UPDATE: As of 12:46 est, 2.22.15, I have received a reply to my letter. It is clear that the reply attempts to address my concerns sincerely, and I am thankful for it. According to their response, “We would LOVE a larger protest, but in order to have a successful walk-out, there must be a substantial number of people who agree to walk out, and this takes a lot of time and organizing, especially for a big campus. ADD is the first step in building a bridge between where we are at right now and where we want to be. We made an assessment of what our capacities are and have proceeded accordingly. We felt it would be reckless for us to exceed our capabilities.”
As sympathetic as I am to this line of reasoning, and as appreciative as I am of the work that a broad organization like this can do/has done, I do not regret raising an issue about the language that was used. That language in the original email carries an implication that ADD is to replace NAWD, rather than to accompany it. If OHEC is responsible for doing most of the organizing around this issue, then I believe they had a responsibility to present February 25th as a day with all the options on the table. The potential for mass walk-outs seems to have been stifled before the fact–albeit for perhaps sober reasons. In spite of all the organizing that has been motivated to make February 25th effective, it also seems that a judgement call was made regarding walk-outs, which I find unfortunate. Suggested actions and options for protest would have gone much farther in my book than a “designated” day “in lieu” of “walking-out”. In short, I don’t understand at all why it was necessary to preclude walk-outs from the discussion completely.
Nevertheless, the bottom line is this: If you are in any way involved in higher education, please think of what is within your power to do on February 25th, National Adjunct Walkout Day.
On February 19, the Ohio Higher Education Coalition circulated an email that was, I believe, an earnest attempt to rally allies around the cause of adjunct exploitation in higher education. However, it is my view that their email also severely undermined the potential efficacy of such solidarity in a move that reads, “don’t rock the boat too much.”
February 25 is National Adjunct Walkout Day, a day of protest meant to highlight the corporatization of higher education in this country that has contributed to–among other issues–the two twin crises of adjunct exploitation and high student debt. The debt needs no explanation; the adjunct issue may. But make no mistake: these issues are two sides of the same coin. In the past thirty years, higher education administrators have continued to pay themselves more, while increasing tuition. At the same time, student money does not go towards paying teachers; instead, the job “professor” as traditionally understood is being slowly phased out, and replaced by “adjunct faculty”. This helps administrators keep the money going to where they want it, instead of to teachers, because adjuncts are contract workers who are payed on average below the poverty line; they have no employment benefits; they can be fired at any time without warning; and they are not payed for the work that they do, adding up, as it may, to more work than their full-time colleagues.
I attend the Ohio State University, recently named in an Institute for Policy Studies report as the number one “most unequal public university in the country“, which in this case means that as administrator pay has skyrocketed, so has student debt. Of course, adjuncts now make up more than 70% of the professors teaching, and their wages are plummeting.
The point of this post is the following: the Ohio Higher Education Coalition has summarily and preemptively dismissed walking out as a viable form of action on National Adjunct Walkout Day, instead “designating” the 25th “Adjunct Dignity Day” “in Ohio”. While the email is also filled with helpful materials for organizing, I find the language of dismissal shocking and unilateral. Apparently, at the most unequal university, and one of the largest potential sites for resistance, a group claiming to speak for the entire state has declared that Ohio State is to have to part in a national walkout movement.
I have posted both the original email, as well as my response below. I have omitted individual names except my own. I have not heard a response as of this posting, but with the 25th only three days away, I felt I could not wait any longer.