May 2014 Advocate – Adjunct Action Bay Area

PART TIMER ORGANIZING

SEIU launches Adjunct Action Bay Area

by Doniella Maher, Cañada College, English

On March 22nd, adjunct instructors from across the Bay Area came together to discuss issues facing part-timers who have increased significantly in relationship to their full time counterparts in colleges across the nation over the last 30 years. Adjunct Action Bay Area, organized by SEIU Local 1021, is part of a national campaign to fight for better conditions.  Over the last year, adjunct associations have formed at a number of community, state and private colleges.  These developments represent a significant step forward for a sector that has often been excluded from the local union or has lacked real, practical adjunct representation.  

Adjunct Action Bay Area is founded on five key concerns: 

  • the social justice issue, 
  • the fact that adjunct/contingent faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, 
  • the de-professionalization of the field,
  • the eroding of access and affordability of higher education, and 
  • the fact that the precariousness of contingent faculty threatens the free production of knowledge and scholarship.  

Even after making concessions for the additional committee work that full timers do, adjunct faculty are not paid equally for equal work while they are expected to maintain the same classroom standards and teaching excellence despite the fact they bring in significant funding for the colleges. Adjunct working conditions are also student learning conditions.  Providing a supportive environment and continuity for students is of primary concern for all college instructors.  If adjuncts have no space to meet with students, or if they are unavailable to students because they have to drive to other campuses or are not offered classes the next term, those students miss out.  Students also miss out in the classroom since part time instructors have little extra time to devote to developing their teaching skills and deepening their own knowledge.  

While the initial Adjunct Action Bay Area meeting was small, it showed the potential of organizing adjuncts across the nation to improve working conditions and address issues faced by an increasingly large contingent workforce.