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Food Banks Rescuing College Professors


By Professor Doom


Few outside my blog realize that the typical college professor is an “adjunct”, a minimally paid, no-benefits, “temporary” worker that can easily be temporary for a decade or more. Even with college tuition rising, and rising, and rising, college administrators, when asked about the abuse they give to educators, are told that “budget considerations” just don’t allow them to pay the educators much.

Then the administrators get in their new BMWs, and drive back to their 6 bedroom, 4 bath, homes before flying to exotics locations for weekend, “leadership building” corporate retreats.

My college will not approve unemployment benefits for adjunct professors between semesters; I’ve tried to get it. Although I teach the same, or more, number of classes per year as “full-time” faculty, giving more than a decade of top-notch service to the college, and I am scheduled to teach my classes every semester, year-round, I’m classified as part-time faculty. Like the earnings of countless other adjunct professors, my annual earnings are below the poverty level.

--most adjuncts cannot apply for unemployment benefits between semesters, even though they are receiving no checks and are in all ways unemployed.

In Colorado, the adjunct situation is particularly bad. The adjuncts there were not even allowed to participate in national Adjunct Walkout Day (last February 25; anyone see this on the news? I try to follow higher education, and saw not a tiny blurb…), because of their job classification.

Adjuncts are paid so little that local food banks are helping them specifically:

       To meet a pressing need, our FRCC AAUP chapter has begun weekly visits to area food banks along Colorado's front range. It's been remarkable to discover that staff at some food banks are already aware of the situation with Colorado's community college faculty majority. We placed the displays shown above in adjunct workrooms to inform adjunct faculty who may not yet know about our visits, but who need food.

What exactly is going on in higher education that the workers now have to rely on food banks just to get by? These people have advanced degrees, were told all their lives that “education is key” to prosperity…and can’t even feed themselves, even though they’re in the exact career their education is for.

the annual average wage for FRCC adjunct faculty remains thousands below the minimum living wage* for Colorado’s front-range communities. This low wage qualifies many FRCC adjunct teachers for food stamps, food-banks, indigent health-care cards and other resources. **

Join our food bank visits.
Get some groceries.
Meet with colleagues.

Yeah, maybe some questions need to be asked about how higher education is being run. When “meet with colleagues” means “go to the food bank”, you know it has to be bad. It really is system-wide:

“…adjunct (part-time) faculty teach 70 -85% of all the courses offered within the Colorado Community College System.”

The largely impotent American Association of University Professors is trying to do something for the adjuncts, and is helping with flyers and such. Too bad they can’t make edible flyers, I’m sure the adjuncts would get some use out of those.

Much like I’ve said before, the problem is higher education is no longer run by educators, instead it’s run by an administrative caste that simply cares nothing for education, and is primarily involved in feathering its own nest as comfortably as possible. If we’d just go back to the “old” system, where administrators were drawn from, and returned to, faculty, then this level of administrative abuse would no longer be possible (and, hey, the students could get an education, which is deeply unlikely in community college today, as the previous link addresses in some detail).

Anyway, the AAUP can’t do much. An Adjunct Cookbook helps a little:

“…Included are recipe categories such as “The Frappes of Wrath” and “Nobucks Coffee Drinks.” Recipes calling for beef scraps, bruised tomatoes, orange peelings and chicken bones point to a workforce living on the edge. “Cracked Windshield” is a mint drink based on cracked Lifesaver candies. “If Only” is a gin-and-tonic sans gin. “Sliding-Toward-Despair Asian Sliders” are, perforce, small and inexpensive to make….”

--the cookbook also gives the real facts on just how abusive the adjunct situation is, and how it happened:

“…Most of those facts are public information, albeit well-hidden information, about a bloated administration consuming most of the $576 million in CCCS annual revenues…”

--the faculty really do know what the problem is in higher education, we’re just in no position to do anything about it anymore.

As I stood in a line at the county human services office before Christmas, I realized that, in order to keep the administrative class afloat, this is the reality for me and for my peers. Our college system, for example, has hired two new administrators per day for the past three years, and has grown from 13 to now 41 campuses/centers. Its financial profile is rated at the top of the scale by the metrics of Standard and Poor’s or Moody’s, as a revealed in a recent analysis of CCCS finances conducted by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

But adjuncts just can’t get benefits, or even unemployment checks. No money in the system, you see. Too bad.

Now, daylong strikes, flyers, and cookbooks are all well and good, but I’m just a little too cynical to believe admin will stop eating their truffle-stuffed-steak-stuffed-Dodo-bird-stuffed-lobsters long enough to even notice things like that.

I’m not wild about laws, either, but I at least appreciate a law might make a difference:

HB 1154: Fair pay for adjunct instructors at Colorado community colleges

The above link is from last year. Too bad the law failed to pass. Oh well. I guess no chance someone will take my advice for just changing the system so that administrators and faculty are the same people, like it was before the student loan scam warped everything? No?

Thank goodness for those food banks, so our most educated people won’t starve while they help our children get the education they need to get good jobs…where, apparently, they’ll need food banks just to get by.


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