Adjuncts Push for Change in Colorado

This is a guest post from Don Eron, who recently retired from the University of Colorado Boulder as a senior instructor in writing and rhetoric. He is a member of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

In Denver this week, SB15-094, the Colorado AAUP conference’s latest iteration of “equal pay for equal work” community college legislation, was defeated on a party line 3–2 vote before the state senate Veteran’s, Military, and State Affairs Committee. Realistically, however, this legislation was defeated on the first Tuesday in November, when the Republicans regained control of the state senate, 18–17.

Judging from the high spirits afterward at the Denver Press Club, where many of our supporters gathered, I may have been the only one disappointed at the result. The mood was invigorated (and invigorating). Although this specific piece of legislation failed, we can count many successes in our campaign—and we have no doubt that future legislative efforts can succeed, as did a 2012 bill authorizing enforceable contracts between non-tenure-track faculty and public institutions of higher education in Colorado.

Here’s one measure of success: Less than three years ago I received a phone call from Caprice Lawless, who was determined to change the working conditions for adjuncts in Colorado’s community colleges. By last year we had a remarkable AAUP chapter at Front Range Community College. By this year we had chapters at Community College of Denver, Red Rocks Community College, and Community College of Aurora, with one soon to come at Arapahoe Community College. These activists are determined, smart, fearless, unafraid of the limelight, and believe that victory is inevitable.

The push for SB15-094 was led in every phase by contingent faculty. Suzanne Hudson, the guiding force behind the legislation, conducted an extraordinary e-mail campaign, contacting as many of Colorado’s 4,000 community college adjuncts as were listed on their college’s web sites. (As part of the campaign, she also wrote the “Colorado Community College Faculty Bill of Rights” and “Proposal for a Unified Faculty in Colorado’s Community Colleges,” the defining documents in our AAUP community college equity movement.) Caprice Lawless marshalled the ground forces with tenacity and verve. And we enjoyed the invaluable support of our partner in crime, Colorado AFT, in particular interim president Ellen Slatkin and political director Kate Stigberg.

Senator John Kefalas, who had immense shoes to fill after our long-time legislative sponsor Randy Fischer was term-limited last year, was very good at yesterday’s hearing. Suzanne represented the AAUP with her usual expertise. Also testifying were the following Colorado community college adjuncts: Caprice, Melinda Myrick, Larry Eson, Nathaniel Bork, Anne Emmons, Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, Mark DuCharme, and Natasha McConnachie. Each provided remarkable testimony. Their testimony is posted on the websites of the Colorado AAUP and of the AAUP chapters of the Colorado Community College System.

In the course of our campaign, we raised the adjunct faculty voice and spoke up. We stood up for faculty who would otherwise stand alone. And we had fun with some of the best people one can hope to meet!

4 thoughts on “Adjuncts Push for Change in Colorado

  1. The Colorado AAUP is truly a role model for us all! Kudos to Don, Suzanne, Caprice, and the many dedicated and hard-working faculty advocates who have been fighting in the full spirit of AAUP’s “one faculty” campaign! This isn’t over yet!

    • Indeed, the Colorado State Conference of the AAUP also defended the academic freedom of Ward Churchill long before the national AAUP apparently reluctantly followed suit.

      It is indeed unfortunate that the national AAUP significantly drains the resources of the AAUP state conferences and of the AAUP Assembly of State Conferences, making it increasingly difficult for them to forge the bonds necessary to make a “one faculty” campaign more than a rhetorical slogan.

      Go Colorado!

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