limitation on time worked) but only paying you as an independent contractor ($X for few X hours). Teach for free if you want to teach for free; volunteer unpaid hours if you want to—but do these things consciously and not from any sense of obligation. But do not confuse being a “professor” with being the workhorse and unpaid servant of a university that asks you sign a contract that gives them unlimited control over your work schedule and forces you to attend meetings at your own expense. Tell them you need the contract re-written, tell them that you need more appropriate compensation for the hours, and that the obligations need a finite end. But please remind yourself that you are not a slave to anyone nor to any institution. Do not let your love for learning and teaching become your Achilles’ heel; don’t let your passions and talents become your weakness and downfall via overwork that leads to exhaustion and burn-out. If the school offers you exploitation in exchange for your talents, walk away and find a school or a group such as www.ICHNFMORG that has a core value system designed around the incentivization of excellence.

  • Teaching video:!blank/xv0mk

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  • Updates: The most complete version of and any updates to this article are available at the website of International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine ® ISSN 2378-4881

  • Copyrights: Copyright © by author(s) and International College of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine ®

  • Free access: Freely available; distributable with appropriate citation to author, publication (International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine), and organization website: www.ICHNFM.ORG. All content, text, and image rights reserved by author(s) and ICHNFM.

  • Citation: Vasquez A. Ending the Exploitation of Experts Begins with Educating Them about Employment, Curbing Enthusiasm to Preserve Enthusiasm. Int J Hum Nutr Funct Med 2016; epub in press with final version available at

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