Many Roads to Plow: My Speech at SD Mesa College

Let me start by stating that nothing of what you’ll hear is any kind of personal complaint. In fact, I told myself a while ago that no one had expected me here and that the life with liberty and adjuncts for all was ultimately my choice.

So, what should I tell you about part-time professors, these critical thinkers in critical state, freeway flyers navigating neo-liberal detours?

I should probably tell you that being paid by the course at about one-third of the rate a full-time colleague would receive does not sound fair. In other words, college can get three professors for the price of one—no wonder, such a bargain of Wal-Mart proportions has turned 73% of the entire college faculty nationwide into adjuncts. And most of us are as qualified as the fortunate 27%. Worse still, there are only few courses that an adjunct is allowed to teach each semester at a certain school. And once the economy turns south, the precious few courses available for adjuncts to teach become even scarcer.

I should probably tell you that for most adjuncts, the end of a semester doesn’t give much relief, but rather stirs anxiety because adjuncts’ meager income tapers off fast and it’s never clear if jobs will be available next term. My recent winter break is a good example: I had looked forward to it, to the time it would free for writing. By the second week of January, though, two of my spring classes got on the brink of cancellation due to low enrollment. This discovery effectively deterred me from the projects so dear to me. Still, winter challenges for my adjunct self were not over just yet. In the middle of January, I got a note from Harvard that my son was selected for clinical trials. Of course, I could not deny him this life-improving opportunity, and soon we found ourselves sightseeing in the snowstorms on the Atlantic coast. . .

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Hardly had we boarded the westbound jet at Logan Airport, our captain announced that the flight had to wait for crews to plow away the snow. A barely employed and nearly snowed-in freeway flyer, I just sat there—it was a Saturday, after all—peering through the impossible snowfall, pondering all that shoveling ahead.

Thank you for coming! We all need to work together to plow our roads clear!