Beyond the Hill

Colleges, universities across the nation participate in first-ever National Adjunct Walkout Day

Marisa Rother | Contributing Illustrator

In hopes of increasing awareness and improving the treatment of adjunct professors at colleges and universities around the nation, students, faculty and staff at various colleges participated in the first-ever National Adjunct Walkout Day last week.

The event, which took place on Feb. 25, drew national attention, as some schools had hundreds participate in the protest. In addition, some adjuncts said they hope the event will lead to long-term change for the treatment of adjuncts.

Driving forces of the movement are concerns about the privatization and corporatization of higher education in recent times. It has become an issue in today’s education system that adjunct professors are not compensated nor respected as well as they should be for the work that they put in, said John Washington, an adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, in an email.

Adjunct professors and supporters of National Adjunct Walkout Day have the goal of working with administration to improve the treatment of adjunct professors at schools around the country, and it is not the goal to work against the administration while trying to achieve goals, Washington said.

“We want to make sure students are receiving a high-quality education and their instructors, us, are not further turned into undervalued or dispensable workers,” Washington said. “The goal of any university should be quality, inspiring education, and that is not possible without fairly compensated, well-respected instructors.”

At the University of Arizona, response to the walkout of adjunct professors has been largely positive and sparked progress with administration. Adjuncts there are hopeful that improvements will begin to take place by next fall, Washington said.

However, each campus has created its own programs with its own conditions and policies that pertain to adjunct professors, and it is important to note that treatment of adjunct professors varies on a large scale from school to school, said Louisa Edgerly, an adjunct professor of journalism and communications at Seattle University, in an email.

“I would say that the national adjunct movement seeks to address the issue at its broadest point — how adjuncts are being used as cheap, disposable labor to get a short-term job done, and in the process how student learning environments are being affected,” said Edgerly.

Many of the participants in National Adjunct Walkout Day recognize the importance of the event because it is the first time that the population across the country was able to come together and collectively raise their voices to raise awareness, Edgerly said.

“I think big change is inevitable,” she said. “Where we are today is a big change from 30 years ago. I would expect a change of equal magnitude in higher ed over the next 30 years.”

The event at Seattle University attracted roughly 400 participants, including faculty, staff and students. The day’s events included the walkout, as well as picket line protesting and speakers including a tenured faculty member, an adjunct, a fast-food-worker organizer, students and Seattle city council members, Edgerly said.

She added that several issues have led to National Adjunct Walkout Day. However, some problems that cause adjuncts to be unable to provide a higher-quality education stem from struggling to make ends meet. This can be caused by the inequality and lack of fairness to non-tenure track professors, she said.

“Most departments these days would not function without our labor, yet we are paid the least and receive few to no benefits,” Edgerly said. “It’s an inherently unequal system that harms both faculty and students.”

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