More actions to come
Brooklyn College adjunct liaison for the PSC Yasmin Gruss asked a crowd of more than two dozen adjunct faculty members gathered outside Boylan Hall to “make some noise if you don’t know if you have a job next semester,” and the members roared.
Later, when Brooklyn College PSC Chapter Chair James Davis asked how the precarious nature of adjunct labor affected members’ personal lives, one shouted, “I can’t sleep.” Another said, “I’m on Medicaid.” Another said, “I can’t pay my rent.”
The rally, held on the college quad on December 8, was planned as the first step in a push for adjuncts university-wide to spread awareness to students and full-time faculty about the increased use of adjunct instructors over the years, as well as the low pay many endure. “Students don’t know how this affects them,” Gruss said, noting that adjunct professors often have to work other jobs in order to make ends meet, making it impossible for them to spend extra time on campus to be available for students. “We can’t be here to support our students.”
She added, “Students value their education, and this pokes a hole in that – that their teachers are being paid so low.”
Ultimately, the rally-goers demanded that all CUNY adjuncts receive pay parity with full-time faculty members. Gruss admitted that this is “a big ask,” but hoped that this call would amplify adjuncts’ voices and concerns over the next year as the union gears up for another contract campaign with CUNY.
“Students assume we’re well compensated and they see how much work we do,” said Heidi Diehl, an adjunct lecturer in the English department. “They’re stunned when I tell them how much we’re paid.”
On average, according to the chapter, an adjunct instructor at CUNY receives about $3,500 per semester per class, and there are about 900 adjunct instructors at Brooklyn College. Adjuncts note that this means that, unlike full-time faculty, they aren’t compensated for much of the academic work they do outside the classroom, like one-on-one mentoring of students.
Adjuncts also note that they are often left with doubt about their teaching load until a semester begins. However, the new PSC contract with CUNY ushers in some longer term appointments for adjuncts.
The Brooklyn College adjuncts, along with full-time faculty members who joined them in solidarity, marched through the quad at lunchtime, stopping to speak to students about the conditions of adjunct labor and how students can help.
“Education is important,” said undergraduate student Sheharyar Jafri. “Teachers’ morale goes down if they have low pay. More pay, better teaching.”
Diehl noted that she had an administrative job at the college in addition to teaching in order to pay her bills, and that it was common for adjunct instructors at CUNY to have teaching assignments at other colleges or even jobs in the retail and service sectors.
“So much of our labor is being taken advantage of,” said Raffi Kiureghian, an adjunct lecturer in the English department.
He noted that the PSC contingent of adjuncts should keep agitating against the CUNY administration throughout the year, otherwise, “there is no reason for them to create stable, livable jobs for people like us.”