National Adjunct Action Day is 2/24/2016 (For Us)

Good Adjuncts:

For those of you who follow this blog, you know that, at least in California, myself and John Hoskins, along with many others in San Diego, were heavily involved with events regarding National Adjunct Action Day (I also referred to it as the “whatever”) last year.  We put a lot of effort not only in the planning of events (there were six separate rallies in San Diego County alone).

Planning these events was not simply about having a few meetings, pulling out a card table, getting a microphone and making a poster.  It involved 1) looking at specific actionable items, 2) securing facilities and equipment (which will take several weeks of advance planning, 3) arranging for higher profile speakers, 4) Coordinating with students and outside labor/social justice groups, 5) putting together literature, 6) Publicizing the event, 7) Organizing adjuncts and students to work tables, 8) Presenting before college governing boards, and trust me, I could go on.

We started planning for this year’s events on 2/26/2015, which is approximately one day after National Adjunct Action Day, which was 2/25/2015.

In keeping with the idea that this was a “day of action,” I stated on this blog that we were looking for marking National Adjunct Day on Wednesday, Feb. 24th, 2015 which would be the fourth Wednesday in February, effectively commemorating National Adjunct Day. We of course imagined that there would be various activities leading up to the day, but weren’t looking at designating this as a week.

The reason for this is that both the CTA and CFT, the two major unions in California, already have “Campus Equity Week” which runs during the last week in October.  In fairness, while this used to be a biannual event, it is now in fact an annual event, and works well for us in terms of pressuring the state legislature, which controls our funding, and in addition, help us “rally the troops” for Election Day the following week.

After running a week of these events, as we did in San Diego, we can’t really run another full week of events because we end up appearing redundant and burning out some activists.

The idea of a “day of action” is to concentrate our efforts into a series of mass actions which will have the most impact, and perhaps draw media attention.

In the San Diego and Southwestern Community College Districts, the first day of instruction for the Spring Term is February 1st.  To effectively arrange facilities and organize our actions requires at least three weeks, and while some prior planning can be done, it’s extremely hard to organize during the break except at the basic planning stage because so many people “check out” during break.

Recently, a group I assume that is affiliated with Brandeis University  put out on social media that a National Adjunct Week of Action would be taking place from Feb. 15th-20th.   It would have been nice if they had actually talked with people like myself, who actually organize this stuff, because I would have them that we had prior plans, and that the timeline doesn’t work for us.  In addition, to what I stated before, Feb 12th -15th is actually a four-day holiday weekend in our districts, which is another problem in itself.

By the way, I spent a bit of time on the net looking for discussions of a National Adjunct Action Day for 2016 in November right after Campus Equity Week.  I saw nothing, so we assumed that we had to act, and we have.

To the people planning events on the 15th-20th, I’m glad you’re doing something and I sincerely wish you well, but I’m telling my good adjuncts in the San Diego area we’re looking at Wednesday Feb. 24th.

If we truly want to take the National Adjunct “Whatever” a unifying and effective event, then after this year’s activities, let’s have all the main groups coordinate and lest come up with a time window that works for everybody.  I am happy to be reached through the blog, or via my email, which is mixinminao@gmail.com.

However, I will say this, if you feel the need to speak to, and act out on adjunct issues, don’t let it being a specific day stop you—get out there and do something whenever.  The adjunct nation needs you!

Sincerely,

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

NAWD Action Item #1: Adjuncts, Claim Your Spaces

Good Adjuncts,

If you haven’t taken the document “What is an Adjunct?”and given it to your students, please do so or download it.  To educate is to activate.

But that said, one document alone cannot fully educate or activate.  We need to educate and activate through multiple measures and activities.

And they can and should be thoughtful, insightful.

From now until Feb. 25th I will be posting activities every two or three days that I encourage all adjuncts to take up.  If you have ideas, send them to me in your comments section, and provided they don’t call for anything that involves a violation of the law, hurting oneself or others, or clearly result in a person’s getting fired, I’ll re-post it.

Whether you do these actions or not is up to you and your group. Do what is true to yourself.

Anyway, here’s first my first action item: Adjuncts, claim your spaces.

Adjuncts, too many of you know what it is like to have to do prep work or meet with students when you have limited or no adjunct space, but because you are a good adjunct, you make that time to do prep, or meet with a student.  Ideally, it’s in an adjunct office, but too often, it’s in a cafeteria, a student lounge, outside in the hall way, a courtyard, etc.

Show everyone just exactly where that space is.

First, get yourself a relatively large post-it, or a 3”x 5” notecard and put some scotch tape on one side. On either the non-adhesive side of the post-it, or on the non-tape side of the notecard, write in large and legible letters “ADJUNCT OFFICE SPACE”.  Attach the post-it or card to the nearest table top, door wall, or surface so that it can be clearly seen.

Now naturally, if you’re in a cafeteria or coffee shop, or any kind of high traffic space, it’s going to get removed.  In fact, you want to attach it so that it can be easily removed.  That’s OK, but let someone else remove it.

Later, when you’re back at the same place, put up another card and post-it.

From here on out, it’s simply rinse and repeat.

Over time, a larger audience of post-it and notecard readers and removers are going to understand your reality, and if they’re truly bothered by your message, maybe they will see that a specially designated space for adjuncts to do their jobs would be better than what’s happening now.

For those of you who might want to be a bit more proactive, if one your campus there is an empty office that is not being used, Put up a post-it or card with the question “FUTURE POSSIBLE ADJUNCT SPACE?” Like before, people will take down your card or post-it—simply put another one up.  The admin may in fact find another use for the office, but so what? Getting them to tell you what that office will ultimately be used for and why forces them to be more accountable to you.

Now off to your work  my good adjuncts.  Claim your spaces.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

What is An Adjunct? A Document to Prep Students for NAWD

Good Adjuncts

Please prep your students for NAWD, or whatever you want to call it by giving them  this (See below my sign out)  to read.

The document I have posted here deals specifically with California, but you could easily download it an edit it to fit your reality wherever you are at.

Make people, and especially students, understand what’s going on.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

                                                                                         

                                                       What is An Adjunct?

                                                     What You Should Know

What is an Adjunct?

The term “adjunct” which is often used interchangeably with “contingent” or “part time” is meant to refer to instructors who are limited in particular campus or district from teaching the same number of classes as a Full-time or “Contract” instructor.  California State Law defines these teachers as “temporary” employees, meaning that they were allegedly hired to teach, for a limited time, a number of classes, because the institution had to offer more classes than it has full-time employees to teach.

In other words, these were instructors originally to teach “extra” classes.

Today, on average, between 70-80% of college classes are taught by “adjunct” instructors, and at some institutions these “adjunct” instructors teach the majority of classes.  Many have done so for over 30 years or more.  It is more likely than not that the person teaching your classes right now is an adjunct.

This means they are not teaching extra, but in fact essential classes, and it’s also clear, they are not temporary workers.

So Then Adjuncts are Simply Less Qualified Teachers?

No.  Adjunct instructors, like their full-time counterparts, have advanced degrees like MA’s, MS’s, MFA’s, and Ph.D.’s.  Many may still be actively doing research or have written multiple books and articles.  Some have won national awards, and in fact, may at times be more “qualified” and “distinguished” than their full-time counterparts.

If These Teachers have Similar Qualifications, Why aren’t they Full-time, or Contract Instructors?

Well, first of all, there is a small minority of these teachers who choose to be part-time because they have another full-time job, may be a returning retiree, or are only interested in part-time work.  The vast majority of these adjuncts want to teach full-time, but the number of positions available is very small.  When a single full-time position becomes available, there may be as many as 200 applicants for a single position.

Why Are There so Few Positions Available?

Unlike an adjunct instructor, who is only generally paid for the hours he/she is teaching in the classroom, full-time instructors are given a salary which pays at a significantly higher proportional rate for a given class.  In addition, most institutions will provide full health insurance benefits to full-time instructors, and in some cases, their dependents as well.  There are other benefits as well offered to full-timers, such as sabbatical leave, which in the end means that full-time instructors cost more. Schools, which are either generally strapped for funding, or have other priorities simply choose to hire more adjuncts because they cost less and give administrators more flexibility.

What do You Mean By Flexibility?

To be blunt, it means to have the ability to hire and fire instructors at will.  Most full-time, or contract instructors have or can get “tenure”.  Tenure is essentially a promise made to full-time or contracted teachers after three or four years of satisfactory instruction that they will be guaranteed work for an additional three years, whereupon they will they will be re-evaluated for another three-year term. Usually, unless a full-time instructor’s teaching or professional behavior has become especially egregious, he or she will receive tenure again and again.

By contrast, though some adjuncts have “preferred” or “priority of assignments” clauses in their contract, they are not guaranteed work from one term to the next.  Even one bad semester of teaching can result in termination, which is simply, to not be rehired.  Yet the situation for adjuncts is far more precarious, for one may simply not be rehired because there aren’t enough classes, or because a full-time instructor had low enrollment in his/her class and now wants the adjunct’s class.  At other times, office politics may play a role and the administrator can simply choose to give classes to his/her favorites for whatever reason that administrator chooses.

“Flexibility” means that an adjunct can be fired even when he/she is doing a good job.

You Said Some Schools Are Strapped For Funding?  Why is this?

The answer to this question basically has two parts.  First, the proportion of money spent by state governments on education has been steadily declining for the last 40 years, and second, since the late 1970’s in particular, the political environment has been increasingly averse to government spending and taxation.

While politicians will talk of how they value education, the last forty years suggest that most politicians are interested in things like being “tough or crime,” or engaging in a “war on drugs” which has bloated prison populations.   Notably, there is a reciprocal relationship between the steady decrease in educational funding as a part of state budgets, and the increase in funding for prisons.  At the same time, there has been reduction in tax rates, primarily on upper-income earners.

Another factor affecting school funding has been the rise of technology.  40 years ago, there were no banks of PC labs or smart rooms on campus.  Technology costs money and it has to come from somewhere.  In addition, in order to improve the “efficiency” of the education process, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people hired for administrative or non-instructional duties.  This again reduces the amount of monies available for instruction.

Why Should I Care?

Well, there are several reasons.

First, because adjuncts receive relative low pay and few if any benefits, many are compelled to take on teaching loads which exceed their full-time colleagues at multiple locations which reduces their availability to students as well as the time they have to grade student work or do prep.  According to Cornell Higher Education Research Institute scholars Ronald Ehrenberg and Liang Zhang increased reliance on part-time faculty has been found to negatively impact student retention and graduation rates.  This is fact is further supported by the work of  University of Washington researcher Daniel Jacoby, who finds that as the numbers of tenure and part-time (adjunct) faculty increase, retention and graduation rates fall.

Over just the last six years, the number of students either earning a two-year degree at a California community college, or transferring to a four-year institution has fallen by 2.6%.

Second, those who do not take on these teaching loads will live under financial duress, with some being compelled to get food stamps, or even be homeless.  While some teachers may hang on, others, who could have been a significant asset to a particular institution, will leave the profession altogether.

Third, the model for adjuntification is now expanding to other industries.  In the future one might see adjuntification happening even in supposedly solid STEM fields. Ultimately, the expansion of adjunctification would lead to the collapse of the middle class or clearly a society or “haves” and “have nots”.