Tuesday, February 24, 2015

National Adjunct Walkout Day

A on fire

lthough tomorrow, Wednesday, February 25th is officially National Adjunct Walkout Day, many folks are using this entire week to get the message across:  Without Adjuncts, Your Schools Cannot Function. Ideally, this day would shut most of higher education down, making clear the 75% reliance on contract workers that keeps the system lurching along.

I know that many adjunct and contract workers out there support this idea wholeheartedly but they cannot walk out.  Some of them have planned teach-ins, alternate activities that include viewing documentaries or hearing speakers on the adjunct issue, some will wear badges, maybe some will wear red.  There will be many who will outwardly do nothing at all.

Do not judge those adjuncts.  Every action, every word we speak against this crisis is taking a risk and some cannot afford to do that.  As the sole breadwinner for my family, I know what that feeling is like.  Speaking up and also fighting an abuse of contract has cost me work.  Activism is not without penalty.  That person who appears to be avoiding any contact with Walkout Activities may be deeply grateful for what is being done but they're too scared to say so.  I have received anonymous messages of similar content thanking me for what I do and say.  Some of these people have even said that they wish they could help.  That's okay.  I'm fighting for them as much as for myself and the rest of us.

Tomorrow many adjuncts will take a risk.  If you can, join them.  Look for events in your area.  An on-line search should produce results.

A better system for adjuncts is a better system for students.
Part-time work should be a choice, but it should not be the default position for academic jobs.
Together we can make something different.  Something better.
Join the adjuncts and work for the students.

Here's your A.  Wear it proudly.


Monday, February 16, 2015

When Everyone is Contingent, Then What?

winter windowI find myself in the strangest situations.  Recently, I was hired through a national search for a grant funded full-time position.  "Hurray!" say the readers of the blog.  Well, that's what I said, too, even though I knew that I would have to reapply for my position every year.  This situation was not unlike another full time temporary gig I held for many years.  Reapplying is nothing more than an another added annoyance to many adjuncts.  We do it so much that we're really good at it.  I'm not going to say that I never worry that I won't get rehired because that would be lying, but I'm reasonably assured that I do a great job and will likely be back.  At least, that was the case at my old, really well-paying gig before I became The Unarmed Education Mercenary and complained about what they did to us.

After signing and mailing my contract back, I found a place for my family to live, began forwarding mail and changing addresses on important things like car registrations and my driver's license, I got A Very Disturbing Email from my new boss.  This person was letting me know that the Dean-who-is-not-my-Dean (not the Dean who interviewed me and offered me this job) only wanted to allot 50% for my position in the new iteration of the grant.

Well then.

What did I want to do? Cancel the move.  Throw a giant, apocalyptic fit.  Burn things.

My friends said not to go.  Some of them were more colorful in their choices of words to reject the position they had just got done congratulating me for getting. On the whole, it was Not A Good Day.  My eldest child, whose life I just upended by announcing this move to another county said, "Well, we might as well go because I am NOT unpacking those boxes unless we take them to another house.  There's too much tape on them.  Besides, everyone already feels sorry for me for moving and it would be kind of weird if I didn't go."  Then there's the matter of my employment.  If we stayed I would have only one class at the lower paying school furthest away.  That wasn't enough to live on.  We could, I suppose, have gone on all the assistance programs because I'm sure we would've qualified.  At least at the new place, the income would be good for a semester.  Son the Eldest was correct:  it was time to jump.

So jump we did and in the middle of a winter storm.  It has snowed at least three times a week since then.  I work in a department with some of the best people who care deeply about the students they serve and guess what?  None of us are permanent.  Each one of us has to reapply for our jobs.  We are still expected to do service and scholarly work, and we do.  What we do not have is any kind of security in our lives.  Will our grants be refunded? Will we be the ones rehired? Can I find 50% more work to do on this campus now that I've dragged everyone here?  I would be lying if I said this is good for my morale.  I love it here.  I would gladly spend my career here serving the students of this school.  I can do good things here, and yet, every single day I worry about next fall.  And next spring.  And the semester after that.  This is what it is like when everyone is contingent and everyone is worried:  it is a major distraction.  Will we say or do something that will keep us from being renewed? Will someone more qualified than us apply and take away our jobs?

Is this any way to run an education system?

No.  No it isn't.  If anyone out there making decisions about education would first please ask the question "Is this best for the students and the students' learning conditions?" I wonder how that would change things.  What are we here to do in higher education? Do we even know anymore?

As for me, I'm here to serve the students and thereby make a living to provide for my family.

What about you?