Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Adjunct: Confessions and Manifesto of a Benefits-Deprived Professor

First, we need to create honest and accurate language. Adjunct designates an inessential supplement, yet adjunct professors are just as permanent a fixture at colleges and universities trying to save a buck—that is, all colleges and universities—as "temporary buildings" are at American elementary and secondary schools. We are permanent, regardless of our expendability.

Contingent implies that there is some inherent logic to a system that completely disregards ethical responsibility for the working conditions of the working poor, that our positions somehow hinge on availability of classes and depends on our performance. Nothing is further from the truth of the situation. All other terms are equally unsuitable: part-time, temporary, non-tenure-track, provisional, ad hoc, etc.

I propose benefits-deprived.

So-called adjunct professors are simply deprived of everything associated with a professional position: a livable wage, institutional support, retirement benefits, health insurance, job security, peer respect, library privileges, and oftentimes an office.

Fuck them. Fail their students. Burn down their campuses. Smear shit on their library books. Let the  blood of the administrative class and para-academic sector drench the manicured quads and green spaces across campus.

Or at the very least, teach your students about the evils of the system that seeks to perpetuate its own power at the expense—both literally and figuratively—of those it relentlessly exploits, which includes those very students of yours.

Or at the very least, organize and unionize in order to force the administrative class to take seriously the demands and deplorable plight of its benefits-deprived faculty.

Why should anyone care about such things?

Education is a basic human right. As administrative—not educational—costs skyrocket, money is siphoned from the budget to attract CEO-style administrators who contribute nothing to the educational quality of an institution, thus necessitating the hiring of benefits-deprived faculty.

No worker should be deprived of benefits. This is fucking America in the goddamned 21st century. If you want this country to be shit, then keep everything as is. But a revolution will come, and it will sweep aside the rabble standing in the way. You are either for progress or you are against it, against us.*

Every institution and organization—not just academic ones—needs to fix this problem. Why? Because benefits-deprived professors don't pay dues to professional organizations that don't support them. Because benefits-deprived professors don't spend money to attend conferences. Because benefits-deprived professors don't even buy books when a public library is nearby. Because benefits-deprived professors don't have the means to afford a decent standard of living and therefore will rely on public assistance when it comes to that. Society will pay, one way or another.

After spending ten years deprived of benefits and respect, I finally walked out. Granted, most of those years I was happily supplementing my graduate assistantship as I completed the requirements for the PhD. The last straw, however, was having to ask the department chair about the spring semester long after the schedule had been created. He didn't even have the professionalism or decency to tell me weeks—if not months—earlier. Fuck him. Fuck that university. Fuck the fucking system.

I would rather be completely unemployed than to be miserably underemployed while contributing to society and serving my community and nation as an educator. My next professional experience, however, will include community and union organizing and activism. Because you've done pissed off the wrong person.

Revolution comin', and it's gonna come quick. Revolution comin' and it's got a big dick.

* False binaries neither satisfy nor convince me, so forgive my hyperbolic rhetorical register here.