Have a consciousness raising, satirical, ironic, laughing, not crying, carnivalesque Campus Equity Week!
87% adjuncts at San Diego Mesa College and growing…
Adjuncts, Academic Freedom, and the Corporatization of Higher Education
Corporatization is the ideology that all social relations are explainable through market relations. One of the conclusions which follows from this ideology is that market value, the “bottom line,” is ultimate. The corporatization of higher education has been the applying of the idea that public higher education should be run like a business. This is a problem because higher education is not and cannot be a business. The two are mutually exclusive, except within the faulty logic of corporatization. A business sells a product and needs to balance the cost of production with profit, or the business will fail. Higher education is the public institution which, and this is the brief version, is entrusted with old knowledge, new knowledge, and with ways of making knowledge. It offers students not only knowledge of the world and the world of ideas, but also an opportunity to grow as individuals and mature into the best possible versions of themselves as free-thinking citizens, ready to participate in fulfilling the promise of democracy as well as fulfilling the promise of their lives. Higher education is a public good, not because it prepares students for the workforce, although it does this, but because college students, by reaching deep within to meet the challenge of learning, discover talents and skills they may not have otherwise known they have, which they then bring to the democratic community. If higher education fails, community fails. And when community fails, we have injustice and hate.
Critiquing the corporatization of higher education is not a new thing; many have written about it at least since the ‘90s, but, given the current political climate, it never has been more important to talk about it. The first step in the implementation of a corporatization ideology is to make working conditions precarious, that is, to make workers insecure, easier to exploit, and to weaken or destroy workers’ unions. In higher education, this first step in the process has been adjunctification, a way to end tenure by not hiring professors for tenure-track positions, and to over-rely on part-time professors. The over-reliance on adjuncts has been increasing now for decades. Today, 75% of college faculty are part-time adjuncts, the reverse of what was once intended. I often describe adjunctification as tenure leaving by the back door. No one sees it going, and then it’s gone. Everyone wonders where it went. And with it goes academic freedom, because tenure is the only real protection for academic freedom. Today, only 25% of faculty have tenure and secure academic freedom. We are getting precariously close to not having tenure or full-time faculty.
Union protection of academic freedom depends largely on union protection of tenure. Adjunctification, to be clear, is the effective end of tenure. Adjuncts don’t have tenure and so lack academic freedom. Even when adjuncts belong to a union that is active in protecting academic freedom, like ours, adjuncts’ academic freedom is not equal to tenured academic freedom. Since adjuncts are hired only for one semester, and they must receive a new contract each semester; their academic freedom depends on the commitment to academic freedom of those who have the power to not rehire them. In other words, adjuncts don’t possess academic freedom, at least not full and secure academic freedom.
Faculty academic freedom is student academic freedom, just like faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. The oppressive nature of being adjunct oppresses the adjunct and her students. For instance, students do not have equal access to adjunct professors who have no official, long-term relationship with the institution, in whom the institution has not fully invested. Nevertheless, enduring the unequal working conditions, adjuncts, most of whom would prefer a full-time position, do most of the teaching in higher education, and do it well. But the conditions in which they labor to maintain the quality of higher education for students are oppressive. Most have more than one job, but make half what they would make if they had one full-time job. This is unjust. The idea that the market value is the ultimate value of labor dictates that the cost of labor should be as low as possible. This shortchanges both faculty and students.
In a few weeks, adjuncts, the 75% majority of faculty, will be unemployed, not on summer break like full-time faculty, but jobless. This is what precarious working conditions look like. We are obviously needed because we are hired again and again. Many people, when they understand the situation, ask, why don’t they just hire you full-time? Good question. No one has a good answer. But we could start with equal pay for equal work.
What would be best for students?
The answer is not Betsy DeVos, the new education secretary, who specifically took aim at adjuncts in comments she made to students attending the Conservative Political Action Conference: “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community.” I don’t know any faculty who said exactly that. She exhorted the students to “fight against the education establishment.” She was calling, in other words, for an attack on academic freedom. Adjuncts, 75% of the higher education faculty, precarious, underpaid, serially unemployed, are named because she realizes that if the majority can be intimidated, the tenured minority, who have an empowered position within the institution, will be weakened. The new regime in Washington, with a corporatization-oriented cabinet, will seek to use this weak link to undermine academic freedom further and to make academic laborers even more precarious. We cannot let that happen. Faculty, adjuncts and tenured, need to stand together with students as community to resist the corporatization of higher education, to resist injustice, to resist hate.
Let us celebrate May Day, and recognize the contributions of workers to the economy and to society. After all, we are the majority.
The adjunct crisis is the higher education crisis. In other words, the eclipse of the humanities by STEM, the prevalence of administrative and accreditation scandals, and the specter of “accountability” coming to higher education, are all the result of adjunctification. We are not prepared to resist the onslaught of privatization.
There is a division within our union ranks not of our own design, which we do not clearly see. And this is troubling. We are divided. Our union is divided. As long as we accept that the interests of adjuncts and contract faculty are different, as long as we conceive of them as distinct bargaining groups, we will perpetuate this division, this two-tiered system. It is not an accident, I think, that tenure has been under attack in the courts recently, at just this point, a perfect storm. It is not an accident that the ACCJC tried to shut down CCSF, the largest California community college full of adjuncts who are paid on an equity scale, as part of a scheme, I am convinced, to privatize the entire system. But ACCJC failed, in part, because of the unity of local 2121. I am also convinced that much of the solidarity of that local comes from the equity pay. It is one thing to recognize that adjuncts are essential; it’s another to be that recognition and establish equal pay. I realize there are plans to get funding from the governor, and that other plans have repeatedly been killed in one of the appropriation’s committees. But these don’t seem to be working. When will elected representatives see the light? When will the governor be so generous? Which governor will be so generous? How many drops in the bucket before it’s full?
We did not design this two-tiered system, but we perpetuate it in numerous ways. One way we perpetuate the ongoing exploitation of 75% of faculty is the unquestioned acceptance of the system. I am aware, of course, having participated now for a couple of years in a campaign to petition California’s Governor Jerry Brown to fund equal pay categorical items in the state budget, as well as efforts to publicize the adjunctification of higher education which have been nationwide even, that we are, in this way, “questioning” the system, and trying to change it. Personally, I’m not sure what else we could do at the state level than what we are already doing. Probably, there is more that we could do at the state level. But my opinion is that we could do more at the local and personal levels. And increased activism and participation might just trickle up to the state level.
For one thing, locally, we can participate more fully in AFT sponsored Campus Equity Week (CEW) and National Adjunct Walkout Day (NAWD) events. Rather than a ragtag group of adjuncts trying to pull off major events, which has been the case in our recent efforts at Local 1931, we could have the whole force of our union, tenure-track, adjuncts, classified, each of us contributing in some small or large way to the cause, which is, after all, resistance to the corporatization of higher education. We could take these nationally recognized days of protest seriously as some of the most important events of the year for our union. We could have a show of numbers, of full-timer and part-timer political action, staging multiple events across campuses: teach-ins, rallies, poetry readings. guerrilla theater, music, movies, pizza. We could engage students in protest.
Another thing we could do at the personal level is to realize that the two-tiered system is the first part of the “management” strategy to “divide and conquer.” We are divided, clearly. Will we see the “conquer” stage before it happens? Was the ACCJC plot to privatize, effectively, CCSF an attempt to begin the stage of conquering?
In our last round of negotiations, because of our unique Resource Allocation Formula, which gives the union a prescribed portion of state funding, we were able to provide adjuncts with an 8% raise, while full-timers took only a 5% raise. This was in the right spirit, but I’m not sure if we can really count on ever achieving equal pay if we only gain 3% each round. We need more.
We need a plan to establish equal pay for adjunct faculty, with a timeline. The plan can and should be multi-pronged, focused on state-level efforts as well as local efforts. In order to make a plan, I think we will need a paradigmatic shift in the way we see ourselves If the interest of full-time faculty is to save higher education as a public good, including tenure as well as a wide-ranging curriculum, equal pay for adjuncts is the first step toward a strong union of financially secure members. Financial security would empower adjuncts to get off the freeway and focus more on activism; it would invigorate our union.
The adjunctification of higher education is not an accident of market forces. It is an intentional, ideological scheme to render a public good a private luxury. We must see resistance to adjunctification as our most important battle if we hope to reclaim the promise of higher education in America. To have real unity, we need real equality. Adjuncts need equal pay.
Gnawed or Odd?
Adjuncts are gnawed by hungry ghosts. And the situation is quite odd.
What is NAWD? Or AAD?
What is an adjunct?
It is important to remember how this day came to be recognized as a day to advocate for a kind of economic justice we might call adjunct justice. Last year, a nameless adjunct from the Bay area writing on social media posed the question: what if adjuncts walked out? The question went viral on adjunct social media. My version of the question is: What if 75% of the faculty walked out or just disappeared? What if students showed up for class with not teacher? What would students do? It is worth picturing the campus without 75% of the faculty.
So, what is an adjunct?
An adjunct is a scholar, a professor, who devoted years of her life to earning advanced degrees, accruing 40, 50, 100 thousand dollars of student debt, in order to serve higher education, in order to pass on knowledge to students and draw genius out of students.
An adjunct is a professor who looks like a full-time professor, who teaches like a full-time professor, and, from a student’s point-of-view is indistinguishable from a full-time professor, that is, until the student tries to find her professor’s office, or tries to locate her professor next year when she needs a letter of recommendation, or when she finds her professor in a cubicle and is startled to find her idea of her professor diminished.
An adjunct professor is paid half the wages of a full-time professor, has less, or in some places, no benefits, and is defined as “non-essential.” But how can 75% of the faculty be non-essential? Besides students, who is more essential to education than faculty?
Contrary to the popular image, and this is, perhaps, the most important point, most adjuncts do not want to be adjuncts. Most adjuncts want to be full-time so they can devote themselves, heart and soul, to a particular institution, to a particular body of students, to receive just compensation, which is to say, since adjuncts are indistinguishable from full-timers, they should be paid at the same rate, and receive the same benefits.
What to do?
First, we faculty, full-timers and adjuncts, need to recognize the situation for what it is. Campus and department cultures are different everywhere, but some things are the same. As far as the adjunct crisis, which I see as the core of the crisis of higher education, adjuncts are invisible. Oh yes, we are appreciated. But really, what are we to do with this appreciation? Does anyone offering appreciation think that’s what we want? Respect would be more like it, but, I think, we would take Just wages, although we deserve full-time employment and everything that comes with it: an office, benefits, investment of the college as an essential member.
What I’m trying to say is that anyone, faculty, administrator, student, who thinks that the current way of doing things is acceptable, and that adjuncts just need “appreciation” or that adjuncts are content to be part-time, non-essential, at will employees, needs to change his mind.
What I’m trying to say is we need a radical paradigm shift. Such a thing begins in the minds of individuals and spreads out into the actions of individuals. You need to change your attitudes and we need to begin to demand the change that would make adjuncts full-time employees. That’s what most of us really want. That’s real adjunct Justice.
For my next few posts, I will be addressing how adjuncts are driven out of the profession either intentionally or otherwise through the actions of Deans, Department Chairs, and Full-timers.
The first of these practices is necessarily intentional, fairly venal, and therefore deserving of the first such post—what I affectionately call “Out with the Old, in with the New.”
Whether we want to admit it or not, Western culture is highly youth-oriented, and, as most of the students in Higher Ed. are under the age of 25, there is an unstated, yet clearly present pressure on academia to remain “relevant” to its student body with youthful professors.
It doesn’t matter that in the past teachers tended to be older while students were younger–the rise of web-based everything has led to a positivist immediacy where everything newer is better, and everything new itself must be ever so tweaked to be “better”. At the same time, there is a student body coming to our institutions who are increasingly less self-efficacious—they are less inclined to reading textbooks, even when made available online, and more inclined to look for a You Tube video or Wikipedia post for their information.
Now to some extent the Higher Ed. community gets this, and at face value claims to promote the idea of teaching people self-efficacy or independent learning, and we have all heard of the Dean, Vice President, or President who at either a convocation or school meeting exhorts the faculty to challenge their students and strive for a high abstract ideal, usually conveyed in the school slogan of the year, like “Excellence in Education.”
The truth of the matter is this: an adjunct can challenge his or her students, but if, over time, the number of students completing the course should significantly drop, or should a small cadre of students complain, even if the adjunct may have received strong evaluations, that teacher will have a number on his or her back.
As a union adjunct rep at two different community colleges, I am often approached by adjuncts having to grieve for their jobs, and the most common issue has to do with older adjuncts finding themselves either being declared ineligible to teach, or, after years of successful evaluations, suddenly in trouble.
Let’s talk about the eligibility issue first. In an ideal world, a person teaching Math at the community college level would have a Masters or Doctoral Degree in Math. The problem is, and this is true in many disciplines, most of the people holding these degrees can get more lucrative or stable jobs elsewhere, meaning the pool of available candidates to teach is small. (Now the real solution to this problem would be to hire on more teachers into full-time positions, or simply to pay these adjuncts a higher wage and provide some job security, but this would require money, and that would require courage from administrators and politicians, and an honest discussion with the voting public, and this hasn’t even remotely happened yet.) Therefore, to meet the demand administrators will seek out people with equivalent qualifications to do the job.
Generally speaking, these people, in the case of Math, will hold Masters or Ph.D.’s in related fields, like Engineering, and clearly to have the knowledge and skills to teach basic skills and freshman level Math courses. Notably, a surprising number of these teachers are foreign-born and educated. Very often, they are a good fit for the school, they teach well, and are serious about their work.
Yet the fact of the matter is, in the eyes of a Dean, they aren’t a “real” teacher because they don’t actually have the field-specific degree. The Dean is still dreaming about that ideal world in which all his/her faculty, full-time or adjunct, have that subject-specific degree. The problem is, that these adjunct instructors have been doing a good job and getting satisfactory evaluations. What further complicates this is that in some cases, these adjuncts will have things like priority rehire rights, which means that the Dean cannot, by personal choice alone, get rid of these teachers easily.
But this doesn’t mean the Dean is going to give up striving to get what they want, and this is where equivalency status comes into play. At the California Community College level, equivalency status can either be determined by a committee, or by Dean. In part, because Deans are often looking for an instructor on the fly, they may simply give one of these teachers immediate equivalency. Further, because the Dean is initially happy with the arrangement, quarters or semesters will go by with the Dean never challenging the equivalency status of the adjunct.
The thing is, unless an instructor goes through an actual equivalency committee his/her equivalency status is temporary, meaning form term to term. And moreover, a Dean will often (and perhaps conveniently) neglect to inform the instructor of this. This means that should a Dean have a change of heart, they can draw into question the qualifications of even the most successful and longest teaching adjuncts who lack the subject specific degree. Sometimes, because there is usually about a 5-10 year turnaround on Deans, a new Dean might come in and decide to “clean house”, especially when he/she sees some promising new teachers coming onto the scene with subject-specific degrees in mind. I was loosely involved with one case in which a teacher with 20+ years of experience was let go, not because of his teaching, but because it was suddenly decided he no longer had equivalency status.
Playing Devil’s Advocate, I suppose one could argue that there is a legitimacy issue here in that you should have people with Math Degrees teaching Math, but from a qualitative standpoint, if both the students and the teacher’s fellow adjunct and full-time faculty are satisfied with his/her work, it makes sense to keep that instructor. But then again, that wouldn’t be keeping with the notion of “Out with the Old, in with the New.”
The more common drama facing older adjuncts is the shift in evaluations. Understand that most school like to keep teachers, including adjuncts, at least to the extent that they provide continuity and help their respective departments and schools achieve their goals. The thing is, they often want to keep them around for only so long.
Many adjuncts, when they first come into a job, are excited about their work, and are eager to please, which means regular attendance at department meetings, professional development exercises, conferences, and involvement in shared governance, tutoring centers, etc.… Over time, it can get harder to sustain these activities in that they have to spread themselves out over several campuses in multiple districts, have other jobs, or family responsibilities. Many older adjuncts are not faced just with the issue of children, but rather, older parents. Further, let’s face it, it’s not always easy to get a good schedule as an adjunct. Often they get early morning or evening classes, or classes taught off site at high school, higher ed. centers, and extensions. These are the classes at times and locations full-time instructors do not want to teach.
One of the other issues I see come up among these older adjuncts is how they often become “isolated” professionally, or by a presumption that if they are simply adjuncts that they should singularly focus on their relationship with students.
During this same time, full-time instructors will likely be actively engaged in professional development and departmental matters at a specific campus. In addition to it being easier to do at a single campus where they don’t lose 5-15 hours a week of transportation and set-up time, it is actually part of their job title–they are awarded tenure on the amount of outside the classroom work that they do, and are compensated for it in salaries which are often two to three times what an adjunct makes for an equivalent teaching load. Further, it will not only be easier for these instructors to get money to attend conferences, it will also be easier for them to get release time from work in that they only have to deal with one employer. Moreover, full-time instructors can and often do apply for sabbaticals multiple times during their careers, giving them the opportunity to bone up on additional coursework at the school’s expense without having to work.
One can thus imagine that the rate of evolution in teaching techniques and styles is often, though not always higher, among full-timers. (There are some full-timers who do the minimum and simply check out, but this is another issue). One can also imagine that these full-timers will inherently be inclined to look closer at and think more highly of those young, go-getter adjuncts, and over time, think less and less of the older adjuncts.
In fact, some of these adjuncts can get regarded with contempt. I can recall one of the more adjunct-friendly full-timers commenting to me that “…there are just some of the older adjunct who only show up to teach and never talk to me. I’d just wish they’d quit or go away.”
I would also like to assert that there is a bit of sexism that plays a role here as well. With younger, less mature populations, older female adjuncts will often find themselves dealing with disciplinary issues, particularly in basic skills classes, and far too often, the attitude of full-timers and Deans is that the teacher is a problem.
I think good adjuncts, you can imagine what the cumulative impact of the above is on older adjuncts, and how, after years of successful teaching, they can find themselves facing a poor evaluation and the end of a career, for old adjuncts rarely retire, so much as they are simply left off the schedule.
Well then, what can be done regarding this issue of “Out with the Old, in with the New”?
First of all, Deans need to be held accountable for who they hire, and do the proper diligence to see that teachers who have been awarded Equivalency” status. Any equivalent hire should be subsequently taken to an equivalency committee in the semester of an adjunct’s hire to either confirm or deny their status. The equivalency card should no longer be a tool for a Dean’s creative way of dealing with personnel.
As regards older adjuncts in general, full-timers need to develop some empathy and understanding. Talk to your full-time colleagues about these issues.
By the way, just because it’s harder for an older adjunct to grow in his/her profession doesn’t mean he/she should be excused from having to do it. When he/she can manage it, they should participate in professional development and other departmental activities, and though they should also be paid for it, payment can’t always be the expectation or motivation. Teaching is a collaborative activity, and so it’s important for adjuncts to interact with other colleagues, even if it’s only online, but preferably, in person.
Anyway Older Adjuncts, shield yourselves, and younger adjuncts, take note, because nearly all Older Adjuncts started off like you, and despite your full-time aspirations, many of you will become us.
A “Good” Old Adjunct
Sorry I’ve been away so much; between the direct union activism of the last year and the deaths of both my mother and stepmother, I’ve only been able to put up a smattering of stuff.
I’m back, and I’m here to tell you the state of the adjunct nation is still unsound.
Granted, there have been positive changes afoot in the past year.
Outside of the limited smatterings of “Campus Equity Week” events, the call for, and on many campuses, the realization of a National Adjunct Day of Action marked the first significant effort at a mass labor action dedicated to the cause of Adjuncts.
Additionally, in many states, the improved economy meant increased tax revenues and in turn and uptick in wages and jobs for some adjuncts in some states. In California, a concerted effort to push the Governor and Legislature to address adjunct issues resulted in the designation of 62.5 million dollars towards the “conversion of part-time to full-time positions”. Also in California, an adjunct job security bill giving rehire rights to adjuncts in good standing received serious consideration before being killed in appropriations. In addition, some local districts crafted or increased funding for adjunct office hours and professional development.
Arguably, it was a move in the right direction, and yet…
Adjuncts still account for 75% of Community College and Higher Ed instructors, most have little or no job security, have to pay out of pocket for Obamacare, and make around 50% of what Full-time instructors make for teaching the same number of hours.
In fact, most adjuncts that did see pay increases usually received the same percentage increase as their full-time colleagues, which in fact did not bring the wages closer together, but saw them grow farther apart.
There has been no significant national movement on student loan debt forgiveness for adjuncts, and still significant numbers of adjuncts, in spite of their advanced degrees, years of teaching experience, solid evaluations, and professionalism, live on food stamps, receive government assistance, or are in fact homeless. To make ends meet, many adjuncts are teaching more classes than they should, traveling to multiple campuses in multiple districts, which adversely affects their teaching and makes it harder for students to access them.
According to the Labor Department’s December 2015 jobs report the average US wage was $24.57 an hour. For an adjunct, such as myself, who is only paid for their hours in class, with some token payment given office hours, I get paid for about one hour for every five that I actually work, which means my average of 73.00/hr (and I am paid at the top highest step I can reach in two relatively well-paying districts) is actually around $14.60/hr. I seriously doubt that any adjunct who truly puts the time into their classes that they should actually makes $24.57/hr for the work they actually do, even though they have a higher degree of educational attainment than 90% of the adult working population.
In fact, as I am presently between semesters, I am presently unemployed, as I am every Mid-December through late January or early February, because the Community Colleges I work at don’t want to give me, or any other adjunct for that matter, an actual contract guaranteeing my rehire rights, in spite of 10+ years of consecutively strong evaluations because then they would 1) have to provide me the same benefits as my full-time colleagues, and 2) the same proportional salary.
Meanwhile, the salaries of these institutions’ Chancellors, Presidents, and Vice Presidents are rising at higher rates, coupled with “longevity bonuses” that adjuncts will never see.
Yet, above and beyond all this, in California at least, there was hope that through a concerted effort by a number of different groups, from the main teachers unions in the state, to adjunct advocacy groups, that the governors’ budget this year would designate some specific monies to address adjunctification. What the budget does offer is a .46 COLA for Community Colleges in general along with 2% growth money tied to enrollment, and 200 million dollars for Career Technical education.
Any specific monies for increasing full-time hires, or paid adjunct office hours, or adjunct pay equity?
If you guessed zero, you’d be right.
Now for those of you out there that are inclined to think, “Hey, there’s COLA and growth money, so the inequities of the adjunct situation can still be addressed,” you need to understand what’s more likely to happen, as it has for the past several decades.
The COLA is relatively small, and so this is more than likely going to mean small salary increases across the board for adjuncts and full-timers alike, and unless you’re in a very progressive district with a very progressive full-time membership, the salary increase will be across, the board, meaning no closing of the adjunct/full-time pay equity gap. “Growth money” can be spent any number of ways by a district, and generally speaking, adjunct pay equity ranks low on the list.
To add to the fun, Governor Brown is not going to push for an extension of Proposition 30. There’s no word yet on whether he will oppose the effort of others to get this extension.
So, at least in California the State of the Adjunct Nation is unsound.
What can we do?
Well for one, we can’t take this lying down.
Each adjunct who actually gives a damn about addressing adjunctification needs to write his/her own letter—no more form letters. In addition, these letters need to speak to your personal situation as an adjunct and how being an adjunct and the whole aspect of adjunctification hurts you, your family, your students, and your community.
Brown’s budget also tends to stick it to the poor and is a bit weak on the social justice side, so it’s important that you work together with other student and progressive groups to make your local legislators and ultimately governor Brown know that moving California Forward means helping people out of poverty, not making California safe for 1%ers.
Sign and support voter initiatives calling for an extension of Prop 30, and let your local legislator know that your support for him or her is dependent upon their support for a Prop 30 extension.
And by the way, the National Adjunct Day of Action this year is Wednesday, February 24th. Start talking among your fellow adjuncts or teacher’s union about actions to take.
Or do nothing, because the crap sandwich you’re already eating tastes so good, and maybe in the future you can do without the bread.
A “Good” Adjunct
Originally published on the San Diego Free Press:
By Jim Miller with Ian Duckles
Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Thomas Piketty speak on economic inequality at UCSD. In his talk, Piketty hit on the central themes of his seminal work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century: how our current level of economic inequality is now back to where it was before the “great compression” of the mid-twentieth century when union density, progressive taxation, and educational policies helped produce the high point of the American middle class. He underlined how there is no economic benefit to our current level of excessive inequality and that it is the product not of any “natural” function of the free market economy, but rather several decades of wrong-headed ideology, destructive politics, and bad policy. During the question and answer session following his presentation, a well-heeled older gentleman prefaced his question about why the “lower 50 percent” don’t just vote out the bad policies with, “this audience, we’re all the top 10%,” which drew a few laughs from people, many of whom were likely debt-ridden students, teaching assistants, campus workers, and lecturers whose income doesn’t come close to landing them in that realm. That there may have been a ragtag group of professors and students from lowly City College in attendance was not even in the speaker’s imagination. I couldn’t help but think how UCSD is a perfect microcosm of the macroeconomic inequality that Piketty was talking about and that the class-blind commenter was a perfect manifestation of the very elite ideology that serves to enforce our deep level of inequality. But of course, it’s not just at UCSD where this is an issue but across the entire landscape of American higher education, where what used to be one of the most solid middle-class professions in the country is in the process of being hollowed out, bit by bit. Coincidentally, October 26th through the 29th happens to be Campus Equity Week, a twice-a-year action designed to bring attention to this very problem. Thus, I will leave the rest of my column to Dr. Ian Duckles, my adjunct colleague in the San Diego Community College District, to further illuminate this issue.
Why Campus Equity Week? Monday is the first day of Campus Equity Week 2015, a biannual event first held around the turn of the millennium to draw attention to and raise awareness about issues confronting what are variously known as “adjuncts,” “contingent faculty” or “part-timers.” Defined in the California Educational Code as “part-time, temporary faculty,” adjuncts were originally intended to be just that: supplements to the full-time faculty to teach classes that wouldn’t support a full-time hire, or to help fill out a schedule and cover for sabbaticals and leaves. If, for example, a college wanted to offer courses in real estate, they wouldn’t necessarily hire a realtor full-time (who probably wouldn’t want to take the pay cut to become a full-time instructor), but instead invite a realtor to teach a class or two per semester. In this way, the college could take advantage of the professional expertise of these individuals without forcing them to quit their day jobs, the very thing that qualifies them to teach in the first place. There is clearly a role for this kind of instructor in the community colleges and schools wouldn’t be able to offer such a diverse list of courses and certificates without the assistance of these kinds of professional, part-time instructors. Unfortunately, the role of these “part-time, temporary faculty” has shifted considerably over the last 40-50 years. During the late 60’s to early 70’s the ratio of adjuncts to full-timers was about 20% to 80%. Today, the numbers have almost completely reversed with adjuncts making up about 75% of the faculty and full-timers making up about 25%. This shift in the make-up of higher education faculty is mirrored in all areas of higher education (community colleges, Cal States, UC’s and even many private colleges), and has some significant, negative impacts. In what follows, I want to explore these negative impacts on the adjuncts themselves, students, and full-timers. Beginning with the adjuncts, this emphasis on hiring part-time faculty has significant, negative consequences for those teaching professionals. These consequences are numerous and wide-ranging, but I will highlight just a few. In addition, because there are so many adjuncts, and these adjuncts live such a diversity of lives, it is difficult to speak for everyone. Instead, I will focus on my personal situation as a window into the broader issues confronting part-time college instructors. Perhaps the most significant impact is that even though I have a Ph.D. and over 10 years of teaching experience, I make significantly less than my full-time counterparts for the same work. As a quick example, I interviewed for but did not get a position at Miramar College back in 2008. Had I been hired, today I would be making an annual salary of $80,000-$90,000 for
Here is the schedule for Campus Equity Week 2015 events at Mesa College:
Student journalist Shane O’Connell, writing for The Mesa Press, covers Campus Equity Week: “Campus Equity Week Aims to Open Discussion Over Adjuncts”
I haven’t reblogged anything for quite some time, but this piece is timely and resonates with most of what I have written about the need for tenured faculty to recognize that higher education is near death and the crisis we face is an adjunct crisis because tenured faculty are becoming adjuncts. It is happening not because there isn’t enough funding but because tenured faculty, and adjunct faculty (the greatest number of whom suffer from some kind of complacency, even if it is just that they don’t have the time), are not resisting forcefully enough, a condition which has been ongoing for decades. Will we rise up, achieve true solidarity (beginning with equal pay for adjuncts), and muster the power of the full professoriate, tenured and adjunct?
Pancoast makes a number of cogent points here:
by William Trent Pancoast
It’s about time for working folks to stand up for themselves. Walmart workers haven’t been able to get it done. The old line unions are still reeling from the ongoing attacks begun by Reagan and continued by the right wing.
It looks to me like it should happen on our college campuses, and it should for starters be about adjunct instructors having a chance to make a living wage with benefits. That will require that tenured faculty support adjuncts. Much of the bargaining success of the United Auto Workers resulted from skilled and unskilled (high wage and low wage) belonging to the same union. Tenured faculty, making $50,000-$175,000 annual pay with health care and retirement, and adjuncts, making piecework of roughly $400 to $1000 per credit hour taught with no benefits, must join together. They need to form…
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