Campus Equity Week Prepping Part V: Getting Your Full-Time Members on Board

Good Adjuncts,

Yes, the chances of having a successful Campus Equity Week are greatly bolstered by Full-time involvement, but many of our full-time colleagues are either otherwise involved, or even dismissive or hostile to our activism.

But this can’t stop you from trying.

Whatever the full-time part-time relationship is at your institution, it is in fact very much in the interest of the overwhelming majority of full-time faculty to seriously address adjunctification. What follows is, through your own means, what they need to hear and know.

Here’s a big surprise—administrators hire adjunct faculty because they are directed to provide a certain volume (as opposed to quality) of instruction at an ever-decreasing price. This doesn’t mean that many Deans, Vice Presidents, Presidents, and Chancellors don’t care about the quality of instruction, but in an American political culture which has consistently cut public higher education funding since the Reagan Era, they’re not really allowed to at the expense of their careers.  Beyond the administrators themselves are the elected/appointed classes, often guided by political exhortations derived from market-driven notions of success which view students as widgets and teachers as cogs.  Lost in the process are real study, inquiry, empathy, and most of all understanding.  Of course, and adjuncts, give to the institution, and to everyone besides themselves, a certain “flexibility” by which study, inquiry, empathy and understanding can be skirted.

There are clearly costs to adjuncts and their families, but also to full-time faculty.

Obviously, the loss of other full-time faculty means that the remaining full-time faculty are inevitably going to be given more departmental responsibilities, which in the wake of the measure-and-confirm-teacher-accountability-through-mass-data-collection movement (see Student Learning Outcomes) means an increasingly burdensome workload outside the classroom.  Add to this the increasing obligation to serve on multiple committees while maintaining professional development and research projects, and it’s clear that a lack of full-time colleagues doesn’t serve full-time instructors’ interests.  One might also note, with fewer full-timers, its means more work for the full-time faculty doing peer evaluations, as adjunct/contingent faculty are generally barred from evaluating fellow adjuncts, let alone other full-time faculty.

But quite frankly, the real dangers are far worse than this.

Administrators, to avoid direct confrontation with full-time dominant teachers’ unions, have generally chosen to expand adjunctifcation through attrition, but now, in a number of places, there are increasing efforts to end two-tierification, by incrementally destroying the very notion of a full-time job.  This has been the primary tool which has transformed a 75/25 full-time/adjunct faculty ratio to a 25/75 over the last 40 years.

For the most part, the academic community has done little more than acknowledge this, and has behaved much like a frog in a pot of water that’s slowly being brought to boil.

The thing is, in many places the pot in already boiling. 

The move against tenure in Higher Ed has been out there for some time, but in the wake of the destruction of tenure and collective bargaining in Wisconsin for teachers in general, legislation directly aimed at ending the practice of tenure in Higher Ed. has been introduced in both Missouri and Iowa.

By the way, for those of you in supposedly union and education-friendly states like California, don’t kid yourselves.  There are serious moves that have been undertaken against tenure, and not led by anti-Higher Ed. Republicans, but supposedly education and labor friendly Democrats. One of California’s present candidates for governor is former-LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who, under then-Governor Schwarzenegger, pushed for the passage of AB1381, a measure which allowed the Mayor to supercede the authority of the elected board of education.  Villaraigosa himself supported the expansion of charter schools.

To those not aware of how this relates to adjunctification, charter school teachers are for the most part non-union, get paid significantly less than their public school counterparts, have limited benefits and due-process connections, and  are treated as contingent, or at will workers. Sound familiar? Of tenure, and I quote, Villaraigosa stated, “It’s an antiquated system.” While Villaraigosa was referring specifically to K-12 teachers in this context, it is not too far of a leap to assume this thinking would apply to Higher Ed. as well, and if you read in the interview where he made this statement, he more or less implies it.

Villaraigosa is in fact one of a number of supposedly pro-union, pro-education politicians thinking along these lines.  Think New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, or New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, both from very blue, and supposedly pro-union states.

In yet other cases, rather than wait for the end of tenure, some institutions are simply eliminating some full-time positions outright.  By the way, if you read the last article I provided a link to, it shows how the university tries to soft-pedal the cuts by suggesting the cuts were simply done to deal with supply/demand issues, then offers how it will allow some of the full-time faculty to “apply for the new positions.”  These “new” positions were inevitably teaching the same coursework under an adjunct contract.

More disturbing and prophetic is the recent posting of a position of for a Language program Director at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The job opening, which lists a PhD. and a plethora of work-related experience as preferred requirements, involves the following job duties:

  1. Coordinate 14 separate courses in blended German from first through fourth semesters.
  2. Supervise and train 10 teaching assistants
  3. Teach three courses of one’s own
  4. Participate in Departmental events, “like High School Day”

Now here’s the catch, this job, which by any standards of the imagination, is a job requiring 40+ hours/week, is being offered as a 67% position with “prorated benefits” at 28,000 a year.  Understand, this is a job in Chicago where the average rent is over $1500/month, and is the 12th most expensive community in the US.

This represents something far worse.  Now instead of breaking up the full-time job into smaller contingent chunks, institutions are simply putting forth direct full-time jobs under part-time working conditions.

So long as marginalizing academic workers through contingency is unchecked, it will become the tool by which academia in general is destroyed, and no faculty member is truly safe from this.

All of this in a way, reminds me of the quote attributed to Protestant pastor and Hitler foe, Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

As Higher Ed. is clearly eroding into a vast sea of contingency at an ever-increasing rate and scope, it’s time for full-time faculty to speak out—for their own sake.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct


2 thoughts on “Campus Equity Week Prepping Part V: Getting Your Full-Time Members on Board

  1. Great series — and time to remind individuals and chapters so they have ample time to plan and then implement. I’m behind on sharing so will tweet this and send Part lV to Adjunctiverse

    What about working up ways to encourage ladder faculty to participate and specifics on what they can do? Several years back, Jonathon Rees wrote a great post about why tenured faculty needed to care about this. We are all in the same leaky boat and need all the help bailing we can get. (2015)

    and this earlier one,

    Liked by 1 person

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