by William Lipkin | 5 July 2014
I became active in the labor movement over 25 years ago at a time when very few people even knew what the word ‘adjunct’ referred to. I immediately saw the inequities in every aspect of Higher Education and began to question and investigate. It did not take me long to realize that we were a new class of professional educators: a class with little pay, no benefits and few rights. As a Political Scientist/Historian I knew something was wrong, but no one wanted to listen to me. Well, at that time we made up a small percentage of the teaching force and had little support outside of our own circle.
Of course not, but as our numbers grew the support did not. In fact many of us just hunkered in and continued to let ourselves be exploited. Many of us had been working as individuals in our own states or in our own Colleges to get more equity for adjunct faculty. Working alone is difficult when trying to achieve success, however, many of us networked and kept each other aware of the failures and successes we had achieved. We did this because we shared a common goal – respect, and better pay and working conditions for adjunct faculty.
Fast forward to the past 6-8 years and our numbers have swelled to the point that we overwhelmingly outnumber full time faculty. Then the ‘AHA!’ moment came when some leaders came up with the idea of forming organizations across the nation and include the growing number of contingent faculty in our cause. Several organizations have been formed over the past few years and they have been successful in bringing our issues before the public and making many aware of the situation in Higher Ed. National education labor unions have been supporting adjunct issues on a regular basis. Even individual groups in colleges have been making inroads.
But here is my question: Now that we have several national groups with the same basic goals, why is there so much discord between them? Why are adjunct faculty supporting one group and not another? Why are there personality conflicts between these groups? Certainly not everyone will have the same ideas nor will everyone always agree with each other, but if the goals are the same, where has ‘solidarity’ disappeared to? Isn’t it better to have one or two strong groups speaking for us in one voice than groups competing for the spotlight? Do the groups that have been around for a few years really speak for the majority of adjunct faculty or are they drenched in the ideas and agendas of the leadership? I have read articles by, seen interviews with, and read email statements from many of these leaders and often question the positions they are taking on issues. I often wonder how many of their members they have surveyed before making such statements.
Why can’t we all work together? The time wasted with factional divisions can be better used by all of us to achieve the goals we all strive for. We need to put personalities and pettiness aside and work together as adjunct and contingent faculty for the furtherance of our basic rights as professional educators.
This article is cross-posted with Precarious Faculty.