In response to the call for testimony, I submitted the following to Congress:
1. For how long have you worked as a contingent faculty or instructor?
* 1993-2003, Graduate Assistant, Teaching Assistant at private and public colleges and universities in New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Switzerland. (this is a form of unregulated contingency, too).
*2003-2011, Adjunct in Liberal Arts and Humanities in Vermont and New Hampshire.
2. How would you describe the working conditions of contingent faculty and instructors at your college or university, including matters like compensation, benefits, opportunities for growth and advancement, job stability, and administrative and professional support?
* compensation: on an average 20 student enrollment, I was paid less than 15%; with a doctorate I was paid less than 20%; “contact hours” are 3-4 per section per week with a minumum of 7-9 hours “donated” for prep, grading, advising, electronic communications, phone, tutorials. Please read: https://migrantintellectual.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/the-contact-hour-lie/
* benefits: none
* opportunities for growth: none
* opportunities for advancement: none (despite full time jobs budgeted and allocated; no movement)
* job stability: none
* administrative support: ineffective and tentative at best
* professional support: like being fed pig ass, horse lips, and devoured corn cobs — nourishing if you still have strong enough teeth to chew
3. How do those conditions help or hinder your ability to earn a living and have a stable and successful career in higher education?
* The only reason why I was able to teach effectively is because I am a formidable teacher in seminar, workshop, lecture, traditional and online. My MA and PhD work was blessed by mentors who themselves are the best of the best in scholarship, teaching, administration, and curriculum development. Without their guidance and training, I wouldn’t have made it seven years as an Adjunct. I brought an Ivy League CV into these adjunct nightmares, with a broad knowledge of content and about a decade of teaching skills I acquired from Dartmouth College, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and Catholic University.
* compensation: I should not have to work seven courses to pay my bills, support my kids, give them and me the economic stability the college teaching profession afforded in Part Time and Full time situations. Adjuncting is no longer a “hobby”; it is one of the few options left for non-Tenure Track faculty and must be treated with the professional respect students, families, trustees, administrations, and our professional organizations demand. Otherwise, you will no longer have a public higher education system. You will have what I call the “WalSmart University” (corporate, private, unaccountable, driven by market MANIPULATION and other fraudulent behavior we know right now stand as the number one reason our economy tanked in the 00s).
* benefits: without the wisdom of twenty plus years of planning on the part of the state of Vermont (all branches of government, all parties), I would not be alive today and my children would be at risk of disease and death. Like WalMart and other multinationals, the colleges and universities prey on state human health and services budgets so they can continue to not pay for any benefits needed by their most active, dedicated, and deserving faculty.
* growth: business and higher ed 101 — replicate success, grow from within, and support enterprising people and ideas. Current administrative thinking works against this. My professional growth was the result of the mentors and external institutions mentioned above. And I’m sorry but development contracts that pay 70% less market rate which were doled out like pittance after Sunday Church Service can quite frankly go straight to hell.
* stability: worse than term to term contracting are the great unknowns in basic compensation: when we’ll get paid? To what address will they send the check? the incompetence in accounting and basic professional services (like a paycheck) is legion. There is no stability when hard working professionals entrusted with the task of educating this nation’s future professionals, workers, and academics have to make a single italian submarine sandwich last three days or borrow money from friends, family, or the very same administrators who have refused to help increase pay, job stability, etc. Talk about a situation where the nuts run the nut house!
* administrative support: You mean sustainable, professional, and payable (measurable?) support? No, dear Congress, I received seven adjunct mugs, a bunch of pencils, keychains, and a hat.
* professional support: my professional support was received in the margins between contracts or from outside sources.
4. What impact, if any, do those working conditions have on students or higher education generally?
* working conditions are learning conditions; students are learning less and are becoming less effective leaders. It’s not complicated — a nation full of contingent part-time workers (pulling 60+ hours a week) are being taught by professional teachers who are treated as contingent part-time workers (pulling 60+ hours a week). You simply can’t help a student if you can’t help yourself; and you certainly can’t help a student with his or her professional, vocational, or academic career decisions when you’re own has been deliberately sabotaged from the top across at least a decade and a half of gross negligence.
5. How do those working conditions help or hinder your ability to do your job, or how do they otherwise affect students in achieving their educational goals?
* My job was to teach, to meet course objectives, to align my courses with the department, division, and college/university mission. In most courses, across the seven most active years as an adjunct, it was only by acts of sheer will and the grace of God I was able to be the best teacher for my students. In retrospect, I could have helped more or at least been more present and active for more students and colleagues had I received even the most basic professional support . . . which I define as equal pay for equal work.
Name another profession that is asked to donate 80% of its compensation on the job?
The answer is none; well, not if you include illegal or paralegal immigrants working for the poultry industry. Or overnight janitorial services paid with cash in white envelopes left on receptionist counters or in night watch drawers.
In closing, I’d like to add some questions, distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
* Why have state and federal governments allowed gross violations of labor laws to continue this long? What is your accountability here?
* How can one set of contracted employees (service, grounds, maintenance) receive pay for all of their work and another set find themselves denied?
* How much longer will state and federal governments turn their back on adjuncts who teach 75% of the courses without proper compensation, without any indication of job security?
* Why does it take death and mental instability and treatable health care complications and more death and broken families and more death
* What took you so long, Congress?