Sunday, January 6, 2013

What if the Adjuncts Shrugged?

it was by all accounts, a glorious convention & weekend across the #adjunct/iverse. William Pannapacker's "dispatches from the MLA" captures the glow and puts events into a broader contexta welcome antidote to a "bad fairy at the christening" rash of "least stressful job" clones that sprung up on the intertubes like cyber toadstools, stressing out proffies & adjuncts alike…but that's another story. This one belongs to us, from all the relevant sessions, a knockout Presidential Forum, MLA President Michel Bérubé’s address, the Adjunct Project/ Chronicle collaboration, site makeover and relaunch,and finally, icing on the cake, the Delegate Assembly passing the Adjunct Motion (against de-professionalization and exploitation) 115-1. 

Michael Bérubé’s address at this year’s Modern Language Association convention was one of a handful of times that I felt some real solidarity in the profession against the exploitation of the majority of our students and colleagues.

Back in the 90s, Bérubé helped make it possible to talk about academe’s labor practices through writings such as Higher Education Under Fire (1994) and The Employment of English, I remember that Bérubé...was prominent among a small group of faculty who gave moral support and leadership to graduate students, like me, who were questioning the legitimacy of an educational system that talked about “the life of mind” while using its students to teach thousands of composition courses on the cheap.
...Observations like those are accepted without much objection now: they are the common sense of our profession. But that’s because leaders like Bérubé took risks early in their careers; they applied their intellectual and political commitments to their profession, even while it was often whispered that doing so was “career suicide.”  
So hearing Bérubé as the president of the MLA call out higher education for more than 40 years of exploitation was a watershed moment for me, and, I am sure, many others in that packed ballroom: the first time I remember seeing an MLA president receive a standing ovation....
Pannapacker closes,
What would happen if they stopped working, for even a few days? What if the adjuncts shrugged? And what if the MLA supported them in doing so? 
Please don't miss reading all of William Pannapacker's What if the Adjuncts Shrugged? - The Conversation in The Chronicle of Higher Education 


  1. I have been calling for a national strike of adjuncts since I started teaching again four years ago, after a 10 year hiatus. We need to do this. But it has to be coordinated for maximum effect. The most important part would be to get the MLA, AAUP and AAUW behind us, as well as our colleagues at the schools where we teach. The exploitation of adjuncts is as bad as Walmart's exploitation of its employees. Why should we let the academic administration off the hook? Or the defunders of higher ed, either?

  2. Indeed we do but organizing is the sticking point. Remember that 60s movie, "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" Steve Street initially started this blog to support Bob Samuel's "New Faculty Majority Day" project. Hardly anyone outside California did anything. Nothing the next year.

    Meaningful support from MLA, AAUP and AAUW does not seem realistic, although endorsement might be. Support can translate into big dog syndrome of them telling us how to do it.

    Personally, I don't synchronicity is necessary. Rolling walkouts may be easier to organize. Large, organized, coordinated movements mean hierarchies. Rolling walkouts or other actions can be organized to suit local conditions by interconnected distributed networks. Virtual sit ins are another possibility but have been classified as cyber attacks when they result in denial of service.

    Whatever we do, to get comparable results (to those achieved by WalMart, warehouse workers and their allies) we must make the same effort and take the time organizing that they did.

    So what is your plan?

  3. Who's got contacts with the organizations? They can sound out their contacts. AAUW surprises me, always struck me as too establishment to care about adjuncts. Have they issued a statement supporting adjunct equity issues?

    AAUP supported Defend PublicEd actions in 2009 and 2010 when other highter education organizations, including NFM, didn't. Now there is new attitude in MLA. Both could be likely but also expect more say in how things are done.

    If someone wrote up a plan, would this blog post it?

  4. If someone writes up a plan, I will publish it, with the proviso of course that it be reasonably well thought out an plausible. I'll also post a notice on Facebook about this thread ~ invite planners to join the effort. We can share the initial draft in Google Docs and collaborate.

    I'm a list maker... not that I always work my way through my lists. We can start here by making a wish list and already have the first items: contacts with national organizations.

    How does that sound, Lee? Got some contacts to sound out?

  5. Why hasn't Lee, the person who called for the action, responded? It's been almost two weeks.

    1. She, actually. I just left a message for her.

  6. And now another two weeks, so I think it's safe to assume that she's not going. One thing I suppose to call strike, another to start planning.

    Anyway, my apologies... if you are interested, we can keep the conversation going. Consider it a thought experiment.

    1. Sure, why not. We could use more people here but not too many.

    2. I'm still game, follow but won't post on FB since I found out dept chair checks gets IT pal to check those

    3. what do you mean? Are you saying that your dept chair checks who surfs FB and where they visit? On campus? Can they do that? Don't they have real work to do?

  7. So what do you think about a brand new thread then? I can keep moving it to the top of the page too for visitors to find.


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