A handout used in our meeting with the New Hampshire governor's education policy advisor in November
NOTE: For numbers I used my own compensation plus that reported anonymously to me by adjunct faculty members from the university where I teach who have taken my adjunct survey. Number of adjunct faculty and classes taught is a ballpark, based on information available via the university's on-line registration system.
New England Contingents United Plans First Unconference to Bring Adjunct Faculty Together
Contingent, also known as adjunct, faculty from New England are invited to join in the first unconference sponsored by the newly formed New England Contingents United—or NECUnited—Saturday, October 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on North Main Street in Concord, NH. Though the event is free, attendees are asked to RSVP so an accurate headcount will assist with set-up and coffee orders.
The organizers of the NECUnited Unconference hope to bring together adjunct faculty from around New England with the theme “Connections,” which emphasizes that adjuncts are not alone. Far from it, since most colleges and universities now fill 70 percent or more of their teaching positions with adjunct instructors. Adjunct faculty are contract workers paid low wages for their services with no benefits and no guarantee of work semester to semester. The national average compensation is just $2,700 per three-credit course—a rate so low that it means about a quarter of adjunct faculty must rely upon public assistance to survive.
The unconference offers an open meeting where people interested in higher education and contingent/adjunct workforce issues can come together in sessions proposed on the spot. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture, what a house party is to a church wedding, or what a pick-up game is to a varsity game: it’s more informal and participatory.
The organizers decided to host an unconference rather than a traditional conference for many reasons, including that the agenda is decided the morning of the unconference, rather than being set beforehand by a committee. This means that the issues that are most important to attendees can be addressed and discussed during participatory breakout sessions. By leaning on the knowledge base of those in attendance rather than hiring speakers, an unconference also keeps costs low.
Organizers anticipate some discussions to revolve around union forming and ongoing negotiation strategies, which has led to the invitation of union organizers, including representatives from SEA/SEIU and from AAUP, as well as faculty members who serve as union representatives. The documentary “Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Faculty” will also be screened, should enough participants wish to view it.
NECUnited organizers include adjunct faculty from NHTI and the state’s Community College System of NH, Keene State, UNH, UNH-Manchester, and PSU, as well as lecturers from UNH.