Campus Equity Week Prepping Part II: Setting Priorities

As you move forward in planning, recognize that you will not be able to talk all things adjunct/contingent.  In addition to the aforementioned seven points, I could easily provide a list of another 10 to 20 issues related to adjunctification.  For CEW at San Diego Mesa College last year, we scheduled 12 hours of over six different events over from lectures, to panel discussions, to films (I suspect few other groups are planning to do this much, and we’re probably scaling things back a little this year).  I didn’t come close to getting at all the issues.

A particularly nagging problem with Campus Equity Week is that beyond your fellow adjuncts and full-time faculty, 90%+ of your main audience (students) have no-idea what an adjunct instructor is.  Much of CEW, over the last three cycles that I’ve organized and ran it has been about re-explaining this.

Because I’m doing this at a two-year college means I’m constantly dealing with a new crop of students, which to be honest is why Campus Equity Week needs to be an annual event, not a biennial event held in off-election years as if the expanding issue of labor contingency, not only in academia, but throughout the world economic system, is not a central electoral issueWe must stop engaging in self-marginalizing practices.

Anyway…you need to consistently work on student education regarding the issue.  Part of the energies involved in doing this can be solved if adjuncts begin these discussions with their respective classes, if this is not being done by adjuncts en masse, you will need to devote the majority of CEW activities to this education.

In my experience, the usual things adjunct groups want to focus on are: 1) the unequal pay and benefits structure relative to full-time instructors; 2) the lack of job security; 3) and the impact of adjunctification on students. At the same time, I realize that for some groups may simply want to focus on getting an institution to engage in collective bargaining, or simply getting adjuncts to join unions.  You have to gather your people who are committed doing constructive activities, then get them to prioritize and concentrate their focus and message.

While your group is going to make its own decisions on how to proceed, I think that the last of the first three priorities I just listed (the effect of adjunctification on students) should not be lost on you. With CEW you’re asking students to advocate for you, and in some cases, challenge an institution.  If you don’t explain or acknowledge the effects of adjunctification on students as a key part of your message, then your only real appeal is to their sense of social justice.  That has a limited appeal, especially at a campus such as mine, where one in five students suffers from food insecurity, and at least one in ten students is homeless.  By the way, many of these students will effectively work as contingent or at-will employees such as yourselves for outfits such as Uber, Lyft, etc. (See a possible link here?)

You also will want to consider what it is that your union is trying to bargain for adjuncts on the contract, and what is happening on either the legislative or electoral level (this is also why CEW also needs to happen during election years) that will impact adjunct working conditions.

When setting priorities, you can certainly mention the various problems regarding adjuntification, but I suggest you need to focus on three or four resonant themes at most, and have them lead to some kind of actionable and empowering goal, be it the signing of a letter, the support of a proposition, a funding proposal, or piece of legislation, etc.  You’ve got to give people something more than an opportunity to feel sympathy for, or anger about your cause.

By the way, even though I know there are a lot recalcitrant exploiters out there, your priorities need to be about issues, not people. Sure the governor, the college president, or a particular governing board member may be “evil,” but most of the times their evil is just symptom that doesn’t go away with their replacement.  Unlike the news media model, when it comes to their own lives, people care more about what affects them than who is doing it.

As an example, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s sitting on a beach isn’t the issue.  It’s that, unlike him, New Jersey citizens were denied access to state beaches because of his refusal to fund government services.   What people want are services first. Beyond that, most people could care less where Christie hangs out.

I’m just scraping the surface here, but I hope it’s enough to get you thinking and planning.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

 

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