Today is National Adjunct Walkout Day. This is potentially a huge step in academic labor relations, as a deeply exploited population attempts to make its voice heard.
It’s too early to assess how the action has fared (it’s 8:39 am eastern time as I write this), but we can wish the activist adjuncts well in what is a daring, risky move. After all, adjuncts are at-will hires, lacking the political protection tenure affords some other faculty, and activism isn’t always popular.
Some stray observations from this fraught dawn:
- This is another case of social media playing an important organizing role in politics. The NAWD Facebook page has been crucial in bringing people together and sharing information, as is Twitter. There’s even a Tumblr site. I wonder how many adjuncts are using platforms supported by campus IT for this – local WordPress installs, for example.
- What organizations are actively assisting the adjuncts in organizing? Primarily the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). As one Chronicle commentator notes, that’s an interesting detail, given that education already has some organizing entities. “It is not accidental that the SEIU — rather than the AAUP and the teachers’ unions — is taking the lead in their organizing, for adjuncts are “service workers” in the academy, well below the students in ‘rank.'” Perhaps we’ll see some criticism of outside agitation.
- It’s even harder to get campuses to devote more resources to adjuncts when enormous, bipartisan, and sustained pressure exists to bring tuition prices down. The leading cost for colleges and universities is human resources – i.e. compensating faculty and staff. Check out some of the comments on this Chronicle piece for examples of people criticizing some of the economics.
You can follow NAWD’s progress via the Twitter hashtag.
(thanks to George Station for links)