Friday, August 27, 2010

Taking a break on a high note...

Well, there's all kinds of good news this week -- Prof. Curtis Keyes with the adjuncts at EWU reports that he and his colleagues have gained the victory they so richly deserve! The illegality of their abrupt firing at a time when they were petitioning to organize a union was upheld by the U.S. Labor Dept. and the EWU administration has agreed to reinstate them, compensate those who lost classes mid-semester and has agreed to bargain with them in what all hope will be good faith.

On another note, the non-tenured faculty at Michigan's CMU won yet another major victory -- they voted overwhelmingly in support of forming a union! So, it's on to the bargaining table for them!

Congratulations to all; both victories are so well-deserved, and a great sign for adjunct unionization efforts across the board.

On that cheerful note, "The Adjunct Voice" is going on indefinite hiatus. Between four Comp classes and two writing projects with deadlines looming, I find I have to get realistic. Union or no union, I haven't found a way to grade multiple drafts of 4+ papers per semester for 80 students without putting in monstrously long hours. Anyone have any ideas?

If you've been following my efforts here, thanks! I would especially like to thank Vanessa Vaile for spreading the messages I've posted here to NFM's larger network and beyond. It's been an incredible summer for adjunct faculty issues, and I'm so happy to have good news to relate on my way out the (virtual) door!

Last one out turn out the lights!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

EMU's fight goes on -- Picket on July 22!

Here's the latest from Prof. Curtis Keyes of EWU's illegally-fired adjunct faculty -- please support their efforts!

The United Adjunct Faculty Association (UAFA) at East-West University Rush Hour Picket Protest Thursday, July 22 at 4-6PM at 816 South Michigan Avenue Adjunct faculty members at East-West University will picket the university’s main entrance at 816 S. Michigan Ave on Thursday, July 22 at 4-6PM. Join the UAFA in its protest against the discriminatory firing of adjunct faculty as they were scheduled to vote for labor union representation with the Illinois Education Association chapter of the National Education Association. This direct attack on adjunct faculty members (the largest workforce) at EWU is extreme and strikes a mighty blow against students! It is an outrageous violation of our country’s long-standing labor laws. It is also grossly offensive to experienced adjunct professors who have worked for many years educating students and helping East-West University grow into a respected member of Chicago’s higher education community. Please help us fight against East-West University administration’s anti-union activities.

For more information, please contact:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The plot thickens! Now EWU admin's fighting illegally-fired adjuncts' claim to UC benefits!

This just in...Prof. Curtis Keyes of UAFA (union the illegally-fired adjuncts of EWU are trying to form) writes the following:

Dear Colleagues,

Just when you think Chancellor Khan and Provost Jain would want less negative publicity of their arbitrary-discriminatory labor practices and fear-mongering treatment of adjunct faculty, they continue to fight against the adjunct faculty. Currently, Khan and Jain are working to deny/prolong adjuncts UC claims. Many of the union supporter adjuncts who were told not to come back in the fall coupled with adjuncts whose summer class assignments were abrogated and given to newly hired adjuncts in their place are meeting fierce opposition from Khan and Jain. The UC office and EWU will have a conference call with unemployed adjuncts before claims are received. EWU maintains that unemployed adjuncts are still part of personnel, so therefore, they are employees. Is this a set up to deny UC? "You betcha," as Sarah Palin would say. This email is being copied to others outside of EWU who have experience with getting through administrative schemes aimed at denying UC. How best can EWU adjuncts fight to get their UC? The battle at EWU is financially difficult for adjuncts to say the least. We need help right now!

The United Adjunct Faculty Association (UAFA) at EWU members will not be deterred. We are doing the right thing in organizing.

This is a classic reason why EWU adjuncts need union representation. There are EWU adjuncts who have worked for the institution since the late 1980s and onward with no job security or protection. The firing of all adjuncts and rehiring them at the personal discretion of the chancellor and provost during the same time UAFA was set to vote for union representation is ethically and fundamentally wrong!!!! It smacks boldly against our nation's long standing labor laws. Make no mistake, EWU adjuncts' fight is a fight that will have nationwide precedence. We will see you at the picket demonstration on Tuesday, July 13th 11-1PM at 816 S. Michigan, Chicago, Illinois 60605

In Solidarity,


An injury to our EWU colleagues could truly be an injury to all! Please pass the word along!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Join the United Adjunct Faculty Association at EWU Picket July 13th!

The adjunct faculty of East-West University in Chicago received notice on May 25, 2010 that they should "no longer consider themselves employed," one day after they had filed a petition for NEA/IEA union representation. This illegal firing must not be allowed to stand, as it threatens the right of all adjuncts to exercise their legal rights to organize in unions and collectively bargain.

The illegally-fired adjunct faculty of East-West University in Chicago need our support on Tuesday, July 13th, as they picket against the unfair labor actions of EWU Chancellor Khan and Provost Jain.

When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: 816 S. Michigan Ave., in front of the main entrance of EWU.

If you can't be there, please call by phone or send emails in protest of these actions to:

Chancellor Dr. Mohammad Wasiullah Khan
816 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605
Fax: 312-939-0083

Provost Dr. Madhu Jain
(same address, phone, fax as above)

Professor Curtis Keyes is the main contact with the EWU united adjuncts; please cc any email protests to:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

UTF Solidary Forever! (to the tune of "Mine eyes have seen the glory of...")

Thanks to Erin Fox, CMU Art/Theater Dept. for the following adaptation of a traditional labor song. We sounded wonderful singing it together today!

Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
For we make CMU strong!

We're your teachers, we're your mentors, we assign the grades you earn!
The right to form a union is our number one concern!
Hopes for a better future will be realized when we learn
That we make CMU strong!

With the union's inspiration we'll negotiate health care
Not to mention job security and wages that are fair!
Which is why we're rallying here today to stand up and declare
The we make CMU strong!

We're so pleased that part-time faculty now have the right to vote!
President Ross and trustee members finally listened and took note!
They realized that temp faculty keep CMU afloat!
For we make CMU strong!


Don't miss this one!...a rousing chorus of "Part Time Worker" (to the tune of "Part Time Lover")...courtesy of AFT-MI Organizer (and beloved Motown Diva) Lynn Marie Smith!
Sing On, Everyone!

Details on CMU's agreement: planned 6/30 protests turn into celebration!

What a great rally, everyone! The show of solidarity in Mt. Pleasant today was wonderful -- we're so happy for you all!
June 30, 2010
[pictures & video at]

MOUNT PLEASANT, MICH.—Following four months of negotiations, Central Michigan University and the American Federation of Teachers have agreed on which nontenure-track faculty members will be recognized as members of a potential new bargaining unit. The adjunct faculty and their supporters, who had planned a protest rally for today, will still hold a rally at 11 o’clock this morning near the library on the Mount Pleasant campus to celebrate the agreement.

Under the agreement, nontenure-track faculty who teach quarter time or more, with some exceptions, are eligible for representation.

“The process that resulted in this agreement took time, as the administration and the union gathered all of the information necessary to craft an agreement that both parties found acceptable,” said AFT Michigan President David Hecker. “What counts is that we were able to reach this agreement. We look forward to a successful election and to joining with the administration to further enhance this great university.”

CMU was notified in early March by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission that nontenure-track faculty had filed for union certification.

“We are ecstatic about the opportunity to vote for union representation, and we look forward to a collaborative relationship with President Ross and the CMU administration,” said Mary Ann Freling, an adjunct professor who has worked for two decades in the English department.

Ray Christie, vice provost for academic administration, said: “Central Michigan University has a long-standing and well-established positive relationship with collective bargaining units, and values the dedication, contributions and commitment of our faculty and staff toward the success of our students.”

A unionization vote will be scheduled as the next step in the process. CMU will withdraw its request with MERC for a hearing on the matter. Across Michigan, thousands of nontenure-track faculty have formed unions or are in the process of doing so, including faculty at the University of Michigan, Ferris State University, Henry Ford Community College, Wayne State University, Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University and Western Michigan University.


Jon Curtiss

Organizer, AFT Michigan, AFL-CIO

(734) 358-7004

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CMU adjuncts get an agreement!

Just in...this note from AFT Organizer, Chris Pomeroy, from CMU:

Hello All,

I am very pleased to inform you that an election agreement for non
tenured-track faculty at CMU has been reached! We have a signed agreement
on definition of unit and timing and type of election at CMU.

As a result of this wonderful news, we will no longer be demonstrating in
Grand Rapids on Wednesday. Thank you all for your commitment, without the
threat of your action this agreement may not have been possible!

Details will be forwarded as they are made available.

Apparently, a celebration is now planned in place of protests in Mt. Pleasant (main campus), too! Congratulations, CMU-UFT!!

Letter condemning adjunct firings at EWU!

Thanks to Peter D.G. Brown, SUNY New Paltz, for passing along (via the Contingent Academics list) the following copy of a letter sent to EWU's Chancellor! Let's keep up the pressure on EWU administration and get the word out to Philip Smith that we appreciate his support!

June 28, 2010

Chancellor Dr. Mohammed Wasiullah Khan
East-West University
816 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Dr. Khan:

As the president of the nation's largest higher education union, I wish
to convey UUP's strong condemnation of your precipitous action against
your adjunct faculty. UUP (United University Professions) represents
35,000 academic and professional faculty at the State University of New
York, including its adjunct faculty. We believe adjunct faculty deserve
to be protected just as much as full-time faculty.

It strains credibility to hear your spokesman say that the sudden
decision to send non-renewal notices to all of your adjunct faculty had
anything to do with the initiative by part-time instructors to form
their own union. Your actions appear to be an exercise in manipulation
and intimidation.

Employees have the right to organize to have their interests
represented as part of the collective bargaining process. To prevent
such an organizing effort is a violation of federal law as well as basic
human rights.

We strongly urge you to reinstate these faculty members immediately and
refrain from interfering with their ability to unionize. We also request
that you take no action to penalize any adjunct faculty member for their
role in the unionization drive.

We look forward to your prompt response and positive actions.


Phillip H. Smith
United University Professions

To contact EWU administration:

Chancellor Dr. Mohammad Wasiullah Khan
ph: 312-939-0111; fax: 312-939-0083

Provost Dr. Madhu Jain
ph: 312-939-0111; fax: 312-939-0083

Monday, June 28, 2010

NFM denounces termination of East-West U Adjuncts for trying to unionize


Akron, Ohio – New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct & Contingent Equity faxed a letter today to East-West University Chancellor, Dr. Mohammad Wasiullah Kahn, condemning the Chicago area university’s mass firing of its adjunct faculty and urging him to restore their contracts. This letter was also copied to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

See more here:

Thanks, NFM! Solidarity will win the day!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Organizing International Topic!

One of the more than 1,000 workshops featured at the Social Forum this past week was our UPTF-sponsored offering, entitled "Voice for the Voiceless: Organizing Part-time Faculty." About twenty attendees, coming to the issue from different perspectives, packed the room: unionized adjuncts, those working on organizing, grad students thinking about their futures, and others who just care deeply about the state of higher education in this country. Two Turkish colleagues joined us, making it an international event: yes, there are adjuncts in Turkey!

After intros, I focused my part of the presentation on what's happening out there in higher ed these days, and where the biggest challenges to faculty exist. We discussed the pitfalls of the "Anyone Can Teach" mantra put out there as higher ed continues to corporatize and casualize our profession. We discussed the extra challenges adjuncts face in today's corporatized schools and why unionization is almost essential if we wish to make the living we deserve and preserve the dignity of teaching--at any level!

Importantly, we discussed the need to reframe the mixed messages adjuncts send to school administrations when we speak with an incoherent collective "voice." Every survey published seems to indicate that at least 40-50% of adjuncts are "satisfied" (more or less) with the status quo. Unfortunately, these surveys are mostly engineered (consciously or not) to generate responses that overplay the importance of "flexibility" and underplay dissatisfaction with our typical conditions of employment. School administrators can study these surveys and feel assured they're giving us what we want, based on our love of "flexibility." As we discussed, "units of flexibility" (as one community college v.p. calls us, according to Joe Berry) equal units of disposability! So we discussed the need for a more positive, unified message out there:

"Fair Treatment for Adjuncts is Good for Higher Ed!" What would fair treatment look like? A handout listed several ideas--unfortunately, no one in the room could check off many items from their current experience!

UPTF president Susan Titus then took over and led everyone in an exploration of the major features of organizing a local union. Locating and striking up a conversation with potential members is the first, sometimes difficult step. The painstaking, labor-intensive process of motivating everyone to collective action was another issue discussed: several attendees had great ideas, but it was clear that organizing is not for the faint of heart. Even so, the time is ripe, it is achievable, and worth the effort!

Thankfully, we concluded on a hopeful note: Dan Kukuk from Central Michigan U's organizing team related the challenges CMU adjuncts have been having with including all adjuncts in their newly-forming union, and he asked for everyone's support for a June 30th action. Everyone signed "We Care" postcards to send to CMU administration, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and the EWU Chancellor who recently fired all adjunct staff when they tried to form a union. The other Big Message that emerged that day was: we're in these challenges together, and solidarity will win the day!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Check out Social Forum news...

It's impossible to do justice to all the wondeful actions that have been carried out and the causes that have been promoted during this incredible event in Detroit, but here's a link that archives the stories:

I am simply in awe of the organizing effort that went into making this event the success it has been. Here's where I have to take off my Higher Ed/Adjunct hat and assume my Member of Humanity hat: the week's events have proven there is hope...or, as one headline put it, "answers are emerging from below." In other words, waiting for "Godot" -- whether that be government or corporate power structures -- to solve our many pressing problems is as absurd as the namesake theater piece.

People have always found ingenious ways to solve problems and--as one of my favorite economists, David Korten would say--"connect unused resources with unmet needs." We need to get back to what Korten calls "living economies"--economies that serve people's true needs, not the needs of "Phantom Wealth." For more on these ideas and Korten's work, see Here's where I can put my Higher Ed/Adjunct hat back on: Higher Ed needs to be a microcosm of the larger Living Economy we all need. Hmmm...more to come on this issue!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Adjuncts United march to the lively beat of Detroit's U.S. Social Forum!

June 22: What an exhilarating experience it was to march together with adjuncts and students from points across the state of Michigan! The message was simple: Higher Education Works Because We Do! Sponsored by Wayne State's UPTF part-time faculty union, representatives from University of Michigan's lecturer's union (LEO), Henry Ford Community College (AFO), and Central Michigan University (working to organize as the UTF) joined in, along with a large contingent of students and faculty from Eastern Michigan University and a number of other friends, associates, former colleagues, etc.

The long path down Detroit's main artery, Woodward Avenue, from Wayne State's campus to Cobo Hall was filled with thousands of people with hundreds of causes to promote--all focused on helping kick off the amazing U.S. Social Forum here in Detroit. Lively, colorful, breathtaking: a river of people prepared to work hard to make things better for all!
There were too many takeaways to even process them all, but here's one that stuck with me: we're all in this mess of an economy together, and there's never been a better time to stop being invisible!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's finally here...U.S. Social Forum kicks off with incredible spirit, diversity!

Promote the US Social Forum! USSF 2010: ""

Employee or Independent Contractor? - Working In These Times

Here's something hopeful for workers who are stuck in "independent contractor"-land so employers can avoid paying UI and Medicare costs. Adjuncts can certainly relate! Employee or Independent Contractor? - Working In These Times

Monday, June 21, 2010

EWU protest news -- Solidarity alert!

We need to stand behind these colleagues -- for their sakes, and ours! (RR)

United Adjunct Faculty Association at East-West University News Advisory

Contact: Curtis Keyes, Jr. 312-497-3579 (June 20, 2010)

or Tom Gradel 773-561-1040

Adjunct Faculty Oppose Illegal Firing

at Chicago’s East-West University

Adjunct faculty members at East-West University will picket the university’s main entrance at 816 South Michigan Avenue on Monday morning to protest the abrupt firing of eight adjunct professors who were organizing for labor union representation.

“This is an outrageous violation of our country’s long-standing labor laws,” said Curtis Keyes, Jr., a spokesperson for the United Adjunct Faculty Association at East-West University. “This illegal act is also grossly unfair to experienced adjunct professors who have worked for many years educating students and helping East-West University growth as a respected member of Chicago’s higher education community,” Keyes added.

Many of the university’s 56 adjunct professors will participate in the protest and they will be joined by adjunct professors from numerous Chicago-area universities.

Protest Picket

East-West University, Chicago

816 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

8 to 9:45 AM, Monday

June 21, 2010

The adjunct professors at East-West University have not received a raise in pay in more than six years. Per 4 credit hour (course), they are paid significantly lower than what the university’s 14 full-time professors receive. Recently a majority of the university’s adjunct professors signed cards stating that they wanted to be represented by the United Adjunct Faculty Association in its effort to improve working conditions. The university’s administration responded by dismissing eight adjunct professors and summoning all adjuncts to individual meetings with the Chancellor to determine if they will again teach at East-West University.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

East-West U Adjuncts terminated for trying to unionize! Protest scheduled 6/21 in Chicago!

Hi, everyone: The message below is from Joe Berry with COCAL in Chicago. As you'll see, we adjuncts really need to stick together on this one, because the way this case goes could set a ugly precedent for all of us. If anyone wants "We Care" postcards (see sidebar) to distribute and ultimately send to EWU's chancellor or provost (info below), along with fax protests, etc...just let me know!

UPTF (Wayne State) is sponsoring the Adjuncts United march to the U.S. Social Forum this Tuesday, 3 p.m. (meet at Woodward-Warren, WSU campus in Detroit). We're going to be highlighting EWU adjuncts' struggle, among others -- if you're in town, join us!! See for flyers, etc. See for general U.S. Social Forum info. "Another World Is Possible!!"

Email or fax protests to: (please copy all protests and and send statements of support to <>

Chancellor Dr. Mohammad Wasiullah Khan
Panjab University (Pakistan)
BS-English Literature, Economics
Panjab University (Pakistan)
MA-Urdu Literature
Panjab University (Pakistan)
MED (Honors)-Secondary Education
Indiana University
EdS and PhD-Educational Administration

Provost Dr. Madhu Jain
Jiwaji University (India)
BS-Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics
Rajasthan University (India)
Rajasthan University (India)

816 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Fax: 312-939-0083

School's History:


June 21, 2010

June 21, 2010 STATEMENT OF PROTEST The United Adjunct Faculty Association (UAFA) at East-West University (EWU) publicly expresses its protest at the ongoing discriminatory practices of Dr. M. Wasiullah Khan, the University Chancellor, (312) 939-0111 and Dr. Madhu Jain, the Provost, (312) 939-0111 with regards to the revocation of course assignments of the following adjunct faculty: Ms. Erma Faire-Doeing, Ms. Gladys Griffin, Mr. Tanue Johnson, Mr. Curtis Keyes, Mr. Kenneth Peterson, and other adjunct faculty who have recently been dismissed without any explanation or thank you for their years of service to students and the university. That mostly African American adjunct faculty were discharged from their teaching assignments within the last two weeks is highly offensive in the face of a seventy percent African American majority student population where ninety percent of students receive federal financial aid for their education.

What could be the underlying reason for the Chancellor’s and Provost’s actions? Could it be retaliation against UAFA’s right to form a labor union at EWU? UAFA members have not had one single pay increase in over 6 years! Facts show that several adjunct faculty members were notified by their Department Chairperson that their summer class assignments had been revoked at the time when UAFA was organizing for a labor union. UAFA appeals to the administration for the immediate reinstatement of all adjunct faculty discharged under such muddled circumstances. With support from the Illinois Education Association chapter of the National Education Association and the Chicago Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, UAFA reaffirms its legal right to organize. The recent removal of adjunct faculty calls into serious question the motives of EWU’s administration. UAFA is quite certain that students’, parents, alumni and the University Board of Trustees would not want to see the institution shrouded in a public fight which could tarnish prospective students’ views about attending EWU.

Frankly, this public protest is unfortunate, but it is necessary if the university is to move forward in its accreditation, building construction and treatment of adjunct faculty. We hope this crisis can be resolved without another public protest, which will include the mobilization of students, parents, alumni, supportive colleagues and the media. Our protest comes with the fundamental belief that East-West University can fulfill its mission of treating its students and adjunct faculty with fairness. It is our hope that the Chancellor and Provost will embrace this moral call for just treatment of its entire faculty.




The Illinois Education Association-National Education Association

Chicago Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Here's why solidarity is so important! EWU adjuncts succumb to bullying, but will try again in the fall!

The United Adjunct Faculty Association (UAFA) at East-West University (EWU) withdrew its petition to vote for a union. In a letter addressed one day before EWU administration received the National Labor Relations Board collective bargaining petition notice for adjuncts, Chancellor M. Wasiullah Khan informed all department chairs, full-time faculty, part-time faculty and staff that “no contract will be renewed this year effective the forthcoming summer session and the academic year beginning with Fall quarter 2010.” The letter went on to point out that no department chair, full-time faculty, part-time faculty or staff member would be hired back “without first meeting with the Chancellor.” As an adjunct at EWU, I have never ever witnessed such blatant disrespect and disregard for the many hard working people who care deeply about their job. The primary reason for the petition withdrawal is based on the administration’s attorney argument that no adjunct would be an employee at East-West during the summer so the petition for collective bargaining was no valid. UAFA members are not deterred. It will regroup and re-file the petition at the start of fall 2010. For more information and words of support, please send to

We're with you on this, EWU! Join us in our Adjuncts United! March to the opening ceremonies of the U.S. Social Forum at 3 p.m. on June 22 and get your story out there! Also, join us for this workshop, also during the Social Forum and sponsored by UPTF-AFT Local 477 (Wayne State):  "Voice for the Voiceless: Organizing Part-time Faculty in Higher Education," June 23, 1-3 p.m.. See for USSF registration info (day registration needed for workshop attendance). See for event flyers and a short video, too.

AFT FACE - Eastern Michigan Adjunct Lecturers Vote in the Union

Yippee! Congratulations to EMU for a really outstanding organizing campaign!

AFT FACE - Eastern Michigan Adjunct Lecturers Vote in the Union

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thanks to NFM for promoting the Adjuncts United March, U.S. Social Forum

Plans are building -- several Adjunct cohorts from around the state of Michigan will be making their way to Detroit for the Adjuncts United march to Cobo Hall on June 22. Our march will be but one small tributary feeding the larger river of people--educators of all types, artists, students, labor, social/economic justice activists and anyone who cares about ordinary people having a voice in today's global economy--who will converge on Cobo Hall for the opening of the U.S. Social Forum, June 22-26.

All faculty and students--anyone who cares about the future of higher education--are invited to join us in this march. We will gather at Woodward and Warren in Detroit (Wayne State campus) at 3 p.m. for a short rally, then proceed down the march route to Cobo Hall. See for event flyers: please pass the word along!

Also of interest for Adjuncts, scheduled during the Forum and sponsored by the UPTF (Wayne State part-time faculty union): a Workshop, "Voice for the Voiceless: Organizing Part-time Faculty in Higher Education." June 23, 1-3 p.m., rm. 340, Wayne County Community College. Day registration with the Social Forum is needed. See for registration, events program, directions, etc. Again, please pass the word along!

Together we can drop the "invisibility cloak" and speak out on our own behalf!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Program now available for Social Forum!

The event motto says it all: "Another World is Possible...Another U.S. is Necessary!"

I can't think if a better event to attend, support, pass the word around about, etc...Here's the link for the full program!

Monday, June 7, 2010

UPTF is on YouTube! Join us for the Adjuncts United march to the U.S. Social Forum on June 22!

To make a long story short: here's a quick video inviting anyone who cares about the quality of higher education to join Adjuncts United on June 22. We'll be marching in support of adjunct groups like CMU's that are fighting for fair treatment, for students (budget cuts diminish all our lives!) and for giving education the priority it deserves in public policy. Important issues!

Again, the link is:

Contact me at for any questions, directions, etc. For general U.S. Social Forum info,

Hope to see you on June 22!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Adjunct gathering and march to the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit is building!

It'll be a breathless moment in Detroit on June 22, as Adjuncts from across Michigan and beyond begin gathering at the corner of Woodward and Warren, on Wayne State's main campus. We've had a long history of being "divided and conquered:" now it's time for getting our act together and making some headway as a collective labor force!

Thanks to Vanessa with New Faculty Majority for the image above of the event flyer currently being circulated. PDF files of this flyer and another, printer-friendly version of it, are available at Click on the Social Forum links for for these documents and a letter that describes both the march in more detail, and the Adjunct issues Workshop that is also sponsored by UPTFduring the Social Forum (on June 23).

Please circulate this info far and wide -- "We" can make progress together! Questions? Email Raye at for more info.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Faculty Majority takes on campaign to promote unemployment benefits for Adjuncts!

Here's an issue that couldn't be more timely and sorely needed! Click here to find out more about this very important campaign effort. Thanks, NFM!

Monday, May 24, 2010

UPTF sponsors Adjunct march to U.S. Social Forum: Here's a chance to be "Invisible No More!"

Wayne State's UPTF-AFT Local 477 is inviting Adjuncts everywhere to descend upon Detroit on the opening day of the U.S. Social Forum (June 22-26) and march together as one unit from Wayne State to the event site at Cobo Hall. Unionized/Non-unionized, part-time or full-time -- bring your banners, placards, buttons, show your colors--be prepared to make some noise and rally around some important causes. There are so many challenges to higher education--and our always shaky job security--that there's no better time to show our support for each other and for students than now.

More info is available at -- click on the Social Forum links for a letter and flyer describing the march.

The UPTF is also sponsoring a USSF workshop on June 23, at 1-3 p.m., entitled: "Voice for the Voiceless: Organizing Part-Time Faculty in Higher Education." It'll be a great opportunity to sit down together, share ideas and support each others' efforts. See (same letter/flyer) for more.

For general U.S. Social Forum info, see

Please pass the word along to your colleagues, networks, etc...the Social Forum is shaping up to be a unique opportunity for planting seeds of change and tackling today's big issues--just the atmosphere we need to raise awareness of Adjunct issues. I'll be happy to answer any questions I can -- hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Plain talk from Randi Weingarten and more, at the AFT-Michigan Convention

We educators can either take charge of the "reform" that's needed in education, or the "reformistas" will do it for us and continue scapegoating teachers (especially unionized teachers!) for everything from state budget shortfalls to the weather outside. Not a quote, this sums up the message AFT National president, Randi Weingarten delivered at today's AFT-Michigan Convention here in Detroit. She reminded us very artfully that the catchy rallying cry, "Education reform!" has become the euphemism for balancing budgets on the backs of teachers and the public education system, in general. None of this budget balancing is happening with an eye toward what students need, she pointed out -- those needs just won't be met, and teachers will probably be blamed for the grim consequences of that neglect, too.

The controversy over the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" program lives on, and isn't likely to die down any time soon. A contingent of very committed delegates from the Detroit Federation of Teachers did their level best to pass resolutions that would call this program what it is largely perceived to be --  a ploy to bust teacher unions and privatize public education, but Weingarten, Michigan's top AFT officers and most of the delegates blocked their efforts. Since RTTT has already been signed into Michigan law, the consensus seems to be that we should support those who are working with Arne Duncan to tweak RTTT into a more acceptable, less damaging program. Some of the opposing delegates have already been handed pink slips; others will wait out the long summer debate over the fate of Detroit Public Schools, under the leadership of emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb. In any case, it's not a pretty situation, and Weingarten, Hecker and others issued a challenge to all who care for public education to speak up this summer. There will be lots of campaigns, events, etc...more to come, soon!

Monday, May 3, 2010

"When Adjunct Faculty are Treated Unfairly, We Care! -- Your help is needed to get this message out!

As promised in an earlier post, postcards with the important message above are now printed and ready for use, and your help is needed!

Here's what the front of the card looks like:

The back of the card provides space for people to fill in their names, organization (if any) and city/state, and says: The quality of American Higher Education is at stake!...Please support fair treatment for America's Adjunct faculty!

Surely, together we can get the message out this summer--at conferences, conventions, meetings, rallies, union events, etc.--and flood the decision makers with our show of solidarity across the nation.

If you are willing to help get this "We Care" message out, just contact Raye at and let us know how many batches of 50 you'd like. Please provide your shipping information and we will be glad to send them out asap.

A couple small suggestions: you might find people more receptive to signing the cards if you provide address information for specific targets -- ie. for President Obama, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Congress members, State legislatures, university administrations, etc. All of these addresses are easily accessible on various Web sites. Post card postage is 28 cents per standard-sized card (like this one) these days. If postage poses an obstacle for your signers, the cards can be bundled together and sent out in one package, for less than per/card postage. Hand-addressing each card, or applying mailing labels is then optional. 

Together we can get the word out that Adjuncts deserve a better deal! Thanks so much!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Central Michigan U Adjuncts Need our Support!

URGENT! Here's the link: please click and send your e-letter to support Central Michigan adjuncts' unionization efforts.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Faculty Majority Newsletter debuts!

Here's a link you won't want to miss -- New Faculty Majority's newsletter hot off the virtual presses! We can look forward to NFM's May launch of a UI benefits initiative...certainly the "topic du jour!"

Thanks, Vanessa!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Adjuncts have a voice at Labor Notes Conference, April 23-25

"When Adjunct Faculty are Treated Unfairly, We Care!" This was the rallying cry on the front of a postcard my colleagues and I from Wayne State University's Union of Part-Time Faculty distributed this past weekend at the Labor Notes Conference in Dearborn, Michigan. The postcards are addressed to Obama's Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and will be sent to her office as part of the union's attempt to support all of the adjunct unionization efforts going on as we speak. The postcard itself is generic -- not labeled as a Wayne State piece per se, so I will be making it available on this site in the next few days, as well. At that point, I will send out a message via the adjunct "airwaves" and ask for national participation in this effort. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive conference goers were to the adjunct message--I felt like Johnny Appleseed, spreading the word all weekend, and I think it may bear fruit. Two separate encounters with Jobs With Justice representatives were quite helpful--both individuals were interested in looking further at adjunct issues in their respective states.

Amazingly, one full-time professor from a Chicago university urged me and adjuncts in general to "blame the full-timers!" I was careful to say I didn't think full-timers should be held responsible, necessarily, but I did concede that part-timers and full-timers are often pitted against each other, to the benefit of corporate administrators. A story for another day.

It was so encouraging that everywhere I went at the conference, someone had an adjunct story to tell--on behalf of a family member, a spouse, a child, etc.-- and everyone seemed aware of, if not outraged by, of our list of woes. It convinced me more than ever that we just have to open our mouths and tell our stories -- the time is ripe!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

EMU Adjuncts Need Our Support!

Today EMU’s part-time lecturers are treated as temporary workers with minimal pay and no employment rights. They need our support in their quest to join with EMU's full time lecturers in a single lecturers' union. The existing lecturers’ union (EMUFT) has invited them to join in providing better education by improving the working conditions of all its members, but school administration has terminated discussions. If you're so-moved, here's contact info you can use to support EMU's adjuncts efforts -- we are in this together!

Pres. Susan Martin: 202 Welch Hall – – 734.487.2211
EMU Board of Regents: 201-B Welch Hall; Secretary Jackie Kurtz - 734.487.2410
Roy Wilbanks – Chair – – 734-395-2011

Adjunct Humor from Ohio!

Reposted with permission from the adj-l discussion list. Writer/teacher Maria Shine Stewart spells out the ABCs of Adjunct life. Thanks, Maria!

Adjunct acrobat: One who stays supremely flexible
Badjunct: Unfortunate stereotype
Cladjunct: Colleague with scheduling luck
Dadjunct: One balancing parenting and teaching
Egadjunct: Typical reaction upon hearing course load
Fadjunct: One who follows the trends
Gladjunct: Opposite of "sadjunct"
Gradjunct: One completing an/other degree while teaching
Hadjunct: Remember position you had before reassignment, budget cuts, etc.
Idjunct: One given to too much self-indulgence
Jazzjunct: One who recharges while commuting with innovative music
Kitkatdjunct: One who stops at vending machines rather than taking meal breaks
Ladjunct: The newbie
Myriadjunct: One who works in multiple departments of the same school
Nadjunct: Someone who gives it up
Operadjunct: Your colleague with the big voice
Plaidjunct: Your color-coordinated colleague
Quadjunct: What you become when you improvise to conference with students outside
Rapidadjunct: Colleague hired at last minute
Sadjunct: Opposite of "gladjunct"
T.a.djunct: See "gradjunct"
Unsinkableadjunct: Got zero hits
Vegetarianadjunct: One whose compassion extends to animals
Wadejunct: What you became the day you forgot your boots
Xanadjunct: One who dreams of exotic places
Yaddayaddayadjunct: What you sound like to someone who really isn't listening to adjunct issues
Zigzagadjunct: What happens if you forget the day of the week and drive to the wrong school

Maria Shine Stewart teaches and writes in South Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. She has been published locally and nationally. Humor is one of Cleveland's major exports but in her case, she cultivates it close to home.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Health Benefits but a dream???

Here's a group of adjuncts who went the extra mile to find their own health care provider, but their university can't break its "rules" to support their effort. What is wrong with this picture?!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Under-Secretary Kanter responds...

Dear Raye,

Thank you for your email. There is tremendous variation throughout our country in the ways that unions and management have and have not addressed the challenges raised in your email. We look forward to working on ways that the federal government can collaborate with your national leadership to enable local labor and management leaders to examine examples of agreements that can serve as models for reforms for local consideration. Thank you for writing to me.


Martha Kanter
Under Secretary
U.S. Department of Education

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams!"

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Open Letter to Martha Kanter, Under-Secretary of Education re "living as an adjunct"

Thanks to Betsy Smith from the Contingent Academics Mailing List ( for letting us know Martha Kanter, Under-Secretary of Education, is interested in knowing what adjunct life is like. Here's my take on it (see the letter below) -- if you'd like to let her know what you experience, also, here's the address:

Dear Secretary Kanter:

Thank you for expressing interest in adjunct, or contingent faculty, life. After years of using my M.A. to teach "on the side," while pursuing my primary profession, my company consolidated and laid everyone off. When I had no luck finding an equivalent position in the Detroit area (I chose not to move for family reasons), I decided to try piecing together a full-time living teaching in multiple universities and colleges. This began about 12 years ago--the point at which I ceased having job security, a decent wage, health care benefits, dental coverage and hope of ever retiring. Because the job market is so tight, I hope to have classes to teach next semester, but I usually don't know for sure until a week or two before those classes start.

Despite this insecurity, this past year I've worked longer hours than ever (60 hour work weeks are not unusual when you teach 3-4 freshman writing courses), all for gross wages under $30K. I worked throughout the year (had one week off in the summer, in between assignments), picking up teaching and tutoring assignments piece meal as they become available. No matter what an outstanding job I do in the classroom (I take my job very seriously), my experience actually works against my ever getting hired full-time by a university. Even a short stint as a contingent limits an instructor's hopes of ever being hired full-time or getting tenure--it's like we wear a big red "A" on our chests, too, like Hester Prynne. As an adjunct I truly am a "day laborer" in the academic world: working far more than full-time hours semester after semester for mostly the same schools (a so-called "perma-temp,"), but for part-time, temporary conditions.

I enjoy teaching (why else would anyone put up with this?) but I resent more and more the disparity between the expectations placed upon me as a professional, and the sub-standard wages and non-existent benefits handed out. Universities couldn't function without our collective efforts (and they know it), yet they are allowed to continue cheapening the value of higher education with their treatment of us, and their eliminating of more and more full-time positions every year. As schools are forced to further corporatize because federal and state funds have become less available, this situation will only get worse, and chances are very real that the U.S. will stop being the destination for international students seeking quality education. U.S. students would be wise to go elsewhere, too.

Adjunct life is not just about universities -- it's a wake-up call for anyone who feels secure in his/her full-time job. Any professional function can be broken into part-time fragments, and while there should be, there don't seem to be any laws in place to prevent this from happening to American workers. I hope the federal government wakes up and does something to reverse this destructive trend soon.

Thank you for listening,

Raye Robertson

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The Add-On Voice: Adjuncts in Academia"

Wish me well on Thursday -- I'll be carrying the adjunct "message," as best I can, to the CEA Conference in San Antonio. The presentation is called "The Add-On Voice: Adjuncts in Academia,". You're welcome to view the slides and the survey results (Raye's Survey & Raye's Survey2) that are also attached. Please note that the Reference pages of the presentation (at the end) contain a wealth of good information and leads for more information! Don't miss the "Voices" pages just before the References pages, too -- my favorite part of the presentation will be to make the comments available that I received from all of you who participated in the survey. The comments say it all better than I ever will!

To everyone who participated in this project, my sincere thanks! Let's keep the message out there!

Monday, March 15, 2010

How about a funny?

Sorry for the absence -- a lot has happened in a couple weeks and a lot more is going to happen in the next two weeks, so here's a link to some fun (we can use this, can't we?):

I saw a bright red cardinal who was singing his heart out this morning, and the first yellow crocuses are just popping -- Spring, beautiful Spring is almost here!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's nearly you know how to apply for Unemployment?

If your illustrious adjunct career is anything like mine, midterm is about the time you start thinking about the plan for next semester's cookie money. After 15+ years of never even thinking about claiming unemployment benefits, last year at this time I gave it serious thought. I even attended classes for Michigan's "No Worker Left Behind" program, but it soon became clear that the money in that program was intended for those who need to attend the types of classes I usually teach! I looked at ways I could approach this fleeting opportunity for a grant of $10,000 over 2 years of schooling, but nothing that looked good to me fit the program parameters well enough. Besides, a last minute class assignment surfaced that put me squarely back on the adjunct hamster wheel of life for at least another few laps.

Even so, I know the day may come (and with today's economy and the troubles in Higher Ed staffing, it may come soon) when I have to swallow my pride and apply for unemployment benefits. The good news is, according to the feedback some of you have given on this page--and a document I'd recommend to all (link to come), I can finally state with certainty that it is possible to get unemployment benefits as an adjunct!

COCAL (The Chicago Coalition on Contingent Academic Labor) offers a very helpful guide for this process, entitled "Access to Unemployment Insurance Benefits for Contingent Faculty," by Joe Berry, Beverly Stewart and Helena Worthen. The guide gives you precise language to use when speaking about your reasons for applying, how to handle your employers' inevitable attempt to challenge your claims by saying you have "reasonable assurance of reemployment," and so on. The truth is, by definition, adjuncts are CONTINGENT workers, which means there is no reasonable assurance of anything! We serve at the pleasure of a lot of ifs, ands, and buts, (as my mother would say), so never fear...we have a case! 

According to the guide, however, there are good, better and best ways to go about applying, if you must. I recommend reading this guide thoroughly before launching your effort...and please share your results with other adjuncts (and me!) if you do go through the process!

I think we need to stick together on this issue and at least, get informed of what our rights are. Then, stepping up and exercising these rights might help establish us as a cohesive group of academic workers with special working conditions and needs--who deserve the same safety net offered to other American workers! Let me know what you think, please!

Friday, February 26, 2010

March 4th Actions to Defend Education!

What's happening in your neck o' the woods?

From Vanessa in New Mexico: NEW MEXICO @ UNM, UNM-AAUP chapter is sponsoring a forum on the "Crisis" in Higher Education. March 4, 3-5, SUB Acoma A+B. Panelists include Michael Mauer, Director of Organizing and Services, AAUP; Beverly Burris, Sociology Chair; Lissa Knudson, GPSA President; Elisha Allen, President UNM Staff Council; Stephen eGiulio, NMSU-AAUP; guests from the legislature. Open to the public, no charge.

From UPTF at Wayne State U (Detroit): Fund Education, Not Banks and the War Machine! Rally and march from Wayne State's Gullen Mall to the New Center. 4 p.m. rally; 4:30 march; 5 p.m. picket outside Cadillac Plaza and the Fisher Building.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

EMU part-timers are fighting the good fight!

This article from says it all: "A ‘Nice Experience’ or a Job? Lecturers at Michigan School Say Part-Timers Need a Union, Too." The national attention that EMU adjuncts are getting is encouraging, and the article does grit its teeth a bit, especially when the focus turns to how EMU's lawyers are attempting to derail EMU adjuncts' petition for unionization in both demeaning and divisive terms:

“'The part-time employment of adjuncts provides them with a little money and a nice experience,' said attorney Craig Schwartz of the Butzel Long firm, representing the administration on a recent conference call with representatives of the state’s labor commission and the union.

The part-timers, Schwartz said, 'have no community of interest' with the full-timers. Not surprisingly, this is the same argument the lawyers made to create divisiveness between professors and lecturers before full-time lecturers won their union in 2001."

What planet are these guys from? Click here for the full text...worth reading and passing along!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day of Action for Education event heating up for March 4

The beat goes's the latest organizing info from Student Activism regarding the March 4 Day of Action to Defend Education. At the risk of restating the obvious, I'll just say we have a lot at stake in this action, too!

Let us know if anything's happening on March 4 in your areas, please!

Monday, February 22, 2010

If unionization was not allowed, would you care?

Thanks to a list-serve colleague at Adjunct Nation for this article -- "Adjuncts Apathetic on Unionization." It seems we're front and center in all types of media these days! Despite the discouraging headline, suggesting we're a bunch of layabouts with little interest in our own welfare, this article published in The Diamondback, University of Maryland's independent student newspaper this past Friday (February 19) covers the territory quite well. At least it acknowledges the reasons for our lack of involvement and finally concludes that we "care," but just don't have the wherewithal (time, especially) to do much about it.

Here's an excerpt:
Graduate assistants and adjunct faculty at state public universities do not currently have a legal right to collectively bargain. But after a November report was issued stating that they should not be allowed to unionize because of the expense it would impose on and the friction it could cause in state institutions, a heated dispute erupted among graduate students, state officials and university system administrators. Most adjuncts, however, seem apathetic or unaware of the issues surrounding this ongoing debate.“The sort of disengagement that most part-time faculty feel is because they work two or three jobs,” said Monica Jacobe, an adjunct University Senate representative. “A lot of adjuncts don’t take their job farther than what they are contractually obligated to do.”

The part-timers' union I belong to at Wayne State U is constantly faced with this challenge of member "disengagement." With schedule conflicts, being over-extended, overworked and underpaid, we're lucky to get 20 people together (from a membership of hundreds) for a general meeting. I've been as "apathetic" as the next person, over the years. However, there are powerful economic forces ranged against our progress as a professional group, and I've had a sinking feeling lately that this could very well be it for my so-called career. If it doesn't get better, it's probably going to get worse, so--bottom line--I'm trying to squeak out a little more hands-on involvement.
What about you? Got a union story to share?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Student activists speak out about reforming universities

This could be encouraging -- one highlight cited from a series of surveys conducted by Public Agenda for the National Center of Public Policy and Higher Education states, "Six out of 10 Americans now say that colleges today operate more like a business, focused more on the bottom line than on the educational experience of students. Further, the number of people who feel this way has increased by 5 percentage points in the last year alone, and is up by 8 percentage points since 2007." This focus on business, as opposed to student experience, is apparently fueling widespread doubt about why tuition rates keep escalating.


Student activists seem to agree; students are getting themselves into an awful lot of debt to afford their educations these days: is it any wonder they're feeling agitated? Faced with a rotten, job-poor economy looming for years ahead, what are their prospects?
All of the above are good reasons to consider speaking out on March 4: A National Day of Action to Defend Education. Have an action or event for that day to promote? Click here to let the national event organizers know, and please feel free to share the news!

Is part-time teaching the basis for a career?

It's the perennial dilemma for adjuncts:  how does part-time teaching fit into our  individual career plans? As so many have pointed out, there are as many reasons for teaching part-time as there are individual teachers, but I can't help thinking the BIG QUESTION remains: what does that "flexibility" do to our prospects as true professionals? Like many of you, I'm sure, I work 60-70+ hour weeks to stretch myself between teaching gigs, paper grading and class prep. In my case, (this semester only, as one never knows about next semester), the stretch is around 10 university credit hours and a private ESL course or two on the side. All of this nets me--US-- "part-time" or "contingent" status in the eyes of the federal labor laws, in the eyes of health insurers, and so on. Thankfully, one of the institutions I teach for has a part-timers union, but as helpful as that is locally, it does nothing to alter the BIG PICTURE--our contingent status overall. Whose purposes are really served by our "flexibility?" Does twisting ourselves into pretzels to make a living wage in a part-time economy serve US, in the long run?

From the AFT FACE blog, here's an interesting take on why the pretzel gig makes sense at times, titled, "The Part-Time Worker," by adjunct Jennie Smith. My question is, should making a sensible choice to teach part-time come with the baggage it does for our profession in general? Maybe the solution to this dilemma goes beyond unionization to the lofty level of federal labor laws? Maybe we need to be redefined on that level as true professionals?  What do you think?

Friday, February 19, 2010

College Students Cash Cows?

Here's an interesting piece! If college students are the "new cash cows," we could also consider where the cash comes from that's being milked out of them...and where all that cash is not going!

How badly has the tuition risen in your schools?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

National Day for Defense of Education, March 4

This blog is devoted to exploring the issues that keep university adjunct instructors spinning their wheels, but not getting very far, but there does come a time when the BIG PICTURE raises its ugly head and we have to take notice. Well, March 4 is the day the national spotlight will be aimed at that ugly, 9-headed Medusa we call Public Education in this country, thanks to:

March 4 National Day of Action to Defend Education

Here's an excerpt from the web page linked above:

"As people throughout the country struggle under the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, public education from pre-K to higher and adult education is threatened by budget cuts, layoffs, privatization, tuition and fee increases, and other attacks. Budget cuts degrade the quality of public education by decreasing student services and increasing class size, while tuition hikes and layoffs force the cost of the recession onto students and teachers and off of the financial institutions that caused the recession in the first place. Non-unionized charter schools threaten to divide, weaken and privatize the public school system and damage teachers’ unions, which are needed now more than ever. More and more students are going deep into debt to finance their education, while high unemployment forces many students and youth to join the military to receive a higher education. And all of the attacks described above have hit working people and people of color the hardest."

It goes without saying, adjuncts have a stake in the BIG PICTURE, so check out the web link above to have your say. We're not alone in this one!

Go, EMU!

Here's an article from Eastern Michigan University about the unionization drive of adjuncts there. This statement speaks volumes: "I believe that anyone who says that part-time faculty have no common interest with those who teach full-time and are only doing this for 'little money and nice experience' lacks understanding of the dynamics of higher education and the realities of preparing students for the work place..." Regents listen to union pitch

Savage Chickens - Cartoons on Sticky Notes by Doug Savage

Great way to start the Thursday marathon -- thanks, Vanessa! Savage Chickens - Cartoons on Sticky Notes by Doug Savage

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thanks to AFT for this!

Here's a very interesting Huffington Post piece by Bob Samuels of the AFT University Council, entitled, "Why Tuition Always Goes Up at American Universities."  Tuition certainly isn't going up because adjunct wages are getting appreciably better, but with so much downward pressure on university budgets in general these days, and so many voices proclaiming adjunct teaching to be the best hedge against recession around, can we predict the trend?

Have your say!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Diversity or Fragmentation?

Thanks to a fellow Adjunct Nation list member for this: it seems adjunct life has finally hit the big time -- the January 31 business section! Whether we should cheer or not is a matter of perspective: is the diversity of paths beaten to the doors of our shared academic limbo a strength or a weakness? Can anyone take our professional status seriously if it's advertised as a "fall-back plan" for hard times?

The article, by Phyllis Korkki, is entitled "Back to School, as an Adjunct," and, in a nutshell, it promotes the dictum "he who can't, teaches" as the latest recession survival strategy. Korkki states, "Becoming a teacher can be rigorous and time-consuming, but at the college level, part-time teaching is a realistic option for some professionals. Postsecondary schools are often willing to be flexible about academic credentials in return for real-world expertise" (emphasis mine).

So, any professional can be a teacher these days--and the market agrees, according to Korkki: "The need for part-time professors, known as adjuncts, is high right now. Education is one of the few areas of the economy that has been expanding, partly because so many of the unemployed are returning to school." Again, we can look at this positively or not, which is just what the "Letters to the Editor" in response to Korkki's story do. One letter touts the adjunct life as a Baby Boomer's dream, " ideal encore career." Another letter (my personal favorite) decries the "casualization of the academic labor market," suggesting American universities are slipping off the international pedastal with the shift away from tenure-track positions (a trend more or less lumped in with the increase of adjunct hiring). Will reducing our job profile and expectations to something "any professional" can do help adjunct professionals have a coherent voice out there? Or will it fragment us even further?

Please share your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What do you think about your "voice" as part-time/adjunct faculty?

"Voice" is about as slippery a concept as any, especially when applied to a profession. If Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait & Switch and George Clooney's Up in the Air are any indication, a large percentage of today's working professionals feel there are forces at work that totally trash any "voice" they might have. An even trickier question is, how does "voice" relate to the experiences of part-time/adjunct faculty? I know from my research that whatever this loaded term means, a lot of us don't feel we have enough of it!  For starters, here's a checklist to consider:
  • Is having a "voice" about sitting at the table with the full-timers and taking part in department decisions that impact us?
  • Is it being invited to present our work at department meetings?
  • Is it being asked to mentor new part-time faculty?
  • Is it being asked to sit on curriculum development committees? 
  • Is it being in on the discussion when our class assignments are scheduled from semester-to-semester?
  • Is it about union representation?
  • Or, some combination of all-of-the-above?
What do you think? What would make you feel that you have a satisfying "voice" in your professional life? Your comments are welcome!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Feeling overworked and underpaid? Here's the MLA's solution...

It's good to know that there are some influential voices in academic policy calling for equitable part-time faculty wages. Here's a statement put out recently by the Modern Language Association, entitled "MLA Recommendation on Minimum Per-Course Compensation for Part-Time Faculty Members." Happily, the MLA supports factoring in more dollars per course to compensate part-timers for having no medical benefits. This could be very important and helpful if the Federal health care reforms ever happen and we are all required to purchase coverage, one way or another.

Also, happily, for the 2009-10 academic year, the MLA recommends a minimum $6750 per 3-credit hour course for semester-based courses and $4500 per 3-credit hour for trimester-based courses. These figures were arrived at by starting with the principle that part-timers should be compensated "pro rata to full-time faculty performing similar duties" and are contingent upon the actual work load of the part-timer (3 courses/per semester would be the equivalent of "full-time"). There's a lot more to see on the website the link above takes you to -- bottom line, we're not alone in this BUWW (big, ugly working world). If this report has any teeth, I'd say a lot of us are due a nice pay raise!

Have your say about pay rates and more...please take the quick 5-7 minute "Adjuncts in Academia-2010 Survey" here!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kudos to the AFT-FACE campaign for its support: Write your Senators!

The latest edition of the AFT On Campus publication (Jan./Feb. 2010) features a great interview with researcher Adrianna Kezar of USC and Cecil Sam, USC graduate assistant, who have studied higher education institutions and their use/misuse of adjunct faculty. See the AFT links on the side of this page for more on this -- Kezar and Sam get it right, and considering neither one of them are adjuncts, it's good to hear!

The FACE campaign is asking all of us to write our U.S. Senators now to promote better treatment for adjuncts and more full-time hiring on university campuses. Please hit the link to submit your thoughts in their form.

Last, but not least, if you haven't already done so, please take a few minutes to take the "Adjuncts in Academia 2010 Survey" here. We are an issue whose time has come! Your voice is needed and greatly appreciated!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Welcome to The Adjunct Voice

Collectively, we university part-time/adjunct faculty members (hereafter called "adjuncts") are a demographic universe unto ourselves. We come from every academic field and carry every degree imaginable. We bring as many goals and approaches towards our teaching lives as there are individuals. Of course, there's a flip side to this incredibly lively diversity: our badly fragmented professional voice.  Most academic analysts I've read--not the bean counters--view the very fact of our relentlessly growing numbers (one stat claims we are now 600,000 strong nationwide) as a troubling development. Yet, U.S. white collar employment in general is trending this exact direction: towards more part-time, temporary and contract positions with reduced wages and few, if any, paid benefits. Clearly, universities have just been ahead of the curve--or worse, they've led the way. Whichever it is, it's had a snowball effect on the U.S. middle class and adjunct life isn't likely to get much easier for it.

Many of us never set out to become "career" adjuncts, but then, who would? Yet, being plucked from the ranks of long-time adjunct teaching to fill a full-time position is increasingly rare (having taught for 10+ years hasn't helped my CV any), and part-timing is no longer just a way to "get a taste for teaching" before making the full-time plunge. On the other hand, those who began teaching part-time to supplement their corporate incomes are probably glad they did, given today's unemployment woes: teaching might just be their mainstay, at this point. Unfortunately, that's a heck of a pay cut to swallow.

So, dear colleagues, what are you experiencing today with part-time university teaching? I'm hoping this blog will give us a forum for discussion and collective problem-solving--even for lively, but respectful venting. If you're like me, you don't have much time for meetings and collegiality in the schools you serve, but a "virtual" community is possible from anywhere, anytime, and we've all got stories to tell!

For starters, please take a few minutes to fill in the attached anonymous survey, "Adjuncts in Academia Survey, 2010."  I'm asking for your input on this because (in my free time, ha!) I'm conducting a study on adjunct faculty issues for presentation in March.  Your thoughts on these matters are more important than anything else I will have to say. Like I said, this is just for starters, though. It's finally occurred to me after years of grousing about working conditions, pay, lack of health care, etc., that it's time to get together for a nationwide chat and feel a little less alone in today's big, ugly working world. Maybe together, we can figure out some solutions!

Let's talk!

Raye Robertson