Tomorrow, Feb. 25, has been declared National Adjunct Day of Action, also known as National Adjunct Walkout Day, by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Adjunct professors across the country will be absent from work or deliberately walking out of classes to raise support for fair wages and working conditions for part-time faculty members.
However, the Boston College chapter of the AAUP has asked that adjunct and other professors use the day as a walk-in rather than a walkout, suggesting that professors take a few minutes during classes to speak to students about the valuable roles that non tenure-track professors play on campuses and the fact that multiple facets of the current tenure system can be seriously detrimental to students.
According to a letter to BC faculty from the BCAAUP Executive Board, there was "unanimous support" for the alternative action when voiced at the chapter's most recent meeting. BCAAUP promotes itself as an "advocacy chapter" of AAUP, with the goal to "do what we can to connect with one another with the goal of creating a more inclusive community where all colleagues are treated with respect, a community that can better serve the intellectual and social mission of BC, its faculty, and its students."
In addition to asking professors to spread awareness, the organization plans to occupy a space in Stokes Hall near the Chocolate Bar, which will function as a safe space for adjunct faculty and allies to come together in solidarity throughout the day in between classes, rather than walking out as an act of protest.
Adjunct professors by definition are hired part-time by universities and are not offered the opportunity to pursue tenure. They are hired on a contractual basis, which allows universities to dictate working conditions that would not be acceptable for tenured professors.
As the cost of higher education rises, students are taught by fewer and fewer full-time professors because it is cheaper for universities to hire adjunct professors who do not receive nearly the same pay for the same work. While most outsiders view a career in academia as a high-paying and stable track, some surveys indicate that nearly 70 percent of professors at US colleges are part-time employees, whereas in 1969, that number was closer to 20 percent.
Adjunct professors are also paid significantly less than full-time professors. In fact, many have spoken out about earning a salary that equated to only fifty cents an hour, less than the average McDonald's employee, and having to rely on food stamps. These educators receive few benefits--they have limited retirement opportunities, and no job security. In a system where most professors are adjuncts, most students bear the rising costs of tuition unaware that some of their professors are making less than $18,000 a year.
A recent study showed that this continuing shift from full-time to part-time professors can and does actually lower graduation and retention rates, which means that the practice of “adjunctification” is seriously detrimental to students.
The movement now branded National Adjunct Walkout Day was organized as a grassroots effort that began with the creation of a Facebook post last October. As support for the event and its stated goal of bringing university professionals together “to insist on fair wages and better working conditions” grew, many organizations adapted the event not as a literal walkout, but as an opportunity for professors to spread awareness about adjunctification without taking away from class time.