As I stated in the my last blog, in prepping and ultimately putting Campus Equity Week activities in motion, there is a need for your group (this isn’t and can’t be a one person operation) to define and narrow its focus.
However, this has to go hand in hand with an assessment of the resources at hand.
Building Bricks with Straw
For those of you lucky enough to have unions which are interested in pursuing the issue and doing something (I’ll discuss what lesser endowed groups can do later), you need to look at the following:
- Do you have a specific committee for adjunct issues (this doesn’t just mean an adjunct only committee)? If, not, do you have a group of adjunct reps? Start here. I know it’s Summer, but you need to start reaching out to them, and highly advise you try to get them to meet as close to the start of the semester or quarter as possible.
- Can you secure any kind of a budget for your activities, like making posters or flyers, having buttons, securing a DVD, having food or certain events? (By the way, don’t let a lack of funds stop you).
- Have you made any relationships with school trustee, or governing board members? Do you know, or have you introduced yourselves to local student leaders? Are there any friendly or sympathetic Deans?
- Are there faculty on your campus that are particularly sensitive to issues of social justice? Do any of your colleagues teach or instruct on issues related to labor contingency, labor history, income inequity?
- What is your relationship with classified/paraprofessional staff? Do you know or have good relationships with people in these groups or unions, if they’re not a part of your bargaining unit? (On that note, have you ever gotten into a discussion of them regarding their issues and concerns?
- What are your connections to larger community groups involved with labor and social justice issues? Do you have any interactions or any kind of relationship with state legislators, or local representatives?
Of this list, the first two points are key to immediate planning. The following four will require time, patience, empathy, and respect. If you manage to generate any assets from these areas in one go-around of Campus Equity Week, then you have achieved a smashing success. You may find yourself here, not working on this year’s Campus Equity Week, but the ones to come. (You didn’t really think just holding on Campus Equity Week was going to change your world, did you?) By the way, I’ll be writing about what I’ve learned on doing this in later posts.
Building Bricks without Straw (or rather, Finding the Straw to Build the Bricks)
For those of you without much of a structure in place, I would start first at the most basic level—look at colleagues who are willing to speak out or want attention drawn to the issue. For those adjuncts lucky enough to have an adjunct work space, or maybe even better yet, a shared common work space, this is where a conversation needs to start.
While my union local is very supportive of Campus Equity Week, it wasn’t the immediate leadership that instigated or planned CEW. It was the result of a few adjuncts sitting around in an office talking about something needing to be done. We saw an opportunity, approached them, got support, got money, then went out and secured what we need.
Obviously as I write this, it’s now Summer, so many of you will not have contact with your colleagues, but that doesn’t mean you won’t once the Fall term starts, and certainly in those weeks leading up to the start of the term, many of you will have contact with other instructors.
When doing this, you also need to reach out beyond your immediate colleagues. It’s time for Sociology and Child Development teachers to talk, just as it is for English Composition and Engineering instructors to talk.
For the most committed of activists, there’s often that point in planning when they find themselves in a room of few people, or suffer the curse of having 10-20 people giving lip service to support, then ultimately crap out for a variety of reasons, the most common of reason is that “they’re busy” (as if you aren’t, or don’t care about your students either).
I’m not going to lie to you. Some of this is going to happen. Expect it. But then, how serious is the problem of adjunctification to you? The cost of doing nothing is to see things get worse.
You don’t need to have a big rally for Campus Equity Week. In fact, because we do a big mobilization in the Spring for Adjunct Action Day, I generally avoid rallies for CEW, and concentrate on events like panel discussions, movies, cultural events (like poetry or fiction readings). In the age of Trump, mobilizations are as frequent as sunny days in Southern California. You don’t win with burned out constituencies. As I see it, first one needs to educate, then agitate.
Understand that doing a Campus Equity Week can be as simple as having 15 instructors wearing shirts saying “Equal Pay for Equal Work, Ask Me What I Mean.”
Higher Ed educators are smart people. You are a smart person. Be creative.
I can tell you this. Just five committed adjuncts can make a Campus Equity Week, even at an institution of 20,000+ students.
Of course, this all said, there remain challenges, from evil administrators, to unsympathetic colleagues and union leadership, to fearful folk.
I’ll talk about them in the blog posts to come.
A “Good” Adjunct