Getting the boot

Professor Larry Smith addresses losing his adjunct position in the English department head on.


| Cherri Yoon/THE CHIMES

Larry Smith, Writer

I have always been able to effortlessly whip out “Word from the Wise Guy” columns on subjects ranging from dismantling Campus Safety to the humanity of Jesus. This one is a different animal — as I process the Biola English Department letting me go after over 12 years teaching “The Literature of Los Angeles.” Sharing my perspective through profound disappointment has proven much more difficult than opining that students who ride Razor Scooters should be expelled.

Today’s column should be titled, “Epistle from the Embarrassed” — no other adjective can describe the smarting sensation of being dumped after assuming I would be doing “LA Lit” until I kicked over in the midst of a class discussion on the un-coolness of Orange County.

Students ask if I am angry — a valid question since I encourage them to approach hot issues with their emotions as well as their intellects. Two months after receiving my eviction notice, I am still not certain how I actually feel.

I have been advised to toss the college or the department under the bus, but taking that tactic would smash innocent passengers. If people hammered me every time I screwed up, I would be a nail. I berate my students to face off injustice with passion but, when I am the “victim,” it becomes a challenge to respond with reason and humility.

Okay — so what am I left with? Truth.

Truth — Two sections of “LA Lit” have packed out every semester, always with a waiting list. Fewer than one percent have ever dropped, though it is more rigorous than many upper division courses.

Truth — Adjunct professors have zero rights. I knew this coming in and have no dispute. I never expected or requested long-term employment or a voice in departmental policy. I have merely been fortunate enough to be associated, in old age, with hundreds of incredible young people — even the conservatives. I am not owed explanation or apology. My bad that I never chose to obtain a Ph.D. — thus, tenure.

Truth — God has always turned the crap in my life into chocolate and I would be an idiot to expect an alternative outcome this time around. Adam got fired (earned) as did Joseph (never be alone with a skank), Moses (self-deportation), David (served him right for allowing his son to grow long hair), Paul (a real basket-case), and John (Patmos is not a vacation-land). Even Jesus got fired from life under profoundly unfair, arbitrary and cruel circumstances. Praise the Lord — in each example, mankind benefitted.

We got a second chance (Adam), rescue from famine (Joseph), the Exodus and Pentateuch (Moses), Israel’s shiniest jewel (David), the New Testament (Paul). Revelation (John) and salvation (via the Truth himself!)

I feel better now. Read Ephesians 5:20 to escape your own personal funk.

It has been a tremendous ride, gang — thanks for the memories.

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