Campus Equity Week–Forward, March!

cropped-CEW2015FAV-21It’s Friday, and we’re coming to the end of Campus Equity Week. That doesn’t mean it’s over though.  While many of us have different visions of how to achieve our goals and different timetables for planning and executing collective actions, we all agree that the only way forward is to keep the momentum going.  Campus Equity Week will continue as a Campaign for Campus Equity.

We plan to maintain the web site as a hub for information and ideas,  so keep posting events that you are planning. Whether upcoming events include walkouts or teach-ins, whether you are looking for ideas or sharing them — we hope the site will continue to be a catalyst as well as an archive for the movement.

Speaking of archives, the Center for the Study of Academic Labor will be a repository for CEW history. This will preserve the efforts and ideas of countless activists and allow us to continue thanking them even on days that aren’t Thursdays.

Here are some immediate suggestions for post-CEW actions:

  • If you haven’t taken the Back-to-School survey, do it now! It will only remain open til noon eastern time today.
  • Read about the four strategies on debt, data, FLSA, and unemployment put forward at the congressional briefing on Monday:   View the virtual packet and follow up with your elected representatives to let them know your stories and what you want them to do to transform the contingent academic employment system.  Send them a link to the packet to make sure they have the materials.  And then  let us know that you contacted them and what their response was!
  • You’ve made all those snarky, badass signs and leaflets; now use them for an informational picket at the next open house for your college. Tell prospective students what they’re getting into wherever they apply.  Or take the signs to the next Board of Trustees meeting.
  • Hold a screening of Professors in Poverty and ConJob: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Labor for student activism groups on campus and start making partnerships with them. Other films to show include  Teachers on Wheels, Freeway FliersDegrees of Shame, and A Simple Matter of Justice. 
  • Hold a brown bag lunch for adjuncts and start organizing.
  • Join your union if you’ve got one, and get involved.

Come on in! The water’s fine! Things are heating up all over as #Badmin tries to dismantle the university to remake it in the unholy image of Big Business. Faculty are striking, professional organizations are awaking from their slumbers, students are shrugging off the shackles of their debt. The revolution is coming. Be a part of it.

cew halloween



Campus Equity Week–Thursday Say “Thank You”

Thursday is Thanksday. Say thanks to the people you know who are out there in the trenches organizing and trying to make working and living conditions better for all of us. No matter how much or how little we’re able to do, it’s our collective efforts that are going to win this fight in the end. But it’s a hard fight and, sometimes, a little thanks can make the difference between keeping on and giving up in despair. So say thanks.

Debra Jenks, VP of Adjuncts, AFT Local 1839, New Jersey City University

Debra Jenks, VP of Adjuncts, AFT Local 1839, New Jersey City University

I have a lot of people to thank, in addition to the fantastic folks I work with who are part of the NFM board and foundation, and who are just the newest of my activist brothers and sisters in arms. To start, I want to thank the two tireless women at my own local at NJCU, AFT 1839, who mentored me when I first joined the union and who continue to do so. At right is artist Debra Jenks, our VP for Adjuncts, who’s a driving force behind much of our activism and always has fantastic ideas. She’s fearless and forthright, as is Niloofar Mina, the first active adjunct I met at NJCU. Niloofar is a past Adjunct VP and has held many other union offices. She’s now on our negotiating team for local and state negotiations and I would not want to face her across that table.


Teresa Mack-Piccone, kick ass organizer of adjuncts and nurses.

I’d also like to thank T.L. Mack-Piccone, who started out as a brilliant Ph.D. in English, moved out of the adjunct rat race to organize adjuncts in upstate New York and is now organizing nurses in California. The long conversations with her on the phone and on Facebook were the building blocks for my radicalization, and the start of a great friendship. She cooks like an angel, swears like a sailor, and is the holy terror of bosses (always said in italics) everywhere.

Others to whom I owe shout-outs and thanks for their inspiration and courage, in no particular order: Miranda Merklein, Tiffany Kraft, Kat Jacobsen, Robert Craig Baum, Joe Fruscione, Bri Bolin, and MG Gainer (who’ve taught me about bad-assery); Caprice Lawless (who woke me up); and Lakey Love and Ralph Benton Wilson IV for their brilliant UnKoching work; and all the amazing union women I met at the 2013 Northeast UALE Summer School.

If I’ve forgotten anyone, please forgive me. And make sure you thank the folks who’ve inspired you, too.

–Lee Kottner

P.S. OMG, I forgot Lydia Field Snow! Musician, creative organizer, disrupter, and scourge of #Badmin. How could I? Good luck with your panel at the Economic Inequality Initiative Roundtable.

Campus Equity Week–Wednesday Wear Red

ScarletA-icon-small…or a big fat Scarlet A to symbolize our pariah status on campus. Adjuncts are the red-head stepchildren, higher education’s shameful secret, the unholy spawn of business and education—whoa, okay, maybe that’s taking it a little too far. If so, though, not by much. But instead of skulking in the shadows as you to-and-fro, make yourself visible to your students, to administration (so they’ll get a very clear reminder of just how many of us there are), to your tenured colleagues. Make your campus a sea of red. Be bloody minded (not literally, please). We’re not academe’s Hester Prynne, we’re Margaret Mary Vojtko, Jason Martin, Danny Ledonne, Divya Nair, Dave Heller, and oh so many more. Ditch the shame. Adjunct and proud!


And don’t forget your daily dose of Doonesbury’s take on the Adjunct life.


Campus Equity Week–Tuesday is Tweet/Teach-In Day

cropped-CEW2015FAV-21If you’re Tweeting today, use the hashtags #CEW2015 and/or #CampusEquityWk. Tweet about your work conditions, about the hypocrisy of selling our students education as a way to get ahead. Tweet your outrage. Tweet solutions. Tweet support for your fellow adjuncts. Tweet information. Here’s a few Tweets to get you started:

  1. Contingent and Full-Time Faculty are the yin and yang of college. Let’s work together to make a whole education for students. #CEW 2015  (135 characters)
  2. Contingent and Full-Time Faculty: Two halves of the whole educational experience. Treat & pay us equitably. #CEW 2015 (117 characters)
  3. Contingent and Full-Time Faculty: allies in giving students the best education we can. Treat & pay us equitably. #CEW2015 (121 characters)
  4. A Starbucks on campus won’t get students a job; fairly treated faculty will. Pay contingent faculty a living wage. #CEW2015 (123 characters)
  5. Future and current student success doesn’t depend on a climbing wall or a new gym. It depends on secure, equitably paid faculty. #CEW2015 (137 characters)
  6. Want creative, innovate, critically thinking students who can communicate clearly? Pay contingent faculty a living wage. #CEW2015 (129 characters)

If you’re not a tweeting type of person, you can also use the day to do a little consciousness raising with your class or your colleagues. If you’re at a loss about what to say, here are some talking points that I and others have used with the media and with students. And here you’ll find the letter I write to my students about being contingent at the beginning of every semester as part of their syllabus. Feel free to copy and adapt it.

Adjunct Conditions Talking Points

  1. Since 1975, full-time faculty hires have increased only 23% while part- and full-time adjunct hires have increased 286% and 259% respectively. Fewer full-time tenured faculty means faculty overloaded with administrative work and unable to give students the attention they deserve.
  2. By 2011, part-time adjunct hires comprised 51.4% of faculty. Full-time tenured and tenure track employment has shrunk to represent only 20.6 and 8.6% respectively. Adjunct hires, full & part-time, comprise closer to 75% of faculty in 2014 at both public and private institutions. The drastic increase in part-time faculty means fewer office hours available for student counseling and mentoring relationships.
  3. Adjunct hires are now teaching approximately 60% of classes and 100% of them at some institutions, where they are also the only faculty. Contingent hiring conditions hinder pedagogical innovation because of time constraints and because adjunct faculty are almost never allowed on curriculum committees.
  4. Average remuneration for a class is $2700. Paid for only hours in class, not prep, grading, meeting with students, which takes far longer than classtime. Average income is $25,000–about what WalMart workers make at minimum wage. Only covers 8 months of the year. If we cannot pay the most highly educated among us fairly, how can we sell the need for and benefits of education to anyone?
  5. Most adjuncts have no health, retirement, or other benefits and cannot afford to “retire” from teaching. Ever. The lack of sabbatical time also hinders professional development and research, which hurts students as well, if educators cannot stay current in their fields.
  6. Part-time adjuncts teach as many as 6-8 classes at multiple institutions to make ends meet. Hours spent on the road could be better spent with students, prep, research.
  7. Contingency erodes or eliminates academic freedom, professional development, research opportunities. While critics are calling for more public engagement by academics, administrative structure makes it impossible.
  8. Market forces did not create this situation. It was a deliberate decision by administration to increase the number of graduate degrees offered while decreasing the number of tenure track jobs available. (Ex.: the sharp rise in MFA programs).
  9. Colleges don’t always spend their money wisely, but cutting back on instructional budget  and increasing the number of administrators is a reckless response.
  10. “If we can afford such a massive increase in professional staff , as well as such an increase in executives whose salaries have been escalating very dramatically [an increase of 141% in full-time executives and 369% in full-time non-faculty professional staff between 1975 and 2011], the sharp decrease in the percentage of all instructional faculty who are tenured or on tenure tracks is a matter of a dramatic shift in priorities—in the conception of the university. Clearly, our colleges and universities are no longer places where the primary focus is on instruction. Instead, they are places where the primary goal is to entrench and to expand administrative bureaucracies.” (“In an Era of Increasing Fiscal Constraints, an Inexplicable Shift in Hiring Patterns in Higher Education”  – by Martin Kich  April 21, 2014)

And you can show your students this Doonesbury cartoon. Remember we’ve got a series of six, so keep checking back here for the links. And there are more resources at the Campus Equity Week page.

Go forth and speak up!

Welcome to Campus Equity Week 2015!

We’re starting off this year’s Campus Equity Week with both a Congressional briefing in DC (more on this later) and the premiere of a movie about … US! made by Brave New Films. Watch it here:

But that’s not all. During the week, we’re urging all of you to plan actions at your campuses. Teach, Tweet, wear red, speak up, tell your stories creatively, make your work visible and keep doing so. So many of us are organizing, rising up and speaking out that it actually looks like some kind of MOVEMENT! Let’s keep the momentum.  Here are some suggestions:

Campus Equity Week 2015Flier

And tell us what you’re doing by submitting your projects and photos here.

P.S. Thanks to our sponsors and partners, Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, National Education Association, Pennsylvania State Education Association, Service Employees International Union, United University Professions, and Wisconsin Education Association Council—and all of our brave and outspoken activists.

Hall of Shame: What happens when adjuncts don’t get paid–New Jersey City University

WalSmart U 3-RCBThis Friday, no one at New Jersey City University, in Jersey City, NJ, got paid.

None of the employees—staff or faculty—are quite sure what happened, beyond a “glitch” at the university’s new bank, Bank of America (BOA), but as of Saturday morning, Oct. 24th, funds had been deposited only to the accounts of other BOA customers and some Chase customers. Others were showing deposits pending for Monday, 10/26, and others nothing pending at all. Vague notices were sent out from HR and Payroll but not to everyone, because adjuncts are not generally included on the staff lists. There was no official statement from administration, no apologies, no reassurance that our insufficient funds penalties or late fees would be reimbursed. Nothing.

To be fair, this happens from time to time at any workplace, but it’s often a sign of fiscal insecurity and/or bad management, and unless the company is really in financial trouble, administration usually falls all over itself to let employees know what’s going on. That kind of transparency costs nothing and earns a great deal of good will. Not talking earns just the opposite because it gives the impression that employees don’t matter, that administration does not care about their lives outside the company, or that something shady is going on.

And that’s pretty much the case with most higher ed administration—and apparently of the administration of President Sue Henderson at NJCU.

It’s never good to be missing a paycheck, but when you’re an adjunct, it can have some really dire consequences, especially since we don’t get paid between semesters or over the summer unless we have a class. Most of us, for instance, do not have the same cushions in our bank accounts that fully employed and benefitted instructors do. Many of us, especially those without partners, are living paycheck to paycheck and are down to a few meagre dollars and cents by the time payday rolls around.

Eastern Michigan University changed their payroll schedule this year, leaving adjuncts unpaid until the end of September, without telling them beforehand. In response, adjuncts launched a collective action to alert students and the university community to the consequences of this unilateral decision. Part of that action was a “Wheel of Misfortune” that students could spin to see what it means to adjuncts to not get paid. Below is something like that, something administration needs to pay more attention to, and students need to know about, and all faculty need to rally behind for Campus Equity Week.

Wheel of Misfortune

–Lee Kottner (Full disclosure: I’m an adjunct instructor and tutor at the Writing Center at NJCU)