Sunday, April 29, 2012

Adjuncts Strike Back

No empire just adjuncts, but there are a lot of us. This particular iteration of adjunct discontent may seem old news, displaced by another. Yes, perhaps so, but not the underlying conditions. Watch for Return of the Adjuncts ... perhaps coming soon to a campus near you.

Reactions to The Bidens’ tax returns stir adjunct discussion. The discontent ~ psychic pain might be more accurate ~ expressed here is more complex than it might appear at first.  It operates on multiple levels, not diffuse but directed at more than one specific target. 

This IHE piece, plus comments, as well as another on the Chronicle (follow comments here), over flowed from discussion on Adjunct L ListservIn particular, Alan Trevithick (there is, it would seem, more than one way to get a blog post out of board members) writes,

Some of my friends and colleagues, below, have been very polite, I think, and I admire and respect them very much. I cannot help but feel, for myself, that this is a very unsatisfactory piece of journalism. My friend and colleague Matt Williams,for instance, writes that “The continued lack of coverage of this issue by the mainstream media is inexcusable,” and adds “Kudos to IHE for covering this story.”

I say let’s stick with “inexcusable” for a while longer, and not give IHE a free pass out of the “mainstream media” category.

To begin with, what gives this reporter the right to comment, on a listserve which is devoted to adjunct and contingent issues—is he an adjunct or contingent worker?—that we are there to “discuss, commiserate, and rant”? Does he have a percentage he would care to provide in regard to those categories? Is “discussion” the only, and only slightly empowering thing that these otherwise kvetching and ranting adjuncts do there?

Also, does it really show a non-mainstream understanding of what we do in higher education, as adjuncts and contingents—the majority faculty in higher education—to write that Jill Biden’s pay, “reflects her promotion to associate professor, college officials said, which comes with a heavier teaching load than her old adjunct gig.”

“Gig”? I mean, is IHE asking these “college officials” what in the world they are talking about? Did they use the word “gig”? How cool of them, for sure, but I want more.

And, like, three courses? That’s your gig? I just got home from LaGuardia Community College where I was teaching one of the five courses I teach, at three different colleges, this semester. I would have taken six, because of my mortgage, which is hard to pay on 1/3 of the rate per course as traditional faculty get, and no benefits, but scheduling and caps on adjunct assignments, at all three paces, prevented that.

I mean “heavier teaching load”? How is it possible to read such things in IHE? It shows that here is considerable work to be done to get even the “specialists” to face the facts of working conditions in higher education. I am in perfect agreement with many of the comments here that there is a very long way to go on this issue, but I do urge a bit less politesse. Yelling is probably ok.

Obviously, IHE is not in the advocate camp, as I am—for New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity—but we should be able to depend on it to do a bit of digging.

When, for instance, Pamela Hanford of for the California Part-Time Faculty Association, is quoted as saying that “I wonder how many other part-time faculty members at that college have been hired full-time," I wonder, is IHE embarked on that kind of substantive investigative reporting about our “gigs,” or is it content to be “fair and balanced” about everything, with a quote from or there that allows the readers to align the reporting with their own prior assumptions?

The high visibility of Jill Biden as an “adjunct,” now in question only after repeated demands from many voices who have always known better, and the presentation of her and others as having only the best interests of students in mind—to which apple-pie sentiment nobody can object without seeing crabby and unhelpful—is an active and obstructive behavior that is preventing policy makers, and the general public, from understanding the decades long degradation of the faculty in higher education—that would be the faculty without which higher education becomes just a bit of pious sentiment, without substance or strength.

by Alan Trevithick, New Faculty Majority board member, occasional guest contributor to this blog (when he can tear himself away from the siren call of comments to highered media) and adjunct with three “gigs,” Westchester CC, LaGuardia CC and Fordham.

Read Alan's complete comment on Re: The Bidens’ tax returns stir adjunct discussion as posted to Inside HigherEd article in question See also comments by Board Members Betsy Smith and Matt Williams, here and here.


  1. Hi Vanessa-ok, I get it already. BTW, it is, I suppose "3 gigs" but it's also five courses and the three-gig circuit requires about, I don't know, 7-8 hours of driving a week, and then there are those mtgs-Faculty Senate—I was appointed by some unseen hand, and don't know I I will last there (new rules allow I think only 1/69th of an adjunct to be a senator every four years, or something), and then those union mtgs? Yikes.
    And the "the siren call of comments to highered media"? Well, that's all about I get mad enough to generate the energy to do it. Anyway, sorry. Next post. Here. For sure. Nearly done. It's about taking out a loan so that I can afford to go to one of my "gigs." Higher ed affordability. Very topical.
    Great layout!

  2. Sounds like a car loan. At the very least, higher ed should be affordable for the those travailing in its vineyards. Or groves. Reading yours, I thought that travel alone should count as at least one gig. "Siren call" applies to Betsy (who, when asked, wrote back that she did not have time) and Matt too. Actually, I have a Matt comment in drafts but did not get to it soon enough to be timely. Another time...

    I need any extra posts I can get to keep the blog from turning into Just Joe Berry Updates.

    I think I'd get very tired and cranky about meetings (not more travel I hope) on top of gigs and commuting. From out here I don't see them accomplishing much, but maybe I just need new glasses.

  3. How do you start an association? Is this possible in TX.


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