Nationwide Day of Collective Action to Raise Standards in Higher Education
Today, students and part-time instructors across the country are coming together in a dramatic show of unity for fair pay and better working conditions in a nationwide day of action. Major faculty and student walkouts or protests are taking place across the country, including Seattle University in Seattle, San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, and the University of Arizona in Tucson. SEIU-supported and allied activist events are also occurring in California, Ohio, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, Missouri, Florida, and Georgia.
Nationally, over 65 percent of all college faculty nationwide are off the tenure track. Seattle University students and faculty will unite in a large rally and walkout on Wednesday. “I am walking out for adjunct job security, a living wage, and transparency in where our student’s tuition dollars are being spent,” said Dr. Larry Cushnie, Adjunct Instructor of Political Science. “Student instruction must remain the main priority of the university. With a majority of instructors now part-time and non-tenure track, it is important that people know what massive student debt is really paying for in higher education.”
Once a middle class job, 45 percent of college and university faculty are now working part-time often for very low pay, isolated from colleagues without job security, benefits or even office space. When National Adjunct Walkout Day started online, the idea spread to include many forms of collective action to build awareness of adjunct faculty pay and working conditions.
At the University of Arizona, faculty and students will hold a mid-day event and march to UA President Ann Weaver Hart’s office who recently received a $40,000 bonus. Sean Rys teaches in the English Department at the University of Arizona. He said, “Adjuncts and Lecturers at the University of Arizona often work directly with underrepresented populations and foster strong personal relationships that increase student retention numbers while also humanizing the classroom as an ideational space. Through our action on February 25th, we hope to illustrate that non-tenure track faculty are not, as the ‘adjunct’ label suggests, subordinate or auxiliary workers. Rather, if current trends hold true, the future of higher education passes headlong through a growing front line of contingent knowledge workers.”
While many adjuncts are walking out of class, others are marking the day with powerful expressions of solidarity. Basak Durgun is a PhD student and teaches at George Mason University in the Washington, DC area. She said, “We are holding a teach-in at George Mason University Fairfax campus to reach out to our colleagues and educate the larger George Mason community about adjunct working conditions and their effects on student learning and community well being. We invest significant time, energy and money and sacrifice quite a bit from our personal lives to be in these classrooms. Teaching at a university and doing research that will have some social justice impact is all I wanted to do since I was a freshman in college. Essentially, I am fighting to get the only thing we ever wanted: dignity.”
The dramatic shift away from investment in educators and affordable, accessible higher education for students has been accompanied by a move toward a big-business model that affects all of us. Students are increasingly saddled with crushing debt that could take a lifetime to get out from under. Parents are struggling to stay afloat in the face of skyrocketing tuition bills. At the same time, for-profit colleges and universities continue to prey on low-income students, delivering poor quality at outrageously high costs that have fueled the growing student debt crisis.
The crisis in higher education is not a school by school issue. It is a national issue. Join the campaign.