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Chaparral 2014-2015: 23.4 Adjunct Junction

Adjunct Junction (March 2015)

Adjunct Junction: Voices of Adjuncts

by Julie Gamberg

Guild Second Vice President-Adjunct Faculty Representative

 

Julie Gamberg

Editors’ Note: In recognition of National Adjunct Walkout Day this past February 25, the GCC Guild chose to solicit personal stories by GCC adjunct faculty about the impact of adjunct wages and working conditions. What follows are the voices of individual adjunct faculty members sharing their personal experience and concerns about their work as adjuncts. While Chaparral did not investigate the claims made by these writers, we did have follow-up phone conversations and made further inquiries about most of these stories. And, while we cannot confirm the veracity of individual claims, we did chose to print only those claims that were echoed by many faculty members’ letters or phone calls. Finally, Chaparral also received fond and funny stories of adjunct experiences, which we plan to publish in the next issue. Thank you to all of the contributors, and thank you to our readership for hearing these stories.

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We have many more adjunct faculty members than full-time faculty members.  Yet according to the Senate rules, adjuncts have no voting rights for choosing their chair...  Some of our instructors last a very long time.  One is going on 40 years of service at GCC! Where is the democracy in the decision-making?
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I created a new course outline and was never paid for my work. I also was never offered my own class! I feel like if I complain, I risk getting cut down to one class. Honestly, it’s incredibly exploitative.
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The health care situation is a disaster for those who really need it. Some people are paying more than they earn!  
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I developed a new course which was cancelled before I could teach it. It is now being taught by a full-time faculty member and there is no indication that I will ever be offered this course.
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My first paycheck for the last 6 semesters has been late for some reason or another. This time I'm told there's an issue with the system (PeopleSoft/Oracle). Apparently no one cares that my rent is due on the first of the month.
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I have worked in my car, school cafeterias, empty classrooms, and for a few years in faculty bathroom space at one college.
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What bothers me is the lack of job security.  Even those who have been here for decades are not immune from being laid off for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their teaching.
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I came to teaching college later in life after being an artist and journalist. A lot of schooling, 2 majors, and an experimental life, so few complaints other than a real sadness over not being a genuine part of a workplace "family."
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I was asked by a chair to rewrite a class that was consistently under-enrolled. It is now a very popular class. I spent many hours rethinking and rewriting lectures, assignments and scoring rubrics. All at my expense. It was a volunteer task because back then there were zero dollars for curriculum development by adjuncts. I knew this going in and was not happy about it but I felt so strongly about teaching and my desire to be in the classroom and the needs of this class, so I went for it. After the class ended, it seemed like I was just thrown away and forgotten about. To have an adjunct work for free on class development, then take the class away while keeping the documents for another instructor is not cool. I'm a grown-up, so I didn't cry, but I sure do miss the classroom.
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Been to many retirement parties over the years but never one for an adjunct. We have no faces, no real value, so are seldom honored for our work. We just come, go, and eventually disappear.
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I am grading and prepping all day, everyday, when I’m not teaching. I maintain two different website platforms and keep track of two different systems at two different schools. I make a very low hourly wage when all of my time is factored in. In my time being an adjunct instructor, I have had to enter classes at the last minute without sufficient preparation and without teaching my own syllabus. When it goes badly, sometimes I just can’t make up for the mess I am put in, and I suddenly find that I am harried and not teaching as well as usual. My students sense it and the semester goes badly. I spend a lot of time helping when I can, especially those with disabilities (my own child has a disability) and was even voted for an award by my students. Even so, time is sometimes limited due to commuting and lack of adequate pay for conference time (I teach writing, and tutoring writing is very time consuming).
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I have been teaching at GCC for nearly ten years. I split my time between GCC and one other school. The worst days are when I have to be on both campuses on the same day. The good thing about being an adjunct faculty member is that I am not required to do as much work on program review and SLO stuff as full-time faculty; that aspect is nice. But there is always an uncertainty semester to semester in terms of what classes I will get, and also are my classes going to conflict between my two schools in terms of what time they’re offered. The unpredictability is difficult. Often, during the semester, I’m working as many hours as a full-time faculty member, but getting paid $30,000 per year in total, maybe $40,000 in a busy year. But I do enjoy working with students very much. The other challenge of being an adjunct is not having an office. I have my home office, but when I leave for the day, I have to make sure I don’t forget what I need for the day, and make sure to deal with photocopies for different campuses, etc.. I would like to have one place to be settled, and to keep all of my teaching materials. I do really appreciate that on both campuses where I teach, they allow adjuncts to do a lot of training, including some paid trainings. And I also appreciate that, at least here at GCC, I get the sense that my division chair knows me really well, I know our division assistant really well, a lot of the full-timers know me and like me, so I do feel I have support on campus.
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I taught at Glendale College for more than a decade and was very involved with my division, with my students’ success, and with campus life. I always held office hours, even when I wasn't being paid for them, I took students on trips and to special events, I served on committees, designed courses, helped write campus reports, and constantly strove to improve my pedagogical skills. My student evaluations ranged from not-as-strong-as-I-would-have-liked to absolutely excellent. I always "met" expectations and although I was concerned that I hadn't "exceeded" expectations, I was told by more than one division chair that departments purposely tried not to give out "exceeds" expectations because of the implications for rehire rights. I was vaguely aware that I didn’t have actual job security, but because I was consistently given the maximum number of classes per semester, always got such great personal feedback from my students and colleagues, was so involved in campus life and so loved teaching, I did not worry about job security. Until my regular three classes were suddenly cut to two. Then, I lost all of my classes. The grievance officer at the time said there was nothing that could be done because I was not on the reemployment rights list. I didn’t feel I had grounds to protest, but it certainly felt unfair. When I lost all of my classes, adjuncts were just starting to be cut all over the state. It was a terrible time to try to get classes elsewhere – no district was hiring new adjunct faculty. It really impacted my life with devastating financial consequences. Once I was unemployed, I kept trying to make payments, but went into default. The way collection charges are added in when student loans go into default, the $50,000 loan is now close to $200,000. Here I am, in my mid forties, trying to figure out what kind of career I can use my skills for. It’s obviously been a tough economic time for many people, but the jobs I have found require specific experience in whichever field, so at this point, I’m looking for entry-level jobs in order to gain other experience, as if I were just out of college. I miss teaching, I miss my students, and I miss the camaraderie of the GCC campus. Every once in a while I get a class, but nothing regular or that I can count on. I never dreamed that my teaching career was hanging by such a tenuous thread.
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