An Adjunct Moment From an Anonymous Adjunct

The following “adjunct moment” is the record of an adjunct dealing with the extra bullshit that adjunct professors deal with on a day to day basis in the service of the public good. It’s not me, but it could happen to any freeway-flying adjunct, anytime, anywhere.  I will point out that full-time professors do not face this bullshit, not to accuse them of anything, but to bring attention to the disparity in working conditions, which are student learning conditions. This disparity cannot be emphasized enough, in my opinion. It’s worth noting that no pedagogical changes are very likely to improve student “success” until we make radical changes in the way we hire college faculty, especially at the community college level. Community colleges are the most adjunctified corner of higher education. Until we have a new system of hiring, one that acknowledges the moral obligation of colleges to their adjunct faculty, especially the ones who have been hired multiple times, by hiring them full-time, students will face the same challenges that their adjunct professors (straight up 75% at community colleges) face. Short of hiring them full-time, which is the only moral solution, they might settle for equal pay.

I am publishing this for the adjunct professor who wrote it, who shall remain anonymous.

For your reading pleasure, a brief narrative in the spirit of the upcoming Campus Equity Week:

“The Word of the Day”
F***! is my word for the day. I just arrived at school and confirmed my worrying suspicion that I left my students’ essays in the adjunct faculty work room at Grossmont College. I searched for it in my car and my house, but I only found about 500 pages of the other 4 English Composition classes I teach. I am pissed that I left it in the office because to go get them is a REAL pain in the ass. If it were not for the integrity I have, I would tell the students that they will not have an opportunity to revise this essay that is to be submitted in a portfolio to the English department as a requisite to enter into transfer level college English. I also will have to tell them that as opposed to my declared plan for their preparation for the portfolio that I am contradicting myself and shortening their instruction (that they cannot trust me at my word).
I am sure many times this occurs and a teacher has no choice but to shorten the quality of their instruction. I am sure many of them have pangs of conscience when they relinquish under the fact that they are not prepared. I am fraught with stress and anxiety because I want to be good at what I profess. For me, teaching brings out my perfectionism, an ethical obligation to teach well. My word of the day is deeply felt in this moment!
I am sure you are thinking that I am being dramatic, that I should simply walk over to the workroom before class and retrieve the papers. I would say the same of any professor on campus, but here is the issue. Technically, while I do the very same thing a professor does for considerably less pay, I am not a full-timer not for lack of credentials or of trying. I am an adjunct, a position that does not garner an office and which is underpaid and restrictive in that each college limits the number of hours to part-time. So, to make a living professing English, composition, and the social merits of the humanistic endeavors of higher education, I teach at 3 institutions. So the word of my day is F***.
F***! I left my English 49 Essays from San Diego Mesa College in the work room at Grossmont College 20 minutes or 15 miles away by freeway.
Rather than shorting my students, I have decided to sacrifice my sanity. It is no question that I will be on the freeway for 40 minutes, plus 20 minutes of running from office to car and car to office. One hour of my day and 5 dollars of gas, to fetch papers. However, it in not merely the fetching that is causing such problems. I had planned to be grading during that hour, and I had arrived 2 hours early to grade those very essays before my 11:00AM English 205 Critical Thinking Class and to continue grading after my 205 class at 12:35 and before my 4:00pm 101 class, so I can deliver them to the 6:35pm English 49 class. In the bag was another class’s essays that I need to read by tomorrow.
All in all when I arrived to school today and realized that I was having an “adjunct moment,” I thought about the consequences of not having one office and one campus to work at. If I was full-time, none of this would have happened, and my classes would not suffer. But, having multiple campus workrooms creates opportunities for one to get mixed with the other. I have never lost any papers, but I have heard of other instructors losing some. I immediate can sympathize with them because of the way my car trunk looks with student papers. For the majority faculty, at least in English, our car trunks are the closest filing cabinet for our work.
F***! This little “adjunct moment,” really pisses me off because most who read this will not understand that the problem is endemic and that it hurts instructors and students regularly. Underpaid, restricted, disunited faculty working out of the trunks of their cars to turn Americans into citizens capable of participating effectively in the economy and politics is a laughable indignity, as Aristotle would classify this comedy that we call “Higher Education.”

 

Any ;adjuncts out there who have any experiences you want me to share and who want to remain anonymous, I’m very happy to oblige. Feel free to name names. It’s high time we get real.

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6 thoughts on “An Adjunct Moment From an Anonymous Adjunct

  1. Hello jrhoskins,
    (Apologies, I don’t know your first name).
    I do relate to your post. I have been working as an Adjunct for Mesa College and Southwestern College for 8 years now. I also contract with other Universities and organizations, writing curriculum and doing training to piece together “full time” salary.

    Do I want a full time Professor position at a Community College. Hell yes.
    I am trying and still hopeful. I have interviewed several times, and made it to the final rounds (top 3 candidates in my understanding) 3 times. But I was not selected, so I persevere.

    I have had many “adjunct moments” and completely relate. Without going into the details, I have a question…..

    What can we do to move on? What can we do to address the inequity?

    I welcome your comments, feedback, suggestions and insight.

    Sincerely,
    Michelle Kinzel

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Michelle. My first name is John. Thanks for your comment. Sorry I haven’t responded sooner. Short of a radical cultural shift, within higher education and society at large, a breakthrough moment in which we realize the importance of supporting scholars engaged in the pursuit of knowledge, especially in a mass communication world, the only answer I have is to struggle every day. I have written much more along this line on this site, if you’re interested. And when you are on Mesa’s campus, you can find me in G312 around 12:30 on MW. I’d be pleased to meet you. The immediate site of the struggle, which has grown much in recent years, is Campus Equity Week. I will refer you to Geoff Johnson, my colleague whose work you can read on this site, and who is your union representative at both colleges. The last week in October, 23-26, CEW is fast approaching. At Mesa, we’re holding daytime events in G108 MW at 11:15, and evening events TTh in MC 211 at 6:45. If you want to join the struggle, please come to any of these you can. We have flex credit at Mesa. Send students for extra credit. Geoff should be sending out announcements through district email lists, so if you use yours, you can expect information there, but we’ll post it here as well. We also desperately need people to sit at tables and collect letters signed to the finance department requesting direct funding for more pay, part of a longstanding campaign to increase funding for office hours and equal pay, directed to the executive brach in Sacramento. On another note, if you would like to publish any adjunct moments, feel free to avail yourself of the “Adjunct Moments ” page. One of the basic goals of CEW and I think one of the fundamental tasks that face adjunct activists is to get the people “woke.” Adjunctification is higher ed’s dirty little secret. We need to reveal it in all its oppressive detail, beginning with the slogan “faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.” I hope to meet you soon. jhoskins@sdccd.edu; gjohnson@sdccd.edu

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  2. So the question of what to do personally and collectively varies. Personally, I have lived an adjunct life alongside a decade of teaching full-time as a lecturer. When on my third try, I did not obtain a position, I decided I could use my skills to transition back into tech world from which I originated pre-PhD and 20 years hence. Because I always kept an interest and limited project going in tech over the course of my career, I was able to use the last few years of adjuncting to move away from academia after failing to obtain a FT-TT. At first, I felt the well-documented adjunct shame, but slowly over the years it occurred to me that the system was broken in ways that made my failure and the failure of so many others the norm rather than the exception. It is at this realization that collective action seemed to be the only way to advocate for systematic changes.

    Collectively, we can work to publicize the plight of adjuncts, the greed of colleges/universities, and administrative bloat that contributes nothing to education and works against the recovery of the profession. Universities like to charge top dollar for the campus amenities and hide the fact that students are largely served by a poorly paid subservient group of migrant academics who, like their farm counterparts, have to rely on food stamps and government assistance to achieve basic needs like food and health care. The problem is also hidden because many of these academics have partners who help to pull them out of poverty and thus, are categorized as “adjuncting by choice.” Collectively, we can make media that reaches the very middle class parents who are working hard to send their kids to college and expose the false advertising shown on college game day commercials. The ads show serious academics engaged in deep research while the vast majority of academics languish in transient poverty. That’s the kind of movement we can create.

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    • Thanks for you comment. I think you hit the proverbial nail pretty squarely. The problems are legion, as are adjuncts. We need a deeper psychological change than is usually conceived of with words like “increasing awareness.” I think reversing adjunctification begins with the full range of psychological work among faculty implied by the slang phrase “dirty little secret.”

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