Adjuncting at CUNY is Just Another Form Sanctioned Slavery

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I arrived in NYC in 1998 to take care of my partner, who was very ill. In 1999 I entered the MA program at [college omitted]. Almost immediately I was offered a job as an adjunct instructor. I had excellent observations from 2001 to 2009. Meanwhile, I graduated in 2003 and went on for my PHD in Spanish at the [college omitted].

However, I was fired from my job at [college omitted] on the bases of ONE negative observation, arranged by the Chair and manipulated by his Deputy Chair. When I consulted the Union, I was told that if I went to step 3, I would have to pay by my own lawyer, and that the expense would be more than what I would get. This was THE UNION.

Since then, I have held jobs at [college omitted], [college omitted], [college omitted], [college omitted], [college omitted], [college omitted] and [college omitted]. At all of these places except [college omitted], where I teach one course, I have been terminated in spite of satisfactory evaluations. The convenient excuse: no budget. However, entry level adjuncts remained, as well as full time faculty teaching adjunct positions.

To add insult to injury, the “promissory letters” with which CUNY games the system in order not to have to pay unemployment benefits have no allowed me to get unemployment during the summers.

I have also found out that hiring and firing practices do not even follow the shadow of the contract. COLLEGES DO NOT FOLLOW THE CONTRACT AND THE UNION DOES NOT PROTECT ADJUNCTS.

Now I live on four hours at York and a $119 unemployment check after taxes.

CUNY has decreed the elimination of Liberal Arts through the Pathway program. Colleges openly violate the contract or find ways around it. Adjuncts are disposable cannon fodder, collateral damage, cheap part-time labor.

1. Impact of job insecurity. It directly affects my personal relationships.

2. Relationships with department chairs and colleagues: I have learned not to trust either Dept. Chairs or colleagues.

3. Impact on classroom performance. I try very hard to keep my job insecurity separated from classroom performance. There is no assurance of teacher/student continuity. I do not select my texts. I try to be on the safe side pedagogically, since taking risks may be an excuse to give me a negative observation. I no longer believe in the evaluation system for adjuncts, since it is not based on merit but on budget.

4. I accept schedule changes and course cancellations, but not promissory letters that do not guarantee future work.

5. Alternative plans. For the moment, finish the one course I still teach at CUNY and then find non-academic work.

6. a. Teaching load: one college, one course. I usually teach from 4 to six courses a year in different CUNY colleges.
b. No teaching and a non-CUNY college.
c. No other non-teaching part time work.
d. No full time job.

Psychological damage Incalculable.

Plans for the future? None.

Economic insecurity? I depend on my partner’s fixed pensions.

Speaking out? Pretending to listen is not really listening.

The Union? A ripoff.

The impact? I no longer believe in any academic system.

Classroom performance? I still do my best with the one course I have. The students matter, the system does not.

Selecting texts? Someone must be kidding. I Xerox my own materials. In several occasions, the book has not even arrived. And the books are junk. Who’s getting a cut?

Pedagogical risks? Adjuncting is already enough of a pedagogical and personal risk.

High evaluations? Toilet paper.

Unforeseen cancellations? I have learned not to trust CUNY. In fact, unexplained cancellations are the rule, not the exception.

Alternative plans? None. Or rather, change careers. But I am already 50 years old. I played by CUNY rules only to see campus after campus brazenly disregard, manipulate or break them.

A final anecdote: at [college omitted] I was recommended by one of its senior Spanish Department members, only to be asked if I had been sponsored because I was in a relationship with him (well, they were a bit cruder than that).
Union dues are a waste of income I need to survive. The “health insurance” for adjuncts is another joke. Who can afford it? It takes a 6 hour semester to pay for it!

While full time full professors take over summer courses, or get paid 12 months a year for 8 months of work, adjuncts are receiving a salary of less than nine months a year, yet tied by “reappointment's” that do not have to be honored. “Subject to budget”? No, subject to CUNY’s psychotic academic environment. Adjuncting at CUNY is just another form of sanctioned slavery.