NAWD at San Diego Mesa College this year had an expansive theme. The college president, a board member, and the president of the academic senate all spoke to adjunctification as well as the need to protect DACA students, and resist the hate emanating from the insane clown presidency. The intrepid Geoff Johnson kicked off the event, pointing out the ongoing human cost of the exploitation of adjunct faculty, emphasizing the cost to students, that 60% of adjuncts are women, and that many adjuncts live impoverished lives. Students were engaged and informed. The fight goes on.
By reading my last post, some readers may assume that I don’t believe a real adjunct walkout could or should happen.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
My point regarding Adjunct Walkout Day in my last entry was that it is both simplistic and defeatist to assume one can simply pull off a walkout without considering all that would be involved.
Unlike the Women’s marches which “benefited” from the fact that just a day earlier, the most divisive, bigoted and bombastic politician in recent memory was assuming the highest office in the land despite losing the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, adjunct actions are limited by the fact that adjunctification is largely treated as the dirty little secret of academia, with the workforce highly marginalized, and under the constant threat of loss of employment for even minor infractions. Further, there are so many forms of adjuntification/contingency that it can at time be that adjunct/contingent groups fighting for change can find themselves at cross purposes.
Another point to make is that the Women’s march is literally the start of a broad-based movement, which will in time face challenges from division, to marginalization, to a loss of enthusiasm, etc.
That said, the Women’s March should serve as an inspiration for adjunct to think in terms of mass action.
To achieve a mass walkout of adjuncts, even on a local scale, there must be a both a common sense of alienation coupled with an equally strong sense of moral outrage. I think to an extent, this is there, but there isn’t this common sense of what to do.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, adjuncts are fearful of reprisals from loss of employment to punitive scheduling, to even a simple reprimand. As so many adjuncts are effectively just “hanging on” in terms of income because these reprisals could lead to the loss of their homes, impacting not just themselves, but their families.
Further, because unions can’t legally call for or advocate strikes unless they have exhausted negotiations with a particular management group and not only declared impasse, but held a strike vote in which the majority of the membership authorized a strike, the union cannot protect workers who participate in a walkout, nor can it officially call for one.
But this doesn’t mean a walkout couldn’t happen.
Here’s when any adjunct who might be thinking of a walkout needs to read their contact carefully.
Most adjuncts have, as a part of their language, a sick leave policy granting them time away from work. In many cases, the taking of sick leave, if for a very short period of time, does not require a doctor’s note. This effectively means that you could leave or miss work without reprisal (with the assumption that you’re sick).
Imagine, if you will, a day in which even 50% of an adjunct teaching force suddenly got ill.
On January 11th, 2016, frustrated with the dilapidated conditions of the facilities they were teaching in school teachers in the Detroit Public System staged a sickout which garnered national attention. This action was followed up by a sick-out in early May which ultimately resulted in pay guarantees for its teachers.
Perhaps what the adjunct/contingent nation needs to do is consider this as an option.
But saying this and doing it are two different things. Some things to consider:
1) There has to be buy-in: There is, at any school, or district, a dedicated core of individuals who are willing to take the risk, and after them perhaps double the number who will talk a good game, or show interest, but then not act, and often, both groups combined, at best, represent only 10% of the adjunct faculty. To get larger participation, there needs to be either a greater sense of outrage or injustice, and perhaps more importantly, a sense that by doing the action it will actually accomplish something.
2) There needs to be a specific goal: What is the objective of a walkout going to be? It has to be more than “see how powerful adjuncts are,” or an abstract call for “adjunct justice”. There needs to be a clear sense of objectives that can be realized, like pressure on considering specific legislation, or certain policies. If it’s a national sickout, then it should focus a specific national issue, like unemployment benefits, healthcare, the WEP provision, etc. If it’s a state level sickout, it needs to be connected to a state level issue, like funding for office hours, or equity pay, but this said…
3) There need to be allies among students, politicians, and the general public: Given the current lack of awareness among students of who or what adjunct/contingent faculty really are, and how adjunct/contingent working conditions hinder student success, there’s a considerable amount of awareness raising that needs to go on. Personally, I’ve seen awareness and consciousness rise among students, but not enough so that there is widespread concern among student groups. There has to come a day when you can ask students in a given class, “Do you know what an adjunct is?” and have more than 50% of the class actually know and have a strong opinion about it. Again, this gets back to the fact that adjunct/contingent faculty by and large avoid explaining who they are to their students. As people in the business of attacking ignorance, it’s so ironic how many adjuncts contribute to it when it comes to the fact of being adjunct.
Politicians are not much different, and in fact, a bit worse. Since the Reagan administration, teachers have been one of America’s favorite whipping horses as to the ills of American society, and the college professor is still by and large perceived as some sort of upper-middle class elite who drives a nice sensible car and looks down on less-educated Americans. Further, we’re “impractical,” “we don’t know the “real world.” On the other hand, when it is acknowledged that many of us are financially struggling and live with employment insecurity, we are told by these same politicians, that it’s simply the market economy (even though many of us have full and overflowing classes), or that if we don’t like it, we should just quit, as if the 50+ year-old adjunct with an advanced degree is some sort of versatile property that can pick up a job a will. Further, this is not a Republican or Democrat thing. In fact, some Democrats have been even worse in their embrace of the Corporatization of Public Education. They often call for “school choice,” “charter school,” or speak of free Public Higher Ed (itself a worthy goal) but not a lick about improving the working conditions of the people who deliver that education. There are politicians who do get it, like California State Assemblyman Jose Medina, but we need to bring these people up, and some of us need to run for office ourselves.
Adjunct and Contingents, as for the general public, how many of you talk about the work and salary conditions you experience among friends and neighbors? By the way, when was the last time you saw an adjunct represented on TV or in a movie, and moreover, was there any mention of their lack of income, job security, or how students were affected by this? News stories on NPR, MSNBC, or the Nightly News aren’t going to be enough. We have to create a culture and have a presence in media where by our situation is known.
4) We need full-time allies who will stand with us: An adjunct walkout can work if full-time support is there, but we need to have support that is significant. Maybe they need to walk out with us, or stand up to administrators who will seek to sanction by simply leaving us off the schedule the following semester. It would also be nice if they weren’t afraid of us “taking over,” which is something I hear more often than I would like. I will say this, unless a concerted effort is made to de-incentivize the hiring of adjunct/contingent faculty, the tenure system will collapse, and for any adjunct foolish enough to think this would be a good thing, think again: it would effectively mean an end to academic freedom. Then you can face the risk of getting fired without cause, or for showing your student a film about income inequality or racism that they’re not down with. Adjuncts need to fight and stand for full-time positions, but at the same time full-timers need to realize that pay and benefit equity for adjuncts is the price for protecting tenure.
5) Any kind of sickout has to be a mass movement of leaders in smaller groups or cells, not something directed by a singular group of activists: As I already stated, union leaders by and large have their hands tied in calling for or directing such actions. Even smaller activist organizations with visible leadership need to be aware that without mass support and protection, they face retaliation, which is fine if they’re willing to carry the costs of losing their jobs or careers, and subsequently labeled a martyr or symbol for the cause. Some people can do this, and we can applaud them for their sacrifice. For others, mass action can provide both the support and anonymity to act. The idea of a sickout can be spread through word of mouth, and when consensus is realized then people can act.
6) We need the support of those adjuncts who can’t, for whatever reason, join the sickout, and we need to support them: Any kind of strong labor action is a scary thing. For many adjunct/contingents living from paycheck-to-paycheck, and even then not making it, such an action is frightening. Some adjuncts feel bound to their students (though a sickout can very much be a teachable moment). These are our brothers and sisters, and they can stand with us, speaking out as to why have chosen to act. They can share in the communication of our grievances and our demands for redress. If we know that they understand our actions and stand with us otherwise, then we must embrace them.
And there you have it. This is what it’s going to take to have the walkout/sickout/whatever . I personally don’t see it happening in the immediate future, but then again, I didn’t think I would see millions of people in the street the day after Trump’s inauguration.
I for one would love to be pleasantly surprised, but I’m just one person, and by writing this, I am excusing myself from leading this, but not from potentially participating.
For any adjunct/contingent who’s read this, I have now put the onus of leading or participating in such action upon you. It’s time for you to talk, and act, and plan.
A “Good” Adjunct
I am writing this post to stress that now, as an anti-intellectual and anti-education political environment awaits us, the need for Spring Adjunct/Contingent Action is more important than ever.
Up until the events of February 25th, 2015, with the proposed, yet more modestly realized National Adjunct Walkout Day (there were protests, rallies, teach-ins, but few if any walkouts), Spring actions protesting adjunct labor conditions were few and far between, and usually only coming to protest class cuts and adjunct firings that were more often than not a foregone conclusion. (I took place in such actions as a Grad Student in the early 1990’s).
National Adjunct Walkout Day in part changed adjunct/contingent activism in the Spring in that it led to a smattering of actions nationwide, not as a reaction to an immediate Higher Ed misdecision by either Administrators or politicians, but rather, to draw attention to the growing creep of adjunctification, and with it, the weakening of the nation’s Higher Ed system, and financial and emotional impoverishment of so-called “part-time” Higher Ed faculty who represent a commanding majority of Higher Ed. faculty in general.
By 2016, only a smattering of schools marked the event, although other institutions called for Spring adjunct actions in later months such as March and April. This year, in 2017, it’s unclear who will participate in actions in conjunction with what now being called by some “Adjunct Action Day.”
In the San Diego Area, actions are currently being made to mark the event with rallies and other events on Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, commemorating the fourth Wednesday in February when the event first took place.
I . The Fading Past, but the Present Reality
For many hopeful of some mass workout stoppage which supposedly would show America how the US Higher Ed system would be brought to a crushing halt in a “Day without Adjuncts,” 2015’s National Adjunct Walkout Day was a failure, and those who did lesser actions were simply sellouts.
The event was in no way a failure, unless you were deluded enough to believe, after watching Newsies or Norma Rae too many times, that mass worker actions can be achieved with Hollywood ease. The event brought together both adjuncts who were and weren’t union members, and who were from competing organizations to speak with more or less a single message: that adjunctification and the exploitive practices associated with it must go. In states such as California, where groups like CTA and CFT were able to rally around increasing categorical funding to increase full-time instruction, it meant tens of millions of dollars for more full-time positions (approx. 63 million dollars in California at alone). In addition, it also marked the start of a two-year campaign to guarantee priority rehire rights for California Community College Adjuncts, resulting in the passage of bills AB1690 and SB1379.
The follow-up event, Adjunct Action Day of 2016 in part launched the petition campaign to get an Extension of Prop 30 (a Provision passed in 2012 which now accounts for 15% of community college funding). The rallies in the San Diego Community District helped lead the local union (AFT 1931) chapter to collecting more petition signatures than any other AFT chapter in the state. Similar actions at Southwestern College in Chula Vista resulted in their collection of the 2nd highest total of signatures in the Southern California region for CTA chapters, unheard of when K-12 chapters usually outpace Community College chapters in signature gathering by multiples.
What’s more important is this—the Prop 30 Extension had struggled to get the sufficient numbers to be on the ballot. The actions of Adjunct Action Day, particularly with regard to the San Diego and Southwestern Community College Districts, helped put its numbers over the top, and thus saved 15% of the Community College budget, and 1000’s of adjunct jobs.
In spite of the national political climate, activists here are forging ahead, with things such paid maternity leave for adjuncts, increasing funding for office hours, and so on.
As for the national picture, the threats against DACA recipients, immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBT community, along with a clearly anti-union administration, will hurt adjuncts first and foremost among Higher Ed faculty.
We do not have the luxury to lull ourselves back into apathy; we must act now as, with regard to the incoming Trump administration, it is the Spring of our discontent.
II. Campus Equity Week is a Great Start, but It’s not Enough, and Needs to Be part of an Annual, not a Biennial Plan.
In 2000, the Coalition for Contingent Academic Labor or COCAL established a biennial event called “Campus Equity Week,” which set during the last week in October, was specifically to be week during which various actvities from rallies to teach-ins would take place to bring light to the plight of adjunct/contingent faculty. Over the years, various adjunct groups and faculty unions have held events in conjunction with the week.
Speifically, the San Diego and Southwetern Community College faculty unions placed a renewed focus on these events, doing them on an annual basis sarting from 2014. Because the Coummunity Colleges have a two-year system, and because we work with student groups with high rates of turnover, it is more conducive for us to do these events on a annual basis to establish institutional knowledge of the week. While adjunct issues are still a main focus of the week, we have branched out the events of the week to address issues such as student poverty, school corporitization, and the expanding creep of labor contingency throughout the economic system. By doing this, we get more invovlement with students, classified staff, administrators, and governing board members/trustees.
We use the issues raised during this week to set up campaigns for potential legislative or petition/letter-writing campaigns, which come to fruition in the Spring.
And understand, Spring action should be just that-action. Too often I have heard about such events been scheduled and being reduced to Adjunct “Appreciation” Days. These events are not about “appreciation,” (i.e. providing five-dollar pizzas from Cesar Cesar for an adjunct “dinner”). They’re about challenging adjunctification, and standing up for ourselves.
Without an institutionalized Spring event like an Adjunct Action Day or whatever you, my adjuncts, can come up with, launching many of these campaigns becomes more challenging, and this is why activities like an Adjunct Action Day are essential. Legislatures form legislation and make budgets in late Winter/early Spring. To not have an event until later means you’re being reactive rather than proactive.
That said, because of the vast differences in calendars and issues from not only state-to-state, but system-to-system, and school-to-school, adjunct/contingents at their respective institutions need to schedule Spring actions when it’s best for them. The bigger point is you need to do something.
In closing, know this–we are facing real threats to our working conditions and occupational mission, and there are models out there for successful adjunct organizing. It is not the time for depression, self-pity, or apathy, but action.
“Once unto the breach” my good adjuncts.
A Good Adjunct
It’s already clear that Trump’s plans for “making America great again” didn’t include adjunct/contingent faculty, but, for some, it wasn’t clear that he is going to make our jobs go away.
He most certainly is.
For those of us, such as myself, who teach in the border region, and in particular, teach in the Community College System, significant numbers of our students are immigrants, the children or family members of immigrants, or are American citizens, who for a variety of reasons, a big one being financial, live on the other side of the border and commute to school on a daily basis.
Many other students simply “look” like immigrants, if you’re racist presumption of an immigrant is someone who:
- “Looks” Latino, Arab, African, Asian
- Chooses to speak a language other than English in public
- Wears “ethnic” clothing
- Speaks with an accent
Before he even embarks on the building of his “wall,” likely paid for by cuts to social and educational programs, the hardline stance that Trump promises on immigration will negatively impact enrollment in Community Colleges and Higher Ed nationwide.
Let’s break it down.
1) The Dreamers: As of 2016, there are an estimated 2.1 million undocumented students living in the United States. Between 200,000 and 225,000 are currently enrolled in US colleges. The repeal of the Dream Act will not simply put the enrollment status of the Dreamers in college at risk. Further, if colleges are forced to deny enrollment to these students in the future effects on college enrollment will be severe. Clearly, fewer students will mean fewer sections for adjunct/contingent faculty to teach.
2) The Undocumented Immigrant Population as a whole: There are an estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the US. One should consider that these are not people who are separate from the American population. They are often married to American citizens, or have American children who depend on them for support. These children in turn rely on the support of the parents so that they can attend college. While the threat of deportation is always a reality, the increasing threat of deportation means that many would-be college students will lose the financial and familial support they need to go to college. Again, fewer students, and fewer sections.
3) Border Militarization: Because of the often low wages in relation to the cost of living in places like San Diego, there are a significant number of American citizens (including several “Anglo” adjuncts I personally know) who live in places like Tijuana and commute to the US to teach on a daily basis. Border crossings can sometimes take up to several hours. Militarizing the border with the threat, not simply of a wall, but with increased scrutiny at border crossings will increase the wait times, and make it harder for students to attend classes.
4) Immigration Enforcement: One need only look back at the passage of bills like AB1070 in Arizona to get a sense of where immigration enforcement can head. This bill, though later amended, allowed for authorities who have “reasonable suspicion” to stop and check a person’s immigration status, and if one couldn’t produce some form of identification could keep them in custody. What exactly constitutes a “reasonable suspicion”? When you have a soon-to-be President who speaks of a blanket ban for Muslims in this country, does this mean wearing a beard or a Hijab?
And if you think this can’t or doesn’t happen, then you should talk to the Latinos riding the San Diego trolley who have been approached by the Border patrol and checked for their status.
Creating a climate of fear and discomfort does not aid enrollment-it deters it.
Several California community college senates and governing boards have already adopted resolutions against cooperating with immigration officials. You should support these resolutions.
If you can’t bring yourself to think about the impact it will have on the people I have mentioned above, consider how it will affect you, because your job may depend upon it.
A Good Adjunct
This Geoff Johnson (mixinminao) making an announcement of San Diego Mesa College Campus Equity Week Events.
This is a recent message I got from my friend and colleague Larissa Dorman, who also happens to be a kick-ass organizer for AFT in the UC System:
Labor of Love: Adjunct Stories in Higher Education
Deadline: Thursday, September 1st, 2016 by 6pm PST
Submit to: email@example.com
We are seeking adjuncts’ stories for an edited book for a general audience on what it means to be an adjunct instructor at an American college or university. We are looking for stories that show who adjuncts are, how they became adjuncts, the effects that their working conditions have on their work, and their ideas for fixing the broken university system.
AB 1690, the bill which calls for setting a minimum standard for job security for California Adjunct Community College instructors has made it out of the California Senate Appropriations Committee, and now moves on the floor of the House, the Senate, and then the governor’s desk.
It is highly expected that it will clear the House and Senate, but then nothing is ever certain.
That’s where you come in.
Please sign this petition to Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon asking him to help AB 1690 pass off the Senate floor and go to the Governor’s desk… We don’t know if we will ever get this chance again, and the Non-Tenured faculty at community colleges can’t wait any longer for these basic job rights!
Again, if you’re not familiar with the language in AB 1690, here it is:
Let’s make this happen.
A “Good” Adjunct
P.S.: I’m now in the process of preparing a letter to the governor, which I’ll be putting out here, among other places. Look for it.
Here is a link to a sample governor’s letter: AB%201690%20Letter%20To%20The%20Governor%20Template
The following powerpoint has been loosely adopted as the CFT’s Campus Equity Week Organizing Strategy.
My belief is that if we want to create a lasting campaign for adjunct activism which is effective and builds the partnerships we need for success, this is it.
A “Good” Adjunct
For those of you outside the state of California, a big adjunct issue playing itself out in the chambers of the California Legislature is the push for adjunct job security via AB 1690. The bill made it past the Senate Education Committee, and now awaits a more uncertain battle in the great legislative graveyard–the Senate Appropriations Committee, where its forerunner AB 1010, died last year. I choose to be optimistic. if it makes it out of appropriations, it is almost certain to get approved by the floor of the senate, then sit before Governor Jerry Brown. What will he do? No one is certain, but I’d like to think he’ll sign it,and I’m doing everything I can, along with so many others, to see he has that chance.
This the letter I wrote to the legislative aides of particular senators on the Ed. Committee. They are often the better people to contact than the senators themselves because they actually have the time to read and process what you say, and communicate this to the senators, who do listen to them.
I put this letter out here to show you good adjuncts what constructive steps you can truly take to get the change we all need. See the letter below the sign out
A “Good” Adjunct
To Whom it May Concern:
My name is Geoffery Johnson, and I am writing to you in support of AB 1690, which addresses job security for part-time, temporary instructors (adjuncts) at California Community Colleges.
I am a member of the California Federation of Teachers Part-Time Committee. In addition, I am the direct representative for adjunct instructors at San Diego Mesa College and Southwestern College in Chula Vista, directly representing some 1300, adjuncts, and, as a part of the San Diego Community College District’s AFT Guild, involved in representing some 2,800 to 3,000 adjuncts. I also sit on the evaluations Committee at Southwestern College and have been a five-time academic senator at San Diego Mesa College, having sat briefly on its Student learning outcomes Committee.
I emphasize this only to make it clear that beyond simply being an adjunct, I have a larger awareness of the impact of working conditions on adjuncts, and its impact on student learning and success.
As you may be aware, 70% of California Community College instructors are classified as “temporary” employees, or more commonly known as “adjuncts” who are employed from term-to-term on a contingency basis, or simply as need demands. The term “adjunct” itself implies that such instructors are “ancillary,” or “non-essential,” when in truth these instructors are often responsible for the majority of instruction at given community college. They may be “adjunct” in name, but clearly essential to the community college system.
One of the greatest challenges to such instructors is that most of these instructors, even when classes are available, have no sense that, even if they do exemplary work in the classroom, they can reasonably expect to be rehired. At many colleges, instructor can simply be fired without cause, or as it is politely put, not offered a class assignment for the following term.
On a personal level, for these instructors, many of whom teach at multiple campuses working as self-called “full-time part-timers,” it means a life lived where one can rarely plan out beyond six months in advance. With regard to the California community college system, it has meant high faculty turnover, stressed faculty, and significantly impacted instruction, particularly as the system aspires to the notion of ‘student equity.” In some colleges, the annual turnover rate for adjuncts is over 25% of the entire adjunct faculty. With such turnover, such colleges lose the long term institutional knowledge and the value of veteran teaching needed to provide educational integrity.
AB 1690, if passed, will provide adjuncts who have taught successfully for six semesters with rehire rights. Moreover, it will establish rehire priority on a seniority basis, consistent with how full-time public educators are treated. Furthermore, it will provide those instructors who might stumble in their work a one-semester improvement plan of great benefit to incoming instructors who might struggle to find their footing initially, but who then become great adjuncts and sometime, even better full-time instructors.
Some argue against such a bill, claiming that it takes away an administrator’s flexibility to schedule classes, but in a number of colleges have negotiated similar rehire policies and administrators were still able to schedule classes. I point to the present rehire policy in the San Diego Community College District, which has been working successfully for close to ten years.
Another argument made is that AB1690 would prevent local unions from negotiating better rehire rights, but AB1690 only sets a minimum base, and one far better than what many districts have been able to negotiate.
One might also note that in terms of student success, the San Diego Community College District has a higher Student Completion/Success rate than Southwestern, and a number of studies have linked greater access to instructors with institutional knowledge to higher student Completion/success rates.
In truth, what a lack of rehire rights creates, beyond the afore-mentioned problems, is the potential for nepotism and unchecked discrimination, which is not what California aspires to. In fact, just in terms of union grievances submitted by adjuncts over rehire-related issues in the San Diego District is relatively small, and much smaller for the 2100+ adjuncts in the district, compared with the 760 adjuncts in the Southwestern district where the rehire policy has no seniority clause and only a vague statement on “consistency of assignment.”
A final argument made against AB 1690 is that it will cost money in order for lists to be made for scheduling. This is in fact untrue. The San Diego Community College District accrued no additional costs as a result of having a similar rehire rights policy. Rehire lists are kept by Deans and schedulers, like Department Chairs, who in many cases already have this data. The reporting of this data would be no different than the district reporting when adjuncts have reached certain steps or columns when their pay is determined.
The passage of AB1690 will not end adjunct instructors being hired on an “as needed” basis, but it will provide adjuncts with the notion that under reasonable conditions, they can expect to keep teaching when they do a good job, and that these good adjuncts will be available to help students achieve their goals.
Adjunct Rep San Diego Mesa College, (AFT 1931)
Executive Adjunct Rep Southwestern College (SCEA/CTA/NEA)
Member, California Federation of Teachers Part-Time Committee
Member, AFT National Part-Time Caucus
In our great battle against the exploitation we experience, perhaps our biggest challenge is reaching across what I will refer to her as “the big divide,” or the differences in perception between full-time and adjunct/contingent faculty.
What exactly are these differences in perception? Well, first of all, let me say what they generally aren’t on the whole.
Some of the angrier of adjuncts (and by the way, it’s OK to be angry, but I would advise it’s better to be angry and strategic), will conclude that most full-timers operate with the assumption that they are full-timers because they are simply “the best” and deserving of the privileges of higher salary, job security, and good benefits.
On the other hand, full-timers will conclude that adjuncts are “simply mad because they couldn’t get a full-time job,” can never be satisfied, and either don’t or can’t appreciate the additional outside-of-the-classroom duties and responsibilities that come with the full-time job.
The number of full-timers who I have met who wholly and openly subscribe to the above view I can count on one hand. Conversely, the number of adjuncts who I would say wholly fit the aforementioned full-time perception is also in the single digits.
Why is it out there? It’s because adjuncts and full-timers don’t talk to each other nearly enough.
With regard to the adjunct issue, the biggest sense I have is that nearly all full-timers agree that the system is unfair, exploitative, and none of them would like to return to working as an adjunct. Many of them are truly pained over the fact that they work alongside people who are every bit as qualified as they are, and sometimes even more so. The hiring process, with all its byzantine twists and turns, is something they take seriously, but they feel frustrated by the fact it produces only a few full-timers, and that it’s not narrowing the diversity gap. They despair of the institution filling the gaps in the loss of full-time positions with increasing numbers of adjunct and contingent jobs. At the same time, in part because of the loss of full time instructors, and because of the corporate creep of results-based learning based on largely abstract and numerical data, many full-timers are feeling extremely harried and overburdened, and feel that if they’re going to be forced to endure this nonsense, then at least they should be fairly compensated for it. Many like and highly respect their adjunct colleagues.
As for adjuncts, yeah, there are people angry about not getting a full-time job, but the bigger problem is that the overall lack of pay has created enormous strains on their life from basic living health. Further, they are angry because even when they do good work, or even work in unpaid, outside-of-the-classroom capacities, there’s no guarantee they will even have a job the following semester, let alone even getting closer to that coveted full-time position. Often they feel further tweaked when they’re hit up in evaluations for not always being up to speed with the latest teaching trends and technology, despite the fact they have no time or money. That said, adjuncts do care deeply about their departments (even the ones who don’t show up to the department meetings which are often scheduled which they are least convenient to adjuncts). They like to see their students and the program succeed, and will just as be inclined to talk about curricular development and student progress as they will bitch about the sorry nature of their jobs. Many would love to sit and do (where possible), sit on committees. Many also like their full-time colleagues.
OK, now that said, here’s where the real divide is. Most full-timers, while acknowledging that full-timers are underpaid and work under bad conditions, feel that the essential task to solving the problem is to create more full-time positions, and reduce adjunct labor to preferably around 25% of instruction. This sort of thinking operates around the notion that an adjunct is an incomplete worker used to deal provide instruction in the face of a paucity in funding. In other words, the solution is to “make the adjunct whole” by converting them to a full-time position.
As for adjuncts in general, the view, as you may know, is very different. Adjuncts know that there is no magic fairy that’s going to float down from the sky and supply the billions of dollars it would take to create the tens of thousands of full-time faculty jobs to realize the dream of 75/25 full-time/adjunct instruction. The fact of the matter is, even under the best of conditions, the realization of more full-time jobs will be slow and steady, and then only if budgeting priorities and the general will of the people will call for it. This still means, in many cases, up to 200+adjuncts applying for one full-time job.
Maybe more importantly, what it means is that adjuncts and their vast numbers aren’t going away any time soon. Sure, most adjuncts want a full-time job, and they also want to win the lottery.
Adjuncts want full-timers to realize that they have more than wishes-they have immediate needs, and the most glaring is better, and dare we say it, equal pay. In fairness, equal pay is almost the same pipe dream, but a steady movement towards that goal by incrementally increasing adjunct pay in relation to full-time pay is doable, as is adding, slowly but surely more full-time positions.
In other words, adjuncts, at least reasonably thinking ones, see it not as a case of either/or (full-time positions/equity pay), but both/and.
This is not immediately easy for many full-timers to fully accept for a number of reasons. To them, the immediate challenge to their own work conditions is the lack of full-time colleagues, which hurts everything from their workload, to their union numbers, to control over their lives. They want more pay for what they clearly see as more work, and its understandable. At the same time however, to increase adjuncts wages so that they are more equitable to full-time pay means having to get the money from somewhere, and this is where the real challenge comes.
I know, I know, I hear my adjunct legions screaming, “Who cares about what they want? To pay us equitably, even if this means lesser pay for full-timers, is simply correcting a past wrong.” Perhaps, but good luck selling that idea, and if you were a full-timer, with the increased pressures you’re facing, would you buy it? I also know that some of you may argue that it would simply be a matter of adjuncts overtaking their locals. In both my locals, adjuncts far outnumber full-timers, but from what I’ve seen, there’s no imminent possibility of that happening, nor is it likely it would actually make things better.
The way equity pay has to be sold is that it needs to be combined with the increase of full-time jobs, and it has to create avenues where adjuncts (who are paid) can step into outside-of-the-classroom roles that were exclusively reserved for full-timers. The workload on full-time faculty needs to be eased. Equity pay should also, for the most part, be driven by statewide funding measures rather than forcing unions into fighting among their members. This is where adjuncts and full-timers alike need to come together and sell equity as for the good of learning environment, students, and the community as a whole.
This doesn’t mean that local unions should singly address equity in their own contracts. The state needs to help and lead the way. It was after all, at least in California, the state legislature that created adjuncts, not local community colleges.
This is where adjunct-full-time conversations need to lead. How does it start? I would suggest at first, one-on-one, and it’s going to take time, listening as well as speaking, and holding our adjuncts breaths at moments. We can do this, and quite honestly, we must.
A “Good” Adjunct