So now that you’ve got “priority of assignment” and a degree of seniority, think you’re safe? Well, get on the wrong side of a dean and or scheduler and you might find there’s yet another way to screw an adjunct—call it “creative” scheduling.
Now any adjunct who has worked at an institution for more than five years is no stranger to the odd schedule or two. What I’m talking about is when the schedule is used against you like a weapon.
Perhaps the most venal example of this I’ve seen of late was the case of a few adjuncts who their dean, as I have mentioned before, had unsuccessfully tried to remove by effectively questioning their equivalency status. As it turned out, the dean had previously scheduled them for classes that would have worked with their schedule, which like most adjuncts, is an interesting patchwork of classes all over the place.
When their equivalency status was put into question, they were pulled from those classes. Resolving the equivalency issue with these adjuncts actually took over a month. During this time, some of the teachers’ classes were re-assigned, while another, fearing the loss of income, took classes in her previously scheduled time slot.
The union managed to prevail on the equivalency issue, but by this time, the damage was done, and two of these adjuncts were given offerings at times that were either highly inconvenient, or simply impossible to take due to a scheduling conflict. One adjunct was able to make it work, the other had to refuse the assignment, which along with the lost classes meant the loss of her hiring priority. In the end, the dean got her wish—this adjunct wasn’t going to be working at the college anymore.
All of the adjuncts I mentioned here had “Priority of Assignment.” In theory, they have a guarantee for work. Still, contrary to popular notion, “Priority of Assignment,” which is sometimes also called “Vesting” at some colleges, is not, as some deans, department chairs, and VP’s of Instruction try to define it, “tenure for adjuncts.” A full-timer with tenure is more or less guaranteed a job for which they are evaluated once every three years, and then must be absolutely appalling in order to get fired. And when I say appalling, I could speak of such teachers who taught strictly from books, would go months without returning any student work, and were either confusing or extremely condescending to their students.
An adjunct with “priority of assignment” is a teacher that is only promised a certain number of classes in a following term provided there is a need for the classes. There’s nothing which says that dean can’t effectively offer you classes at a different time or location. This means the dean, should he or she have the notion to, can schedule an adjunct where they will because a guarantee of load is not the same as a guarantee of specific classes.
Before I go further, I don’t want to make all deans or schedulers (usually department chairs) out to be devious, agenda-driven people. In fact, this is generally a very small number of deans and schedulers. Most dean and schedulers, quite frankly, are very busy and have other things to do, and prefer consistency when scheduling, and so they want to keep as many people in predictable and preferred places as possible.
Still, this doesn’t mean that they can’t or won’t use the schedule as a weapon.
In many ways, the bigger problem with a schedule is that once a scheduler has put you in a certain place with certain classes, you can be sure that you will always get those classes, or have to tread very lightly in requesting changes. This is how people who are qualified to teach a variety of classes may get forced to languish with a certain class or classes with no real hope of change.
What can be even worse is if you’re put into an off-campus assignment, you may find yourself effectively removed from departmental culture for years, particularly if the department chooses to schedule its meetings midday and midweek. And without that departmental connection, one can get hurt in the evaluations process, or lack the information to present oneself as a credible candidate for a full-time position.
Perhaps worst of all in this regard is if you’re teaching a lower level basic skills class that gets converted to self-study or is simply eliminated. This is in fact when deans begin to get devious as they realize they may not have the classes they want you to take, and realize that they must displace less senior teachers in order to absorb you into classes you have never taught.
As I’ve said here, even with priority of assignment, a union’s hands can be tied. What’s a solution? Well, to a degree having priority of assignment with senior adjuncts getting their load before less senior adjuncts helps. What’s more important is for an adjunct to keep connected with their deans and schedulers, and by this, I don’t mean, kiss their ass. Check in with them now and again. Be friendly, and stay connected with the department. Let them know when you can be flexible, and when you can, be so, without being a doormat (i.e. taking that five week-class taught at a hog plant for five hours a meeting on Saturday afternoons.)
Sometimes Good Adjuncts, the only weapon we really have is to be proactive.
A “Good” Adjunct