As the holiday season fast approaches, it has come to our attention that some of our colleagues, managers and co-worker need help understanding the concept of “gift.”
On Monday, NYCHA (NYC Housing Assoc) chairman John Rhea visited a public housing complex that had been without power, water, or heat since Hurricane Sandy. He told the residents they would be required to pay full rent despite having no services, but that they’d get a rent credit in January, calling it “a nice little Christmas present.”
It seems that Rhea needs a lesson in what constitutes a present and what doesn’t.
What a gift isn’t.
If you give someone something you stole from them, it’s not a gift. If you give someone money you owe them, it’s not a gift. If you wrongfully collect rent, knowing your tenants can legally refuse to pay because you’re not providing basic services, and then you give part of that rent back two months later — that’s certainly not a gift.
What is not a gift for adjuncts? Union benefits that don't match what the union does for tenured faculty. Not protecting adjunct members. Bad contracts. Paying into unemployment insurance but not being able to access it. If you cover classes for the university or college, make tuition money for them, but don't get a share that even approaches "fair."
Got it? Good. Now, what a gift actually is.
If a city’s administration launches a coordinated attack on your movement, and then you come back to help save that city’s ass when its underfunded agencies find themselves helpless in the face of disaster — that’s a gift. If a city’s police force pepper-spray you, hit you with batons, and arrest you en masse for protesting Wall Street, and then, while that city (physically) bails out Wall Street, you pass out blankets to folks with no heat, develop a network of emergency shelters, and carry water up sixteen flights of stairs to public housing residents — that’s a gift. If a city violently evicts you from a park at which you provide free housing and medical care, and then you help provide it all over again when a storm renders thousands of new folks homeless — that’s a gift. A really, really nice one....
For adjuncts, that would be the gift of teaching, caring and making time for students, being the point of contact for them in a sea of inaccessible management and faculty who don't teach Developmental or lower division students, some not undergraduates at all. It's certainly not for the money... and even gets turned against.
For these people, such work is not a matter of gift-giving, but an act of common decency. They understand — unlike John Rhea — that food, medical attention, and livable housing are never “presents,” but basic human rights.
Sure makes you want to go out and occupy something, doesn't ti?