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 Mesa Press Continues Its Coverage of the Adjunct Crisis

Linda Nguyen covers NAWD for The Mesa Press: http://www.mesapress.com/staff/2015/03/10/national-adjunct-action-day/

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

NAWD Action Item # 10: Wake Up! You’re Still an Adjunct!

Good Adjuncts,

Yeah, I know it doesn’t sound as well the morning after, but now it’s time to drink that bitter cup of coffee, or in my case a 16 oz. can of Rockstar, and get on with it.

First, and I cannot stress this enough NAWD, NADA, or NAAD who whatever you want to call it cannot die.

This is what I’m going to do over the next few days.  I’m going to every site on the blogroll that has a comments page, and I’m telling that henceforth, every fourth Wednesday in February should be declared National Adjunct Day of Action, or well…whatever.

We need to institutionalize this date while it is fresh in mind.

Don’t simply make it the date of 2/25.  Why not?  Because NADA needs to be a day of campus-related action, and needs to take place on campuses, and at times when campus traffic is at its highest–right square in the middle of the week.

We do these actions to empower ourselves and to inform those most directly affect by our presence, exploitation, or again whatever you want to call it–our students.

How many are you going to reach on a Saturday or Sunday rally?  Yeah, you know…

And by the way, we need to do this now, before the various organizations at large get together and tussle with the date, and lose the whole point in their turbidity.

The next thing you need to do, well, I’m going to get into that tomorrow, but now I’ve got Humanities quizzes to grade, because after all, besides being a noise maker and general pain in the ass, I’m a teacher, and yes…

I’m still an Adjunct

Geoff

A Good Adjunct

My Opening Speech at the Southwestern Rally

Let’s hear it for the students here today.

Let’s hear it for the full-time faculty here today.

Let’s hear it for the administrators here today.

Let’s hear it for the governing board members here today.

Let’s hear it for the staff here today.

Let’s hear it for the adjuncts here today.

You know, nothing in my wildest dreams told me 20, 10, or even five years ago that I would be here doing this today.

And I have mixed feelings about it.  Thinking back on my life, I never saw myself as what I have become-an adjunct instructor.  From my early 20’s, I knew I wanted to teach in higher ed., and I knew that above all things I wanted to be a teacher.

I still love being a teacher, and I love even teaching at multiple schools, but I don’t love being an adjunct.

For me at times, being an adjunct has meant waiting desperately each semester for a class assignment, having a car or a Trader Joe’s bag for an office, buying clothes from thrift shops and off Craig’s List, buying food for my kid through the WIC program, or sometimes even having to stand outside a Social Services Clinic cradling my sick child in my arms because I couldn’t afford insurance.

For me, being an adjunct at times means having to tear away from the time I can devote to a student, being bound to somewhere else, where students, often just as needy will also be denied access at times.

Being an adjunct also means being in an ever-growing class of transient instructors, who when the rare full-time position comes open, will join in the competition for the job like wild dogs fighting for table scraps, with perhaps one or two people being lucky enough to win the lottery of full-time job out of up to 230 applicants.

Being an adjunct means standing beside my full-time colleagues, unable to fully take part in tasks like program review, or fully understand department culture, or the big picture, because I am wed to my other campuses, and just as much as the car to which I drive to them.

And being an adjunct has meant making half as much as a full-time colleague of the same experience teaching a 17 hour load while my colleague is only required to do 15.

No, I don’t love being an adjunct, but I’m happy to be here today.

Five years ago, when in the midst of the great recession, and adjuncts were faced with the loss of classes coupled with a 5% pay cut after years of no raises, it wasn’t just that I despaired of being an adjunct, but of the idea that nothing would change.

What I mean by this is that I believed that when economic times got better, and if I survived the recession still employed as teacher, my pay and perhaps some benefits would get slightly better, but that the basic dynamic of living at marginal wages, with marginal job security, and a minimal chance of full-time employment would continue.

Now, maybe it’s not so much that I don’t believe that it could still be the case, but it’s that I’m sick and tired of not speaking out, that I’m happy, especially when I see the opportunity for California to truly begin addressing the “Adjunct Condition”.

This is the “adjunct condition”:

Nationwide, approximately 75 % of college instructors are adjuncts, with only 25% being full-timers.  On many campuses the majority of the curriculum is taught by adjuncts.  Generally these instructors are only paid for classroom hours, not for prepping, grading, researching, professional development, committee work, etc., which often represent anywhere from 60-80% of one’s job.

The “adjunct condition” is also students dealing with a loss of access to their teachers, who will teacher higher than full-time loads at multiple campuses.

Further, it is in some cases, the literal collapse or hollowing out of academic departments, with some departments, while having fully qualified adjuncts more than capable of teaching full-time classes, possessing no full-time faculty.

It is also the ever-revolving door of adjuncts being hired and fired from one place to work at another, which allows for little building of solid departmental goals or consensus.

The “adjunct condition” clearly hurts adjuncts, but it also hurts students.  Student completion rates are declining, and research has established that one of the main causes is the lack of access that students have with their instructors who, as national statistics show, are more often than not adjuncts.

Further, adjuncts are disproportionately used in lower level developing skills and first-year college classes, where often student access to teachers is most needed, yet least provided.

Moreover, the “adjunct condition” hurts the community, as declining completion rates mean fewer trained workers to take jobs that provide growth and advancement, and at the same time, increase a community’s tax base to pay for anything from better parks and schools, to simply better roads.  Second, those students who fail to complete the skills needed for good jobs will often come to need public assistance, or run a higher risk of incarceration, and clearly take more from the community than they are giving back.

If hearing all this makes you angry, then welcome to what an adjunct both feels and understands.

It is the nature of our society to look for villains. Why surely, there must be some clear cause or menace which has perpetrated this wrong.

The fact of the matter is that everyone bears some blame.

Taxpayers for years insisted on lower taxes and stronger law enforcement.  They got what they wanted, or well, sort of—less money for schools and more money for prisons.

Administrators, anxious to offer as many classes as they could, yet keep their budgets in check, increasingly hired adjuncts because they were a lot cheaper and more er. . . flexible.  i.e., easy to get rid of.

Legislators, even when handed electoral mandates like 75% of classes being taught by full-timers, simply chose to, and still choose to waive the law.

Full-timers, often pressed by the own work needs, including the increasing bureaucratic pressures of SLO’s, program review, curriculum development, and various committee work simply tried to keep up with their work.

Adjuncts, willingly accepted to teach classes aware of the poor job security and benefits, most often with the delusion that simply a years of hard work would alone lead them to full-time jobs which either never materialized, or were simply too competitive for all but a lucky few.

But you know what, today is not about anger, or at least not finger-pointing.  It’s about solutions.

In 2012, California passed Proposition 30, which brought needed funds to education, yet despite its passage, much of the debt that California had accrued during the recession had to be addressed, and so in 2013 and 2014, monies to simply save public education were spent.

It is now 2015, the money is there in the budget to affect real change, and change is long overdue.

Change for what you ask?

First let’s give students better access to their teachers.  If after all, schools are all about students, shouldn’t students be better able to access teachers outside the classroom?

It has been estimated that 30 million dollars, not additionally spent, but simply reallocated and specifically targeted to  paid adjunct office hours, could do part of that.

What might better help would be to make pay between adjuncts and full-timers more equal.  This, coupled with office hours will incline adjuncts to work at fewer campuses, and to have the time to not only better consult with students, but to do more thorough prepping, quicker grading turnarounds, and connect better with their campuses.

50 million dollars in adjunct pay parity, again not additionally spent, but simply categorically directed, would bring adjuncts.

Finally, what is most needed, is simply more full-timers.  Many if not most adjuncts, are in fact full-time teachers who cobble together multiple part-time jobs to live tenuously and teach transiently.  If California public really wants to have the best teachers, it should make it possible for the largest numbers of them to singularly devote their energies to one educational institution.

100 million dollars specifically towards the “conversion” (the governor’s office’s own words) of part-time to full-time teachers would change the present part-time to full-time ratio from 75% adjunct and 25% full-time, to 58% Part-time and 42% Full-time.

All told this represents a total of 180 million dollars, not additionally spent, but redirected to meet these needs.

It would be dishonest to say that the categorical allocation of 180 million dollars to address adjunctification would solve adjunctification in and of itself, but it would be a good first step.

There is much to suggest California’s legislature is on board with this, but not Governor Brown, who would rather give it in lump sums to various districts to leave administrators and governing boards to redirect to pretty much everything else but the above three items.

Ironically, Governor Brown is pushing for a high-speed rail project costing tens of billions of dollars, and recently pushed a water bond for billions of dollars.

This is because, as the Governor asserts, he is working towards a long lasting legacy.

What Governor Brown needs to realize is that one’s legacy resides not in physical infrastructure, but in human capital and potential.  One’s legacy resides in the hearts and minds of those that follow you.

The Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu said that the greatest leaders are those who let the people claim success as their own.  Think of how many future students would be able to speak of their own success if they had increased access to a teacher who is both financially stable and feels respected.

My good adjuncts, and you are good for the work and struggle you have endured, my fellow faculty, administrators, governing board members, and staff, who work with us in the common endeavor to abate ignorance and promote potential, and finally, yet first of all, dear students, we need to make the Governor see what’s right, and we need to do it now, for it will not just affect Governor Brown’s legacy, but the ones that we leave for those who follow.

NAWD Impressions Part II: The Rally at Southwestern

Good Adjuncts,

The rally at Southwestern was by any measure a resounding success.  We had hundreds of attendees, and over an hour into the rally (we ended up going over by more than a half hour), there were still over 100 people in attendance (and I don’t mean walk bys).  We signed so many letters (200+), that we actually ran out.

What was perhaps the most astonishing and moving thing was the parade of adjunct after adjunct who spoke so powerfully about their situation, their love of teaching, and the wrongs of adjunctification.  Notably, the tone was consistently positive.

It was the largest rally that Southwestern has seen in memory.

As I told the attendees when I closed the rally, “This rally is only the first page in a very long novel about social justice which will hopefully have a happy ending.  It is now upon all of us to be good authors.”

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

NAWD Impressions: A Report From the Rally at San Diego Mesa College

NAWD at Mesa College was a consciousness raising event. 150 or so (maybe 200) students and professors showed up on a sunny San Diego day, at possibly the warmest location on campus, at noon, in direct sunlight, to hear and speak about the adjunct crisis in higher education. I emceed. Keynote speaker Jim Mahler, president of AFT local 1931 and of CFT CCC, outlined the general parameters of the adjunct crisis and made an appeal to support the AFT’s current campaign to fund unfunded budget items in the governor’s budget proposal that would increase adjunct pay (not that much, but might as well get it if we can) and create more full-time positions. Even the college president, Pam Luster, spoke. Most  importantly, students and adjuncts spoke.

At the open mic, adjuncts shared stories of exploitation and made statements of love for the profession. We made confessions. We had a 33 year veteran and a rookie, with one year professing under her belt, both speak out. Several adjuncts spoke of poverty conditions, of years of commitment, of the meaningful life of teaching. And one or two tenured professors spoke, one quite powerfully pointing out that getting on the tenure-track is sheer luck and that his wife, an adjunct, makes 1/3 what he does for the same work. But Students were amazing. Really, more than anything else, this event raised the consciousness of the dozen or more students who spoke about their favorite adjunct professors, about their shock at the conditions of exploitation their favorites lived in, about their support for equal pay for adjuncts and for reversing adjunctification. From the mic and from the crowd, students called out “how can we help?”

This moment of national consciousness raising, of media coverage from NPR and Democracy Now!, reflected at Mesa today in the engagement with students, is a moment in which we should act. We can inform students and marshall a force that has effected long-reaching change. Adjunct working conditions are student learning conditions: the adjunct crisis is a student crisis.

NAWD in San Diego was a success. Now the task will be to keep this energy alive and use it to make radical change.  The question is: how do we organize students?

The revolution has  begun. Long live the revolution!

NAWD Action Item: Show This to Your Students

Use this video of Stacy Patton, one of the few journalists covering one of the most important stories of our time, the adjunctification of higher education, as part of your NAWD actions. Show it to students. Show it to other faculty (especially, perhaps, tenured ones). Patton describes what amounts to a lost generation of scholars, “stuck” because they have had the great misfortune of having studied and committed to serving society at a time when the ideology of capitalist exploitation was ascendent.

Patton’s brief comments expose the human cost of adjunctification. The implementation of the corporate model in higher eduction has been happening for a couple of generations. That’s hundreds of thousands of scholar-teachers whose contributions to society have been marginalized and stifled by exploitive and impoverishing labor conditions. Of course, the adjunctification of higher education is just part of the creation of precariat labor across society.

It is important that we communicate to students how they, like us, are caught in the precarious workforce bind. Many of us have student loans we can’t pay because of low wages; likewise, our students are headed this way as well. It does not have to be so. We need to radicalize students as well as ourselves, to resist the neoliberal assault on higher education.

“What is a an Adjunct?” has been Edited

Good Adjuncts,

Thank you for coming to the blog. I know many of have read or downloaded the “What is an Adjunct?” piece.  When I initially posted the piece, I thought I had saved some changes to obvious errors in the text, so what many of you may have seen is a text with more than a few glaring grammatical and missing word errors.  In effect, I was a “bad” adjunct.  I have since edited to the document.  If you haven’t read it yet, check it out and give it to your students.

Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow with another action item.

By the way, I’d love to get some of your ideas good adjuncts.  Post them in the comments, or if you want, you can email me at mixinminao@gmail.com, and we’ll post it as a main article.  We want contributors!

Keep strong and let’s make people pay attention on February 25th.

 

Geoff Johnson

A “good” adjunct

An Adjunct Poem

Good Adjuncts,

This is by my colleague at Southwestern College Erin Vrugic:

 

          A 7 Letter Word

                       A

                       Dirty seven letter word

                    unJustly describing

                      oUr Walmartification

    of AmericaN higher education, Faculty

                     ACross the United States.

                      Together we stand,

                    together we rise

                    to support equal labor rights

                    for all.

You’re so right Erin.

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct

http://erinbrownvrugic.weebly.com/