In a recent response to Tony’s piece describing the “three gifts of tenure” that I posted on LinkedIn (in my Sociology of Education group) a commenter said this: “The treatment of adjuncts is a national crime perpetrated on our education system and the unsuspecting public. Adjuncts receive about a third of the salary/benefits for the same course taught by a full-time faculty member. Unless we want to redress this injustice, talking about the plight of adjuncts is useless.”
What do you think? I think the commenter is correct and that any of us who have adjuncted for more than 3 years knows, it’s an unequal, two-tier system where two groups of teachers do the same job but only one is awarded a decent salary/benefits/occupational status. Can you imagine if these were side-by-side workers? It wouldn’t happen; the inequality works because the two groups of workers are separated and invisible to each other. From my perspective, change will have to come from the bottom up, not as individuals but as a collective. Individual adjuncts are not wrong in fearing their institutions, there is much to fear. But acting together to make the inequality visible, well that might be a good beginning to a series of actions intended to redress the injustice of adjunctification.
Next month there is a nationally organized plan to stage a walkout of adjunct faculty. National Adjunct Walkout day is scheduled for February 25, 2015. The protest will be taking place across the U.S. and is intended to highlight low wages and poor working conditions. It’s easy to talk but more important to walk so I hope that if you’re an adjunct reading this that you will talk to your colleagues and consider the value of this collective action. It is long overdue. Tell your students too; let them know why it is necessary, maybe they’ll walk out with you.
I say, take to the streets, let your administrators and tenured colleagues know that adjuncts will speak up, will do something rather than gripe in silence. Otherwise, the powers that be assume they’ve got you, your silence, your fear; they smell it and will use it, tell you every semester how valuable you are while they raise their own salaries and your colleagues file for food stamps. The adjunct movement is building steam, join it.
Here’s a few resources for information, if you have any resources (or thoughts!) to share, please do so in a comment below.
Click this link for National Adjunct Walkout Day on twitter #NAWD
Click this link for National Adjunct Walkout Day on facebook
Julie Garza-Withers, former award-winning community college Sociology instructor who’s currently using Sociology to organize and research for racial justice in rural northern California. She was a facilitator in the film “If These Halls Could Talk” with Director Lee Mun Wah, and has published at Working Class Studies, and elsewhere.
Julie has a particular interest in class and classism as a form of social stratification, and the role of cussing and anti-intellectualism in stratifying society. A fan of cussing herself, she says she only “Cusses when necessary,” which is often. She considers herself a working class academic because she is a first generation college grad who grew up in rural southern California where her options post-high school included getting married or working at Del Taco and selling tacos to fast food customers until she got married.
Julie has an M.A. from California State University, Chico, where she studied how social class and gender impact work-place conflict between women. She lives in rural northern California with her husband Larry where they enjoy the forest, their dogs, and gardening.
You can follow Julie on twitter where she posts as WorkingClassTeacher, and also check out Julie’s anti-racism work at Rural SURJ of NorCal-Showing Up for Racial Justice. Currently an inactive author, awaiting a poke with a sharp stick.