NAWD Action Item #3: Have Fun! Make Your Point With a Little Comedy

Good adjuncts:

It’s important we get out there and sell the message about how adjuntification is messed up and needs to change, but we’re not going to succeed by simply being strident.  When it come to the world at large, there’s a long line of hard luck stories, of which we are but one.  Parody and satire can go a long way to move the masses.  For now, I’m sharing my own attempt at this.  It’s a parody of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” simply titled “adjunct”. For those unfamiliar with the song, here’s the original “Thrift Shop” video:

I’m hoping somehow I can get this made into a Youtube video.  I don’t know if I will, but those of you out there more talented or creative who may have some creative ideas of your own–please share them, and I’ll post them.  Anyway…

(To the tune of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”)

Hey, professor, can you help me with my …?

Bye, bye, bye, bye, bye (many times)

Gotta fly, gotta fly, gotta fly, yeh (x9)

I’ve got to drag my ass
To another college campus
I-I-I’m racing, to teach another section
Yes I‘m a fucking adjunct

Nah, walk up to the class like, “What up? I ‘m real prof
I’m like so downplaying that I’m an adjunct
I drag in the books and talk real cocky
That students forget that I’m just shit grade jockey.”
Bladder swollen, my eyes all bloodshot, too much coffee
Bags packed with stacks of essays, students waitin’ expectantly
Probably shoulda gone first, gotta return papers before I
But shit, it was 9:05! (I’m late)
Holdin’ it, strain’ it, bout to go and put em into peer groups
Passing up on the lesson plans I worked on the night before
Unclear and sketchy, fuck it man
I strutting and stalling and
Can bolt the classroom and I’m hella happy I got to go pee
I’ma gettin’ fastfood pay, I’ma gettin’ fastfood pay
No for real—ask at payroll—can I get a dollar meal (Thank you)
Back at teachin’ my cellphone’s ringin’
In my Trader Joe’s bag I go diggin’
I found a whiteboard marker, a dried out whiteboard marker
I whet it with my tongue, then tried on a chalkboard
Hello, hello, my ace man, my mello
Full-time ain’t got nothing on my fringe course, hell no
I could take student essays, correct them, sell those
The admin heads would be like “Aw, he like nailed the SLO’s.”

I’ve got to drag my ass
To another college campus
I-I-I’m racing, to teach another section
Yes I‘m a fucking adjunct

What you know about grading essays through the weekend?
What you knowin’ about living on only ramen?
I’m grading, I am grading, I’m searching all through the papers
One man’s trash, that’s my last class’s coursework
Thank the department for cancelling my course just last minute
‘Cause right now I’m sellin’ my plasma
I’m at the thrift store, you can find me trying dress clothes
It’s not, Halloween, I’m searchin’ in that section
For dress shirts, and dockers, and boxers, or blazers
I’ll take those red Hawaiian neckties, fifty cents, I’ll buy that motherfucker
The two-way belt with broken buckle on that motherfucker
I hit the office and they stop in that motherfucker.
They be like, “Oh, that adjunct—he hella poor.”
I’m like, “Yo—that’s ten dollars at the Target.”
Half off on Tuuesdays, let’s do adjunct addition
10 dollars for a dress belt—that’s almost two full days of food
The reality of your salary bro
And having the same situation as 70% of faculty
Peep game, come take a look through my telescope
Tryna get a full-time job and you hella won’t
Man you hella won’t

I’ve got to drag my ass
To another college campus
I-I-I’m racing, to teach another section
Yes I‘m a fucking adjunct

I wear those thrift store clothes
I feel expendable
I’m hauling this big ass bag
From that campus down the road
I wear those thrift store clothes
I feel expendable
I’m hauling this big ass bag
From that campus down the road

I’ve got to drag my ass
To another college campus
I-I-I’m racing, to teach another section
Yes I‘m a fucking adjunct

Is that your curriculum vitae?

Enough, now get busy good adjuncts!

Geoff Johnson

A good adjunct


NAWD Action Item #2: Claim Your Actual Hours–Make a Pie

Good Adjuncts,

Most students, even if they get what an adjunct is, don’t understand how you are paid in relation to the work that you do.  Make them see it.  Make a pie chart.

In most cases, adjuncts are simply paid for their hours in the classroom, with some adjuncts in more appreciative districts being offered small stipends for limited office hours.

To make your students really understand your job, show them by presenting them with a pie chart that shows what you do versus what you’re paid for.

There’s a very simple function for this in Microsoft Word.  It’s easy to create and post on facebook or blackboard, or to simply print out and give to the class. You can even draw it on the board for them.

Below is but an example.  By the way, my hours are actually a little more for the grading and professional development, but I’m playing it conservative, and here’s the real kicker–I only get paid 32 weeks a year (Fall and Spring Semester).

Work Pie Chart

NAWD Action Item #1: Adjuncts, Claim Your Spaces

Good Adjuncts,

If you haven’t taken the document “What is an Adjunct?”and given it to your students, please do so or download it.  To educate is to activate.

But that said, one document alone cannot fully educate or activate.  We need to educate and activate through multiple measures and activities.

And they can and should be thoughtful, insightful.

From now until Feb. 25th I will be posting activities every two or three days that I encourage all adjuncts to take up.  If you have ideas, send them to me in your comments section, and provided they don’t call for anything that involves a violation of the law, hurting oneself or others, or clearly result in a person’s getting fired, I’ll re-post it.

Whether you do these actions or not is up to you and your group. Do what is true to yourself.

Anyway, here’s first my first action item: Adjuncts, claim your spaces.

Adjuncts, too many of you know what it is like to have to do prep work or meet with students when you have limited or no adjunct space, but because you are a good adjunct, you make that time to do prep, or meet with a student.  Ideally, it’s in an adjunct office, but too often, it’s in a cafeteria, a student lounge, outside in the hall way, a courtyard, etc.

Show everyone just exactly where that space is.

First, get yourself a relatively large post-it, or a 3”x 5” notecard and put some scotch tape on one side. On either the non-adhesive side of the post-it, or on the non-tape side of the notecard, write in large and legible letters “ADJUNCT OFFICE SPACE”.  Attach the post-it or card to the nearest table top, door wall, or surface so that it can be clearly seen.

Now naturally, if you’re in a cafeteria or coffee shop, or any kind of high traffic space, it’s going to get removed.  In fact, you want to attach it so that it can be easily removed.  That’s OK, but let someone else remove it.

Later, when you’re back at the same place, put up another card and post-it.

From here on out, it’s simply rinse and repeat.

Over time, a larger audience of post-it and notecard readers and removers are going to understand your reality, and if they’re truly bothered by your message, maybe they will see that a specially designated space for adjuncts to do their jobs would be better than what’s happening now.

For those of you who might want to be a bit more proactive, if one your campus there is an empty office that is not being used, Put up a post-it or card with the question “FUTURE POSSIBLE ADJUNCT SPACE?” Like before, people will take down your card or post-it—simply put another one up.  The admin may in fact find another use for the office, but so what? Getting them to tell you what that office will ultimately be used for and why forces them to be more accountable to you.

Now off to your work  my good adjuncts.  Claim your spaces.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

What is An Adjunct? A Document to Prep Students for NAWD

Good Adjuncts

Please prep your students for NAWD, or whatever you want to call it by giving them  this (See below my sign out)  to read.

The document I have posted here deals specifically with California, but you could easily download it an edit it to fit your reality wherever you are at.

Make people, and especially students, understand what’s going on.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct


                                                       What is An Adjunct?

                                                     What You Should Know

What is an Adjunct?

The term “adjunct” which is often used interchangeably with “contingent” or “part time” is meant to refer to instructors who are limited in particular campus or district from teaching the same number of classes as a Full-time or “Contract” instructor.  California State Law defines these teachers as “temporary” employees, meaning that they were allegedly hired to teach, for a limited time, a number of classes, because the institution had to offer more classes than it has full-time employees to teach.

In other words, these were instructors originally to teach “extra” classes.

Today, on average, between 70-80% of college classes are taught by “adjunct” instructors, and at some institutions these “adjunct” instructors teach the majority of classes.  Many have done so for over 30 years or more.  It is more likely than not that the person teaching your classes right now is an adjunct.

This means they are not teaching extra, but in fact essential classes, and it’s also clear, they are not temporary workers.

So Then Adjuncts are Simply Less Qualified Teachers?

No.  Adjunct instructors, like their full-time counterparts, have advanced degrees like MA’s, MS’s, MFA’s, and Ph.D.’s.  Many may still be actively doing research or have written multiple books and articles.  Some have won national awards, and in fact, may at times be more “qualified” and “distinguished” than their full-time counterparts.

If These Teachers have Similar Qualifications, Why aren’t they Full-time, or Contract Instructors?

Well, first of all, there is a small minority of these teachers who choose to be part-time because they have another full-time job, may be a returning retiree, or are only interested in part-time work.  The vast majority of these adjuncts want to teach full-time, but the number of positions available is very small.  When a single full-time position becomes available, there may be as many as 200 applicants for a single position.

Why Are There so Few Positions Available?

Unlike an adjunct instructor, who is only generally paid for the hours he/she is teaching in the classroom, full-time instructors are given a salary which pays at a significantly higher proportional rate for a given class.  In addition, most institutions will provide full health insurance benefits to full-time instructors, and in some cases, their dependents as well.  There are other benefits as well offered to full-timers, such as sabbatical leave, which in the end means that full-time instructors cost more. Schools, which are either generally strapped for funding, or have other priorities simply choose to hire more adjuncts because they cost less and give administrators more flexibility.

What do You Mean By Flexibility?

To be blunt, it means to have the ability to hire and fire instructors at will.  Most full-time, or contract instructors have or can get “tenure”.  Tenure is essentially a promise made to full-time or contracted teachers after three or four years of satisfactory instruction that they will be guaranteed work for an additional three years, whereupon they will they will be re-evaluated for another three-year term. Usually, unless a full-time instructor’s teaching or professional behavior has become especially egregious, he or she will receive tenure again and again.

By contrast, though some adjuncts have “preferred” or “priority of assignments” clauses in their contract, they are not guaranteed work from one term to the next.  Even one bad semester of teaching can result in termination, which is simply, to not be rehired.  Yet the situation for adjuncts is far more precarious, for one may simply not be rehired because there aren’t enough classes, or because a full-time instructor had low enrollment in his/her class and now wants the adjunct’s class.  At other times, office politics may play a role and the administrator can simply choose to give classes to his/her favorites for whatever reason that administrator chooses.

“Flexibility” means that an adjunct can be fired even when he/she is doing a good job.

You Said Some Schools Are Strapped For Funding?  Why is this?

The answer to this question basically has two parts.  First, the proportion of money spent by state governments on education has been steadily declining for the last 40 years, and second, since the late 1970’s in particular, the political environment has been increasingly averse to government spending and taxation.

While politicians will talk of how they value education, the last forty years suggest that most politicians are interested in things like being “tough or crime,” or engaging in a “war on drugs” which has bloated prison populations.   Notably, there is a reciprocal relationship between the steady decrease in educational funding as a part of state budgets, and the increase in funding for prisons.  At the same time, there has been reduction in tax rates, primarily on upper-income earners.

Another factor affecting school funding has been the rise of technology.  40 years ago, there were no banks of PC labs or smart rooms on campus.  Technology costs money and it has to come from somewhere.  In addition, in order to improve the “efficiency” of the education process, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people hired for administrative or non-instructional duties.  This again reduces the amount of monies available for instruction.

Why Should I Care?

Well, there are several reasons.

First, because adjuncts receive relative low pay and few if any benefits, many are compelled to take on teaching loads which exceed their full-time colleagues at multiple locations which reduces their availability to students as well as the time they have to grade student work or do prep.  According to Cornell Higher Education Research Institute scholars Ronald Ehrenberg and Liang Zhang increased reliance on part-time faculty has been found to negatively impact student retention and graduation rates.  This is fact is further supported by the work of  University of Washington researcher Daniel Jacoby, who finds that as the numbers of tenure and part-time (adjunct) faculty increase, retention and graduation rates fall.

Over just the last six years, the number of students either earning a two-year degree at a California community college, or transferring to a four-year institution has fallen by 2.6%.

Second, those who do not take on these teaching loads will live under financial duress, with some being compelled to get food stamps, or even be homeless.  While some teachers may hang on, others, who could have been a significant asset to a particular institution, will leave the profession altogether.

Third, the model for adjuntification is now expanding to other industries.  In the future one might see adjuntification happening even in supposedly solid STEM fields. Ultimately, the expansion of adjunctification would lead to the collapse of the middle class or clearly a society or “haves” and “have nots”.

The National Adjunct Whatever

Hello Again Good Adjuncts:

Sorry I’ve been away from my post for a while, but I have been fighting the good fight in other venues.

There’s an old saying which goes to the effect of “What does a Leftist firing squad look like?”, with the answer being “A circle in which all shooters are facing to the right.”

As an adjunct activist, I’ve been focusing a goodly amount of attention to planning for events around the “National Adjunct Walkout Day” (NAWD) slated for February 25th, and I must say that to some extent, the above saying is applicable. First of all, here’s a little background. The idea for a National Adjunct walkout Day, or as it has been otherwise termed “A Day without Adjuncts”, was apparently first proposed by an anonymous California adjunct in February of 2014, with a Facebook post on October 1st. I know that in some circles we were talking about it during the summer, and I was certainly pondering it last September when I started planning events for Campus Equity Week. Other than a call for a walkout by anonymous adjunct, there was little else. Over time, as interest in the activity began to pick up steam, groups like the CPFA and others in California began to think more seriously about the event. For better or worse, the nameless adjunct who proposed the activity has not wanted to make the event structured around a particular agenda, but was simply encouraging other adjuncts to act up.

This I, and certainly other activists, plan to do, but this is where things get interesting.

As you may know from my earlier posts, I sit as the Adjunct Rep. for San Diego Mesa and Southwestern Community Colleges, which are affiliated with the CFT and CTA respectively. Contrary to the Hollywood movies you see, unions are not about engaging in work stoppages to hold management hostage at whim. Unions are essentially worker-based organizations whose main task is to collectively bargain with management for working conditions, salary, and benefits for their employees. In fact, work stoppages, otherwise known as strikes, happen only when the contract cannot be negotiated and only after a long process which may be for years after a contract expires. Even then, the union is required to put the matter of going to strike up for a vote, and then, only if the membership votes for a strike can a strike happen. At the California community college level, there have been extremely few such strikes (a number once quoted to me was “three”, though I suspect there are perhaps a few more). Some reasons for the limited number of strikes are that many workers, particularly adjuncts, already living hand-to-mouth, can ill-afford the loss of wages; the inevitable disenfranchisement of students is usually a public relations nightmare for teachers and management alike’ and, in nearly all cases, the aforementioned strikes didn’t get results that were hoped for.

What this brief explanation is leading to is this: Unions can’t call for a general walkout unless their contract negotiations have long been at impasse, and to do so would constitute in terms of labor law, an illegal act. This in turn can jeopardize the existing contract, or lead to a judgment against the union should the negotiations go to arbitration. Further, the union cannot legally protect its workers from being disciplined or fired. In other words, unions cannot call for adjuncts to walkout, or directly sanction a work stoppage.

I actually tried to communicate this with some adjuncts on a NAWD forum site, only to be informed that I should indicate where I’m eligible to practice labor law because it’s “different from state to state”. Well, I’m sorry to say that this more or less applies to national labor law as well, and if it means protecting the adjuncts and contract I’m supposed to support by informing them of this inconvenient truth, then so be it. So no, the unions aren’t going to push for a walk out, but I can say for my locals at least, no one is going to actively dissuade people from taking any kind of action insomuch as it is non-violent, and doesn’t directly block other people from accessing facilities or doing their own jobs.

There are however still many things that unions can, should, and will do.

Clearly, for a long and exhaustive list of reasons expressed in previous posts on this blog and elsewhere, the time for a strong message expressing disappointment, disgust and anger at the exploitive and fraudulent practices associated with adjunctification on a national level has come. Further, on nearly all community college campuses, the adjunct faculty make up the majority of instructors, and in many cases, teach the majority of classes at a particular campus. It is therefore incumbent upon the teacher’s unions that represent these adjuncts that not simply the issue of the NAWD but of adjunctification.

For my part, I’m more agenda-driven than the anonymous adjunct who called for NAWD, because, in California at least, CFT and the CPFA in particular have put forth aline-item budgetary proposal calling for specific funding for 1) adjunct office hours, 2) adjunct parity pay, 3) an increase in funding for more full-time positions. In addition, both CFT and CTA are in the process of crafting rehire rights legislation. Further, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin has tried putting forth student loan forgiveness legislation for adjuncts. I like the idea of using the NAWD for pushing these items because while the litany of adjunct complaints is very long, and the oft proposed solutions to these issues can be murky or simply not structured in a way that they play with the politicians, these are specific and pointed proposals that will provide some redress. Moreover, these proposals have not been simply put forward on a whim, but were thought out in terms of the budgetary and political opportunities that exist. With regard to California, the passage of Prop 30 and the improving economy have created a real opportunity.

It is the enactment of these proposals and legislation that would make a great plan of action for the NAWD.

The big issue now is how to get it out there, and what NAWD should look like. Many people are in a fuss just about the name NAWD, and in particular the “walkout” part of it. It should come to no surprise to anyone reading this blog that faculty unions have been regarded cynically as being largely for and about the preservation of salary and working conditions for contract, or full-time employees, at the expense of adjuncts/part-timers/associates/contingents (choose which you like best—the state of California officially calls us “temporary employees”). Sometimes, though not always, this has been true with some locals.

Therefore, when several locals began to express interest in doing something regarding NAWD, they (we) were accused of trying to “co-opt” the event. People like myself were then alternately told by other adjuncts that we should not call what we’re proposing to do a “walkout”, because the unions can’t and won’t “walkout”, or that the “walkout” name should be preserved for the event for to call it anything else would somehow lessen its impact and point.

First of all, for the reasons I gave above, unions do need to speak to both the NAWD, and to the issues of adjunctification. They have resources and political muscle (largely built off of adjunct union dues) and can assist adjuncts in expressing their message.

Second, some adjuncts, for any number of reasons, may not feel comfortable about walking out yet would like to speak to the same concerns. In this case, the unions can help facilitate this.

Third, my involvement with the NAWD, and I feel I can speak comfortably for the other adjunct union activists I’m working with, is no so much about making the union or its local look good, but about making the union do what it should. To my local unions’ credit, they have allowed and encouraged the adjunct reps to put together their own planning. The only specific demand I’ve been given is that I give them an estimate of what I want to spend on the event.

Fourth, adjuncts are not the only stakeholders here. Adjunctifcation hurts students, contract instructors, communities, and yes, even administrators who are now having to stand before legislators and explain why they have crappy student retention and completion rates. In fact, if this message is not sold and pushed in CAPITAL LETTERS, then one had better pray for hell to freeze over because that’s about the time change will come otherwise.

Here’s a not so little surprise for you my good adjuncts—most of our students HAVE NO IDEA WHAT AN ADJUNCT IS. It’s generally pretty hard to convince an outside group to support you when they really have no idea what you are. Before February 25th, the date of the NAWD, adjuncts need to be explaining to their students what an adjunct is, the conditions they work under, and how this circumstance hurts everyone.

In my next entry, I’ll be writing specifically what an adjunct is. Take what I write, and give it to your students. Alter it to reflect your reality if you want, but do it.

Second, groups need to contact local labor organizations and social justice groups. Why are fast food workers the only people engaging in the “FIGHT FOR FIFTEEN” when so many of our adjuncts make the equivalent or less? There are starving adjuncts, homeless adjuncts, sick and dying adjuncts, and dead adjuncts. Is not adjunctification a social issue?

Third, adjuncts need to start speaking up at local board of trustees meetings, and talking to/calling/emailing/texting local state and national politicians. Further, these speakers need to be more than local adjunct reps. When rank and file adjuncts show up in numbers to regularly push for a focus on these issues, they will get more attention.

For me, I will be involved with rallies in which NAWD will be termed a “day of action”, or a “walkout”.

Personally, I don’t give f**k what it’s called. I want to be heard and I want something done.

Call it whatever you wish. Just get up and do something.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” adjunct