“Safe Space” meetings allow part-time faculty to share experiences and stories with other adjuncts
by Annie Corbett, Cañada College and Skyline College, Psychology
On September 10 and October 14, Suji Venkataraman, Skyline College Education/Child Development part-time professor and Annie Corbett, Cañada College and Skyline College Psychology part-time professor, hosted adjunct faculty-only “Safe Space” meetings for part-time faculty to talk about their lived experiences and to share their stories. What became evident fairly quickly was the immense pain and anguish shared amongst the adjunct faculty who opted to participate. Some of the many prevailing themes included: the struggle to afford health insurance, the lack of transparency when interviewing for full-time positions (not being selected-denied feedback), feeling “othered”, and an overall feeling of exhaustion having to cobble together a living income in one of the most expensive areas in the country.
Many SMCCD adjuncts feel frustrated that they haven’t had a fair chance for a full-time position after years of part-time teaching
Participants vocalized through tears the frustration of being qualified to teach classes as an adjunct for many years, but not getting selected for full-time employment time and time again. The anger, rage, disappointment and hopelessness were a common feeling. Not understanding the process, the complete lack of transparency, feeling as if the person who is going to be hired has already been selected, and that interviewing other candidates is just a formality. This feeling was very prevalent with adjuncts who had been with the district over five years and had interviewed multiple times for full-time positions. The utter lack of feedback after the interview process was one of the worst aspects of this struggle, as the adjuncts are hungry for information on how they can improve their chances for full-time employment.
Most adjuncts at “Safe Space” meetings struggle to pay for health insurance
Most participants voiced an incredible struggle to be able to afford health insurance privately, and that the $1500 offered twice annually was simply not enough, and actually did not put a dent into their private health care costs. A few vocalized a complete inability to afford private insurance and were uninsured.
Difficulties juggling classes at multiple districts
Participants expressed exhaustion, by having to travel to different school districts to be able to afford to live, pay rent, utilities, etc., and stated they loved teaching their students, but struggle with having to juggle so many classes to just make ends meet. They mentioned the possibility of having to leave the area for an area more affordable.
Feeling unvalued leads adjuncts to give up on participation
Another overall theme was feeling “othered”. They don’t feel valued, their input isn’t asked, they can’t get compensated for professional development efforts – and some just give up. They give up going to meetings, give up providing their input, and give up doing anything else but survive. The adjunct faculty in duel-enrollment are left out even more, as they cannot even participate in flex days since the high schools are not closed the same day SMCCD is for flex days.
At the closing of each “Safe Space”, the adjuncts who came to share their voice stated they felt heard, felt as if they weren’t alone, and that they were united in their struggle for living wages, benefits, and other concerns.
Suji and Annie plan on holding these “Safe Spaces” monthly, so look out for the invitation! The next Adjunct Safe Space will be held Tuesday, November 10th, at 3 p.m. For more information, please contact Annie (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Suji (email@example.com).