Where to begin? How to begin? How about sit down in your thinking chair with your handy-dandy notebook and, well, think and talk and dream aloud about your work, your expectations, your struggles, and your hopes for yourself, your students, and those who will pick up this banner after your time has come to pass.
Jean-Luc Nancy famously asked his students and readers to consider Lenin’s question “What is to be done?” as an opportunity to make decisions grounded in the present conditions rather than as an accumulation of past choices or a series of steps taken toward a projected goal. In other words, direct action, mindful action, some kind of focused attention paid to the situation as it is rather than as you “thought it was” or “hope it to be someday”:
…we know one thing at least: ‘What is to be done?’ means for us: how to make a world for which all is not already done (played out, finished, enshrined in a destiny), nor still entirely to do (in the future for always future tomorrows).” (http://hapaxlegomania.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-is-to-be-done-jean-luc-nancy.html)
All the Soviet allusions aside, it is important that we focus on how we evaluate effectiveness; we have spent too much time playing a numbers game that lends itself to statistical alienation from the college and university. I watched and participated in an alignment process that revealed radical imbalances in FT and PT duties, a gross negligence regarding how (and if) students were advised, and, more importantly, a growing rift between faculty and administration.
What do we value? How does that expression of inherent and qualified “worth” help us to build the case that without adjunct support, most colleges and universities would need to close their doorts? We can also look at the value conversation as a way to combate the market driven numbers game — oftentimes what we value, we cannot price or price fix. A great example of this problematic is located in the SUNY Humanities debate from 2010:
We haven’t played all the angles yet. We certainly haven’t even begun to resist actively and with the best direct action progressive and conservatives have demonstrated for us over the last few decades. It will be important to define narrow and broad values as we move forward in addressing gross inequity. Simply saying “pay us more for the work we do” has fallen on death [sic.] ears and crossed-eyes. Adding to that easily ignored demand “this isn’t right” also smacks of ignorance on the part of the organized, the marginalized.
From here I would suggest making up rubrics to evaluate whole colleges, whole departments, colleagues, etc. — all in the name of assessment driven “service-oriented” pedagogy. By staying a negative value (“The administration does not value consistency” or “The college no longer values transparency” or “the Full Time faculty do not value the labor of their part time colleagues” — then **show** what a “valued relationship” looks like.
I’ll never tell.
No one quite knows what to do with the facts re: adjunct life. Truthfully, most adjuncts do not know what to do about their working conditions. Many will say, walk away. This is too complicated; there are too many x-factors involved. Some will advocate for more meetings, more committees, more “investigations.” Have you considered teaching for more colleges so you can make more money?
How about a value test around this question? Do you get paid for all of your labor? If the answer is no, then your employer does not value your labor. They can celebrate it all they want; they can thank you with key chain holders or mugs or teddy bears. But, if you said no to the question, then you are already aware of how best to make your conditions better
Organize. Share stories. Do this in the open; do this as part of a lunch meeting. Gather together on or off campus. Use social media. Sure, to revolutionize the adjuncts — to give them their memory, to serve as their witness, and the help them achieve equity in pay and, well, we all saw this coming — value.