NAWD at Mesa College 2017

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.

img_1790

Geoff Johnson, AFT Adjunct rep and vice president of AFT national Adjunct Caucus, starting off the 2017 NAWD/AAD rally at Mesa.

To Have a Real Adjunct Walkout: Not Impossible, but Work Needs to be Done

Good Adjuncts

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.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

National Adjunct “Walkout” Day 3.0 : The Spring of Our Discontent and the Need for a Year-round Adjunct/Contingent Campaign

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.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

In Unity: A Strong, Active Union and Equal Pay for Adjuncts

images

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? What is NAWD/AAD?

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.

What Students Can Do to Help Adjuncts

On last February 25, National Adjunct Walkout Day (NAWD) or whatever you want to call it, adjuncts took various actions across the country to resist the adjunctification of higher education. There were protests, rallies, and even marches. In San Diego, AFT local 1931 staged several rolling rallies with speakers, including the celebrated Joe Berry, and a number of local members as well as students. At the Mesa College rally, I emceed, and Jim Mahler, our local as well as AFTCCC president, spoke, as did the school president, Pam Luster. Several students and professors took the open mic to speak.

Students were shocked, and in general had no idea. The one question, however, they repeated was “What can we do?”
Students, here’s a few things you can do:
1. Be informed. The root is the ideology of neoliberalism, which includes the belief that public austerity is the way the public good should be funded. In other words, not funded. This could be the end of public higher education in America, which, in the modern world of mass information and the potential for mass manipulation of public opnion, would be the end of the American experiment in democracy. Imagine if there were no institution of which thousands of sties exist across the nation offereing the opportunity for knowledge and critical thought. There is no other institutional source of critical thought in America. Adjunctificaton is the first step in ending higher education as a public good.
2. Inform others. Tell your parents, your peers, your neighbors, warn your communities. The neoliberal assault on higher education has a darker side. Take the Koch brothers for example. They are trying to buy higher education outright and then prohibit the free exchange of ideas. Even if we attribute blind faith in ideology to most neoliberal policymakers, there are many more, like the Koch brothers, who want not just to make colleges and universities profit centers, but want to make them neoliberal and right wing propaganda centers. Think about what that means.
3. Take action. Adjuncts and our allies are fighting back. Take various actions, directed towards legislative solutions, as well as spreading the word. Be part of the resistance. When asked to write letters, do it. When rallies happen, show up. Speak. Organize, formally and informally. Join and make change happen.

Truly, we professors and students are in this together. In the most basic sense, we are education. Without either of us, there would not be education. Yet, we are the ones who are being exploited, 75% of faculty, grossly underpaid, many without benefits, who work out of a sense of commitment to the common good, students, whose educational opportunities are being reduced to job preparation and who must assume a life-diminishing, perhaps soul-crushing debt in order to work as an indentured employee.

I don’t know what will be happening across the nation this NAWD. Whatever does (and AFT local 1931 will be holding rally at San Diego Mesa College), it will be a small step only in the struggle. But, unless we can mount a resistance of adjuncts, students, and full-time faculty unified, working together, we will be hard pressed to resist the corporatization of higher education, and the loss by degree of meaningful life that will follow.

 

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

The 2016 State of the Adjunct Nation

Good Adjuncts,

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.

Sincerely,

Geoff Johnson
A “Good” Adjunct

The Way Forward: It Gets Complicated

Good Adjuncts:

Now that we’ve acquired a bit of steam from the events of last week, what we do with it and how we make it sustainable is a big concern, and yes, a complicated one.

As a “national” action, NAWD was able to put out some salient points: 1) that adjuncts are treated shabbily, 2) they are an essential, not auxiliary part of academia, and 3) their ill treatment hurts educational institutions, students, and society as a whole.

But see, the thing is it’s easy to point out problems, and far harder to come up with solutions that can be practically achieved.

For the record, as if this needs to be said, what adjuncts need, first and foremost, is full-time employment, and short of that, the same sort of respect in terms of pay, benefits and opportunities as full-time contract teachers with respect to the amount and kind of work they do.

Anyway, the groups I worked with for NAWD concentrated mostly on the categorical allocation of funds for paid adjunct office hours, equity pay, and more full-time positions.  We did this because, 1) the money was there 2) It was something specific 3) it would immediately improve the situation for adjuncts 4) it can be attained easily.

Our situation was also specific to the California state government, which controls our community colleges’ funding, and generally sets labor policy.

We also pursued it because we knew we could get buy-in from a coalition of groups like students, full-time faculty, governing board members and legislators, and even some administrators.

The big challenge here, and the mountain yet before us, is Governor Brown, but more so an outdated philosophy regarding “local” control.  To be brief, this philosophy is that local districts inherently have a better idea of how money should be spent and so therefore the state should effectively pass on the pots of money exercising as little control as possible as to how this money should be spent.  Well, being that this money is largely controlled by local administrators and boards, this has meant that much of this money has gone to places they deem most important, and this has often been at the expense of instruction.

It should be no surprise that administrative services and the money paid to administrators has more or less exploded in relation to the money put towards instruction, nor should it be a surprise that these groups, whether intentionally or no have come to regard adjunct labor as both expendable and exploitable.  As long as administrator’s hands are not categorically forced to deal with instruction properly, school budgets will always be balanced on the backs of adjuncts.

There is of course, two other, more sinister forces at work–political posturing and straight up corruption.

First, in case many of you haven’t figured it out, more often than not, the people who run to be on school boards are not doing simply out of the kindness of their hearts, or because they have a deep commitment to education.  Now by saying this, I’m aware there are true public servants out there and I feel that lately I’ve been working with a few, but let’s be real. Many governing board members are simply filling their resumes for higher office, or are burnishing their public image either for business, or to simply self-aggrandize.  These are people who are often ready to buy into the sound-bite culture of incompetent culture-corrupting teachers, whiny unions, bloated budgets, wasteful spending, etc.  These people see teachers as public servants, and I mean in the Downton Abbey sense of the word servant.

By contrast, they are big on promoting high-profile projects that at times will be more flash than substance, and love creating more and more of those links between the institution and the almighty business community.  This will sometimes lead to things like thousands of dollars being spent on sending a select group of students to a swanky leadership conference while the adjunct office will go for a week or two without a 120 dollar toner cartridge because we (the wasteful adjuncts) need to conserve resources–just put the student handouts up on blackboard, nevermind whether some of your more indigent students can actually afford to download it.

By the way, I’m not anti-business, and community colleges should have such relationships, but I teach World Religions, so you can imagine why I might have a little problem when a curriculum’s worth is evaluated in terms of its strict utilitarian value.

Then of course, there’s the straight up corruption.  Anybody ever notice how local construction companies and certain academic vendors take a very strong interest in local school board elections?  Ever wonder how these groups, many of whom who are fiscally conservative and actually small government, can suddenly get  behind large bond measures?  Did you really think it was because these groups really have a soft spot for the work you do?

I’ll assume that, being as I like to think of my readers as smart, that you would give a big “NO” as an answer to the last question.  One of the latest trends in academia is the building of Wellness Centers on college campuses with the idea that they be open to the general public, and hey, if you can get a private company to run the the site, even better.  Better yet is to charge higher prices than local privately-owned fitness centers operations to boot, then to pitch the whole project as a future revenue stream for the college.

Meanwhile, as for the rotting classroom with rat infestations and lack of adjunct office space?  Well, we all have to make do, you know, and perhaps we can address that in the next bond measure…provided the public will go along with it.

Now bond funds are never used for instruction, but if bond funds are not being directed towards the direct support of instruction, what do you suppose is going to happen to the monies that are with the “stellar” track record up above?

What this all means is that more than just getting a few categorical items in a budget, there has to be a fundamental change in philosophy as to how community colleges and academic institutions are managed, and it needs to come from the top down and with an eye on both transparency and equity.

…And it’s going to take some courage, particularly on the part of the governor of California, to step up and actually starting calling some specific shots and setting priorities rather than waving his hands and telling someone else to do it, or wait for some initiative mandate from the voters, particularly when the initiative process is largely dominated by private big money.

The question California adjuncts and their supporters should be asking themselves now is, how to we get the governor to see what needs to be done?

By the way, there is also talk of a adjunct job security bill as well, and while it faces the same problem of local control, it represents a another can of worms which is perhaps even more complicated and divisive within adjunct ranks.

That will be the subject of my next entry.

Till then, be strong and keep up the good fight good adjuncts.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct