Chop from the Top

by Lydia Field Snow

Recently I’ve been talking to a fellow adjunct organizer, Andy Davis in California, who teaches at Cal Poly Pomona in the Interdisciplinary General Education program. He and I are involved in collaborating with a group of artist activists designing projects that capitalize on the power of the arts to change minds and hearts for Campus Equity Week 2017. Its theme captures our need to both conceal and reveal our complex identities as members of the precarious academic workforce: mAsk4campusEquity.

Andy and I are heading up the Historical Re-enactment and Other Performance/Performing Arts and we have been have been brainstorming 2-3 hours a week about the connection that Halloween in 2017 will also be the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting his revolutionary 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. It was a campus protest because Luther was teaching at the University of Wittenberg as an “ordinary lecturer” and posting his theses on the door of the cathedral was a standard method of engaging in a scholarly debate. As Andy has so eloquently stated, “There are distinct parallels between the corruptions that were taking place in Luther’s time and what is taking place today. Both systems supported an increasingly remote administrative elite through the exploitation of true believers.”

Well, last week I was particularly down when he called. Not only did my mother in law pass away at 93 after a long struggle that involved my husband bearing the weight of all of her financial and healthcare decisions from long distance, we also as a family lost our dear beagle after 13 years. The previous week I deduced, after 6 years of consistent summer work, that I was not going to be invited back to my summer job as camp counselor at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, this on top of having 20% of my remaining adjunct salary cut through the end of the semester through Northeastern Illinois University’s “Furlough Plan.”

Then I was emailed by my union that there was going to be a press conference where the students were going to talk about their student jobs being cut over the break and how Governor Rauner’s budget fiasco was harming Northeastern Illinois University’s students because of the mandatory furlough of 1,100 faculty and staff. They implored as many faculty to show up as possible. At first I was furious  at the college’s administration. Even in my sad state, it doesn’t take a whole lot of intellect to see that the ones being hurt by the pay cut are the faculty and staff. Let’s stop calling it a furlough because, unlike last year when the union was able to bargain that we actually take those furlough days, the administration made the unilateral choice to shut down over Spring Break. So what difference does that make if you’re still expected to teach at the same time for the same number of students? Adding insult to injury, the union thinks the press is more concerned about the students losing their jobs for a week and being hired back again than they are about part-time faculty who won’t be able to feed their families, or about staff who won’t be able to afford to pay their rent, heat, and electricity bills?

Anyway, Andy and I talked and he helped me make sense out of it. “Well of course that’s crazy. What can you do that will make adjuncts more visible?” I suggested, “How about make a sign that says Chop from the Top?” And he said, “Chop from the top, don’t kill the tree!” So in my grief-stricken state I went to Office Depot and bought a big piece of poster board and some enormous sharpies. I am just about the least artistically inclined person visually, but that night I did my best to create my sign, changing it to “Chop from the top, not from the Tree,”—(I think upside down and I’m not even sure it makes sense, but artists have that prerogative.)—I found photos of the Tree of Life, which was my mother-in-law’s favorite sculpture, on the internet; she had one in the living room that I often stared at over dinner, and I brought it in under my arm the next morning before the demonstration, hiding it behind my cabinet in my shared office space.

When I got to the demonstration, there were few people there and it was cold, and I had forgotten my gloves. I held up my sign on the steps of the Classroom Building and several students came up to me and smiled, “Oh I love that sign! Thanks so much for coming.” My fellow union members looked away in shock and horror when they saw me and my sign and I just kept thinking, Andy thinks it’s ok; I am just going to hang out here with my sign. Photographers came up to me later and photographed me. I held it up for over an hour despite a frozen shoulder injury I’ve been coping with due to grading papers for 2 years now. I have no idea how I did it.

And then the students started speaking. I can’t tell you how moving it was to hear the Northeastern students speaking about what our university means to them. And they didn’t stop with just the ability to go to college and be the first one in their family to graduate, or the undocumented immigrants that bravely graduate and have found work here in Chicago, but also talked about the other challenges they face. Working and going to school and taking care of sick family members, not having transportation and getting to work or school late. The mental health issues they face dealing with all of this stress. One young man bravely said, “I am here to tell you I suffer from depression, and yes, I am going to graduate and it’s important to talk about mental illness. Governor Rauner is not only hurting public higher education but social services for the mentally ill. We are fighting for our right to not only get educated, but to live, to be in community and support one another. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the social worker that supported me and convinced me to apply to college.”

Soon I was standing there with my enormous sign and tears were streaming down my face. These are my students and this is why I am here after 11 years as an adjunct. It was so powerful to hear the strength in their voices, the tremendous hope they have for the future. It was like I was staring into the face of love and yet standing outside it at the same time. Of course Andy and I had talked about the definition of the word adjunct the day before: “a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part.” Everyone else was hugging each other, the union members were passing out fliers that only spoke about Rauner and the budget impasse, not about the impending 20% pay cut for their members. But there was Andy’s voice in my ear, Luther wanted to debate the administration. He didn’t give up. We need to be heard. And in the end I learned something that day. I learned that the students’ voices are more powerful. They are more powerful because they are our future. But it’s important to talk truthfully about things too. Not every move has to be about publicity or gaining the public’s approval, or getting attention on Twitter. It’s important to be visible as adjuncts and to not let them bury us under the rug as “inconsequential.” We are the face of higher education. We are the reason these beautiful students are graduating because we teach most of the classes and we are the ones who are facing so many similar battles economically and psychologically. When we finally do combine forces we will be unstoppable.

 

 

 

 

 

mAsk4campusEquity 2017

Campus Equity Week October 26-30, 2015

Campus Equity Week

Do you find yourself missing national Campus Equity Week celebrations this year?

Looking ahead to October of 2017, a grassroots group of contingent artist-activists scattered across the U.S. have been working under the auspices of New Faculty Majority for several months to design a theme that captures our need to both conceal and reveal our complex identities as members of the precarious academic workforce: mAsk4campusEquity.

We are exploring three basic customizable options for unified Campus Equity messaging and activities in 2017 that capitalize on the change-making power of art:

  1. Historical re-enactment of creative social justice protests;
  2. Other modes of performance art such as mock funerals, carnival processions, etc;
  3. Exhibits that illustrate the diversity of our workforce and the issues of contingent employment.

Over the next few months, we hope to

  • build a large network of artist-activists and supporters;
  • partner with a number of organizations related to the arts;
  • engage participants with expertise in various art media from music and performance to photography, sculpture, graphic arts and new media, to flesh out plans for local actions that will resonate across the country.

If you want to join our campaign on the ground floor, please contact Anne Wiegard at anne.wiegard@newfacultymajority.info.

Andy Davis
Natalie Barnes
Jessica Lawless
Kat Jacobsen
Rita Lilly
Jennie Shanker
Lydia Snow
Anne Wiegard

The Year in Adjuncts

National Adjunct Walkout Day protesterThe Chronicle, inexplicably, has totally ignored adjuncts in its list of influential movers and shakers for 2015. But as Henry Giroux tells us,

The actions of teachers, workers, student protesters, and others have been crucial in drawing public attention to the constellation of forces that are pushing the United States and other neoliberal-driven countries into what Hannah Arendt called “dark times”or [what] might be described as an increasingly authoritarian public realm that constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy. …What role higher education will play in both educating and mobilizing students is a crucial issue that will determine whether a new revolutionary ideal can take hold in order to address the ideals of democracy and its future.

Adjuncts everywhere have been rising to this challenge, and it’s been an extraordinary year for us in activism. After years of grassroots organizing, Facebook plotting, job actions large and small, and concerted publicity campaigns across the country, our situation and how it affects students is now firmly part of the national anti-austerity, pro-labor, anti-neoliberalism conversation. Keep up the good work! To keep you going and just so you know you’re not alone, here’s what’s been happening on the Adjunct Front in 2015, and some of the people who’ve been making it happen.

TL;DR: Dang, we did a lot this year! Unions joined; groups organized; solidarity exercised; real actual walkouts and strikes; contract gains made; papers and books published; presentations made; coalitions built; research done; policies advocated; petitions started, signed, and delivered; general troublemaking by badass troublemakers. Well done, everyone! Tell us more in the comments.

UNIONS!

Union thug

You bet we are.

Here a union, there a union, everywhere a union. At least twenty-five new unions for adjunct/contingent faculty this year alone. Wow. This year must have been some kind of record breaker for adjunct organizing with AFT, AAUP, NEA, SEIU, UAW, and USW. Big and small groups of adjuncts got in on the act: Well’s College, just before Christmas; NYU’s engineering adjuncts; Hamline; Brandeis; Emerson College (LA campus); University of Chicago; Temple University; St. Louis CC; Barnard College; Point Park; Kishwaukee College; Community College of Allegheny County; Trinity Washington University; Sienna College; Ithaca College; Cayuga CC adjuncts won their own union; Boston University and part-time lecturers at BU’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (2nd unit); Robert Morris University; Northwestern Michigan College; Bentley University; full-time, non-tenure-track arts and sciences faculty members at Tufts University (a second unit at Tufts);  Washington University; Otis College of Art and Design; Dominican University of California; and St. Mary’s College. Did I miss anybody? Sound off in the comments.

ORGANIZING! SOLIDARITY!

solidarity umbrella fishWith or without unions, adjuncts are doin’ it for themselves. Columbia and UW-Madison TAs are still protesting working conditions, despite the NLRB ruling against graduate students unionizing. This is where organizing comes into its own and allies can play a crucial role. Unions are not the only answer to bad working conditions. Many workers outside education, from retail and fast food workers to car wash employees and exotic dancers, have formed non-union associations with the same unified power that unions offer, but without the administrative structure or dues. Within higher ed, for instance, Cornell grad students have formed a union that remains unrecognized by the university, but which still plans on fighting for improved working conditions, a tactic that may also work in Right To Work states like Florida. Speaking of union-hostile states, the South Florida Part Time Faculty Association and Ohio Part-time Faculty Association continue to grow in strength and numbers and to support organizing across their respective states, thanks to the efforts of activists like Cathy Burns, Alice Wujciak and H.E. Whitney, of Adjunct World Comics, in Florida and David Wilder, Andrew Bonthius, and Keisha Davenport in Ohio. Other labor-challenged states that are seeing undeterred organizing efforts are North Carolina and Georgia, including Duke University, University of North Carolina, Georgia State, and historically black colleges and universities Clark Atlanta University and Fort Valley State University. In states like this, solidarity is the key. If we all belong to some kind of organization, whatever it is, we are powerful—and protected by our numbers. Meanwhile, Duquesne and Loyola University adjuncts continue to fight the good fight against Badmin who are trying to deny them the right to organize under a religious exemption, which seems less and less likely to fly, given the current NLRB attitude. In another act of solidarity, full-time tenured allies at Eastern Illinois delayed their own pay raises to save 29 adjunct positions in their blended union.

STRIKES/WALKOUTS!

NAWD map

Fantastic map by Hector Valtierra

We started off the year with the Occupy-like National Adjunct Walkout Day, which Seattle University, for one, blew up all over Badmin. Here’s a great post-game wrap-up from Robert Craig Baum. And just look at that map. Mighty mighty! (Let’s keep up the pressure!) Rock Valley CC faculty struck for better wages and reduced health care costs. University of Toronto‘s TAs struck in March and finally agreed to arbitration. Boston’s Northeastern University adjuncts are threatening to walk out, with full-timer’s support. Two of the largest higher ed unions that include adjuncts, Cal State and City University of New York‘s AFT-affiliated Professional Staff Congress are taking strike votes and organizing strike training as I write this. Our K-12 colleagues in Chicago are striking too. Educators of all stripes are fed up and are using strikes to show our determination to make a change, whether they’re “legal” or not (and who says those anti-strike laws are legal or moral, when all we have is our labor to bargain with?). Then, after the union formation and the strike comes the hard part:

MAJOR BARGAINING SUCCESSES!

Tufts may have set the bar last year with a floor (!) of $7300/course, but the momentum is continuing. Hamline just won 20-30% pay increases over the course of their new contract and right of first refusal. Vermont’s St. Michael’s College gains 10% in the first year of the contract for all adjuncts teaching credit bearing courses and the right to bargain for more in the second year. Whittier College adjuncts bargained a $400/credit raise to bring them to $1550/credit and made gains also in job security and professional development funds. More benefits at Boston’s Lesley University,  and elsewhere too: adjunct faculty on two-year appointments won employer contributions for retire­ment plans; Maine Community College System adjuncts beat back an attempt to have their course assignments reduced to evade employer responsibility under the Affordable Care Act and codified it in their contract; NYU grad students won a 4 percent raise this year for fully funded teaching assistants and a “landmark” family health care benefit; Saint Mary’s College of California added a clause to the contract that will change the way the college responds to requests for verification that someone is without employment, to help them qualify for unemployment benefits.

PETITIONS!

11,000+ adjuncts and allies signed the 2014 petition to David Weil at the Department of Labor to investigate hiring practices and pay in higher ed. NFM’s Maria Maisto hand-delivered the petition signatures and 200 pages of comments to Weil’s people this year, and we’ve received a response confirming the importance of adjunct organizing and focused advocacy. NFM obliged with comments on proposed overtime revisions that educate policymakers about how adjuncts regularly fall through the cracks in the fissured academic workplace. The next step is to help craft new legislation changing the status of educators under the Fair Labor Standards Act (more on this in another post). Still active:

GO SIGN THEM ALL! 

RESEARCH, POLICY-FOCUSED ADVOCACY, & COALITION BUILDING!

movemount1Adjunct unions have been working collaboratively now more than ever, and we should recognize that. The DOL coalition NFM initiated that is focused on unemployment is keeping the pressure on DOL to help ensure adjuncts are eligible for unemployment benefits, and our Women and Contingency Project is being built slowly but surely and has been energized by the resolution (PDF) pushed through by contingent activists like Gwen Beetham at the National Women’s Studies Association. NFM also launched the National Arts Project in part to help highlight the “doubly contingent” nature of working as an adjunct and as an artist. During Campus Equity week (see below), NFM also hosted a Congressional briefing entitled “Strategies for Overcoming Inequality in Higher Education: Supporting Adjunct Faculty and Their Students” with Marisa Allison, Judy Olson, Bonnie Halloran, Matt Williams, and David Wilder (more on this later, too). Over at the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, Adrianna Kezar has been steadily forging new ways of problem-solving for faculty and other higher ed constituencies who care about student learning and the integrity of faculty work.  The report “The Professoriate Reconsidered: A Study of New Faculty Models” came out in October and was the result of a focused survey of faculty, administrators, accreditors, and trustees.  It suggests that the tide has quietly but definitely turned away from acceptance of contingency as an acceptable model.

PUBLICATIONS! PRESENTATIONS!

If there’s one thing adjuncts and our allies know how to do, it’s write and talk. And boy did we. Here’s a selection of essential reads and data for weaponization. Marcia Newfield, Joe Berry, and Polina Kroik edited a special issue of The Journal of Labor and Society, “Contingent Academic Labor: The Way Forward,” (PDFs); see especially Robert Ovetz’s “Migrant Mindworkers and the New Division of Academic Labor” (PDF).  The journal First Amendment Studies published University of Arkansas prof. Stephen A. Smith‘s “Contingent Faculty and Academic Freedom” (PDF), the only full-time faculty ally at UArk to publicly support contingents. Matt Debenham took to Buzzfeed with a brave and appalling “I’m An Adjunct Who Also Works In A Grocery Storeconfession. Adjunct Prof. Jennie Shanker spoke at the Shanker Institute’s colloquium “The Emergence of the ‘Precariat’: What Does The Loss of Stable Well-Compensated Employment Mean For Education?” (video here) alongside Barbara Ehrenreich, MLA Pres. Rosemary Feal, and NYU Prof. Andrew Ross; another media project, The Adjunct Commuter, caught NPR’s eye recently, with its tales of Northeast corridor commuter hell. Debra Leigh Scott and her partner Chris Labree are wrapping up interviews for the film, ‘Junct: The Trashing of Higher Ed in AmericaOther hopeful signs for higher ed: influential books like Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth‘s The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom, which offers a concrete, if controversial, proposal for ending the adjunct crisis and James Keenan, SJ’s University Ethics, which argues that contingent academic employment is the first and most egregious symptom of ethical misconduct in the world of higher education.  (P.S., Teaching Poor is still in the works too. Send me stuff!)

GENERAL TROUBLEMAKING

cropped-CEW2015FAV-21To coincide with Campus Equity Week this year, Brave New Films‘ released the short film Professors in Poverty, which NFM consulted on and debuted at a Congressional briefing (see above) on contingent faculty. COCAL, NEA, SEIU, UUP, PSEA, and WEAC all sponsored on the national level. Special shoutout to many of locals who pitched in too. Adjuncts and allies are continuing to pressure NEIU to stop cancelling classes for the sake of both students and faculty. Columbia College P-T Faculty voted no confidence in their administration. NFM‘s survey gave us some numbers to throw back across the many bargaining tables we’ll be sitting at. Adjunct charity PrecariCorps‘ started to offer small emergency funds to desperate adjuncts and, in the very necessity for its existence, should shame every administration everywhere. Which is why a UUP report on part-time/contingent faculty recommends at least $5700 per 3-credit course and, amazingly, SUNY Albany’s Provost agrees. SEIU took a page from Fight for $15 and did UUP one better, asking for $15K/class for adjuncts nationwide. Shout out to the AFT 2121 activists who led the fight to shut down the CCSF accreditor. The MLA Subconference, organized by graduate students and contingent faculty, broke out at the 2014 MLA convention in Chicago with a concurrent program “Resisting Vulnerable Times” and is now in its third subversive year, tackling “Non-Negotiable Sites of Struggle” in Vancouver in 2015 and just getting ready for Between the Public and Its Privates” in Austin next week. Although the MLA Democracy movement has been around for quite a while, the problem of contingency has breathed some new life into it in the last year or so. Newly elected contingent faculty/allies in MLA leadership include NFM’s Robin Sowards who will be serving on the Forum Executive Committee for Higher Education and the Profession on Part-Time and Contingent Faculty Issues along with Maria Grewe from NY and Virginia Cooper from Montana. Outgoing committee Chair Maria Maisto will be succeeded by former adjunct and ongoing ally Lee Skallerup Bessette. There’s been progress in other disciplinary associations also: the 4C’s is working on a Position Statement on Contingent Faculty Working Conditions, which is hoping to wrap up revisions in January for approval by the executive committee; the OAH also just released a statement in support of unionizing, and the AAA and the ASA have formed contingent labor-focused committees or are starting to have contingent focused sessions at their conferences, something MLA pioneered.

BADASS TROUBLEMAKERS! 

credit hour(In the best sense of the word, of course.) The following are only a tiny sample of the many truly badass activists working for contingent faculty. If you know of others, please add them in the comments. Too many of us are unsung and underappreciated. If you’re in any of the Facebook adjunct groups, many of these names will be familiar, and I offer them here in no particular order.

In a real vote of confidence from the union, three contingent faculty have been appointed to UUP’s new contract negotiations team, one more than the number of contingent team members who served during the previous round of negotiations: Doug Cody, an adjunct professor of Chemistry at SUNY Farmingdale; Beth WIlson, a full-time lecturer in Art History and chapter president at SUNY New Paltz; and Anne Wiegard, a full-time lecturer in English at SUNY Cortland (and NFMF Board Chair). Wilson and Wiegard were also re-elected in May to seats on the UUP statewide executive board, along with Lori Nash, a part-time faculty member at SUNY Oswego who teaches Philosophy. Bradley Russell has been inspiring the St. Rose agitators to make life very uncomfortable for Badmin. Shoutout to former adjunct now SEIU organizers Adam Overton in LA, Jessica Lawless in the Bay Area, Tiffany Kraft in Portland, and Miranda Merklein in Seattle; current adjunct Carrie Matthews of UW Faculty Forward; and Teresa Mack-Piccone who led that charge for SEIU in Upstate New York and is kicking ass organizing nurses in California now. Beth McGarry is shit stirring/­organizing/­troublemaking in Florida and on Facebook’s Adjunct Professors United group. Robin Vander Ven took her college to court and won (more on that soon). Lydia Field Snow keeps the pressure on administrators about class cancellations and community relations with NEIU and ass-kicking protest songs. Brianne Bolin, Joe Fruscione, and Kat Jacobsen form the unholy trinity of PrecariCorps (see above); both Bri and Joe have also told their stories in national media. Andrew Robinson (@AndrewR_Physics) and Kate Weber (@k8simply) have also been fearless NTT voices on Twitter.

And a personal shoutout to my NFM colleagues, who I know for a fact have been working their butts off this year. (Again, people, this is only folks and actions I know of/was told about. Please add what and who you know in the comments. Everybody deserves some recognition for a truly ass-kicking year.)

In short, adjuncts and our allies across the country are kicking some serious ass and taking names. There is strength in a union, success in solidarity. If we all stick together, we can change higher ed and make better lives for ourselves and our students, and put Badmin back in their role of supporting educators instead of running the show. Have we won yet? Not by a long shot. But we are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Take note, tenured colleagues. You can lead, follow, or get out of our way. Here we come!

(And if you like what you see of NFM‘s work, please donate/become a member to support our work.)

–Lee Kottner

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.

T-Mack

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–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)