August 7, 2014
By Stephanie West
New York, NY — A conference of adjunct faculty activists from Canada, Mexico and the U.S., took place August 4th through August 6th in NYC at CUNY’s John Jay College. “Twenty adjuncts and I share an office…Four times we’ve been evicted from similar digs…When I had no office I kept my papers in my car,” read Vicki Moss, poet and adjunct professor of English at Fashion Institute of Technology.
Moss was one of 200 activists at the eleventh conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL), a three-day event hosted by the Professional Staff Congress, the union representing faculty and staff at CUNY, including 15,000 workers who are adjuncts, hourly workers or other types of contingent employees. The coalition, formed in 1996. Adjuncts are a growing underclass of college educators who work for low-pay with no job security, meager benefits and poor working conditions. The conference title was Shaping an Equitable & Democratic Future for Higher Education: The Way Forward.
"Part-time" adjuncts now make up more than half of the teaching force at U.S. colleges and universities; in 1975, they were only a fifth. When all academic workers hired on a contingent basis are accounted for, their share of the U.S. teaching force is a whopping 75%. In Mexico, contingent faculty make up 76% of the professoriate. In Canada they make up 34%. These contingent faculty can be treated as disposable workers, even after decades of experience.