Adjunct professor runs to defend his 8th District Senate seat

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Photo courtesy http://kslegislature.org

By Mackenzie Clark

Editor’s note: An article about Greg Smith, current representative in the Kansas House who is running against Tim Owens, ran in Issue 9 of the Campus Ledger.

Tim (Thomas) Owens, adjunct associate professor of political science, is currently running to defend his District 8 Kansas Senate seat. A Republican with an extensive background in law and politics, Owens hopes to continue representing his constituents.

“My goal has always been to represent the people that elect me, and I am more interested in the issues than I am in touting some political party program or platform,” he said. “[…] I’ve got a great deal of experience in a number of different issues that relate to Overland Park and the central part of Johnson County, and that’s what’s important to me.”

Owens cites jobs and the economy as the most important issues for this locale and his constituency; secondly, education.

“We cannot ignore education,” he said. “We have to stay very staunchly behind the appropriate support for education; that includes all levels, from K-12, higher education, and that includes community colleges as well as technical schools, because I think sometimes we ignore those.”

Thirdly, he said, “we must watch out for public safety.” He served six years as chair of the Public Safety Committee of Overland Park, and funding is always a concern.

“We need to have the adequate facilities to deal with the levels of wrongdoers that we have,” he said. “[…] I saw the city grow from 82,000 to 160,000 while I was on the City Council, so I saw that need grow for the number of officers. We now have a state-of-the-art police department here.”

Many Republicans consider taxes a big issue, but Owens said the legislature can not just blindly make cuts in order to lower taxes, nor should they raise them unnecessarily.

“I support a small efficient government, and I think that’s critical,” he said. “The thing that the party fails to say often is they leave the ‘efficient’ out – they just say we want small government. Well, what does that mean? If you don’t say ‘efficient’ then you’re missing the boat. […] We have to fund education. We have to fund our prisons. We have to fund our highway patrol and our law enforcement – all of those things are governmental entities.”

Owens is a retired Army Colonel. He served a tour in Vietnam and has received many awards for his service, including three Bronze Stars and two Meritorious Service medals.

Upon his return, Owens began studying law. As a practicing lawyer, his specialties include family, juvenile, and elder and disability law. He has represented over 1,000 juveniles in his career, both offenders and children in need of care, and served as a guardian ad litem when appointed by the courts.

He has also been politically involved for much of his career. He served 24 years on the Overland Park City Council, after which he was appointed to a seat in the Kansas House. After three House terms, he was elected to his current seat in the Kansas Senate in 2008.

Owens currently chairs the Judiciary and Reapportionment Committees, as well as the Joint Committee on Parole Board Oversight. He was appointed to several other committees, including Education.

As a political science professor, he applies his practical experience to the classroom.

“I can go into the classroom and bring a real world perspective to the students,” Owens said.

He also brings in people he knows as guest speakers. In the past he has brought in former Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, Robert E. Davis; Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer; former Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer, and many justices, legislators, and city officials.

College alumna Martha Kidd said that Owens does a great job of challenging his students and getting them interested in politics. At first she was not happy that American Government would be required for her business management major, but then she learned about the political science internship program through the college, of which Owens is a sponsor.

“I thought I could go to Topeka one day a week and learn about our political system,” she said, “and I did that, and discovered that I love our political system.”

Kidd interned for Rep. Bob Bethell (R-113) first, then decided she wanted to experience the Senate side as well, so she interned for Owens.

“It is a wonderful experience,” she said. “You have the opportunity to firsthand see how legislation is made.”

Marilyn Gaar, professor of political science and history, said Owens is one of many fine adjunct professors at the college.

“If a student is interested in state and local government, there’s no one better to teach it,” she said. “Our approach to hiring has been to look for people whose background is not just in the textbook, it’s not just book learning, but they have experience in the field. […] We bring in someone who is truly an expert in the field, and that would be someone such as Senator Thomas Owens.

Contact Mackenzie Clark, editor-in-chief, at mclark68@jccc.edu.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “We cannot ignore education,” he said. “We have to stay very staunchly behind the appropriate support for education; that includes all levels, from K-12, higher education, and that includes community colleges as well as technical schools, because I think sometimes we ignore those.”

    I think Tim Owens does not fully understand what the issues are in higher education. He is listes here as an “Adjunct” professor. Does he realize what the issues are at JCCC alone with regards to adjuncts? Did he ever read Ms. Clark’s prior article on adjuncts at JCCC?

    Quick run down: 334 FT faculty vs. 556 PT faculty in 2012. FT account for 51% of the teaching load, PT for 49%. In the name of budgets everywhere across the country, this is considered an “acceptable norm”. However, the very constituents that folks like Owens are supposed to represent do not have easy access to this information. Most students/parents/taxpayers have no idea why administrative salaries continue to skyrocket, seemingly withou salary caps, and why tuition rates keep rising steadily. FT faculty struggle every few years to negotiate new contracts,and are trying to get rid of a 15 year salary cap, but PT faculty have an 11 semester salary cap.

    Not every adjunct is like Tim Owens, who is already compensated by taxpayers/ government. Many adjuncts are fine professors who have dedicated their lives to teaching, may have doctorates, but are reduced to PT instruction for lack of FT jobs in their field. They are not compensated like Tim Owens. They are not even eligible for KPERS, and hey, let’s face it, we’re all aging. They have no healthcare benefits, no pension plans, and earn about a thousand bucks per credit hours, with a limit of 10 credits per semester. Arguably, they make about $20K a year, a bit more if they teach summer courses or teach at other area schools.

    Further, adjuncts in general do not have a voice in anything. The FT faculty try to have a voice by having a union. PT adjuncts have not organized their own, but instead of having 2 unions, I would think PT and FT faculty should form ONE union, like they do in states like California. The AAUP is happy to support ALL faculty together.

    So, what else happens? Adjuncts may serve on some committees, time unpaid. Adjuncts may have access to staff development, training mostly unpaid (the exception is our ACT program). Adjunct may sometimes vote or not. In 2009, adjuncts were not allowed to vote for Teaching Deans. In 2010, adjuncts were allowed to vote for some departmental Chairs, but at the rate of 20 adjuncts = 1 FT vote. Adjuncts are invited to attend some meetings, but then those meetings are never announced. In short, adjuncts are welcomed and included in many JCCC functions, but some obstacles are encountered at the departmental, divisional or institutional levels. It is a maze to figure out, but one thing is certain: students, taxpayers, and folks like Owens seem generally unaware of these issues.

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