Hello Again “Good “ Adjuncts:
In the midst of all that has been written about the Adjunct Condition, from the years of toil with no contract/full-time position in sight, to the terrible economic, physical, and emotional toll that the Adjunct Condition imposes, I’ve never ceased but to be amazed by an interesting phenomenon I can only refer to as the “Happy Adjunct.”
At a recent union meeting for both a union and a community college that will go nameless, I was speaking to another adjunct rep like myself. This, by the way, is a rep who has in many instances worked very hard to help adjunct causes. As it was just a few minutes before the meeting was to come together, I began to speak to the rep about the sad case of Mary Margaret Vojtko, who as readers of the blog and most adjunct activists well know, was the 83-year old Duquense University adjunct, who after decades of teaching was fired from the school, and shortly thereafter died sick and destitute, only to be buried in a cardboard coffin.
When I mentioned the incident, largely to express the horror and anger I felt over the situation, my colleague’s response was “well, but that was a private college” (As we both teach at a public institution with a union, the implication was a sort of, “what do you expect?”). My colleague then went on to further, “…You know some people complain about what they’re paid, but I was able to get by, and now I have a house…” At that point the meeting had started, and taken aback by the response, I think I mumbled something about social justice and that was it.
Inside, I was stunned, disappointed, but maybe not wholly surprised.
You see, too many times I’ve been confronted by what I call “happy adjunct” syndrome. The “happy” adjunct, whether truly happy or not, is the one, who despite of the lack of job security, being clearly paid less for the equivalent work of his/her full-time counterpart, and having little or no health and welfare benefits, presents themselves as having nothing to complain about, and in fact, looks upon others who complain as more or less “whiners”.
For the record, I like being a teacher, and no, I don’t do this job to make money, and yes, with the high rate of unemployment, I am glad to be working.
But I’m not going to play “Shut up. Be Happy.”
First of all, is it not too much to ask or think about how other adjuncts, whether in our respective institutions or not are our brothers and sisters, and that an injury to one is an injury to all? Our own division and distractedness allows us to be given less rights than contracts when in many cases we represent the 75% of college faculty. Do not think that administrators aren’t well aware of this.
Moreover, equal pay for equal work has been a longstanding rallying cry for social justice, particularly for women workers who are still paid less than a man for equal work. To not ask the same for yourself when you would ask and expect it of others is a moral failing.
And Adjuncts and their family members shouldn’t be receiving their only medical care from the emergency room.
Finally, even if you, as an adjunct, have been able to carve out a life for yourself, could it have been that you: 1)Had a spouse or partner that made more than you and provided the real support; 2) Had extended or parental family support; 3) Had established yourself from your previous career; 4) Don’t have children or parents to attend to and support; 4) Never suffered any debilitating illness or accident; 5) Are still relatively young and healthy? Many adjuncts have not lucked out in the sweepstakes of life such as yourself.
If you’re not willing to think about yourself, think about them.
…. and stop being so fu**ing happy.
A “Good”, but not a “Happy” adjunct
This is a call to wake up from the sleep of rationalizing our contentment, which is, after all, only a version of the self-interest associated with social Darwinism; the “happy adjunct” is the oppressed who, because the oppression is too painful, tells himself that he is, as it turns out, happy, and, therefore, obviously cannot be oppressed. Having a deep gratitude for the opportunity to live does not preclude a critical perspective towards one’s exploitation. Being “happy” is superficial and shiny, and a part of the apathy of modern life. You feel it after you’ve heard a good joke. The true American ideal of happiness is much deeper, more like the ancient Stoic eudaemonia, which is about “flourishing,” an idea that makes the “happy” face seem like a party mask.
To any adjunct anywhere (or student or tenured) please go to our Adjunct Moment page and leave a brief description of your “adjunct moment” (you know you have them everyday) as a reply. Speaking out will only lead to a deeper connection to life, a kind of liberation. You won’t regret it.
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If you’re not “happy,” then you can’t be that “good.” And stop whining. You chose this, it didn’t choose you.
Well, let’s see . . .on my last student evaluation at Southwestern I received a 4.5/5 and scored 9’s and 10’s on my peer evaluations. On my last student evaluations at Mesa College, I received a 4.76/5.
I chose to be a professional and be treated like one, not to be exploited. No one does Eli.