NAWD: Celebrate, Don’t Walk

In October 2014, an unidentified part-time professor at San Jose State University began the movement to raise awareness of the plight of the part-time/adjunct faculty. She called this action the National Adjunct Walkout Day (NAWD) and called for February 25, 2015 as the date to make adjunct issues known. Inside Higher Ed picked up the story, and it soon went viral, spreading across all social communication sites. Many part-time faculty have cheered the movement, saying that it is about time that part-time faculty make themselves and their issues known. Depending on whose survey we rely on, part-time faculty make up between 53-76% of college faculty nationwide. According to recent surveys, 40,000 part-time faculty are currently teaching in California alone. That has the potential of a nice sized turnout.

Why walk out? Because we are the disenfranchised faculty. We are paid, on average, 38% of what a “fresh out of college” full-time colleague earns. Health insurance and compensation for planning and meeting with students is non-existent in most of the community colleges in the state. We are limited in how many classes we can teach in any one district in any particular semester. By Education Code, we cannot be granted contracts for entire academic years as can lecturers in the CSU system. Subsequent, efforts to legislate equity over the past two decades have been ineffective, so watered down as to be only marginally useful to only a handful of part-timers.

Walk out! Hell yeah, I thought. A one day walkout to show administrators and legislators, full-time faculty, students, and the community at large, just how dependent our community college system is on the work of part-time faculty. I had the vision of all the part-timers on my campus walking out of their classrooms and marching to the quad, shouting “Equity now! Equity now!” Right there, my vision fizzles.

human factorPart-timers don’t have time for a walkout; they’re too busy trying to eke out a living by teaching in more than one college district in order to make the equivalent of the novice professor. Not only are they too busy, but more importantly, and tellingly, many are too worried about potential repercussions of such an action. Many part-time (aka: adjunct, aka: contingent) faculty have families to support, so the possibility of losing their jobs over one day of protest, valid or not, is much more than they are willing to risk. Part-time faculty are “at will” employees whose semester-to-semester appointments are at the goodwill of their chairs, deans, and administrators. A hectic teaching schedule aside, the threat of termination is enough to keep most part-timers from voicing their discontent on February 25th even if they don’t have a chaotic schedule.

Cowards, you think? No. A look at our contract, Article 25, says that in (A) “It is agreed and understood that there will be no strike, work stoppage, slow-down . . . or other interference with the operations of the District by the Association. . . .” Section (C) of Article 25 further states: “It is agreed and understood that any employee violation this Article may be subject to discipline up to and including termination by the District.” In other words, a walkout, even as a symbol of unity, can be construed as a strike at the worst, a work stoppage as a minimum. Much of what is in the contract is based on PERB law, specifically the EERA and the HEERA that state, collectively, that in the event of a strike or walk out, the District has the right to collect damages and to take disciplinary actions where the District deems appropriate. The District, therefore, has the right to terminate employees who participate in a walkout.

Okay, so we can’t legally walk out, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still make our voices heard. The San Bernardino Community College District Teachers’ Association (SBCCDTA) has decided to stage a celebration rather than a walkout. The SBCCDTA is dedicating the week of February 23 through 25 to highlight contingent/adjunct/part-time faculty. We will have activities on both campuses that make up the SBCCD, including information tables, buttons, ribbons, speakers and a “wall” celebrating the part-timers who work so hard for student success and students’ dreams of a better future. On Wednesday, February 25, SBCCDTA is sponsoring Pizza-with-a-Part-Timer at both campuses. In this way, part-timers and full-timers alike hope to work toward making the futures and dreams of part-time faculty, of all faculty, better in turn.

Faculty are invited to participate to make this week of celebration the success that it can be. Wear the buttons, talk to your students about how a campus that is made up of 75% part-time faculty means to their education goals. Encourage students to wear the ribbons to show their support of part-time faculty. Faculty, who are willing, can make the ribbons available in their classrooms. Faculty are also invited to come to the Pizza-with a Part-Timer and tell their stories to a wider audience.

SBCCDTA will providing a finalized calendar of events within the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned and check SBCCDTA.org for more information and updates.

DeAnna Jensen

Rep. PT Fac. CHC

Instructor, English