It’s 2005. I’m an adjunct at a small private college. I’ve been working at several colleges for a couple of years now, and I’m feeling really good about my current gig: instead of cobbling together a schedule of courses at three schools, I’m working at one. No more freeway flying! I have three contracts: teaching writing and a literature survey course (you know, the “service courses”), directing the writing center, and directing the theater production. While these commitments keep me working long hours, I am still categorized as a “part-timer.”
A professor in the History department who often stops in the writing center for coffee and friendly chats asks one day, “Hey, are you going to serve on that new assessment committee?’
“I don’t usually work on committees,” I reply, “I’m an adjunct.”
During a long pause, he blinks at me.
“But you’re here, like, all the time. More than me, really. You’re part-time?”
Hours and effort don’t make one tenure-track (or insured), and I had some version of that conversation several times with various faculty.
In 2005, adjuncts weren’t getting much press; they weren’t making news for mobilizing or unionizing. In my work as a Composition and Rhetoric teacher, I knew that most or all of the staff teaching comp at the campuses employing me were adjuncts. I didn’t yet know that adjuncts were becoming the new faculty majority nationwide. I heard Marc Bousquet speak at an event hosted by my grad program just before he published How the University Works, so my eyes were beginning to open.
Today, on Day Without A Woman, I’m in a very different position. I’m fortunate to be a tenured associate prof, teaching what I love. I have a four-four load at the public university, making some of my tenured colleagues elsewhere aghast. I used to teach five or six or seven, pretty regularly, so my four-four load still feels light (most days). I have health insurance and (for now) a retirement package. And, I have the ability to take this day off. To reschedule my office hours and a meeting with student. I have a personal day.
So, today, I’m home writing and researching and tweeting about women adjuncts in academia. Why? Because “women make up between 51 and 61 percent of adjunct faculty nationwide. Women in contingent academic employment are most likely to be among the most politically vulnerable and economically precarious in the academy” (The Women & Contingency Project). And because I can. Me in 2005 couldn’t take the day off.
I’ll be writing in this space and posting to @amylynchbiniek on Twitter off and on all day. I hope you’ll join me in bringing increasing awareness and taking whatever actions your circumstances allow to make this Day Without a Woman represent the adjuncts on your campus.