At long last, the grades are in, the assessment collections are in, and I can declare the semester done. Finally, I have a functional computer again, thanks to generous family members, and thus I can post. I wasn't just slacking this week or buried in grading, but instead I was without a computer. This computer issue is at the nexus of two issues I've been thinking on this week: money and trolling. In adjunct land, these two topics are more closely related than I could have imagined.
As most adjuncts already know, the public perception of the professorial class is one of ease and richness. The reality for much of us could not be more removed from that stereotype. I was keenly reminded of my lack of funds when I had to pass on the holiday party at one of my schools, for it required a $25 payment. I can get a couple of meals for my family out of that amount, and it wouldn't be fair for me to spend it only on myself. I have gone in the past, but I think that it was either cheaper or people had to pay their own tab. Plus, I wasn't a part timer then. Then my computer broke. Yes, I know that my phone can do many of the things I need, but it's also very small and my eyesight is not the best. Public computers or the ones available to me at my workplaces are not necessarily accessible to me from midnight to 2 a.m. when I have the time to do my thinking. I could not afford a repair, a used replacement, and certainly not a new one. The bright spot is that this disaster occurred near a holiday and my family came to the rescue. Then the student loan people called. Why can't I make a $400+ a month payment, they'd like to know. Uhhhhhhhh........ nope. I can't afford a $25 Christmas party! I felt sorry for the person who called me. It's just her job. It isn't her fault. I still feel terrible that I'm unable to pay it back, but there is not a lot that can be done until I get a better job.
This is where the trolling comes into play. It appears that the more adjuncts speak out in public forums, the more the hurtful comments pile on from those known as trolls. I am not going to link to any of the things because I don't want to add to their fun. The general gist of their trolling is that adjuncts don't deserve to have full time jobs because we're too new to the game, we aren't really that bright, we haven't worked hard enough, or some other weak excuse that puts all the blame on us. Just get another job, they say so glibly, as though jobs with a living wage were lying about for the taking! As goofy as my life has been this term, I make slightly more than a fast food worker or a retail worker at many places. Others seem to think that we adjuncts have ample idle time to just look for jobs. Usually, I grade papers or work on lessons until I cannot stay awake any longer. I keep up. On a good week I get slightly ahead. I also take care of my family. Looking for various other jobs is something that I know I should be doing, but it is not something that can be done as much as I would like. I am hoping that over break I can explore openings in the academic world as well as in other areas; however, even though faculty are officially on break, we have classes to prep for next term. For two of those I have an early deadline for syllabus approval. I'm sure the trolls would just call those excuses. Why worry about them? Why not simply avoid the comments?--which should be the first rule of the internet. Because quite possibly a column that includes me and this blog may be published soon. I've been told the first installment of the column caused an outbreak in troll activity.
Is it the presumed anonymity of the web that makes people feel like they can say whatever comes to mind to people? Is it because adjuncts are mainly poor and therefore not worth being treated as human beings? I do not know, but I feel like I need to prepare for the onslaught. A more sinister part of me wonders if the most virulent trolls are actually tenure track or administrative people using the net to tar us for daring to challenge a system in which they are also complicit. I don't imagine that John and Jane Q. Public are checking out higher education publications to get their trolling lulz. I think these trolls are working out of fear. How dare we say that these scraps are not enough! How dare we ask for fairness and bargaining rights! I think maybe, just maybe, hearing some of the voices behind the staggering 75% majority of faculty shakes the foundations of the so-called ivory tower. I also think that guardians of the old ways are clutching at straws. Tenure track lines are not only not being replaced, but also tenure itself is being heavily questioned as a practice. This week, the Kansas Board of Regents crafted a new policy restricting what faculty can say on social media and another professor possibly will be forced from her job for a lecture on prostitution, which no student complained about and that was relevant to her field and class. Management knows they can draw from the ever-growing pool of contingent labor, so why bother perpetuating the former, more expensive system?
Eh, maybe I'm just tired and overworked. Anyway, if the trolls appear here and do leave comments, I will delete the worst of them. Freedom of Speech doesn't mean someone has the right to harass another person. It also does not mean freedom from consequences. This is my space, albeit one that I've opened to the public. However, it is still mine and I can govern what is said here. I do not have to display any harmful comment. To date, I have never taken down any comment, but if the mocking birds come, I won't condone it.
Due to the holidays next week, I will likely take a break from posting. My luck, the article will come out, the trolls will arrive, and I'll be in the dark about it all because I plan on having a media blackout to rest from everything. Never fear for Unarmed Education Mercenary will be back in the new year. May you have a blessed holiday season, if you are celebrating any particular one. I hope that 2014 is a better year. 2013, don't let the door hit ya in the bum on the way out!