A National Adjunct/Contingent Caucus: What it Can and Should Be.

On July 14th at the Biennial AFT National Convention, members of the American Federation of Teachers Adjunct Contingent Caucus will convene to select caucus leaders who, in the face of a post-Janus America, along the increasing threats expanding labor contingency and academic corporatization, must work in conferring with and guiding AFT to more effectively understand and act upon adjunct contingent Issues.  To be effective at this task, here are the basic steps and actions it must undertake, or encourage the High Ed. Division of AFT to undertake:

  1. Define and Recognize the Varying Degrees of Educational Labor Contingency

Adjunct/Contingent teacher plight is in part plagued by a literal soup of job titles from, “part-time” and “adjunct,” to “associate,” “lecturer,” and “non-tenure track.” The wide variety of these terms, none of which are truly understood by a general, non-academic public, only serves to shroud the nature of their exploitation under a false narrative which suggests such teachers/instructors/and professors are “professionals,” in the sense that they are fairly remunerated, enjoy job security, and benefits, and possess collegially equal footing with their full-time, contracted and tenure-track coworkers.

One thing all these adjunct/contingent instructors share is precarity.  In this regard, the Adjunct-Contingent caucus should impress upon the AFT that any instructor who consigns to work under these conditions out of economic or professional necessity is in fact a precarious worker, and that at as a central mission, AFT is dedicated to the reduction and ultimately the elimination of academic precarity.

This is itself a first step, which has been partially addressed by resolution. However, working conditions vary from not simply state to state, but from system to system, and sometimes from institution to institution. Most locals, and even larger state federations, lack knowledge of the variances.  While certainly some of this is controlled via local contracts, many of limitation/classifications imposed on these workers via state law or code. This often involves, but is not limited to the following:

  • Cap limitations (restrictions on teaching above a particular “full-time” percentage at a given institutions or within a given district.)
  • Contract limitations (restrictions on how long a person’s term of employment may be before they are given a permanent, or long-term contract.)
  • Re-hire rights (do teachers working term-by-term have, provided if classes are available, a reasonable expectation that they will be rehired in a successive term, and entitled to some due process if not.)
  • Access to unemployment or retirement benefits.

The Adjunct-Contingent caucus should then work with AFT to create a readily access electronic resource which allows members in one state or system to access and see what is happening in other systems without having to wade through state Ed code or local contracts to do it.

  1. Facilitate inter-system and inter-Federation discussion of Adjunct/Contingent Issues

Presently, the Adjunct/Contingent Committees of various systems within particular state federations do not interact.  For example, in California, UC Lecturers and AFT Community College “Part-timers” only come into contact with one another peripherally and then only really within a Higher Ed. resolutions session within a State Convention which is now only going to be held biennially. Their interaction at the last convention led to the passage of a Cap-raising resolution for Community College faculty, and the passage of a resolution calling for rehire rights language legislation for UC faculty.  More could be accomplished in terms of resolution and legislative policy were this interaction to more frequently occur.

Further, there needs to be interaction between Adjunct/Committees from different state federations. While preferably this interaction should be physical and in person, this interaction might be cost effectively achieved through wider usage of Zoom, Blue Jeans, or even Google Hangouts.

AFT needs to take advantage of electronic technology to put adjunct officers and representatives in better contact with one another.

  1. Provide a Tracking of Individual State Budget or Legislative Campaigns Concerning Adjunct/Contingent Workers

The California Federation of Teachers, generally by late November, is able to list its budgeting priorities, and by early Spring is able to indicate what bills it is sponsoring. Publicization of these priorities, in conjunction with adjunct organizing and mobilization has led to some modest successes.  Having an updated, but simple and basic list of these priorities for each federation published nationally would allow other federations to draw inspiration, consider their own priorities, and create greater solidarity.  AFT communications could arrange for this data to be reported from the state feds to them, and then posted on a national site.

  1. Update Contact Information Regarding All Higher Ed Locals and Indicating whether those locals represent exclusively represent adjunct/contingents, full-timers, or are wall-to-wall units.

Presently, much of the information provided on AFT’s main site is out-of-date or vague regarding various locals.  Only if this information is up-to-date and complete can it fully facilitate understanding.

  1. The Creation of Timed, Monitored Discussion Boards focused on Specific Contract or Adjunct Issues

Because of the prohibitive cost of travel and the limited time frame that exists within a 2-3 day conference, or even a week long retreat.  The creation of a board focused on, say rehire rights, ancillary duties, or healthcare, may be far more useful, AFT Staffers with specialties in these fields and having and the opportunity to examine and negotiate multiple contracts could serve as moderators.

  1. Better Outreach to Isolated Locals who are not Active within their Respective Federations

Within the CFT, many locals will not send representatives to either State Councils, CFT committees, or the State Convention.  Notably, many of these same locals also have some of the poorest working conditions for Adjunct/Contingent Faculty.  Many of these locals are strapped for resources, and may lack the knowledge expertise and generally encouragement to improve their unit members working conditions. AFT should encourage federation staffers to make available to committee members the contact information of adjunct officers within these isolated locals for the purposes of creating greater knowledge support, and solidarity.

  1. Provide Grant Monies so that Empowered Adjuncts Might Help in the Accomplishment of the Aforementioned Points

Many of AFT’s staffers are already stretched. Providing grant monies for motivated adjuncts to assist in the accomplishment of these tasks would be an effective way to help take the weight off of AFT staffers, and allow Adjunct/Contingent members to engage in greater self-reliance, and for some who are financially strapped, a chance for some small income.

These seven steps would be first points that an Adjunct-Contingent Caucus should strive towards, while at the same time pushing/promoting larger adjunct issues/campaigns that extend beyond Higher Ed. to the general economy and society as a whole.  Contingency is itself driven by forces which seek to reduce the human condition to a commodity to be necessarily undervalued and had on the cheap to the advantage of those who learn how to game the system.  We simply need to end the game.

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On the Use of Competitive Hiring to Erode Tenure by Adjunctification

Following are comments made in an email thread on which proposed language changes affecting adjuncts in AFT 1931 in SCCCD were debated. They might be of interest to other adjuncts or full-timers having similar debates elsewhere. The proposed changes include improving seniority rights, a provision for mandatory interviews when full-time positions are available, and efforts to improve the struggle of freeway fliers, including two week cancellation pay. Some full-time faculty have vehemently opposed the changes. The comments have been slightly edited.

Here are my comments in support of the proposed changes to the contract language being discussed in this thread as well as an attempt (an inadequate one) to put the discussion in a larger context that might allow us to see our situation more clearly. I beg your indulgence.

The human condition is richly ironic. Our best intentions often go awry and we end up accomplishing the opposite of our original aims. This has happened with the competitive hiring process in search of the “best” at community colleges.

The competitive hiring process was instituted to ensure that the hiring of faculty was just, that it offered equal opportunity to all candidates. The result has been mixed at best. Nationally, the lion’s share of tenured positions in academe belongs still to white males. Most diversity hires have been in adjunct positions. Sixty percent of adjuncts are women. It is a sacred cow. We should slaughter it and make burgers at a unity barbecue.

Someone in the thread stated that the hiring process is “broken.” The hiring process is not so much broken as it has been coopted through underfunding into the means of eroding tenure, resulting in a two-tiered system that divides faculty. We think in terms of “adjunct interests” and “full-time interests,” and accept the proliferation of adjuncts as some naturally occurring phenomenon. If the system had worked as intended, and full-time hiring had proceeded at a pace that maintained the percentage required by law, many who are adjuncts but who would prefer full-time employment would have been hired full-time many years ago. Implying, whether you intend it or not, that adjuncts are adjuncts because they are not of the “best” quality, is condescending as well as impossible to support.

Adjunctification is an unwieldy neologism that is necessary to name this slow erosion of tenure that has been happening now for decades. The defunding of higher education is a core cause. But the long, slow process of increasing reliance on adjuncts, especially in community colleges, has other causes, interrelated and somewhat embedded in our collective psyche. One cause is the failure of faculty to resist with enough force to stop it. Another is the blind belief in the American ideology of individual success. Those who win the lottery of tenure have every reason to feel good about it. But they often have forgotten those left behind who are equally qualified, but not as lucky. Yes, they feel powerless, and with good reason: decreasing faculty power accompanies adjunctification. These are only a couple of causes of this complex transformation, but, at any rate, we have become divided and on the verge of being conquered, unless that has already happened and we didn’t notice it because our heads were in the sand when it happened.

The collective faculty head has been in the sand now for decades. Allow me to note some data: in 1970, 75% of higher education faculty nationally were full-time, tenure-track. As the SDCCD 2017-2018 Facts on File reports, 81% of faculty in our district are adjunct, close to the national percentage. That’s down from 87% in the last SDCCD report. How many such decreases will we need to reach the 75% full-time faculty status or even the 75% credit hours required by AB 1725? How can we accept this? We should be stunned by these numbers, but we’re not. At least not enough to consider advocating for revision of the legal code. Yes, that would be radical. It seems unimaginable to us.

The most common sense comment I saw in this thread was the suggestion by Marina Cohen, retired IT adjunct:

“Most adjuncts are not even considered for full time jobs when they come up, even if they apply. That needs to change, as well.  Adjuncts should be the first in line for full time positions if they have the credentials and a good record. Even “part time” loyalty need to be rewarded. Hire from within FIRST. Go outside ONLY if you cannot get the qualified personnel from your experienced part time staff. “

Yes, I know legal code is rarely common sense and that the language of Title V is problematic. But can we make sense? Does it make sense that only 20% of those qualified to teach full-time at a community college are deemed good enough for full-time employment? And what are the effects of this condition on students? (Not good, according to City College student Ryan Rising). Perhaps what we can do to resist is unclear, but we should at least do something, even if it is as modest as the proposed changes to the contract.

Adjunctification is inherently unjust. Make no mistake, we’re not talking about an appropriate use of a few faculty, retirees or those who do not desire full-time employment as an academic, to address fluctuating enrollment, or some other need. We’re talking about the transformation of higher education faculty from full-time status to part-time status, a transformation that parallels the larger global shift to worker precarity described by Guy Standing. The adjunct is the precariat of higher education, on the edge of financial (in)security, serially unemployed, debt-ridden, hoping to get lucky. This may not describe every individual, but it is generally apt.

The proposed changes in contract language regarding adjuncts is a modest, local effort to address adjunctification and its pernicious effects on the “game” of higher education, effects which are detrimental to both the unlucky precariat adjunct and the tenure-track, not to mention the student. To see the proposed changes as somehow is to miss what’s happening right before your eyes. Adjunctification is how we will be/have been divided and conquered, especially if the Janus case turns out as expected. We need unity if we want to maintain the integrity of community college education. And we need a new vision of how to reverse adjunctificiation if the union is to remain strong after Janus.

Rainy Adjunct Action Day/NAWD at Mesa College 2018

In the interest of coordination with other protest events, our humble but serious Adjunct Action Day NAWD took place today. A last minute change was the accommodation of the national school walkout to protest gun violence in schools, which conflicted with our planned protest. We altered our start time to 10:20 from 10:00. Of course, we addressed gun violence. Also addressed, in several short speeches, including comments by, among others, me, Geoff, Jesus Gaytan, and one of our supportive board members, Peter Zschiesche, were taxing the richest to pay for free community college, appealing to the governor to increase adjunct office hour pay, the injustice being perpetrated on DACA students, and ending adjunctification by hiring all or most of the 87% adjunct faculty at Mesa College, a quick and efficient solution, into full-time positions, paid for by a tax on, you guessed it, the richest’s ill-gotten gains.

In my brief time at the mic, I asked why it’s acceptable for employees at community colleges to work a career (18 years, so far, in my case) with part-time status, when this is still frowned upon in most other areas of employment. Yes, I know the neoliberal agenda is unfolding, full speed ahead, and the gig economy is growing by leaps and bounds. But I protest, nevertheless.

Here, on a rainy day in San Diego, Geoff Johnson is introducing our speakers.

I know there is no rain in the picture. But, a rainy day it was, in the desert.

We did have a heckler, bag full of alternative facts, who kept trying to hijack our comments by asking, trying to talk over the responses, why rich people should be taxed or should have to pay for things for other people, like it was an undue burden on them. My answer was, “because they have all the money!” He offered choice alternative facts on gun control and on undocumented people as well. Although offered “better” facts, he rejected them and insisted that, for instance, background checks for gun purchases were already extraordinarily rigorous. He had other “facts,” all of which were shot down.

My comments did not bother him until I openly pondered, akin to the petition, which we touted also,  to have free community college paid for by a dedicated estate tax on property valued at $3.5 million put on the people’s ballot in California, why not have a ballot measure to hire long-time adjuncts into full-time positions paid for in a similar way with some kind of tax on billionaires? It was this inquiry that got him started on the “why should rich people pay for anything?” line. He sparred a little bit with every speaker.

And so there you have it, short but sweet.

Resist!

Peace, Love, and worker solidarity!

Protect Adjunct Jobs and Working Conditions: Tell the Governor to Spend Money on Adjuncts, Not an Online College

Below are two letters concerning Governor Brown’s plan to set aside 120 million dollars for the Community College Chancellor to create a fully online California community college separate from the 112 colleges, all already offering online instruction.

The reasons this is a BAD idea are many, but just know this:

  1. This college would compete with the online courses presently available at other colleges, which would damage enrollment at your school and sending you looking for more work.
  2. This college would hire mostly adjuncts from all over the world, not just the US, and from many places where the wages are low here might be quite high to them elsewhere.
  3. It would have, and these are the words of the Chancellor who would administer it, “meet and confer” status, meaning no real collective bargaining, no union protections, and likely crap wages.

The first is the letter I wrote for Southwestern College.  Below that is a template for the letter you need to write for your college.  To make each letter unique, enter the college you’re teaching at in the first open blank on the template,, and in the second blank, the percentage of classes taught online at your college.

Such information is public knowledge and can be gotten from your college’s office of Institutional Effectiveness. Copy, paste, edit, print out, send:

Here’s the Sample Southwestern Letter, followed by the template you should work from:

Governor Edmund G. Brown

℅ State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA

 

Governor Brown:

In your recent budget summary, and specifically before leading into your discussion of this year’s education budget, you spoke of “moving government closer to the people.”  This in fact has been the impetus of your “Local Control Funding Formula,” or LCFF, designed to direct money to those districts or regions of the state where it is most needed.

While this desire to improve California’s workforce to reach its often most marginalized and disadvantaged population is laudable, your proposal to meet this need via the creation of a California Online Community College, though well-intended, is a step in the wrong direction.

Presently, online education is already widely available throughout California’s 72 Community College Districts and 114 Colleges.  At Southwestern College in Chula Vista, for example, 10.5% of instruction is currently provided fully online, by trained and certified online instructors.  These schools also already provide online counseling and 24-hour asynchronous tutoring.  Community Colleges can already meet the needs of students who cannot attend a traditional campus because of work or other considerations.  At the same time, unlike a fully online academy, students have the option of going to a physical location to have their needs served, such as counseling, tutoring, and health services.

The Online California College is aimed at a particular population of adults who face challenges that will not allow them to attend traditional college such as distance to the nearest college, work schedules or physical limitations that force them to stay home.  Many of these potential students may lack the learning skills and efficacy for formal learning.  For these students, there may the need before or even while taking an online course for more personal, face-to-face attention, or hands on instruction.  Online learning in general requires a high degree of self-discipline and focus, and support to bring such students to this point can be and is provided by existing community colleges.  In this regard, a fully online college cannot solve the problems nor meet the needs of these students.

The creation of an Online California College separate of the existing community colleges will only serve to decrease their enrollment, leading to potential class and program cancellations at these colleges, and in addition, causing many of the most economically at risk educators in the state, adjuncts and classified staff, to lose their jobs.  It is quite likely that with a fully online academy that many teachers will no longer be California residents, or even US residents, and without union protections, will likely be paid less with limited or no benefits. Presently, one in four adjuncts nationwide is on some form of assistance, and increasing the numbers of these adjuncts seeking assistance adds to the problem of poverty in the state.

Rather than spending 120 million dollars on an Online College that creates redundancy and will hurt students, teachers, and their respective communities, this same money would better spent by increasing the number of full-time instructors, including those who are qualified to teach online. Furthermore, increasing both the pay of adjunct or part-time instructors to a more equitable level would allow them to reduce their teaching loads and better serve students, especially those who are teaching online.  Finally, increasing funding for paid part-time instructor office hours, which can be and are currently provided virtually by online instructors, will improve student retention and completion, as a number of studies have shown.

Governor Brown, your desire for a better California is shared, but let us achieve it by properly funding the good work community colleges have the greater potential to do.

 

Name (Please Print):__________________________

Address:___________________________________

___________________________________

Signature:__________________________________

Date:______________________________________

 

Here is the template you should download and use:

Governor Edmund G. Brown

℅ State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Governor Brown:

In your recent budget summary, and specifically before leading into your discussion of this year’s education budget, you spoke of “moving government closer to the people.”  This in fact has been the impetus of your “Local Control Funding Formula,” or LCFF, designed to direct money to those districts or regions of the state where it is most needed.

While this desire to improve California’s workforce to reach its often most marginalized and disadvantaged population is laudable, your proposal to meet this need via the creation of a California Online Community College, though well-intended, is a step in the wrong direction.

Presently, online education is already widely available throughout California’s 72 Community College Districts and 114 Colleges.  At     [your]    College in  [your city], for example,  [?]  % of instruction is currently provided fully online, by trained and certified online instructors.  These schools also already provide online counseling and 24-hour asynchronous tutoring.  Community Colleges can already meet the needs of students who cannot attend a traditional campus because of work or other considerations.  Unlike a fully online academy, students have the option of going to a physical location to have their needs served, such as counseling, tutoring, and health services.

The Online California College is aimed at a particular population of adults who face challenges that will not allow them to attend traditional college, such as distance to the nearest college, work schedules, or physical limitations that force them to stay home.  Many of these potential students may lack the learning skills and efficacy for formal learning.  For these students then, there may the need before or even while taking an online course for more personal, face-to-face attention, or hands on instruction.  Online learning in general requires a high degree of self-discipline and focus, and support to bring such students to this point can be and is provided by existing community colleges.  In this regard, a fully online college cannot solve the problem nor meets the needs of these students.

The creation of an Online California College separate of the existing community colleges will only serve to decrease their enrollment, leading to potential class and program cancellations at these colleges, and in addition, causing many of the most economically at risk educators in the state, adjuncts and classified staff, to lose their jobs.  It is quite likely that with a fully online academy that many teachers will no longer be California residents, or even US residents, and without union protections, will likely be paid less with limited or no benefits. Presently, one in four adjuncts nationwide is on some form of assistance, and increasing the numbers of these adjuncts seeking assistance adds to the problem of poverty in the state.

Rather than spending 120 million dollars on an Online College that creates redundancy and will hurt students, teachers, and their respective communities, this same money would better spent by increasing the number of full-time instructors, including those who are qualified to teach online.  Furthermore, increasing both the pay of adjunct or part-time instructors to a more equitable level would allow them to reduce their teaching loads and better serve students, especially those who are teaching online.  Finally, increasing funding for paid part-time instructor office hours, which can be and are currently provided virtually by online instructors, will improve student retention and completion, as a number of studies have shown.

Governor Brown, your desire for a better California is shared, but let us achieve it by properly funding the good work community colleges have the greater potential to do.

Sincerely,

Name (Please Print): __________________________

Address:____________________________________

____________________________________

Signature:___________________________________

Date:_______________________________________

Fighting for Paid Part-Time Office Hours: Get Your Letter Templates Here and Give Governor Brown Your Thoughts

Good Adjuncts:

This is a letter to the governor asking for more categorical funding for office hours.  Last year, as a result much effort by many, including a letter campaign similar to this one, we were able to get a 70% increase to the State Part-time Office Hours Fund.  This is still a drop in the bucket to what is needed, because the state only matches 10% of what local districts pay out for office hours.  For this reason, the pay is low, and hours are limited, and that’s if a district actually has a paid office hours program.

We need more money, and this is the letter for it. It’s similar to the letter put out as a part of Campus Equity Week last Fall, but it’s been “freshened up,” and is this time not directed to the Director of Finance, but to the governor himself.  Copy the letter, paste it, make any changes you want, print it, sign it and send it, or better yet print it, make hundreds or thousands of copies, give them to everyone you know, collect them, and send them.

If you want me to send you this letter as a microsoft word attachment, please email me at mixinminao@gmail.com

By the way,  print is better than email.

Let’s get it done

Geoff Johnson

Here’s the letter:

Governor Edmund G. Brown

℅ State Capitol, State 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Brown:

In your most recent budget summary, you have made it clear that you take a concerted interest in the achievement of student success.

One of the most significant components in the achievement of student success is a meaningful and productive student-teacher interaction and it is not limited to what happens in a classroom.  These interactions often require students and teachers to meet outside the classroom to discuss student issues that at times may not be just curriculum but other educational matters that are necessary for providing direction and ultimately leading to student success.

It has been found in repeated studies that this outside-the-classroom student interaction is often one of the most critical factors in helping the most at risk and challenged students to succeed. A teacher needs to be more than just a classroom facilitator for the student to succeed.

It then is highly ironic to know that at California Community Colleges approximately 70% of faculty are temporary, part-time, or adjunct instructors, who are largely paid only for their time in the classroom. In addition, because many are disproportionately paid at half the rate or less than their full-time counterparts, these adjunct instructors will often have to travel to other districts to teach, leaving them with limited time to fully interact with their students.

Some of the obvious solutions to increasing this student-teacher interaction would be to hire more full-time instructors to be in compliance with the 75-25 full-time/adjunct ratio that is mandated by AB1725, or to simply provide the funds to pay adjuncts more equitably in relation to their full-time counterparts.

A more immediate step that you and the legislature chose last year was to increase state part-time office hours by providing an additional five million dollars to the office hour fund. While this clearly was a step in the right direction, this fund only covers about 10% of the local part-time office hour funding. This lack of funding leaves many districts to choose to offer very limited office hours (for example,  2-3 hours of paid office hours for an entire semester for a 3-unit course at Southwestern College or a total of 8 hours for the entire semester at Pasadena City College regardless of the number of courses taught) or no paid office hours at all.

As evidenced, the money in the state part-time office hours program is inadequate and needs to be increased. Please consider allocating an additional 25 million dollars for the state part-time office hours program.

Empower California’s adjuncts to create the student-teacher interactions critical to student success.

Sincerely,

Name (Please Print)________________________  Signature:_____________________________

Address________________________________________________________________________`

Date_____________________________________

 

Adjunct Action Day (aka NAWD) 4.0, Yes It’s Still Happening (At Least in San Diego)

Good Adjuncts:

Sorry I’ve been away.  The curse of trying to fight for social justice and equity in the age of Trump is that you don’t suffer for work.  That is why you have seen few new entries here of late.

Because of our involvement in a major rally in San Diego on Saturday, Feb. 24th, we are moving our Adjunct Action Day activities to Wednesday, March 14th.  In addition to this, there are a number of joint CTA and AFT community college adjunct-oriented letter writing campaigns, that are starting up, and you will have access to those letters here.

We’ve not gone away in apathy or depression, in fact the opposite–we’re just f**king busy.

I know, and so are you, and you’re getting screwed on pay.  I guess we’ve got to do something about that.

Geoff Johnson

Attempting to be a “good” Adjunct.

How the Student Became a Consumer and the Professor Became Precarious

Here is the text of the speech I gave to kick off a week of Campus Equity Week 2017 events at San Diego Mesa College.

Adjunctification and Corporatization: How Students Became Consumers and Professors Became Precarious

“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself.”

In 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a speech, “The American Scholar,” in which he made this comment. His words represent a resistance to the idea that education should be utilitarian, a notion rooted in anti-intellectualism. Emerson saw the mind as a creative force in the universe that could aspire to ideals such as the ones enshrined in the Constitution: Justice, Peace, and Compassion, for instance. Emerson saw the pursuit of these lofty aims as the appropriate aims of the American Scholar. The scholar, in seeking to know himself and his world, elevates the entire community. Emerson’s words speak to us today as we face the corporatization of higher education.

What is adjunctification? It is an ungainly and disquieting word, a neologism that is necessary to name a process that would otherwise be seen, and, regrettably, increasingly is seen, as business as usual in higher education. I use this idiom, “business as usual,” to heighten the connection between adjunctification and the paradigmatic ideology that higher education is a business, or, more precisely, a corporation, which brings me to the other unwieldy word in the title: “corporatization.”

These words, adjunctification and corporatization, together name the decades long process that has institutionalized in higher education the ideological assumptions that the student is a customer, education is a commodity, and the aim of higher education institutions is to maximize profit and minimize cost while delivering an easily consumable product: to achieve, in corporate rhetoric, “efficiency.” This is the opposite of what the aim of higher education should be and the implications of this failure of imagination for democracy, the failure to aim high, to aspire beyond the wrongheaded notion that a student is a customer, are dire.

Corporatism is the ideology that all social relations are explainable through market relations. One of the conclusions which follows from this ideology is that market value, the “bottom line,” is ultimate. The corporatization of higher education has been the applying of the idea by legislators and administrators that public higher education should be run like a business. This is a problem because higher education as a public good is not and cannot be a business. The two are mutually exclusive, except within the faulty logic of corporatization ideology. A business sells a product and needs to balance the cost of production with profit, or the business will fail. Higher education is the public institution which, and this is the brief version, is entrusted with old knowledge, new knowledge, and with ways of making knowledge, of leading students to transform information into knowledge through critical thinking. It offers students not only knowledge of the world and the world of ideas, but also an opportunity to grow as individuals and mature into the best possible versions of themselves as free-thinking citizens, ready to participate in fulfilling the promise of democracy in America as well as fulfilling the promise of their lives. Higher education is a public good, not because it prepares students for the workforce, although it does this, but because college students, by reaching deep within to meet the challenge of learning, discover talents and skills they may not have otherwise known they have, which they then bring to the democratic community. If higher education fails, community fails. And when community fails, we have injustice and hate.

 Economist Guy Standing, in his groundbreaking 2010 book, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, explains that the term “precariat,” a combination of “precarious” and the Marxist term “proletariat,” also known as the “working class,” is a new word necessary to describe contemporary labor conditions. Today, according to Standing, the proletariat has been replaced by the precariat. The proletariat had unions and job security; the precariat is an “independent contractor” and has job insecurity. To achieve maximum “efficiency,” it is necessary to have maximum “flexibility” of labor. What is the most flexible labor? One that is temporary, disposable, and exploitable. Sounds like an adjunct. The aim of corporate ideology is to make the laborer precarious, insecure and fearful, and easy to manage.

 What is an adjunct professor? A member of the precariat of higher education. An adjunct is, by definition, non-essential and disposable to the mission of higher education. Roughly 75% of community college professors nationwide are adjunct: part-time, temporary. Yet, this description is a lie. Typically, adjunct faculty are rehired over and over, for many years. Why? Because they are, obviously, essential to the mission of the college.  To describe them as temporary and non-essential is absurd. At Mesa College, 85% of faculty are adjunct. That means only 15% of faculty are full-time. If you are a student looking for your professor, chances are she will not have her own office, or even be on the same campus.

Most adjuncts are career academics who have devoted their lives to the public good of higher education. Without them, higher education would disintegrate. Most adjuncts always intended to be academics, to teach, or research, or perform as experts in their field of expertise. Chances are these are people whose passion is teaching. They are professionals dedicated to teaching, to making the world a better place. These dedicated professionals devote most of their lives to gaining, maintaining, and teaching their subject matter. This is what they do; it is who they are. It is a calling.

 This is bad for students. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. The precarious nature of being adjunct oppresses the adjunct and her students. It makes her education precarious. For instance, students do not have equal access to adjunct professors who have no official, long-term relationship with the institution, in whom the institution has not fully invested. Nevertheless, enduring the unequal working conditions, adjuncts, most of whom would prefer a full-time position, most of whom would be full-time except for the dominant corporate ideology, do most of the teaching in higher education, and do it well. Their qualifications are equal, their labor is equal, their commitment is equal. But the conditions in which they labor to maintain the quality of higher education for students are unequal. Most have more than one job, but earn half what they would make if they had one full-time job. This is unjust. How is this situation equal access for students? You can’t say that it is.

The idea that the ultimate value of labor is determined by market “forces” dictates that the cost of labor should be as low as possible. Adjunctification is the making of academic labor cost as low as possible. The result for faculty is financial insecurity and the powerlessness that goes with precarity.  The business model shortchanges both faculty and students. Students are not only shortchanged because they are denied access to full-time faculty; the business model also requires that students focus their study on a vocational plan. The purpose of a commodified education becomes training students to be good corporate workers as opposed to students seeking knowledge, who study in the liberal arts, which tends to liberate. Most of the traditional subjects of a liberal arts education, including math, science, and the humanities, seem to have no practical value in this paradigm. Of course, if value is cast as utilitarian, then  the liberal arts doesn’t.  Science perhaps, but only if it is connected to a technological development that leads to profit. But if the value of higher education is cast as what makes students able to fulfill the potential of their lives, then the deep, reflective thinking that is required to master language, math, and science, to think philosophically, to know the diverse nature of American culture, and global culture, is what higher education should be about, that is, fostering the growth of minds. In contrast, the commodification of higher education turns the mind into readily consumable fast food.

The question that remains is what do we do about this? First, we must begin by seeing that the student is not a consumer and that faculty, most of whom are precariat, need to be empowered to provide students with the learning opportunities they need to aspire to fulfill their potential. Empowering faculty will require a radical idea, one which now does not exist as a political goal, except in name. We want to fund more full-time positions. But in the current model, there will never be enough money allocated to accomplish this goal of 75% of courses taught by full-time faculty.  To accomplish this will require a radical paradigm shift.

Higher education operating under the limits of a business model offers a one-dimensional paradigm. Humans, like students and faculty, are multi-dimensional beings. When market values replace public values, education is cast as a commodity, and self-interest is held as the highest good in a super-competitive, economically defined world, individual and societal potential is diminished. Faculty are underpaid because ideas are undervalued. We need a paradigm shift. We need liberation from the business model. We need to aim higher.

“What’s the Difference?” UCSD Students Research and Explore Adjunctification

UCSD students made this video for a sociology course. This is the kind of work students can do to resist the adjunctification and corporatization of higher education. Students and faculty must unite in resistance.

I am one of the adjuncts interviewed.

An Adjunct Moment From an Anonymous Adjunct

The following “adjunct moment” is the record of an adjunct dealing with the extra bullshit that adjunct professors deal with on a day to day basis in the service of the public good. It’s not me, but it could happen to any freeway-flying adjunct, anytime, anywhere.  I will point out that full-time professors do not face this bullshit, not to accuse them of anything, but to bring attention to the disparity in working conditions, which are student learning conditions. This disparity cannot be emphasized enough, in my opinion. It’s worth noting that no pedagogical changes are very likely to improve student “success” until we make radical changes in the way we hire college faculty, especially at the community college level. Community colleges are the most adjunctified corner of higher education. Until we have a new system of hiring, one that acknowledges the moral obligation of colleges to their adjunct faculty, especially the ones who have been hired multiple times, by hiring them full-time, students will face the same challenges that their adjunct professors (straight up 75% at community colleges) face. Short of hiring them full-time, which is the only moral solution, they might settle for equal pay.

I am publishing this for the adjunct professor who wrote it, who shall remain anonymous.

For your reading pleasure, a brief narrative in the spirit of the upcoming Campus Equity Week:

“The Word of the Day”
F***! is my word for the day. I just arrived at school and confirmed my worrying suspicion that I left my students’ essays in the adjunct faculty work room at Grossmont College. I searched for it in my car and my house, but I only found about 500 pages of the other 4 English Composition classes I teach. I am pissed that I left it in the office because to go get them is a REAL pain in the ass. If it were not for the integrity I have, I would tell the students that they will not have an opportunity to revise this essay that is to be submitted in a portfolio to the English department as a requisite to enter into transfer level college English. I also will have to tell them that as opposed to my declared plan for their preparation for the portfolio that I am contradicting myself and shortening their instruction (that they cannot trust me at my word).
I am sure many times this occurs and a teacher has no choice but to shorten the quality of their instruction. I am sure many of them have pangs of conscience when they relinquish under the fact that they are not prepared. I am fraught with stress and anxiety because I want to be good at what I profess. For me, teaching brings out my perfectionism, an ethical obligation to teach well. My word of the day is deeply felt in this moment!
I am sure you are thinking that I am being dramatic, that I should simply walk over to the workroom before class and retrieve the papers. I would say the same of any professor on campus, but here is the issue. Technically, while I do the very same thing a professor does for considerably less pay, I am not a full-timer not for lack of credentials or of trying. I am an adjunct, a position that does not garner an office and which is underpaid and restrictive in that each college limits the number of hours to part-time. So, to make a living professing English, composition, and the social merits of the humanistic endeavors of higher education, I teach at 3 institutions. So the word of my day is F***.
F***! I left my English 49 Essays from San Diego Mesa College in the work room at Grossmont College 20 minutes or 15 miles away by freeway.
Rather than shorting my students, I have decided to sacrifice my sanity. It is no question that I will be on the freeway for 40 minutes, plus 20 minutes of running from office to car and car to office. One hour of my day and 5 dollars of gas, to fetch papers. However, it in not merely the fetching that is causing such problems. I had planned to be grading during that hour, and I had arrived 2 hours early to grade those very essays before my 11:00AM English 205 Critical Thinking Class and to continue grading after my 205 class at 12:35 and before my 4:00pm 101 class, so I can deliver them to the 6:35pm English 49 class. In the bag was another class’s essays that I need to read by tomorrow.
All in all when I arrived to school today and realized that I was having an “adjunct moment,” I thought about the consequences of not having one office and one campus to work at. If I was full-time, none of this would have happened, and my classes would not suffer. But, having multiple campus workrooms creates opportunities for one to get mixed with the other. I have never lost any papers, but I have heard of other instructors losing some. I immediate can sympathize with them because of the way my car trunk looks with student papers. For the majority faculty, at least in English, our car trunks are the closest filing cabinet for our work.
F***! This little “adjunct moment,” really pisses me off because most who read this will not understand that the problem is endemic and that it hurts instructors and students regularly. Underpaid, restricted, disunited faculty working out of the trunks of their cars to turn Americans into citizens capable of participating effectively in the economy and politics is a laughable indignity, as Aristotle would classify this comedy that we call “Higher Education.”

 

Any ;adjuncts out there who have any experiences you want me to share and who want to remain anonymous, I’m very happy to oblige. It’s high time we get real.