Ashu Kapoor teaches a lab section for a statistics course at Queens College. Like many adjuncts, the first-year doctoral student doesn’t have an office or computer station to work from. This semester she found a solution to her problem: the recently opened QC Adjunct Center, which offers a dedicated space for QC’s more than 800 part-time faculty.
“It’s nice and it’s quiet. I use it almost every day,” Kapoor said of the center, which is housed in a temporary building, just west of the Student Union and five minutes from the center of campus. “I go there to grade papers, to work on classroom presentations and answer e-mail from my students.”
The Adjunct Center opened in 2012. One room contains about a dozen computer work stations while another serves as a lounge that includes a kitchen and a microwave oven. Plans are in the works to build a third room that will include a conference table for group meetings and partitioned cubicles where adjuncts can meet with individual students.
“It makes a statement that Queens College is beginning to give support to its adjuncts, which is not the case throughout academia,” said Ken Ryesky, an adjunct assistant professor in the accounting department. The opening of the adjunct center followed the publication of a 2011 report produced by a group of 16 QC adjuncts that called for a number of changes to improve the quality of the adjunct experience on the campus. “Adjuncts are not only isolated from the college as a whole, they are also isolated from each other,” the report’s introduction noted.
Abe Walker, an adjunct lecturer in sociology, said the ideal solution would be for departments to provide adequate space and computers to accommodate their adjunct faculty. But given that many departments are already squeezed for space, Walker told Clarion that the adjunct center has been a positive development – one that has not only provided much-needed workspace, but has started to ease the sense of isolation adjuncts feel as they meet peers from across disciplines.
“It begins to create dialogues and allows conversations that hadn’t happened before,” said Walker, who uses the space for the hours between classes he teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
And while piecemeal changes like the Adjunct Center don’t address the fundamental problem of academia’s two-tier labor system, Walker said small successes like this do point the way.
“When adjuncts are well-organized and articulate their demands, they can have an impact on their campus,” Walker said.