Adjunct Week?

So, just in case you don’t know, this Wednesday is National Adjunct Walkout Day. This particular movement and the related topic of equity for adjuncts been a topic in the Chronicle lately (as here in a piece encouraging schools to rethink their policy on adjuncts, and here, in a piece encouraging unions to step up) and elsewhere, and it is a HUGE issue for the City Colleges, even if it hardly ever gets discussed (perhaps because the adjuncts are so busy working other jobs to earn rent and food money that they can’t be around at meetings and State of the College addresses to voice their concerns.

In my days as an adjunct, I surely could not have afforded to walk out–every dollar counted, though there certainly weren’t many of them in my paycheck (amazingly, 15 years later there aren’t many more!)–and, to be honest, I’m more than a little ambivalent about this particular approach given their vulnerability (financial and professional) and the trickiness of the situation–I want them to have a (much) better contract, but better would be more full time jobs; it’s a small needle eye to thread). A colleague asked if I had any ideas for how we could support our adjuncts, this week and generally, and I didn’t have any answers. Wearing red is one option, I suppose, but it isn’t much of one, I’d say. I’d love to hear any other ideas that are out there.

I also hope that, given that it’s budget time over at the District Office, there will be some discussion of the City Colleges policy toward adjuncts and perhaps some bold, or at least interesting moves toward improving the working conditions for adjuncts, given that their working conditions ARE many (most?) of our students’ learning conditions. $1600 (or even $2000) a class is one thing if the person is teaching an extra class on the side while working professionally (the original model for adjunct faculty), and another thing altogether when the person is teaching a 4/4 load without benefits (next to colleagues teaching the same number of students or 20% more for six times the remuneration. It seems to me that if outcomes matter that we could expect more effects from stabilizing (or at least not aggravating) the economic lives of half of our faculty than we can from new phones, new furniture, new lobby gates, and the rest.

Adjuncts deserve some joy, too.

Adjunct Solidarity Day

Hope you are wearing red today to show your support for our adjuncts as their union continues negotiations on a new contract. Anyone who has done it knows that it is a hard road to walk. And it is a mistake to think that they are second rate teachers; research shows that many of them are excellent–even better than their full time colleagues. It is also a mistake to think that what happens to them doesn’t affect the rest of us, and it is ridiculous to ignore what is happening to them everyday. To wit:

Un-Hired Ed: The Growing Adjunct Crisis

Adjunct News

I thought THIS was both a really great idea and really great news:

The problem is how to know for sure how much compensation and benefits adjuncts receive at any given institution, particularly those that don’t have a union-negotiated contract. And even then, there are often complex formulas and other numbers that come into play, making it hard to know how much an “average” adjunct takes home per 3-credit course. Numbers that are widely circulated by the universities or other organizations representing the universities aren’t much better at presenting an accurate picture of adjunct compensation. How do we, then, as adjuncts get the word out that we are, on average, very poorly compensated, but that there are also standout institutions that do compensate adjuncts fairly?

Enter Josh. In a post that has gone “viral” (or at least as viral as you can go in academic circles), Josh created a Google spreadsheet that anyone can contribute to with the goal of collecting as much information as possible on the working conditions of adjunct faculty at institutions across the country…

This is social media at its best.

Love it. Well worth checking out.

One for the Adjuncts

According to The Chronicle, there was a big adjunct faculty summit this weekend.

Leaders of the New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for adjunct faculty members which hosted the summit, offered up a draft document laying out the goals and principles of what it hopes will be a broad-based effort by key players in higher education to improve adjuncts’ lot. Intended to secure contingent faculty members better pay and benefits, more job security, a greater role in college governance, and assurances of academic freedom, the document calls for colleges to undertake sweeping efforts to improve adjuncts’ working conditions, and for the adjuncts themselves to play a key role in guiding such change…

The goals listed in the New Faculty Majority document include drafting an agreement, similar to the climate-change commitment, obliging the people, colleges, and organizations that sign it to take steps to improve the working conditions of faculty members and the learning conditions of students.

The rest is HERE.

Adjunct Ruckus at Columbia and Northeastern

As I mentioned earlier, the adjuncts and their union over at Columbia are raising some noise. Interestingly the adjuncts at Northeastern are, too. And the noise at both places is getting louder, according to an article in this week’s Reader:

Over the last couple weeks, while the eyes of the nation have been on the workers’ rights standoff in Madison, Wisconsin, two normally quiet Chicago colleges have seen their own labor uprisings. At Columbia College and Northeastern Illinois University, faculty and students are protesting what they call dictatorial governance and exploitation. In both cases, the plight of adjunct teachers—the dirt-cheap, dispensable day laborers of academe—is at issue.

Adjuncts now do a major portion of the instruction at both schools, handling more than 50 percent of the classes at NEIU and accounting for nearly 77 percent of the teachers at Columbia, which has 360 full-time faculty and about 1,200 adjuncts.

Those ratios are part of a trend, one sign of the increasingly bottom-line-oriented, corporate attitude behind the tweedy facade at colleges across the country. What’s atypical about Columbia and NEIU is that their adjuncts are represented by unions. And the unions aren’t afraid to make a fuss.

Potentially Tangential Philosophical Aside (is that redundant?): This is all happening just as the City Colleges adjunct union begins preparations for negotiations on its next contract.

All of which raises in my mind an interesting hypothetical thought experiment. Remember back in 04 when we went on strike? Our union, and some (but not all) members unofficially suggested that adjuncts honor the picket line, which then led to more than a little trouble for some of those who did.

If the adjunct union went on strike, do you think our union would ask US to honor the picket line? Do you think theirs would? I’m guessing they wouldn’t because that would be a violation of our contract, which would conceivably be grounds for termination. In such a case, though, what would the obligations of full time faculty be, I wonder?

It’s clearly in our students’ interests to have better treated adjuncts (better pay, health insurance and/or other benefits, better job security, some support for self-determined professional development–all of the work conditions that get negotiated in these things and for a host of reasons. It’s clearly in the interests of the institution we serve and support to have the people who make up 2/3rds of our teaching faculty happy/happier and (more) justly treated, and it’s also clear that any change in their situation (to the positive), in the current climate (no state funding, etc.), likely means a change in either affordability for students or future contract benefits to us.

Would our full timers stand up for adjuncts? Should we?

PS: I’ve been thinking about this since I read a different article (HERE) on the ways that the interests of FT faculty conflict with those of Adjuncts. Thus, it is not because I think our adjuncts will go on strike or should or that we will or should or any of that. Just thinking ahead to what I/we might do if it were to happen, because that’s what philosophical people do. It’s a habit. Maybe a flaw. Still, you could have stopped reading six paragraphs ago, so, really, whose fault is it that you’re here now considering this question?

One for the Adjuncts

Adjunct trouble at Columbia College; interesting to read in light of the upcoming CCCLOC adjunct union negotiations at CCC.

Check it:

Though she had been at Columbia since 1995, often teaching two or three courses each semester, her schedule of classes had been whittled down from three to one, without explanation, despite what she and colleagues described as positive-to-glowing evaluations.

Just as troubling, the number of students in her remaining class increased without any corresponding raise, she said. If current patterns continue for the remainder of the year, Wolfson’s annual pay from the college will shrink from $28,000 to $9,000, she said.

When Wolfson brought her concerns to her union, the Part-time Faculty Association (which belongs to the Illinois Education Association, which is part of the National Education Association), she learned that as many as a dozen part-time faculty members in her department, arts, entertainment and media management, reported similar situations. An adjunct from the history, humanities and social science department estimates that 20 part-time faculty members, all of whom, like Wolfson, were at the top of the salary scale, lost courses this semester.

Campus-wide, as many as 100 adjunct faculty members, many of them with 15 to 20 years of service, have had their course loads reduced, often without notice, with sections either canceled or staffed instead by younger and less expensive teachers, according to the union.

And then there’s this little bit of demoralizing numeration down toward the end:

The union came into being in 1998 over the objections of the administration at that time, which has since turned over. When it was launched, the union’s chief goal was to achieve what once seemed unthinkable — getting paid $3,000 per course. The salary scale now ranges from $3,756 per class, after a member joins the union in his or her second semester of teaching, to $4,770 at the top of the scale.

When I taught my first class at Columbia in 2000, I got a little over $2000 for the course, and $1300 for an equivalent course at HWC. In the ten years since, their adjunct pay at the bottom of the scale has nearly doubled, while ours has increased about $200. Yes, they are private and we are public, but…well…you know the rest…


Equity for Adjuncts

Can’t think of what to get your favorite adjunct for the holidays? How about some justice?

Students’ learning conditions are their teachers’ working conditions—not 27 percent of their teachers’ working conditions. As Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, wrote in September, “The only goal worth fighting for is full justice for all who teach.” As long as we’re having to strip down to essentials, let’s strip down to that one.

Check out the rest HERE.

The Plight of the Adjuncts

This is from The Chronicle, echoing much of what we’ve been saying here whenever the topic comes up. The article is called, “An Underclass is Educating Your Children.”

Check it out here.

The life of the adjunct does not resemble a Carnival cruise. The life is often exhausting, underpaid, undernourished, and rife with logistical challenges. I think we’ve all heard that refrain before, but perhaps it’s time to hear it again, and to think about the conditions of our younger peers as we move on into mythical jobs and mythical tenure.

Amen. They need our help. We are bound with ties of inescapable mutuality, and too many of us suffered through those unfair working conditions to ignore them now.

Adjunct Tenure?

In an interesting conversation with an English faculty member, I learned that, given the new rules for adjuncts (12 hours) and the load requirements for English faculty (12 hours), there are a handful of adjuncts who are teaching full-time load, but at a miniscule percentage of the pay and with no benefits–truly second class citizens.

Now, I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I will say that the abominable pay that CCC offers their adjuncts (especially if a teacher is a teacher is a teacher) as our Chancellor put it during DWFDW, is a huge problem for all of us. CCC pays significantly less than the other schools around and so chases away a number of good adjunct candidates while making life very difficult for those who, for whatever reason, agree to it. I was one for three years and I’m happy every day now that I didn’t quit permanently any of those times when I said that I would (or did).

The New Faculty Majority” put together a proposal for adjuncts that has drawn a lot of attention this week (see here, for example). Check it out, then ask your adjuncts if they’ve seen it and what they think about it.

Adjuncts are faculty, too.

One for the Adjuncts (and Everyone Else)

Do you know about Allen Zaruba? He was fired for using “The N Word” in reference to himself in a phrase comparing the university to a plantation.

The university’s statement was that his statement was not germane to the class content. The author of this article argues otherwise, suggesting that the status of adjuncts, and their unjust treatment in the system of higher education, is relevant to every class they teach.

Check it out. Discuss if you’d like. Would you have fired him?