A is for Adjunct: Resources for Organizing the Contingent Faculty Majority

This is a guest post by David Kociemba, a contributor to the recent September-October issue of Academe. Kociemba is the president of the Affiliated Faculty of Emerson College AAUP chapter and the chair of the AAUP’s Committee on Contingency and the Profession. 

Getting adjunct faculty organized for the first time feels like a daunting task—finding resources, dodging soul-sapping negativity and ignorance, managing complexity, and a paralyzing fear of the consequences of error; I imagine it’s what our first-year students feel when writing their first college research paper. But you don’t have to do it alone, because many others have walked this path before you. In “Overcoming the Challenges to Contingent Faculty Organizing”, I tried to help fed-up adjuncts get started by providing one process for contingent faculty organizing that worked for us at Emerson College.

That article’s a pretty good outline, but a lot of students get stuck at that stage in the writing process, as we know. Sometimes, knowing where the writing center is helps them, so if you’re stuck, why not contact the AAUP’s organizing department? Kira, Dawn, Jason, and Emily are all field-tested organizers who can talk with you about the first concrete steps to take. And if you work in an anti-union state, they can guide you in facing those issues as well.

The AAUP Committee on Contingency and the Profession has set up a AAUP Contingent Faculty Organizing Kit on Dropbox to provide resources for faculty looking to organize;. It has art like A is for Adjunct, data mined and sorted by the AAUP’s crack research department, reports like “Who is Professor Staff?” and “The Just-in-Time Professor”, and essays to send to your colleagues. The kit is designed to be a beginner’s resource to introduce people to the issues, rather than an archive of every article that has come out. I’d love to start an advanced kit for more established units or one for integrated bargaining units: what should go in it?

National AAUP is scheduled to roll out a kit for all faculty later this academic year, but they’ve already got some resources available on their web site, with a resource page and some testimonials on the contingent life.

I’m not really familiar with the blogosphere or Twitter #tags to follow on contingent faculty issues, but maybe some readers can help there? Please, self-promote! I can recommend New Faculty Majority as the premiere adjunct-specific organization publicizing these issues, with The Adjunct Project having some user-friendly content. The one aggregator website that I use is from Scoop, curated by Vanessa Vaile. As I am of a certain age, I tend to use Facebook to stay abreast of contingent faculty developments, where local faculty unions, AAUP, New Faculty Majority, Adjunct Action, and Con Job provide lively discussions. When I’m all alone during office hours in my cubicle, I can check Facebook and feel connected.

If you need a “hook” for your first public event, think about hosting a Campus Equity Week event on Halloween to really scare administrators!

Not that many contingent faculty get travel or professional development funds, but if you do, see if you can sneak funding for a trip to COCAL next summer.

Perhaps a book club might be a way to raise consciousness and promote connection amongst your fellow “Invisible Adjuncts”? If so, try Joe Berry’s seminal Reclaiming the Ivory Tower, Keith Hoeller’s new Equality for Contingent Faculty, Benjamin Ginsberg’s The Fall of the Faculty, or Alex Kudera’s novel, Fight for Your Long Day? That’s just a start, though. What about other book recommendations for the spring semester?

Note: A fuller discussion of this topic may be found in the September-October issue of Academe in “Overcoming the Challenges to Contingent Faculty Organizing”, an essay by David Kociemba.

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