November 2019 Advocate: Invited but unpaid


Invited but unpaid: The adjunct faculty dilemma

By Jessica Silver-Sharp, AFT 1493 Secretary, Adjunct Librarian, Skyline & Cañada Colleges

When I was a new adjunct on campus several years ago, I attended just about everything I was invited to. While this helped me get up to speed on my new job and I met wonderful people, almost immediately my part-time job threatened to become full-time. The majority of these “optional” events, forums, trainings and meetings were unpaid.

During the first two weeks of October, my email inbox was once again completely flooded with invitations to events, trainings and forums I should know about. Our 600 or so part-timers in the District probably experienced the same. Because I work for two of our campuses, I was invited to:
Accreditation Open Forum and Accreditation Team Exit report, Skyline 50th anniversary events (I’m on the Committee), webinars recommended by colleagues and directly related to my job, Unconscious Bias training, various Council meetings, Academic Senate, Division meetings in my two divisions, an All Staff meeting in one my divisions, a Faculty meeting in one of my divisions, October 9th Flex Day at two campuses, CTTL’s First Flex Fridays, District Professional Development workshops, planning meetings for UndocuWeek. I was also invited to visit a free community market, a faculty art exhibit, events at my Library on days I don’t work, and to office hours with my Deans at each college and with one of my VPIs. I was even invited to get a flu shot!

A couple of years ago, full-time Skyline instructor Jesse Raskin, an Academic Senate leader, wrote an article for The Advocate about his workload that kept my head spinning for days. I know that adjunct faculty are not alone in feeling overwhelmed at the sheer volume of things happening at our campuses and the quantity of events and training we’re “invited” to attend. But for salaried full-timers, these trainings are part of a full-time work week; for adjuncts they are largely unpaid.

The AFT and our Senates regularly advocate for adjuncts to be paid for all the work they do. In fact, the union is bargaining for that right now. But we have a role to play, too. As adjuncts, if we want to attend more of the events we’re invited to with pay, we can speak to our deans or supervisors and make a case for our participation as the team players we’re expected to be. We can also enlist tenured full-time colleagues to ask on our behalf, helping to remind supervisors that adjuncts are part of the team, that our participation matters. I’ve been successful trying both methods. I didn’t get what I asked for every time, but I got a lot more than I would have if I hadn’t tried. The more of us who advocate in this way, and the more frequently we ask, the greater the impact we can make. Imagine the effect that 600 part-timers might make. We have to try.