National Resolution Calling for DOE Study of Adjunct/Contingent Pay and Benefit Inequity

Thanks to all those who have contributed to the development of this resolution submitted to the AFT National Convention. It represents a significant moment in the fight to end adjunctification. Spread the word.

National Resolution Calling for DOE Study of Adjunct/Contingent Pay and Benefit Inequity

Submitted by CFT Part-Time Faculty Committee

Whereas, adjunct/contingent faculty comprise 73% of all higher education (ed) faculty (AAUP), which is the majority of US Higher Education (Ed) faculty, and a critical and essential force for learning; and,

Whereas, adjunct/contingent faculty possess the same teaching credentials and teach alongside tenure-track faculty without the benefits tenure-track faculty are given, including: job security, paid livable wages, access to employer healthcare, and a robust retirement plan; and,

Whereas, 41% of adjunct/contingent faculty reported they struggle with job security (1), not knowing whether they have a teaching position only days before the start of a new given term; and,

Whereas, 25% of these faculty rely on some form of public assistance and 40% struggle to meet monthly household needs (2) and,

Whereas, over two-thirds of adjunct/contingent faculty make less than $50,000 per year, and one-third making less than $25,000 per year, which is below the poverty level for a family of four; and,

Whereas, less than one-half of adjunct/contingent faculty have access to employer provided healthcare during a time of a global-nationwide pandemic; and,

Whereas, most adjunct/contingent faculty are over the age of 50 and 37% do not know how they will manage during retirement (3); and, 

Whereas, such widespread academic inequity must be called out; and measures taken to address it, and finally,

Whereas, once called out, the appropriate measures to address this inequity, to the true fullest extent possible must be engaged,

Be it resolved that CFT forward this resolution calling on AFT to directly request of the US Department of Education to fully investigate, by use of a national study, the plight of adjunct/contingent faculty and the severe inequities of pay and overall benefits they endure as the majority workforce as US Higher Ed faculty and publish the results of said study.

(1) 2019 AFT report “An Army of Temps”

(2) Ibid

(3) Ibid

Here’s How California’s Part-time College Instructors Are Being Mistreated by the State

Geoff Johnson, AFT-ACC president, published this editorial in the San Diego Union Tribune. The system of staffing college faculty, which relies on the exploitation of a majority of faculty who are employed, as Geoff notes, part-time and semester to semester, is broken. If it is not repaired by ending the process of adjunctification, by hiring adjunct faculty full-time, on long-term contracts, and for equal pay, higher education, especially at community colleges, will continue to be reduced to making good workers, not good citizens. People, get your heads out of the sand, wake up and resist! Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. What kind of education do we want to provide for our citizens? Why can’t California, and the nation, do the right thing?

Geoff’s editorial is a must read.

Unemployment Testimonials Needed for AFTAdjunct/Contingent Caucus

From Geoff Johnson, President, AFT Adjunct/Contingent Caucus

Hi All:

I send his note with some urgency regarding AFTACC’s request for testimonials regarding adjunct/contingent and the need for unemployment insurance. The AFTACC needs more and we need them soon.

 According to recent data processed by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that nationwide, enrollment was down by 600,000 this past Spring compared to a year ago, with a national decline in community college enrollment of 9.5%.  This loss of enrollment has necessarily resulted in the loss of work and income for thousands adjunct/contingent faculty nationwide.

While colleges and universities are reopening, many students, either wary of return, or more often facing the tremendous financial and personal challenges created by the COVID Epidemic, are either foregoing or delaying enrollment.

Further, many Public Higher Ed systems, who receive funding based on enrollment, have already seen stretched budgets slashed.

This, in short, means the high levels of adjunct/contingent unemployment will not go away in the Fall, or the immediate future.

Many of these unemployed adjunct/contingents have struggled to hang on by the grace of unemployment insurance provided through their states. This is because these states have recognized that adjunct/contingent faculty, hired on a term-by-term basis, contingent upon enrollment, do not have “reasonable assurance” of being rehired.

However, many states interpret “reasonable assurance” differently, leaving adjunct/contingent faculty with no access to desperately needed unemployment insurance.

The solution to this issue is the US Department of Labor to change its language regarding “reasonable assurance,” thus making it possible for all unemployed adjunct/contingent faculty to receive needed unemployment relief.

This would also aid current adjunct/contingent in those states that grant them benefits, in that often the difference between state and Federal guidelines complicates the process, resulting in a denial of benefits.

THE AFTACC is seeking adjunct/contingent testimonials it will in turn pass on to other major union and advocacy groups, such as the American Federation of Teachers which will meet with the Department of Labor to lobby for this needed change. We are asking adjunct/contingent faculty, whether in states which current give unemployment benefits or not, to send us any of the following:

1)     How unemployment has impacted you and how unemployment benefits, if you do not receive them, would impact your life

2)     How unemployment has impacted your life, and how unemployment benefits, if you receive them, helps you.

3)     How applying for unemployment benefits has been a personal and emotional struggle.

4)     If you’re a local union leader or adjunct/activist shares the effects of unemployment on your adjunct/faculty.

We (AFTACC) will only pass on  the names of adjuncts or their locals by request. I myself am currently unemployed and thankfully receiving benefits.  I know the pain and the shame.  Our request is meant only to advocate, empower, and uplift.

Please email your testimonials to mixiniminao@gmailcom.

In solidarity,

Geoff Johnson

AFTACC President

PS: Please share widely

Letter of Support for CA AB 375

Here is a letter to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez in support of AB 375, an assembly bill before the California legislature. The bill would increase the percentage of hours for which an adjunct can be employed in one district to 80 to 85% which, of curse, would improve education at community colleges almost instantly. Please print this letter, alter it as appropriate, put your name on it, and send it by US mail to Assemblywoman LauraGonzalez.

Adjunct Faculty Needed for Study on Food Insecurity

Recently, I was contacted about a research study Dr. Emily Heying, College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University, is conducting on food insecurity on college campuses, especially among adjuncts and students. For decades, a key part of the dismantling of higher education, which has been escalating lately, has been the transformation of faculty from vast majority tenure-track status to vast majority “precariat’ status. Massive debt burden, food and housing insecurity, health insecurity, along with diminishing career expectations, all have been common experiences among adjuncts.

And although I am restrained in my expectations, with a First Lady who knows what a community college looks like from the inside, and other tantalizing possibilities, we might be on the cusp of changes that could have profound impact on the lives of 75% of college faculty. This is a good moment for a new study on the lives of adjuncts.

Please consider participating in this study by taking the brief survey. I did.

Adjunct faculty and staff are needed for a research study on food insecurity. The study consists of completing a 10 min. anonymous survey and is open to higher education staff and faculty in the US over 18 years old. You’ll be asked about your own food access, perceptions of campus food security among students, demographics, and nature of employment.   Upon survey completion, you can provide your email in a separate form to enter a drawing for one of two $25 VISA gift cards.   Link: https://forms.gle/JFspgu5Ta4EUoPjs9

Thank you!

Dr. Emily Heying (eheying@csbsju.edu)  and Dr. Zubaida Qamar (qz@sfsu.edu)

*This research study has received exempt status from the Institutional Review Board’s at both SFSU and CSB/SJU.

CFT 2020 Campus Equity Week Campaign

Posted for the AFT-Adjunct Contingent Caucus:

#classcanceled

Dear Adjunct Faculty or Friends of Adjunct/Contingent Faculty,

In honor of Campus Equity Week, and to raise awareness about the social injustice adjunct/contingent faculty face every day, the California Federation of Teachers Part-time Committee is asking everyone to adopt the hashtag #classcanceled. 

Classes get canceled for a variety of reasons like 

  • budget cuts 
  • low enrollment
  • seniority and bumping rights, at the beginning of the semester. 

Sometimes Adjunct faculty have to cancel a class for the day because professors 

  • Get sick
  • Run into car accidents, or 
  • other personal emergencies. 

COVID-19 has made life challenging for all, but especially for adjunct faculty and their teaching and working conditions. Adjunct faculty are the first to 

  • Lose classes
  • Lose their income
  • Spend money out of pocket for teaching supplies and equipment to teach remotely
  • Pay for their own healthcare/health insurance or neglect their health because they cannot afford it
  • Fall into poverty
  • Fall homeless

Higher education in California and across the country has failed our adjunct professors. Classes are getting canceled. Higher education is getting canceled. If faculty cannot get healthcare during a covid-19 worldwide crisis, when can they achieve healthcare? How can one of the richest countries in the world look the other way, while faculty are not covered. How can California not provide their most fundamental workers, faculty, who teach the next generation of students, with one of the most basic, fundamental human rights, access and coverage for healthcare. 

To raise awareness for these issues we ask that members change their Facebook Frame to the Campus Equity Week Frame. To do this go click to edit your profile picture. One of the options will be “Add Frame”. Once you click add frame a search bar will come up. Search for “Campus Equity Week” and the frame with the red circle that says “Equity for Adjunct Faculty” is the one you want to click on. You can set it to only stay for a week, so after CEW the frame will be removed from your photo.

We also ask that members and locals share their adjunct stories to their social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) using the hashtag #classcanceled. If a member wants to share their story but remain anonymous have them send a private message or email to your local and share the story to your feed without using their name or other identifying markers. Retweet and repost your members’ stories on your feed (but always ask permission first if their pages are private) as well as other stories of members not in your local if you come across them on your feed. You can send stories to Geoff Johnson at aftadjunctcontingent@gmail.com to share on the AFT-ACC (AFT Adjunct/Contingent Caucus) website and the blog “Adjunct Crisis.” 

Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It’s easy on the eyes and a great go to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

A Short Reading List on the Adjunct Crisis

Here is a short but great list of sources from the Longreads web site each of which takes a deep look at the adjunct crisis faced by higher education. Adjunctification, the normalization of the practice of hiring college professors part-time to teach courses, has been with us decades now, but has worsened every year since sometime in the late 1970’s or so to become the defining but still largely marginalized issue in higher education today.

As it turns out, we potentially (hopefully!) will have an adjunct (although not one whose experience as such, as far as I can tell but certainly not since she has been married to Joe Biden, resembles that of the typical adjunct), Dr. Jill Biden, as first lady of the United States. We have written her a letter. In a recent AFT roundtable, the “Good Adjunct” himself, president of the AFT-ACC, the indefatigable Geoff Johnson posed a question to her about the adjunct crisis. She responded that she would “have to look into it.” Not a response that indicates she is in the trenches, financially speaking, that most adjuncts are in, nor that she is aware of the crisis of adjunctification and how it is at the core of devaluation of higher education.

But, once she “looks into it….”

On the Use of Competitive Hiring to Erode Tenure Through Adjunctification

Following are comments made in an email thread on which proposed language changes affecting adjuncts in AFT 1931 in SDCCCD were debated. They might be of interest to other adjuncts or full-timers having similar debates elsewhere. The proposed changes include improving seniority rights, a provision for mandatory interviews when full-time positions are available, and efforts to improve the struggle of freeway fliers, including two week cancellation pay. Some full-time faculty, in a letter submitted to the union’s Executive Council,. have vehemently opposed the changes. The comments have been slightly edited.

Here are my comments in support of the proposed changes to the contract language being discussed in this thread as well as an attempt (an inadequate one) to put the discussion in a larger context that might allow us to see our situation more clearly. I beg your indulgence.

The human condition is richly ironic. Our best intentions often go awry and we end up accomplishing the opposite of our original aims. This has happened with the competitive hiring process in search of the “best” at community colleges.

The competitive hiring process was instituted to ensure that the hiring of faculty was just, that it offered equal opportunity to all candidates. The result has been mixed at best. Nationally, the lion’s share of tenured positions in academe belongs still to white males. Most diversity hires have been in adjunct positions. Sixty percent of adjuncts are women.

The hiring system is a sacred cow. We should slaughter it and make burgers at a unity barbecue.

Someone in the thread stated that the hiring process is “broken.” The hiring process is not so much broken as it has been coopted through underfunding into the means of eroding tenure, resulting in a two-tiered system that divides faculty. We think in terms of “adjunct interests” and “full-time interests,” and accept the proliferation of adjuncts as some naturally occurring phenomenon. If the system had worked as intended, and full-time hiring had proceeded at a pace that maintained the percentage required by law (AB 1725), many who are adjuncts but who would prefer full-time employment would have been hired full-time many years ago. Implying, whether you intend it or not, that adjuncts are adjuncts because they are not of the “best” quality, is condescending as well as a claim impossible to support.

Adjunctification is an unwieldy neologism that is necessary to name this slow erosion of tenure that has been happening now for decades. The defunding of higher education is a core cause. But the long, slow process of increasing reliance on adjuncts, especially in community colleges, has other causes, interrelated and somewhat embedded in our collective psyche. One cause is the failure of faculty to resist with enough force to stop it. Another is the blind belief in the American ideology of individual success. Those who win the lottery of tenure have every reason to feel good about it. But they often have forgotten those left behind who are equally qualified, but not as lucky. Yes, they feel powerless, and with good reason: decreasing faculty power accompanies adjunctification. These are only a couple of causes of this complex transformation, but, at any rate, we have become divided and on the verge of being conquered, unless that has already happened and we didn’t notice it because our heads were in the sand when it happened.

The collective faculty head has been in the sand now for decades. Allow me to note some data: in 1970, 75% of higher education faculty nationally were full-time, tenure-track. As the SDCCD 2017-2018 Facts on File reports, 81% of faculty in our district are adjunct, close to the national percentage. That’s down from 87% in the last SDCCD report. How many such decreases will we need to reach the 75% full-time faculty status or even the 75% credit hours required by AB 1725? How can we accept this? We should be stunned by these numbers, but we’re not. At least not enough to consider advocating for revision of the legal code. Yes, that would be radical. It seems unimaginable to us.

The most common sense comment I saw in this thread was the suggestion by Marina Cohen, retired IT adjunct:

“Most adjuncts are not even considered for full time jobs when they come up, even if they apply. That needs to change, as well.  Adjuncts should be the first in line for full time positions if they have the credentials and a good record. Even “part time” loyalty need to be rewarded. Hire from within FIRST. Go outside ONLY if you cannot get the qualified personnel from your experienced part time staff. “

Yes, I know legal code is rarely common sense and that the language of Title V is problematic. But can we make sense? Does it make sense that only 20% of those qualified to teach full-time at a community college are deemed good enough for full-time employment? And what are the effects of this condition on students? (Not good, according to City College student Ryan Rising). Perhaps what we can do to resist is unclear, but we should at least do something, even if it is as modest as the proposed changes to the contract.

Adjunctification is inherently unjust. Make no mistake, we’re not talking about an appropriate use of a few faculty, retirees or those who do not desire full-time employment as an academic, to address fluctuating enrollment, or some other need. We’re talking about the transformation of higher education faculty from full-time status to part-time status, a transformation that parallels the larger global shift to worker precarity described by Guy Standing. The adjunct is the precariat of higher education, on the edge of financial (in)security, serially unemployed, debt-ridden, hoping to get lucky. This may not describe every individual, but it is generally apt.

The proposed changes in contract language regarding adjuncts is a modest, local effort to address adjunctification and its pernicious effects on the “game” of higher education, effects which are detrimental to both the unlucky precariat adjunct and the tenure-track, not to mention the student. To see the proposed changes, conversely, as detrimental to adjuncts as well as students, as is suggested, is to miss what’s happening right before your eyes. Adjunctification is how we will be/have been divided and conquered, especially if the Janus case turns out as expected. We need unity if we want to maintain the integrity of community college education. And we need a new vision of how to reverse adjunctificiation if the union is to remain strong after Janus.

Rainy Adjunct Action Day/NAWD at Mesa College 2018

In the interest of coordination with other protest events, our humble but serious Adjunct Action Day NAWD took place today. A last minute change was the accommodation of the national school walkout to protest gun violence in schools, which conflicted with our planned protest. We altered our start time to 10:20 from 10:00. Of course, we addressed gun violence. Also addressed, in several short speeches, including comments by, among others, me, Geoff, Jesus Gaytan, and one of our supportive board members, Peter Zschiesche, were taxing the richest to pay for free community college, appealing to the governor to increase adjunct office hour pay, the injustice being perpetrated on DACA students, and ending adjunctification by hiring all or most of the 87% adjunct faculty at Mesa College, a quick and efficient solution, into full-time positions, paid for by a tax on, you guessed it, the richest’s ill-gotten gains.

In my brief time at the mic, I asked why it’s acceptable for employees at community colleges to work a career (18 years, so far, in my case) with part-time status, when this is still frowned upon in most other areas of employment. Yes, I know the neoliberal agenda is unfolding, full speed ahead, and the gig economy is growing by leaps and bounds. But I protest, nevertheless.

Here, on a rainy day in San Diego, Geoff Johnson is introducing our speakers.

I know there is no rain in the picture. But, a rainy day it was, in the desert.

We did have a heckler, bag full of alternative facts, who kept trying to hijack our comments by asking, trying to talk over the responses, why rich people should be taxed or should have to pay for things for other people, like it was an undue burden on them. My answer was, “because they have all the money!” He offered choice alternative facts on gun control and on undocumented people as well. Although offered “better” facts, he rejected them and insisted that, for instance, background checks for gun purchases were already extraordinarily rigorous. He had other “facts,” all of which were shot down.

My comments did not bother him until I openly pondered, akin to the petition, which we touted also,  to have free community college paid for by a dedicated estate tax on property valued at $3.5 million put on the people’s ballot in California, why not have a ballot measure to hire long-time adjuncts into full-time positions paid for in a similar way with some kind of tax on billionaires? It was this inquiry that got him started on the “why should rich people pay for anything?” line. He sparred a little bit with every speaker.

And so there you have it, short but sweet.

Resist!

Peace, Love, and worker solidarity!