Wednesday, Feb. 25 will mark the first ever National Adjunct Action Day. This will happen in conjunction with National Adjunct Walkout Day, called for last year by an anonymous San Jose State University adjunct professor. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its Faculty Forward 15K campaign marks the day to set in motion campus-wide and nation-wide awareness concerning low adjunct pay and the rising costs of college.
A study in 2014 by the American Association of University Professors found that adjuncts make up 76.4 percent of instructional staffing across the collegiate gamut—at community colleges, liberal arts colleges, private colleges and universities and public universities. Add to that the fact that 31 percent of adjuncts are under the poverty line, and that most still under crippling student loan debt, and it makes for a true crisis.
This is exactly why a national campaign has been formed: to gain the strength in numbers to make the movement’s objectives heard and create a dialogue about university practices. The Faculty Forward campaign has three main objectives: (1) “ensuring all faculty receive fair compensation by establishing a national minimum wage and benefits standards of $15,000 per course,” (2) “making quality high education affordable and accessible for students,” and (3) “holding for-profit colleges and universities accountable for dismal student outcomes.”
Notice anything interesting about the last two objectives? That’s right, the Faculty Forward campaign is just as much about student concerns as it is faculty concerns. The campaign has set out to create discourse about what universities offer everyone.
The plan for National Adjunct Action Day includes teach-ins and walk outs. The walk-outs will take place at Seattle University, various Cleveland State University campuses, The University of Arizona and dozens of other campuses around the country. Even adjuncts in Canada and Ireland support the movement — The University of Toronto and Third Level Workplace Watch will walk-out in a show of solidarity.
Adjuncts in Kansas City and other areas will likely hold teach-ins to voice support for the movement. Faculty wearing bright orange, diamond buttons that read “Adjunct at Work” and “Ask me About $15k” will use class time to conduct an important lecture Tuesday or Wednesday, focused on subjects like the high cost of tuition, the national $1.2 trillion student loan debt, the dismal administrative salaries and the national average adjunct wage currently set at $2,700 per course.
The truth is, adjuncts such as myself are not just worried about their own personal future (I have more than $40,000 in student loans from graduate school alone, taken out to subsidize my salary despite working second and third jobs throughout the year). We are also worried about the futures of the very institutions where we work and study, the institutions we love.
The coming National Adjunct Action Day stands as a day where we can all — students, adjuncts, faculty and administrators — talk about the integrity and principles of higher education. It’s time to ask ourselves what we want from collegiate institutions, how tuition should be allocated and what resources all faculty members are truly provided.
Feb. 25is just the beginning for Faculty Forward. From that day on, the movement will likely grow louder.
They say there is power in numbers, but I say power is also volume.