My Adjunct Action Day Speech at Mesa

Dear Students, Full-time Faculty, Classified, Administrators, and of Course Adjuncts:

Approximately one year ago, when for the first time on a widespread scale such rallies as these took place, I was to a degree excited by the chance to speak out along with my colleague and fellow adjunct John Hoskins to draw attention to the adjunct condition.

Sadly, it’s a year later, and there are still so many students out there who don’t know the meaning of the term, or how it has become synonymous with teacher exploitation, marginalization, and the rationing of instruction.

The adjunct, or so called “part-time” instructor is a teacher, who like his/her full-time counterparts, must possess either a Master’s or Doctorate degree, so that he/she can teach to more or less the same student population in subjects, which he or she, has the same level of expertise. In truth, the student taught by either will rarely know which one is the full-timer and which one is the adjunct unless the teacher in question tells him or her.

However, unlike, and this is the word, unlike the full-time instructor, the adjunct is limited to teaching no more than 67% of a full-time load in one district, for fear of having to give them, like a full-timer, a long term employment contract, full health benefits which can extend to his/her family, occasional sabbaticals, and some cases, a structured early retirement plan

The adjunct is given no long term contract, and in many districts, no rehire rights (meaning that that you can be fired for any reason, like for example, the Dean having a family friend in mind for your job). It means living a life and a career in four to six month spurts for years and even decades. While a smattering of schools will give health benefits to adjuncts who maintain 50% or greater loads for more than a year, most schools offer adjuncts no health benefits at all. There are no sabbaticals for adjuncts, and for adjuncts, retirement comes when an older adjunct is simply not rehired, and he/she has been given the message that it’s time to go away.

More significantly, the adjunct is paid only for the time he/she spends in the classroom, with extremely limited if any compensation given for office hours and professional development, and no compensation for hours spent grading or doing research. To be fair, officially full timers are not paid for these things, but they are paid to maintain a minimum 30 hours on a campus, and when salaries are awarded, the adjunct will be paid at a rate  that is effectively ½ to 1/3 of what his/her full-time colleague makes.

Were this not enough to consider, know that in many cases these teachers also do not enjoy designated office space to work with their students.

There are hidden costs to being an adjunct too. Because of the low pay and limited work at any one institution, the adjunct may commute to over four campuses in a week, driving over 300 miles. The gas, the wear and tear on his/her car, the hours of lost time are all costs borne by the adjuncts. Further, when the adjunct cannot receive the health benefits the full-time employee receives, he/she must bear those additional costs out-of-pocket.

Often salary increases, when spread across-the-board for faculty, further the disparity, as the 2% salary increase for the $70,000/year full-timer will receive a $1400 increase, which the adjunct who teaches 60% at a 50% rate for an annual salary of 21,000/year will receive just $410. Unfortunately, at the store, both the adjunct and the full-time pay the same rate for milk.

Please do not misunderstand, I do not condemn or wish to deny my fellow full-timers of their wages, for they do earn their money. AFT has fought to reduce this disparity, as reflected in our last contract, which brought significantly rose adjunct salaries, and office hours. I condemn a system which from the start has used the “adjunct” as a cheap tool to provide only a half-fulfilled promise of educational equity.

I once believed that the “adjunct” was originally created as the status given to a moonlighting instructor, like a local businessman who once a week came to the community college to impart his vocational knowledge, and that as budgets were tight, a sort of fiscal creep set in, which over 40 years of time created the present climate in which now 70% of all community college instructors are adjuncts living and working at academia’s edges.

The truth is, at least in California, that in 1967, when the California legislature deemed it legal to hire adjunct instructors, it was so that schools could collect federal funds while not having to pay the full wages and benefits accorded full-timers. The system of adjunctification, you see, was not created by accident, or by a simple slouching towards budgetary pressures. It was from the start, as it is today, a system of exploitation by design.

And the costs of this system to adjuncts has been mighty. Forget the lost wages or lack of benefits—think instead of teachers toiling for years in hope of the full-time job that for many will never come, think of the adjunct living in apartment after apartment, and driving one broken down car after another, hoping his/her car will make it to the next teaching assignment. Think even more of the adjunct without health insurance who never gets that chest pain checked out until she learns its stage three cancer, think of the adjunct who loses a classes do to layoffs at one college, and having the ignoble status of being a working teacher, yet homeless and living in a station wagon with her three children ages 6 through 17. Think these are children who have ambitions like you own.

And trust me, I could tell you stories like this several times over.

Now, after telling you all this, I suppose what you know about an adjunct is negative.

What you also need to know is that, for the most part, an adjunct, is a person who loves to teach and so much so that even when making $15 an hour or less for the actual work that he/she does, he/she looks forward to the next teaching assignment, not simply for the promise of salary, but the opportunity to make a difference in people’s live, and in the community. (And as an aside, no worker should be making less than $15 dollars an hour, including adjuncts, especially when we aspire to the idea that our citizens should be taxpayers, and not dependent on government assistance.)   As for the love of the job that adjuncts feel and the empowerment that can come from it, I think of the older student I had in a remedial class who never thought of herself as a writer, who wrote an essay about stopping herself from a third suicide attempt that to this day leaves me almost speechless.

The adjunct is that person who will do extra office hours, or show up on off days for unpaid professional and curriculum development, not out of obligation, or sometimes even a desire to get a full-time job, but because it’s the right thing to do for the students, the college, the community.

And contrary to the notion of the “adjunct” as a temporary worker, many adjuncts have worked at specific schools for decades, some far longer than any full-time instructor, like one of my colleagues at Mesa College, who has been teaching since 1963. And they leave special marks not just on the students they teach, but everyone around them.

I tell you this so that you know that today, while I would naturally like to see both equal pay for equal duties between adjuncts and full-timers, and in fact, a reduction/conversion of adjuncts to full-timers. My request today is a bit simpler to fulfill.

During the economic recession of 2008-13, the loss of funding to community colleges meant the loss of thousands of jobs for adjuncts, while students at Mesa would face waiting lists in excess of 15 students to get that one class they needed for graduation. What brought an end to this situation was the monies that came into the system as a result of Prop 30, a temporary tax measure which will expire in its entirety by the end of 2017. Without these monies, we could see a return to unemployed adjuncts and students without classes.

Today we have before you petition form calling for an extension of the progressive tax component of Prop 30. Please sign these petitions so that we can get it on the ballot in November, and then help us pass it so that we can teach you.

In addition, we are asking you to send letters in support of AB1690, a job security bill which gives an adjunct, after six semesters of successful evaluations, rehire rights based on seniority, and in the event of a weak evaluation, a chance to improve. This bill, if passed, will not make convert any adjuncts into full-timers, but it makes it possible for those good teachers who happen to be still classified as adjuncts on the job, and doing their good work.

Really, all I’m asking you to do today is to make it possible for us, as adjuncts, to continue in making a difference in your lives. Considering what we endure, can you grant us that?

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Our Adjunct Action Day Events: A Follow-up

Good Adjuncts:

We had solid moderate turnouts for events both at Mesa and Southwestern.

We had approximately 60+ attendees for the Mesa event, which may seem small, but these were actual attendees, not simply walkbys.  The reception was strong.

Southwestern College had around 80-100 attendees, with more walkbys due to the high traffic location of the event.

In total we have collected 200+ letters in support of A1690, and around 160-180 signatures in support of the Prop 30 extension.

These rallies were not intended as the thing themselves, which was more or less what last year’s rallies were, but more or less kick off events for campaigns through the Spring, up to Campus Equity Week in the Fall, and then the election.

And of course, after that dust settles, and hopefully in our favor, the cycle begins again.

We in San Diego have not lost our enthusiasm in fighting for the adjunct cause because the great walkout of 2015 never materialized.  That was always a media ruse and quite honestly, not realistic given the challenges of adjunct organizing.  Could such an action happen in the future?  Well, if it were to, there would need to be  a greater depth of organizing and commitment than presently exists.

Adjunct Action Day, or National Adjunct Walkout Day, or whatever you want to call it, can become a vehicle that leads to that, provided people continue to do it, and build it as an institution.

Ultimately, however, the goal isn’t to have a walkout–it’s to end educational exploitation and the devaluing of education, as well as to end the excessive use of contingent or part-time hiring practices, not just in education, but throughout a world economy.  I think the phrase “People before profits” best sums it up.

Today, between the loads of papers I have to catch up on, I’m still going to be pushing letters, petitions, and doing all the things we have to do to get where things need to be.

If you truly want to succeed in making the change, you’re going to have to get out there too.  It’s hard, it’s tiring, you’ll piss your family off because you’re not spending time with them.  Sometimes people will tell you the quest is futile, or at other times, you’ll be called a lackey or sell-out because you might, heaven forbid, actually try to work with full-timers or administration.

Always know yourself in these instances, because it’s to easy to walk away, and it’s the last thing you should do.

Keep it real good adjuncts, because you are essential.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gnawed or Odd? What is NAWD/AAD?

Gnawed or Odd?

Adjuncts are gnawed by hungry ghosts. And the situation is quite odd.

What is NAWD? Or AAD?

What is an adjunct?

It is important to remember how this day came to be recognized as a day to advocate for a kind of economic justice we might call adjunct justice. Last year, a nameless adjunct from the Bay area writing on social media posed the question: what if adjuncts walked out? The question went viral on adjunct social media. My version of the question is: What if 75% of the faculty walked out or just disappeared? What if students showed up for class with not teacher? What would students do? It is worth picturing the campus without 75% of the faculty.

So, what is an adjunct?

An adjunct is a scholar, a professor, who devoted years of her life to earning advanced degrees, accruing 40, 50, 100 thousand dollars of student debt, in order to serve higher education, in order to pass on knowledge to students and draw genius out of students.

An adjunct is a professor who looks like a full-time professor, who teaches like a full-time professor, and, from a student’s point-of-view is indistinguishable from a full-time professor, that is, until the student tries to find her professor’s office, or tries to locate her professor next year when she needs a letter of recommendation, or when she finds her professor in a cubicle and is startled to find her idea of her professor diminished.

An adjunct professor is paid half the wages of a full-time professor, has less, or in some places, no benefits, and is defined as “non-essential.” But how can 75% of the faculty be non-essential? Besides students, who is more essential to education than faculty?

Contrary to the popular image, and this is, perhaps, the most important point, most adjuncts do not want to be adjuncts. Most adjuncts want to be full-time so they can devote themselves, heart and soul, to a particular institution, to a particular body of students, to receive just compensation, which is to say, since adjuncts are indistinguishable from full-timers, they should be paid at the same rate, and receive the same benefits.

What to do?

First, we faculty, full-timers and adjuncts, need to recognize the situation for what it is. Campus and department cultures are different everywhere, but some things are the same. As far as the adjunct crisis, which I see as the core of the crisis of higher education, adjuncts are invisible. Oh yes, we are appreciated. But really, what are we to do with this appreciation? Does anyone offering appreciation think that’s what we want? Respect would be more like it, but, I think, we would take Just wages, although we deserve full-time employment and everything that comes with it: an office, benefits, investment of the college as an essential member.

What I’m trying to say is that anyone, faculty, administrator, student, who thinks that the current way of doing things is acceptable, and that adjuncts just need “appreciation” or that adjuncts are content to be part-time, non-essential, at will employees, needs to change his mind.

What I’m trying to say is we need a radical paradigm shift. Such a thing begins in the minds of individuals and spreads out into the actions of individuals. You need to change your attitudes and we need to begin to demand the change that would make adjuncts full-time employees. That’s what most of us really want. That’s real adjunct Justice.

Adjuct Day Action Item: Write a Letter to Governor Brown in Support of AB 1690

Good Adjuncts,

Below is a copy of a letter to Governor Brown in support of AB1690, the adjunct job security bill.  In case you’re unaware of what the bill is proposing, see for yourself.

Over the course of the next few months, this bill will be winding its way through the California legislature.  As it works through its various committees, we will all need to target various legislators to get them to move the bill forward.  we’ll keep you posted.

For now, write to the governor.  It’s better if you write your own letter, but if you can’t, simply copy and paste what we have here and send it along.

Now get to it.

Geoff Johnson

A”Good” Adjunct

 

Governor Jerry Brown

c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, Ca. 95814

 

Dear Governor Brown:

As you may be aware, 70% of California Community College instructors are classified as “temporary” employees,  more commonly known as “adjuncts,” who are employed from term-to-term on a contingency basis, or simply as need demands.   The term “adjunct” itself implies that such instructors are “ancillary,” or “non-essential,” when in truth these instructors are often responsible for the majority of instruction at given community college. They may be “adjunct” in name, but clearly essential to the community college system.

One of the greatest challenges to such instructors is that most of these instructors, even when classes are available, have no sense that, even if they do exemplary work in the classroom, they can reasonably expect to be rehired. At many colleges, instructor can simply be fired without cause, or as it is politely put, not offered a class assignment for the following term.

On a personal level, for these instructors, many of whom teach at multiple campuses working as self-named “full-time-part-timers,” it means a life lived where they can rarely plan out beyond six months in advance. In one notable case, such an adjunct has worked as a so-called “temporary” worker since 1963. In all, it means dreams deferred for adjuncts and their families. With regard to the California community college system, it has meant high faculty turnover, stressed faculty, and significantly impacted instruction, particularly as the system aspires to the notion of “student equity.” In some colleges, the annual turnover rate for adjuncts is over 25% of the entire adjunct faculty. With such turnover, such colleges lose the long term institutional knowledge and the value of veteran teaching needed to provide educational integrity.

Presently the legislature is considering a bill (AB 1690), which if passed will provide adjuncts who have taught successfully for six semesters with rehire rights. Moreover, it will establish rehire priority on a seniority basis, consistent with how full-time public educators are treated. Furthermore, it will provide those instructors who might stumble in their work a one-semester improvement plan, of great benefit to incoming instructors who might struggle to find their footing initially, but who then become great adjuncts and sometime, even better full-time instructors.

Some argue against such a bill, claiming that it takes away an administrator’s flexibility to schedule classes, but a number of colleges have negotiated similar rehire policies and administrators were still able to schedule classes. Another argument made is that AB1690 would prevent local unions from negotiating better rehire rights, but AB1690 only sets a minimum base, and one far better than what many bargaining units have been able to negotiate. In truth, what a lack of rehire rights creates, beyond the aforementioned problems, is the potential for nepotism and unchecked discrimination, which is not a goal towards which California aspires.

The passage of AB1690 will not end adjunct instructors being hired on an “as needed” basis, but it will provide adjuncts with the notion that under reasonable conditions they can expect to keep teaching when they do a good job, and that these good adjuncts will be available to help students achieve their goals.

Sincerely,

 

Address:

_____________________________

_____________________________

 

 

 

National Adjunct Day of Action Events in San Diego Area

Good Adjuncts:

I can’t speak for what others are doing on this day, but this is what we’re organizing locally.

At San Diego Mesa College we’ll be doing a pre-event lecture on the “History of Adjunctification,” which will be in Room H-117-8 from 2:30-4:00 PM, Tuesday, February 23rd.

On Wednesday, February 24th we (AFT1931) will hold a rally in from of the LRC from 10:00-11:00 AM.

In particular we will speak to:

  1. The need to extend the Progressive tax provision for Proposition 30
  2. The passage of AB 1690, an adjunct job security identical to last year’s AB1010
  3. Increasing next year’s proposed COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) beyond the proposed .47%
  4. The passage of a local minimum-wage ordinance in San Diego which would raise the minimum wage to $11.50/hr.
  5. Amending AB 340 to include reporting on the effects of adjunctification on the campus learning environment

We will be circulating petitions calling for a Prop 30 extension and letters calling for the Governor to support AB 1690.

As for Southwestern College, there will be an SCEA rally in front of the Associated Students Center from 12:00-1:00 which will speak to the same items as the rally at Mesa.

Before some adjunct activists out there complain about not demanding more, or not walking out…

1) Understand it is has been, is, and will always be our contention that for the “adjunct crisis” to end that there must be:

A)  Adjunct-Full Time Pay Equity as it regards their identical duties

B)  That the ratio of full-time to adjunct employees be reversed to 75/25, as mandated by California Law, AB1725.

C)  That adjuncts be provided with safe and adequate space where they can prepare their classes and meet with students.

D) That equivalent to full-timers, adjuncts are encouraged to and properly compensated/credited for professional development.

E) That adjuncts working at a given institution long-term have realistic opportunities to gain or be converted to full-time status at that institution.

2) Because a walkout constitutes an illegal activity in violation of the CBA it has with a college, no union can call for a walkout.  As a union exec. rep, I cannot call for a walkout. I will say however, that I personally support whatever non-violent actions others choose to take, and I stand in the way of no one on this count.

3)  Some adjuncts have asked why we support an increase in the minimum wage, or would call for it on “adjunct’s day.”  First of all, there are some community colleges in which instructors, after their “true” work hours are figured in, make less. Second, many adjuncts who work second jobs, like as wait staff, would benefit.  Further, our students (you know, the people we are actually here for), struggle and make terrible wages doing jobs on the same campus.  They deserve better.  Moreover, when more students can afford to go to school, it means more work for adjuncts.  Finally, as adjuncts, it’s important that if we want social and economic justice for ourselves that we extend it to others.

Now, see our wonderful posters below, then get out there and agitate.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

History of Adjunctification

Adjunct Action Day Rally Poster

SCEA Poster Adjunct Action Day

 

What Students Can Do to Help Adjuncts

On last February 25, National Adjunct Walkout Day (NAWD) or whatever you want to call it, adjuncts took various actions across the country to resist the adjunctification of higher education. There were protests, rallies, and even marches. In San Diego, AFT local 1931 staged several rolling rallies with speakers, including the celebrated Joe Berry, and a number of local members as well as students. At the Mesa College rally, I emceed, and Jim Mahler, our local as well as AFTCCC president, spoke, as did the school president, Pam Luster. Several students and professors took the open mic to speak.

Students were shocked, and in general had no idea. The one question, however, they repeated was “What can we do?”
Students, here’s a few things you can do:
1. Be informed. The root is the ideology of neoliberalism, which includes the belief that public austerity is the way the public good should be funded. In other words, not funded. This could be the end of public higher education in America, which, in the modern world of mass information and the potential for mass manipulation of public opnion, would be the end of the American experiment in democracy. Imagine if there were no institution of which thousands of sties exist across the nation offereing the opportunity for knowledge and critical thought. There is no other institutional source of critical thought in America. Adjunctificaton is the first step in ending higher education as a public good.
2. Inform others. Tell your parents, your peers, your neighbors, warn your communities. The neoliberal assault on higher education has a darker side. Take the Koch brothers for example. They are trying to buy higher education outright and then prohibit the free exchange of ideas. Even if we attribute blind faith in ideology to most neoliberal policymakers, there are many more, like the Koch brothers, who want not just to make colleges and universities profit centers, but want to make them neoliberal and right wing propaganda centers. Think about what that means.
3. Take action. Adjuncts and our allies are fighting back. Take various actions, directed towards legislative solutions, as well as spreading the word. Be part of the resistance. When asked to write letters, do it. When rallies happen, show up. Speak. Organize, formally and informally. Join and make change happen.

Truly, we professors and students are in this together. In the most basic sense, we are education. Without either of us, there would not be education. Yet, we are the ones who are being exploited, 75% of faculty, grossly underpaid, many without benefits, who work out of a sense of commitment to the common good, students, whose educational opportunities are being reduced to job preparation and who must assume a life-diminishing, perhaps soul-crushing debt in order to work as an indentured employee.

I don’t know what will be happening across the nation this NAWD. Whatever does (and AFT local 1931 will be holding rally at San Diego Mesa College), it will be a small step only in the struggle. But, unless we can mount a resistance of adjuncts, students, and full-time faculty unified, working together, we will be hard pressed to resist the corporatization of higher education, and the loss by degree of meaningful life that will follow.