Mark your Calendars: February 25 is National Adjunct Walkout Day

This is an article from the WLUFA Advocate January 2015 3.3.

Kimberly Ellis-Hale, Sociology

What is said to have begun as the simple rumination of one American Adjunct Professor has now grown into a national – wait, an international – movement.

February 25, 2015, will mark the first-ever National Adjunct Walkout Day.—a day that could answer the question, “What would the halls of academe look like without the precarious academic worker?” In the United States, the answer is “empty,” as more than 50 per-cent of faculty hold part-time appointments and non-tenure-track positions account for more than 76 percent of all instructional staff appointments. In Canada, the answer may be harder to come by since many university administrations do not keep track of data on Contract Faculty. We do know, however, that, as of 2012, Contract Faculty at Laurier were responsible for over half of the total student “spaces” occupied at the university (that is, the number of students times the number of courses taken). We also know that we are not the biggest employer of Contract Faculty in the country. In the UK the situation may be even more dire, with increasing reliance on “zero-hour con-tracts” (contracts, or casual contracts, that allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work) – a pattern replicated in countries such as Australia and Ireland.

With no single central organizing group, National Adjunct Walkout Day activities in the US will look different across American campuses. Some campus groups will draw attention to costly administrative bloat funded by continued exploitation of contingent faculty. Others will focus on the negative impact precarious employment has on the quality of education, lost research opportunities and heavier administrative loads carried by tenured faculty. None of these actions are without risk or threat: a recent American Cam-pus Security article published in preparation for the day suggests that administrations use zip ties to reduce the costs when handcuffs are not returned!

There is, however, some agreement nationwide around the use of two main images to symbolize the day. The first of these is a “scarlet A”, representing the shame which should be worn by administrations who continue to exploit adjunct professors while lining their institutional pockets. The second image references other social justice movements through the “raised fist”, but includes the addition of a bar-coded wrist to symbolize the treatment of adjuncts as a faceless, generic, cheap and disposable workforce.

However you plan to mark this day, and you should, ask yourself this, “Is the adjunct crisis reflecting or advancing a broader labour crisis, where exploited professors are being employed to teach what will become a new generation of exploit-ed workers?”
The use (abuse) of Contract Faculty is not just a “university” problem.

Look for WLUFA materials and ideas to support the February 25 Walkout, and to build greater awareness of the situation on Canadian campuses.

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