Sunday, August 3, 2014

Get Up, Stand Up: My Little Adjunct Rebellion

So, as some of my readers already know, I recently had my teaching contract terminated. When I asked why, I was initially given the answer that the department was hiring 2 new full-time professors and that there weren't enough classes to go around. However, one look at the Fall schedule showed that nearly every adjunct had 2 classes. Then I was told I was "on hiatus". That's a nice, undefined term for "we really aren't planning on hiring you again".

When I pressed for more information, the chair said that it was because of poor reviews and class cancellations. (Just as a note, there is no department policy on class cancellation, and I followed the university's credit hour policy whenever I needed to cancel.) This then prompted me to ask for a job description, as I had never been provided with much more than "teach this class, okay?"

This is how the chair responded:
That is what I am asking: What do you need the information for? 

The contract makes it clear that the terms of the employment do not go beyond the semester you are hired and that we have no obligation to continue. Frankly, we have no obligation to provide any information when we do not rehire someone, but as a courtesy, we are generally happy to, but I am not sure what your motivation is. Please clarify.
Keep in mind, I asked for a simple job description.  A JOB DESCRIPTION, and this is the response I received.

As for reviews, I have been reviewed twice in the four years I worked for the department, and I never received any feedback.  FOUR YEARS WITHOUT A REAL REVIEW.  I told my current boss about this, and she was horrified; it was almost comical to see her appalled face.

Now, I'll tell you something I did wrong:  I forgot that people who are purportedly there to help employees are really there to protect the university--that's logical, but I thought EEOC might be able to offer some help.  So I could get a JOB DESCRIPTION.  The EEOC rep listened kindly as I tearfully told her about the department and adjunct issues.  She very competently ignored all of that--after meeting with the chair--and simply referred me back to the terms of my contract and told me I had been replaced with someone more qualified.  That means I was replaced by someone who had a PhD., but no humanities teaching experience.

The chair still has not provided me with a job description.  In response to all of this, I wrote a polemically-styled letter, addressed to the chair, but also sent to as many people as I could think of who might have some concern over adjunct politics, including the Office of the President, the Commissioner of CES, and the Board of Trustees.

Overkill?  Not necessarily.  This issue is beyond just the chair and me--it affects adjuncts everywhere, and I felt that I needed to act in support of "contingent employees" as one great last effort as I cut myself off from the department.  I told the Trustees that I wanted "to strike the heaviest blow in my power", quoting Dickens.

Excerpts from the polemic to follow.

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