A Day Without a (Contingent) Woman

New Faculty Majority endorses A Day Without A Woman and the International Women’s Strike of March 8, 2017.

Slightly more than half of all contingent faculty are women, and women constitute the clear majority of contingent faculty in “feminized” fields in the humanities.  Women of color are underrepresented in the faculty as a whole, but overrepresented in the contingent ranks.  For us at New Faculty Majority, these statistics are reason enough to support the International Women’s Strike, in all of its forms.

Recognizing that the precariousness of adjunct and contingent faculty working conditions makes it risky for many women to participate, we encourage allies, especially tenured women allies, to stand up for their precarious colleagues and we encourage all to wear red in solidarity.

Red, we point out, is traditionally associated with the labor movement. It is also an apt color for adjunct and contingent faculty and especially for those who are women.  The Scarlet A is an unofficial symbol of the feminization and the exploitation of adjunct and contingent faculty, those who are doing the work at the heart of the mission of higher education and who are sacrificing the most for their students and colleagues.

We encourage all of our colleagues and supporters to learn more about the working conditions of adjunct and contingent faculty and to work with us to demand and to work for equal pay for equal work, workplace dignity, and a re-dedication to the women faculty and students without whom colleges and universities would cease to function.

NFM’s Women and Contingency Project

Addressing the Scarlet A: Adjuncts and the Academy


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 Dry Season

educate-agitate-organizeSumer is icumen in and it’s both a relief and a source of fear for adjuncts. Relief that the semester is over and we can take a breather, fear that we won’t be able to pay the bills and won’t get another class assignment in September. Fear that we are well and truly FUBARed.

It’s also the season when we turn to our own scholarly and activist work in earnest, and that’s what we’ll be doing here. The blog has been a bit dry lately, and that’s going to change now. So if you’ve been sitting on something juicy that you want to get out into the world and think NFM woud be a good place for it, send it along. I’m back in the editor’s chair.

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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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:



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.


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!)


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.


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.


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.

Congressional Briefing Set For October 26, 2015 | Campus Equity Week

Congressional Briefing Set For October 26, 2015 Every member of Congress has been invited to attend this briefing, which kicks off Campus Equity Week 2015 on Monday, October 26 at 2pm in Washington…

Source: Congressional Briefing Set For October 26, 2015 | Campus Equity Week

NFM Works: Karen Lentz Madison–Executive Secretary

Third in the series of NFM Executive member profiles.


Karen Lentz Madison

Karen Lentz Madison

Karen Lentz Madison, Ph.D., is Executive Secretary of the New Faculty Majority Foundation’s Board of Directors and has served as an NFM Board member since 2012. She is a Senior Instructor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where she teaches courses in composition and literature and advises honors majors. Karen is the immediate past-Chair of MLA’s CLIP Committee (Contingent Labor in the Profession). While president of College English Association (the first adjunct president), her focus was on contingent faculty issues, and CEA’s Karen Lentz Madison Award for Scholarship for a non-tenure track faculty conference paper was created in her honor. Her current advocacy project is the establishment of a standing CEA NTT caucus session: Coffee on the Commons (Speakers: Anne McLeer-2014, Maria Maisto-2015, and Sue Doe-2016.). In 2014, CEA awarded Karen its Joe D Thomas Distinguished Service to the Profession Award for her non-tenure track advocacy—the first non-tenured recipient since its inception in 1945.

On her involvement with NFM, Karen says, “I have been a contingent faculty member since 1989 when I began teaching as a graduate student to pay for my master’s degree and continued to do so as I earned my doctorate in English. From that point on, I have been a part-time or a full-time contingent faculty member at my alma mater (a Carnegie research institution), four-year colleges—public and private—and community colleges in Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland. I also have an understanding of the diversity of student experiences, expectations, and needs, having graduated from a community college, attended a four-year college, and graduated from a university.

“I draw on these experiences in regard to policy insights and in relating to our geographically, culturally, and politically distinct NFM membership base. And those last nine words really are significant. Since I’ve become active in a national advocacy venue, I find that the most dangerous element in our movement is not ‘badmin’ but, rather, a divide-and-conquer distrust of one another within the movement.

“As a ‘full timer,’ I do understand why many of my similarly appointed colleagues are too busy and worried to sympathize with, or even recognize, those who have it even worse. But I have been there and done that. I never can forget what it means to ‘adjunct’: teach six classes at two schools (minimum) and still have to work in a clothing store on the weekend (grading papers between customers) and tutor for the athletic department for minimum wage in any ‘spare’ time to feed three growing boys and keep a roof over our heads—and that’s in a ‘good’ semester.

“Fast forward to today—besides teaching in-coming freshmen and transfer students, I teach graduate students and sit on their theses and dissertation committees. I am a character in Limbo vacillating between being infuriated and distraught by their “graduating” into the poverty of our condition.

“Because I see all of us (students, graduate students, adjunct, full-time) as part of the means for improvement, I recognize the necessity for solidarity, despite the siren call of discord that undermines our efforts. Collaborating—working towards unity of purpose—in order to achieve equity for and improvement in the working lives of contingent faculty is my goal as a member of NFM and as a member of its Board of Directors.

“And while I am an advocate of working with fellow precariat support groups, I do recognize that NFM has a unique purpose and particular design that others may not be aware of for a variety of valid reasons. Therefore, for all of us who have had to depend on the ‘kindness’ of truly strange corporate-ed administrations, I support NFM and work to insure that its agenda can retain its cutting edge for reform.”