The PSC marked Campus Equity Week (CEW) across CUNY with activities that aimed to highlight the damage to individual lives, and the life of the University, caused by the lack of job security for adjuncts.
Campus Equity Week is an annual event that was launched in 2001 by the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor(COCAL) to call attention to the hardships faced by adjunct faculty. This year it ran from October 28 to November 2, and events were staged on scores of campuses across the United States. Participating organizations include the AFT, AAUP, National Education Association, and the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, with overall coordination from the New Faculty Majority.
“It puts adjuncts at the forefront,” said Marcia Newfield, PSC Vice President Part-Time Personnel. “We are a majority of today’s faculty, and Campus Equity Week is a way to speak out about our concerns.”
PSC members organized events at a total of 13 CUNY colleges. For the union, a central focus this year was gathering first-person stories from part-timers about how the contingent nature of their employment affects them, their students and CUNY as a whole. One of the union’s priorities in the upcoming contract negotiations is the creation of a system that provides stable and continuous employment for adjuncts who have a continuing commitment to CUNY. That can be achieved without cost and is one of several union priorities, along with raises, a more reasonable teaching load and a structure for HEO advancement.
At many campuses, adjuncts and full-time faculty collaborated and set up union tables in high-visibility locations to gather adjuncts’ job insecurity stories and to raise awareness about the issues.
Besides staffing the table at John Jay, Arlene Geiger, an adjunct lecturer in economics, visited several departments and met with adjuncts individually.
Chance to Be Heard
“Seniority and job security are big issues,” said Geiger, who has taught continuously at John Jay since 1992. “Not knowing what you’re going to do next semester and whether you’re going to have to scurry for other sources of income is quite stressful.” (For more than 40 firsthand accounts of adjunct job insecurity, see the PSC website.)
At Queeensborough Community College, part-timers tabled on October 30 and 31. Linda Hart, a Continuing Education Teacher at QCC, also contacted adjuncts individually and said many welcomed the chance to speak out. “They were excited that the union wanted their input and that somebody was thinking of them,” Hart said.
Queens College adjunct organizer Abe Walker focused on disseminating information about the QC administration’s failure to pay more than 340 adjuncts on time in the first pay period of the new semester. (See report in the November Clarion.) Besides two days of tabling, Walker visited about a dozen departments and spoke with adjuncts one-on-one. The goal, he said, is to create a structure of department representatives for adjuncts that will allow part-timers to know quickly if there is another situation in which significant numbers are not getting paid.
“If this happens again, we will be prepared to mount a major offensive,” said Walker. If CUNY did not constantly treat long-serving adjuncts as brand-new employees, he added, missed paychecks would not be such a common problem.
“There’s no reason every week shouldn’t be equity week,” Walker said.