Science Careers Blog

November 14, 2012

Student Effort Highlights Adjuncts' Lack of Health Insurance

For more than 40% of American college faculty members--those who have part-time adjunct positions--obtaining medical insurance and paying for medical care can present serious challenges.  One example is Don Haussler, a "popular math instructor at  Kansas City Kansas Community College" (KCKCC) who urgently needs a hip replacement he cannot afford, Inside Higher Ed reports.

After watching his teacher suffer through months of increasing pain, and learning that Haussler would need a wheelchair if he couldn't get the costly surgery soon, Kenneth Herrington, a 33-year old Navy veteran who is double majoring in chemistry and biology, decided "to do something to help him," the student tells the Wyandotte Daily News.

Together with classmate Megan Hyde, 22, he organized a "Hip for Haussler" campaign on campus.  Already numerous students and a range of campus entities, including the college chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (a national academic honor society), the Black Student Leaders organization, and the college bookstore, have joined the fundraising cause.  Haussler has declared himself "speechless" at this "unbelievable" effort, the News reports.  In addition to raising money for the operation and a special orthopedic shoe that Haussler needs, students are investigating other possible financing options for the surgery. 

Hassler is "just plain awesome," Yvonne Castaneda, a "Hip for Haussler" activist, tells the News.  "Dr. Haussler is a great teacher, tutor and friend" willing to "offer all he has by making himself available to anyone who asks, whether it be helping out with math or sitting down with a student and listening to his or her problems," adds Hyde.  

Haussler's career at KCKCC  began with a full-time faculty appointment in 1997, but he later took a full-time position at University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan.  When personal reasons brought him back to Kansas in 2004, KCKCC had no room on the faculty for him. He managed to obtain a part-time position there in 2006.  His hip problem dates to 2002.

Now that the re-election of President Barack Obama has likely ensured the survival of the Affordable Care Act,  adjunct and part-time teachers like Haussler should be able to obtain health coverage within a couple of years.  Haussler, however, needs surgery before that.  Whether his students will reach their ambitious goal remains to be seen. Already  obvious, however, is the deep impact that a fine teacher can have on his students' lives.

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