Letter to Jill Biden

Recently Sandra Baringer, one of American Federation of Teachers Adjunct Contingent Caucus’s members with UC-AFT, had a chance to deliver the letter below to Jill Biden, Joe Biden’s wife, and notably a former adjunct and now full-time instructor at Northern Virginia Community College.  Because of both her work experience as well as her obvious connection to the 2020 Presidential Campaign, we have approached her to make her aware of the contingent struggle and ask for her to advocate for change.

Expect that we will raise the issue to all and any other major presidential candidates during the 2020 campaign.  We will be heard. #adjunctlife #campusequitynow.

Geoff Johnson President, AFT-ACC

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Here’s the Letter:

Jill Biden, Ed.D.

Professor of English and Reading

Alexandria Campus, Northern Virginia Community College

Re: Contingent Faculty and Student Success 

Dear Dr. Biden:

As a fellow community college English professor, I salute you in doing the hard work of teaching in an environment where the work we do, among some of the most diverse, yet economically and educationally challenged students, can have the greatest impact.  I’m sure that for you, as it is for me, a labor of love.

I’m reaching out to you now, in this time of challenge, and with a presidential campaign at hand, to speak of a significant challenge to the US Higher Education system and its main objective of student success.

According to the AAUP, approximately 73% of American College educators are off the tenure track.  As a former adjunct yourself, you are aware that with few exceptions, they are paid significantly less than their full-time counterparts, and lack the job security of tenure, as well as health and retirement benefits.

In fact, to simply say this is an understatement.  In a recent nationwide survey of 3,076 contingent faculty conducted by the American Federation of Teachers, the following statistics were revealed:

  • 64% of contingent faculty make less than 50,000 dollars a year, and 31% report making less than 25,000 dollars a year, placing them below federal poverty guidelines for a family of four.
  • 40% of contingent households struggle regularly, or during Summer and Winter breaks, to pay the bills. 26% are at some level of food insecurity.
  • 70% of contingent faculty are hired term by term, and most were notified of their employment in any term less than two months before its start. 65% of contingent faculty have worked at their respective institutions for 10 or more years.
  • Only 43% of contingent faculty receive some form of health insurance from their employer. This has led to 18% postponing care, 12% cutting pills in half.  Close to 45% put off seeing a doctor, and over 65% have foregone dental care.
  • 38% of contingents, many of whom do not pay into or receive social security, have no idea how they will retire.

These are all academics who believed in the promise of education, have made personal sacrifices, as have their families, and go into the classroom to instruct and show the potential of that promise. Consider that as we have placed primacy on student learning conditions, it only stands to reason that the poor working conditions of these faculty limits their potential to set the proper working conditions these students deserve.

To do the proper thing by these faculty and their students, we ask that you support:

  • The efforts of college faculty locals to negotiate pro-rata pay (i.e. equal pay for equal work).
  • Key provisions of the “AFT Recommendations for the Higher Education Act Reauthorization,” namely those concerning the overuse and poor working conditions of “temporary” contingent faculty, and the cancelling of existing student debt, which severely affects contingent faculty.
  • A repeal of the WEP, or Windfall Elimination Provision from Social Security, which reduces the social security benefits of contingents receiving meagre and often inadequate state or local pensions.

Additionally, I ask that you encourage your husband, Vice President Joe Biden, to speak to these issues within the context of the current presidential campaign in hopes of creating larger awareness of the issue.  Further, should he achieve the presidency, I ask you encourage him to work towards a change in contingent academic working conditions that these faculty and their families need, which will in turn create the learning conditions American Higher Ed students deserve.

In solidarity,

Geoffery Johnson

President

mixinminao@gmail.com

“Going with the Carnies” A Campus Equity Poem

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For our poetry reading tonight I decided to write a poem about one Summer night I had when I was 16. It’s not about Adjuncting per se, but it’s about how we lead ourselves into abusive work environments, which is due to either where we’ve been, or how we don’t value ourselves.

I ask that even, if after all the exhortations I have made about doing something for Campus Equity Week, that you still have done nothing, that you at least value yourself.

You are not just the work you do, nor should it ever define you.

Going with the Carnies

Dog day turned dog night,the
summer sultry air was suffocating yet
not enough to cut the tension of getting a
paying gig after a summer of
mowing lawns for free.

Jeff and I waited in the Southgate Lot for Jason,
a guy Jeff said would pay us to help
break the carnival down.

At 9:15 the midway went dark and out
came Jason, 5'2' blue black and hard,
smiling with eyes that cut through
any pretense of care.

"You two look ready to work, that's good because
there's no time to mess around.  Along with you
I got Mike and Earl who just showed up
and if you want pay you'll have to work and
move your ass cause I'm
gonna ride you hard."

Of Mike I only remember stringy hair
like a person who wasn't there but a
shadow to Earl, matted hair, unshaven,
dressed in a stained shirt, pocket holding a
half-crushed pack of Camels--
my age and from the other side.

"Let's start with the kiddie rides--
you two pull the plating, and--we're already behind,
so GO!"

Pulling at the steel plates, with
soft hands and fingernails off the
platform of a race car ride, I
recalled a time at five and

"How come you fuckers aren't done yet?
We need to be out by two! Hump your ass,
I don't have time to fuck with you!"

And so it went from ride to ride, fingers
pinched three times collapsing awnings, hands
cut on the tilt-a-whirl, head smacked on
the octopus--no time for band-aids.

Jason gave it to us in equal parts--
ringmaster, his voice cracked with the
anger of my father, only without the
cuffings of ears--it's perhaps why I, and 
maybe Jeff too endured.  We leaped and
jerked, strained and sweat--
yet no one dared to speak.

Four hours later, we were done,
drenched, black and sore. Jason
harrumphed, sighed, and from his pocket
pulled a thick wad of dollar bills, counting off
eight bills for us four each like a 
seasoned cook peeling an onion.

"Sorry I rode you hard, but then
you should know how it is.  Say...
you guys, you're not so bad,
I could use a team like you."

We walked away, but as we did I
looked back at Earl, now sitting in the
carny van.  Our eyes met just as it rolled
into the black and gone.

I still don't know what I saw.

Campus Equity Week 2019 Facebook Campaign

Hi All:

Whether you have something going on for Campus Equity on your campus or not, you can still make a Campus Equity Week Statement via Facebook.  Below is a campaign put together by Bobbie-Lee Smart, a Sociology Adjunct out of Cerritos College in Southern LA:

For Campus Equity Week my local decided on a social media campaign and I encourage everyone to participate if they can or feel comfortable doing so.  First there is a Facebook frame, which can be changed for the week, a day, or longer.  If you click on you Facebook photo to edit it, there is an option to add a frame.  At the top you can search for the frame CEW2019.  This is a way for adjunct faculty and those who support us to raise awareness for our work conditions.

                         

The other option is to post a “back to school photo”. Use a white board, chalkboard, piece of paper, or note application on your phone.  Add your name, discipline, how long you have adjuncted, how many “gigs” you have both paid & unpaid, and your #1 equity wish.  I will include all 3 boards we have in the photos, as we have boards for PT, FT, & students. Get creative & add subjects, take some out, rearrange at will! It’s simply important to use the #CEW2019 so we are all on the same page.  If you really want to get bold tag your campuses & the governor in the post.  We will be posting people from our local on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter. Ask participants to also post on their personal pages to reach more people!

             

Do it good adjuncts! Be the change you seek.

Geoff Johnson

Contingent Faculty Quality of Work Life Survey One Page Reports

Hi All:

Here are five flyers based on the first nationwide survey of adjunct and other contingent faculty to be circulated since 2013 — the Contingent Faculty Quality of Life Survey. The 52-question survey was completed by 3,076 contingent faculty — adjuncts/part-time faculty, full-time non-tenure track faculty, and graduate employees — between May 22 and June 30, 2019. AFT advertised the survey via email and social media, and was able to draw some robust conclusions about the conditions faced by this new majority of college faculty in the United States.

Here are links to the materials:

Basic Needs and Food Security

Low Pay and Public Assistance

Retirement

Lack of Job Security

Healthcare

Please disseminate this information.

Geoffery Johnson

AFTACC President