Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It's Adjunct Walkout Day--This Deserves a Repost

My Little Adjunct Rebellion--Originally Posted 8/13/14

I'm not going to prance around and pretend there wasn't an element of anger here.  I was angry for quite some time, but I certainly know better than to act out of rash anger.  This letter took me over 2 months to compose and I prayed that I would be able to say the right thing.

I suppose only time will tell if I did, but it's done and I have a clear conscience about it.

Instead of excerpts, I have posted the entire letter, with appropriate redaction; I will make some comments on the linked articles later.

I am sending you a link to two articles that I would like you to read that will help explain my bewilderment to your response when I requested information that should be readily available to the adjuncts in our department:  

(Note:  To those of you who have been CC’d, these articles--and hopefully this letter--will explain some of the frustration that well-qualified adjuncts experience.)

It appears to me that you were of the opinion that I was gathering information to support legal action against the department.  Such an action has not ever been in my thoughts and currently is not something I would consider.

It baffles me that you thought my performance was poor, but you did nothing about it until I was suddenly put "on hiatus", which, according to your previous email, really means "we won't rehire you" or “you’re fired!”  

Since I was "on hiatus" at the time of our initial email exchange, I assumed there was the possibility of future classes and prep for future semesters was on my mind.  It appears that “on hiatus” from your perspective meant that there was absolutely no possibility of my teaching in the future so the “carrot” you held out was simply a false hope to assuage your feelings and to help you feel good about what you were doing.  This was deceptive at best.

As I was given no policy to follow, I'm not sure exactly why class cancellations could have damaged me so much when I carefully followed the university's credit hour policy. Is there a department handbook or policy that should have been available to me? If there is such a handbook with a clear cancellation policy--essential to my standing and contract renewal--why was it never made available during my four years of teaching for the department and XXXXXXXX?

You have established that I have no rights under current adjunct contractual arrangements and I understand the terms of my contract with the department and the university policy concerning adjuncts.  In fact, our contracts continually refer to our disposable status--we as adjuncts know our place; however, the legality of a contract does not determine its morality.  

It is also clear that you are completely separated from the adjunct world.  If I have been good enough to work for you for four years, I should also be worthy of something as simple as a job description.  And, it would also seem that I would be worthy enough for the “courtesy” you seem to prize--certainly courtesy would play a role in responsible academic citizenry, another “privilege” adjuncts are denied.

Since your concerns about my performance history have been concealed from me--as well as your true intentions regarding my employment--I have the following unanswered questions:

  1. If there is no review process, how can I know your concerns?  Surely student ratings, with their grade-based prejudices, aren’t your source of information.
  2. How difficult is it to send a quick email asking how things are?  
  3. How difficult is it to make a phone call to set up a quick meeting to review my reviews?  
  4. How hard was it to respond to my mid-semester query about improving the course I was currently teaching? (I never did get any input).
  5. Why was I peer-reviewed (once in four years), yet never received any feedback?
  6. How can I do my job better when I barely know, beyond basic course objectives, what my job really is?  
  7. Did you stop to think that I requested my job description because I wanted to improve myself?  To make myself a better teacher for the future?
  8. How difficult is it for you to allow me an opportunity to defend myself before reacting with hostility and suspicion?
You once told me to expect more student pushback; it is interesting to note that adjuncts are starting to push back, too.  These efforts are well-documented:  

  1. An adjunct in New York recently went on a hunger strike.
  2. Adjuncts across the country are agitating for and successfully founding unions to fight the caste system that festers in the academic world.  
  3. It appears that adjuncts are not willing to “stay on the plantation” and are fighting for proper recognition in the academic community.
  4. Adjuncts have been found to be more academically sound than many full professors.
  5. It appears that a Ph.D. or Ed.D. credential does not necessarily mean prowess in a particular discipline.  An adjunct is not inferior because he or she did not have the means, time, or inclination to pursue a doctorate.  William James wrote about this over a century ago.
  6. Adjuncts are also found to be better-rounded emotionally and intellectually than more narrowly focused professors.
I am not condoning any drastic actions (i.e. hunger strikes, demonstrations, sit-ins, etc.) nor would I participate in such drastic actions; however, adjuncts provide a vital and important role in academia

I currently am not asking for a contract renewal--I couldn’t bring myself to work for this department right now--but I am asking you to consider the situation of the people who teach the majority of the general education credits and who are largely ignored except when it is not convenient to ignore them.  Truly we are considered “adjunct” --”supplemental rather than essential” -- despite the essential role we play at the university.  In terms of statistics, 59% of non-major course sections are taught by adjuncts, the majority of them unsupported by teaching assistants.

I used to believe that our department was better than this -- that the struggles that other adjuncts experienced wouldn’t happen at XXXXXXXX, let alone in the department from which I received two degrees.  Your combination of paranoia and poor leadership skills damaged the trust I once had in the department and in the department’s mission.  Clearly, the department embraces the solipsism of simply creating more Humanities majors--not to mention petty politics--rather than developing teachers and learners in a collaborative community.

The general university system as it once was has been destroyed and the university as it has become is slowly dying from its own conceit and arrogance.  It also is dying because of petty bureaucrats, weak managers, and self-centered academics, all of whom cannot look beyond their own feeble interests to address the concerns of their “lessers”, whether they are graduate students, undergraduates, or adjunct workers.  

I would still like to meet, but I will not meet with you alone.  Your request to meet 2-on-1 (with another male department member) may not technically violate XXXXXXXX policy, but it does violate my right to feel safe and could be classed as intimidation and an opportunity for you to keep this “off-the-record.”  
It should not be difficult to arrange an official, on-the-record meeting with my advocate present, especially now that summer has arrived and campus is a little quieter.

XXXXXXXX, as a final note, XXXXXXXX was and is fully aware of my disabilities and the actions I took while an adjunct at XXXXXXXX to mitigate any problems that arose.  We often discussed these issues outside your open office.  I also mentioned to XXXXXXXX my panic attacks and plans to consult with disability services.  If you received the emails I sent to the part-time secretary about class cancellations, you are aware of my pain and migraine issues which are well-documented by competent medical personnel.  I gave you the benefit of the doubt; I hoped to enjoy the same, or to have had the opportunity to address these issues with you personally.  Such opportunity was never extended to me.

For those of you I've CC’d, I would like you to consider the adjunct situation at this and other universities. We have no say in department policy, no representative in the department, and few of the standard resources available to full-time faculty.  Creating Adjunct Services is a good beginning, but a yearly fair and sporadic opportunities for professional development (for which we are not paid) aren't enough to address the gap between adjuncts and other faculty, let alone the gap between adjuncts and the university at large. I have included some other links to articles about the adjunct situation in the post-script.  I would also like to mention that I have mailed this letter to the Office of the President, the Commissioner of CES, and the Board of Trustees.

Adjunct Concerns and Exploitation Resources

·                     Why I Will No Longer Work As An Adjunct – Effective Immediately
·                     “Why Buy the Cow?”: An Open Letter to Full-time Faculty
·                     We're Constantly in Fear: The life of a part-time professor
·                     9 Reasons Why Being An Adjunct Faculty Member Is Terrible
·                     Inequality Deepens on University Campuses
·                     Inequality on Campus
·                     A Moral Dilemma for Academia: Dignity for Adjuncts
·                     Silence of Lambs: Adjuncts in Academia

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