How a Hashtag Turned into an International Adjunct Movement

From PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e:

Adjunct faculty across the country Wednesday went off syllabus. They staged teach-ins and demonstrations to raise awareness about what it means to be an adjunct professor in America.

Adjuncts make up half of all college and university professors, but they earn an average of only $2,000 to $3,000 per course. Mary-Faith Cerasoli, an adjunct professor of English and Italian, made $22,000 last year, with no health insurance. She taught a full course load, but made too much to qualify for public assistance. Unable to afford her own place to live, she was homeless when Making Sen$e spoke with her last year.

Just to get a full course load, many adjuncts have to teach on multiple campuses, miles apart. Like academic nomads, their cars are their offices, and their backpacks are their filing cabinets.

Feb. 25 was originally conceived on social media as National Adjunct Walkout Day, but it grew as a grassroots effort that took on many different forms in different places. Teach-ins, rallies and talks were much more common than walkouts, given contract and union agreements that made walking out risky for many adjuncts. 

At least 25 chapters of the American Association of University Professors participated, as well as many other union-affiliated and independent adjunct groups. Organizers are still tallying exactly how many campuses saw some sort of action, but the map below from National Adjunct’s Tumblr gives an idea of its breadth.

The largest actions were on the West Coast, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Students organized and led San Francisco Art Institute’s walkout, which was planned for lunchtime, said adjunct English and critical studies professor Jessica Beard. Because SFAI’s adjunct union is still at the bargaining table with the administration, they didn’t want to disrupt the schoolday or put pressure on anyone to abandon classes, she said. Winning people over to their cause, Beard explained, was much more important.

Read the full story here.