Sunday, August 24, 2014

Adjunct Architecture

Distressed ColumnsFor most of my adjunct colleagues, school has either already begun or will do so in the next few days.  I would like to sincerely wish everyone the best of luck:  may your classes fill and run, may they not be stolen by anyone, may your commutes be traffic-free, and may your vehicles/bus passes stay running and valid.  If I could wave a wand and make all those things so, it is the very least I would do for the battalions of adjuncts returning to service.  In a session at the recent COCAL (Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor) conference in New York City, adjuncts were labeled "Pillars of the University."  This is the truth.  With some estimates of our numbers nationwide at 76% of faculty, indeed the superstructure of the corporate higher education cannot stand without us.

Columns exist all over the world in buildings that have stood for hundreds of years.  Some are plain looking, some are fluted, some are inscribed.  Some, like the ones in this picture, have grime from years of exposure to the elements, they have fissures, they are in the shadows, but still they stand.  Adjuncts, this is an appropriate metaphor for many of us.  I feel this even more keenly than I did last year.

I no longer work for what I referred to here on this blog as School One.  This week, as the students return to my town, I feel left out of that energy for the first time in four years.  I feel it.  I have to drive past the school nearly every time I go out because it dominates the landscape.  At School Two I have one class this term.  This was not retaliation for anything, but it was a choice I was forced to make.  Without the larger salary from School One, I could not afford the childcare, gas, bus, and other expenses of a 120+ mile round trip commute twice a week.  I could not afford to work.  I kept one weekend class because my family can handle the childcare, saving that money.  This is simply to keep my foot in the teaching door, and, in a sense, to keep my sanity.  I'm one of those cracked pillars.  I have been caught in my calling.

So that is where Year Two of being The Unarmed Education Mercenary begins:  one class and they are already mine.  I am a pillar.  I am still standing.  I am still working to get adjuncts doing the important work of teaching the nation's students more reward for their mostly underpaid labor.  Join the battle.  Stand with the Pillars.