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One/Many Problem

Why would FT faculty fight for adjunct equity when they’re told by the MASTER class that such shifts are a direct threat to their own job security? As with the inclusion of women and minorities in standard curricula and cannon, as with current American racial politics, the push for equity is presumed to be (1) divisive and (2) injurious to the majority.

Not true.

More equity is equity for all.

How many FT faculty members cannot attend to their research agendas because of unnecessary cuts to advising centers (during increases in enrollment)? How many sit on three or more committees when some of that load could be shared by their Visiting, part-time, and Adjunct colleagues?

I’m not going to presume to know how one colleague can “get it” and another refuses or doesn’t. I have noticed that the more privileged a FTer is, the less like he or she is going to support adjunct equity. At two separate institutions over the past five to seven years, I noticed two similar “type” of colleagues livid that myself and about a dozen others in NH fought successfully for an adjunct union. When asked “Why are you against this? We’re both represented by the same union?” the response was the same: We can’t afford to pay you more money now. The times are too tough.”

Funny – because of binding arbitration and a history of good will negotiation, the FT faculty in NH community college system have increased their equity through benefits, credit caps, professional development, lowered advising — and this at a system that does not require research to justify Assistant, Associate, and Full. But, they are not interested to support the Adjunct Nation.

Here’s why (fwiw): the very same overseers who deny adjunct equity are always looking for an excuse to break the contracts but not by way of a first move. If a FT employee is perceived as a trouble maker, their jobs are put at risk. One dean or provost with a bug up his or her butt about “rocking the boat” in any way, that FTer will find him or herself in meetings where at the end of the meeting the infraction will be mentioned in a passive aggressive manner, possibly used to leverage against increased salary, funding, etc.

Why would an administrator do that?

Because administrators, even the best I worked with,are ALSO working in the big house and have contingent jobs that can change or be taken away from them with very little effort. THose who fight back are blackballed. A culture of paranoia and brokenness is cultivated even at the best schools — perhaps even more so. The result is another control/power level where the results are even more chaotic, sociopathic, and nonsensical than at the Chair level.

This is why I suggest again that we focus on ourselves, building alliances definitely but not worrying so much about how to please our FT colleagues or administrators. And I tell you this as someone who had the best of the best when it came to Chair, VP, and Presidential level support. At the end of the day, they will sell you out slowly or suddenly when the word from on high gets passed down through the chain of command. It won’t look like a sell out. It won’t feel like a stab in the back. A job will be denied. Contracts guaranteed will become contingent (on you playing ball better or quieter).

Now the last part of the Kafka journey — sadly, when we finally get to the main office, the highest office, etc.we discover there’s nobody home or the real central authority has been gone for a long time. Vacated the premises years ago. Left the rest of us to rot. The room is empty; we’ve been treating each other like indentured servants or prisoners in Plato’s cave for years. We’re told by those who’ve escaped to keep running. Sadly, we too have tried to kill those who’ve returned to enact our liberation. (Why we all need to be patient with people who are extremely angry and maybe hyperbolic about their own brokenness and recovery.)

All I have is my own existential struggle, my story, my ideas, my sense of how to make things better. I then share those with others. Agreement or disagreement is part of the process we must own in order to become smarter, better, kinder, righteous colleagues bound in a struggle against what amounts to labor abuse, economic oppression, and general stupidity.

It’s the last one that gets me — the days of the crappy adjunct who gets contracts despite bad student reviews or because of nauseating cronyism are numbered. The vast majority of adjunct professors are more than qualified to meet the terms of their contracts, the expectations on their departments, and needs of the colleges. Equity involves increasing equity for all the way a single candle light when shared simply brings illumination for anyone who shares with their neighbor. But, as it is often pointed out on these pages, someone has to be the first to light the flame?

Or, better, is it now time to acknowledge that many of us across the country have held our candles up high (lit by our own lighters) looking for the right moment, the right medium or tool to shine more light on the terrible working conditions and those who are complicit with this oppression? Said differently, stop looking for origins. Stop wondering if we will ever overcome. Understand that thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people in the country who adjunct “get it” and simply need to tilt their already lit candle onto the wick of another’s candle

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About Dean RCB

Dean of Academics Lebanon College Philosophy and Integrated Liberal Arts Writer & Producer (theatre, television, film) Composer & Producer RCB lives in the Upper Valley with his wife and four boys.

2 responses to “One/Many Problem

  1. ewcollins ⋅

    I am not a threat to the tenured research professors at my university. The classes and students that I teach are ones that they would not want anyhow.

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