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Something's Fishy in Academia

sfishyAs I skimmed through my various academic, professional and personal e-mail accounts this week, I was struck by the universal outcry of UNFAIR!  Don't give me the pat adage, "Life is unfair" or tell me more about how positive attitude wins the day. I work hard and I believe my capabilities are better than those of at least 95% of the people I encounter at work (and my education stands behind that high valuation). I'm still adjunct faculty. In a system that is essentially unjust, there is no accounting for fortune. Hard work and positive attitude belong to societies that are just and have the interests of their citizens as their core missions. I celebrate my friends and classmates who have done well in spite of the increasingly limited opportunities for those who haven't started out wealthy and well connected, but even they are aware that hard work and positive attitude are no longer enough for most Americans to reach even middle class status.

Chatter at College of the Desert this week has been about unfair hiring practices that favor the wealthy and well connected. Part-time faculty have been badgered all semester, along with full-time faculty, to participate in hiring committees for a number of important academic positions. For what? I'm glad I resisted the urge to drive for over an hour each way to serve on a committee on days I didn't have to be on campus to teach. It would have been to participate in a sham. The outcry is about the huge waste of all that faculty effort (not to mention the slap in the face to college governance), as Administration and Trustees over-rode the careful faculty selection process to favor their own (need I say, not so academically worthy?) candidates. Faculty who objected were chided by one administrator to watch their "tone" in e-mail reactions, though "arrogance" is the right word for such behavior. [The rarest and most prized lobsters are still the buzzards of the sea.]

Chatter at Riverside Community College District since late April has run along a similar track, except theirs is about the "happy adjunct" – with shades of a Southern plantation's justification of slavery. It's true that RCC offers better adjunct pay than some other colleges in the area. Also, the coordinator of the department I work for, like many middle-managers, includes part-time faculty in department meetings (despite our lack of voting status). We can even join committees, which is great for career self-esteem, and if anybody remembers all our work at reference-writing time, it might help us in the competition against the other 500 candidates for every advertised REAL faculty position we foolishly think we have a chance of winning in the rigged jobs lottery. It is also true that RCC, at least before Obama Care, offered part-time faculty a lower than PPO status version of healthcare, something most American colleges and universities don't do for those of us who constitute the New Faculty Majority. The "happy adjunct" chorus was largely from this contingent and from full time faculty who denounce "middle class status" as something somehow tainted and undesirable (never mind that they've got the means to it). It's also quite true that RCC has "saved" over 30 million dollars since the 1970s when adjunct faculty began to replace full time tenured professors with secure, CTA/CCA union-negotiated benefits. [Red snapper? Pike?]

Meanwhile, at Mount San Jacinto Community College, where adjunct faculty have UPTE/CWA representation, people are curious enough to attend union meetings, if they can fit them into overwrought schedules, but few are willing to stick their necks out and appear in public at board, campus or bargaining meetings. Our adjunct faculty contract expired months ago, and we have been put off by succeeding ranks of administrators, along with a highly paid lawyer, whose simple job it is to say "Noi!" Our trained bargaining representative is a volunteer from another UPTE/CWA campus. Where are all the people who want to move from THIRD FROM THE BOTTOM in California Community College adjunct wages to something a little more worthy of the MAJORITY of faculty who have gotten MSJC into the touted Atherton 150 and helped so many of our students win fantastic scholarships? [Rotten trout!]

I am fully aware that perhaps ½ of college and university adjuncts in America are moonlighting from other full-time-with-benefit jobs, including teaching positions, and that they don't see the personal benefits to fighting for equity for the rest of us, but I urge those with a conscience, as well as those who really  WANT to continue teaching, to read up and become adjunct advocates.

Snippets from my recent reading:

Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Labor
http://stevendkrause.com/2014/04/03/thoughts-on-con-job-stories-of-adjunct-contingent-labor/ video and notes

Please check out the NY Times article on contingent faculty  "The College Faculty Crisis" http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/opinion/the-college-faculty-crisis.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=1and
David Milroy CPFA Director of Administration WWW.CPFA.ORG
-- and READ follow-up comments about the type of "research" used to accuse adjuncts of poor teaching, voiced by Washington State Adjunct Activist Keith Hoeller:

[The Times] relied on a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Community College Engagement and funded by an insurance company (Metlife). The Center's Advisory Board is dominated by community college administrators, including at least six presidents... The study was not scientific... ignored a large study conducted by Northwestern University that dealt with full-time faculty. Researchers studied actual outcomes at ten colleges and universities and found that non-tenure-track faculty were actually better teachers than their tenure-track counterparts. At the very least, this shows what contingent faculty can do when provided with proper support... I highlighted this study in your "Sunday Dialogue: Academia's Two Tracks," published in the Times on November 16 last year. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/opinion/sunday/sunday-dialogue-academias-two-tracks.html?_r=0

old item -- LATimes on Adjunctshttp://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-04-16/growing-reliance-adjunct-professors     http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-allen-adjunct-professors-20131222,0,4701423.story#axzz2xqEfD0EX

Susan Page for Diane Rehm on NPR:

Adjuncts in Academia

Adjunct Justice
Petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/better-pay-for-adjuncts
Join Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AdjunctJustice
Ana Fores Tamayo's letter to Pope reprinted in Catholic Higher Education Advocate http://cheausa.org/adjuncts-letter-pope-francis-gaining-attention-plight-adjuncts/

Adjunct Faculty Union Resistance Archive Join FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/AFUResistanceArchive/
Reid Friedson, Founder & Director Adjunct Faculty Union (AFU)

Report: Importance of Engaging PTF at CCs

Free (limited) Oxford Library access:

Hightower Lowdown: Even Ph.Ds are being squeezed out of the middle class http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/node/3627#.U1GyUsbU2ap

Jim Hightower on Margaret Mary Symbolism

Poor ROI College Degrees:

Pay Gap is Because of Gender, Not Jobs

"UCR First" in dubious ranking game

Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability By Henry A Giroux
Americans now live in a society in which almost everyone is spied on, considered a potential terrorist, and subject to a mode of state and corporate lawlessness in which the arrogance of power knows no limits. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38209.htm

College Newspaper on Adjuncts:

Inequality on Campus – posted by Lawrence Wittner on 2/23/14
Lawrence Wittner (www.lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What's Going On at UAardvark?

Adjunct Underground in Los Angeles reads Joe Berry's "Reclaiming the Ivory Tower:Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education"
Adjunct Underground is proud to present an audiobook of Joe Berry’s book, Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education!

Still Living

Still Among the Living -- Reality in Academia's Trenches! http://theunarmededucationmercenary.blogspot.com/2014/04/still-among-living.html

Part-time Faculty: Contingency Becomes Collective http://writeliving.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/part-time-faculty-contingency-becomes-collective/

Selected from Dave Berry's listserve:

Working USA
Pay Per View:
The Trouble with “SolutionDriven Unionism”: Labor's Crisis of Ideas and the Promise of Economic Democracy   Authors
Costas Panayotakis First published: 12 March 2014Full publication history
McClure, Laura. Organize or Die. Madison, WI: CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2012. 322 pp. $12.59 (paperback).
        First published: 12 March 2014Full publication history
   Labor-friendly union laws and a bleak economic landscape, dominated by low-paid, contingent work turn the formation of a bargaining unit into a Sisyphean task. ..In this captivating tale, a star organizer is found dead in the midst of a seemingly successful organizing campaign....

Recent blog on academic freedom by Chris Nagel, recently elected to national AAUP execs council.

Aaron Calafato and his great show "For Profit" (which many in the contingent faculty movement have sponsored, during CEW and otherwise) is extending his tour. Contact him to plan a show date or attend.  Aaron Calafato <calafato.aaron@gmail.com> Artistic Director at Student Debt Crisis

Joe Berry’s Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education Now Online! -> Chapter 3 – The Chicago Experience http://adjunctunderground.kchungradio.org/

All faculty deserve fair treatment
By Mary-Faith Cerasoli, Commentary
Published 9:10 pm, Sunday, April 20, 2014

New study shows grad school profs heavily discriminate against women and minorities in answering their written inquiries, and the private sector is much worse than public. [I assume that virtually 100% of these surveyed profs are FTTT]. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/24/study-finds-faculty-members-are-more-likely-respond-white-males-others#sthash.PdlDgC7e.gMnld3TI.dpbs

Full version of new film about us, "Con Job" (many familiar faces)
Review of new movie about  us, "Con Job"

A good list for our prospective allies, especially FTTT faculty.

New article on adjunct organizing in The Atlantic monthly

Business advisor gives higher ed employers tips on how to spot an early union campaign and stop it. http://www.jdsupra.com/search/searchResults.aspx?sTerm=adjunct+unions+universities&x=8&y=8

Precarity Dispatches: adjunct union organizing in the news

Education is not the answer (from Jacobin magazine)

More on the death of Margaret Mary V in Pittsburgh by Jim Hightower.
https://www.google.com/url?q=http://illinoistimes.com/article-13699-the-symbolism-of-one-adjunct professor%2525E2%252580%252599sdeath.html&ct=ga&cd=CAEYACoTMTAwMTAzNjg4MzAxMzcwNzc2MjIaMTk5ZWJjY2Y3MjMzYzU3Zjpjb206ZW46VVM&usg=AFQjCNHseeUqFuZglxit_FaAfZubXBkgRA


Join your union(s), pay dues to your state's adjunct advocacy organization (That's CPFA in California) and pay dues to support regional and national part-time faculty advocacy organizations, even if you aren't able to attend meetings and conferences. Talk to your students and to people in your community about what's going on in America's colleges and universities. If you're full-time or otherwise sympathetic, please read http://mirandamerklein.blogspot.com/2014/04/ten-steps-to-becoming-adjunct-ally.html?m=1. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, no matter how hard we adjuncts may work to counter the negative effects of our situation.

"Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk." -- Henry David Thoreau

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