From Inside Higher Ed:
Adjuncting, as we know, is a constant struggle for anyone who does it full time. For women especially, wage theft, labor exploitation, institutional sexism and parenting issues intersect to affect their working conditions—and, by extension, their students’ learning conditions.
Consider this, from Clare Dale: “I’ve been told that, as a woman, it is often assumed I am bringing in a second income. This is archaic and wrong.”
Or this, from Susan Gill: “Could the fact that imposter syndrome disproportionately affects female academics mean they are more likely to accept precarious conditions?”
A former adjunct remembers something similar to Clare’s experience: her department assumed that, as a wife and parent, she wouldn’t want full-time work. (We’d love to hear from any men who’ve experienced something similar, if there are any.) Two other adjunct mothers are also the breadwinners, which is nearly impossible on their salaries without outside assistance—especially during the summer, when they might not be paid.
Clearly, when we speak of contingent labor in higher education, we are also speaking about gender. But summer is a particularly stressful time for adjuncts, particularly because the semester ends and they don’t know whether they’ll be hired next semester.
At PrecariCorps—the nonprofit I cofounded with Brianne Bolin and Kat Jacobsen—we’re supporting adjuncts financially and professionally. The three of us know from personal experience how tough it is financially to be an adjunct. In talking with others and considering our own experiences, we decided that the best course of action was getting money for adjuncts’ personal and professional needs.
Since January, we’ve received over 30 donations and made 6 financial awards (with several more coming soon) to help adjuncts with rent, car insurance, child care, and other bills. We’ve been collaborating with Women In Higher Education, New Faculty Majority, and other activist organizations to raise awareness and funds to help adjuncts in need. We’ll keep working with these and other organizations, while encouraging other activist groups to do the same. Fixing higher education and helping those grossly underserved by it will take collaboration, multi-front organizing, and regular signal-boosting.
Among other things, PrecariCorps runs a series of True Stories about different aspects of adjuncts’ lives, particularly where gender and contingency intersect. We’ve run four True Stories so far: all by women, and all speaking to common issues in higher ed. These True Stories echo other conversations on social media and in adjuncts’ offices about the systemic nature of the precariat’s problems.
For most adjuncts, supporting themselves is nearly impossible on their salaries without outside assistance—especially during the summer, when they might not be paid.