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The Adjunct Crisis Is Everyone’s Problem


Strikers picketing during the 1913 Rochester, New York, Garment Workers' Strike.

Strikers picketing during the 1913 Rochester, New York, Garment Workers' Strike.

In 2012, I got my Ph.D. and left academia with no regrets. Like all decisions based on financial stability, it was not so much a decision as a reaction.

Academia, I had discovered, was not an industry in which one works for pay but one in which you must pay to work. New Ph.D.’s are expected to move around the country in temporary postdocs or visiting professor jobs until finding tenure-track positions — financially impossible for me as a mother of two – or stay where they are and work as adjuncts with no job security and an average wage of $2,700 per course. While making an income below the poverty line, a new Ph.D. is expected to spend thousands of dollars on job interviews at conferences in expensive cities and write paywalled papers for free.

I left. But there is no escaping the consequences of academia’s reliance on contingent labor. If you do not experience the adjunct crisis directly as an academic, you may well experience it as a citizen: as a student, a parent, or a professional facing a similar contingency crisis in your own field. The adjunct crisis in academe both reflects and advances a broader crisis in labor. Our exploited professors are teaching our future exploited workers.

On February 25, 2015, adjunct professors across the United States are planning to walk out of the classroom to protest their low pay, lack of benefits, and unfair treatment. Their struggle is one we all should support. Here are the reasons why you should care.

The plight of part-time professors at New Jersey’s public colleges


BY LAST SPRING, Mary-Faith Cerasoli had had enough. She decided to go public with her secret.

The veteran teacher had a job teaching Italian and Spanish to students at Mercy College in Westchester and other colleges in New York City. But at night, she was sleeping in her car and buying groceries with food stamps.

 The percentage of adjuncts teaching at colleges and universities is at a historic high. (Amanda Brown)

The percentage of adjuncts teaching at colleges and universities is at a historic high. (Amanda Brown)

Cerasoli was a highly educated and respected adjunct college professor. But she was also homeless. Frustrated by her low pay — a few thousand dollars per class each semester — and lack of benefits, Cerasoli held a one-woman protest outside the New York State Education building in Albany. She did newspaper interviews about the plight of adjunct professors. She staged a five-day hunger strike. She made a jacket with “Homeless Prof.” emblazoned across her chest.

Cerasoli, now 53 and living in a room offered by someone who read her story, says she has no regrets about becoming the latest poster child for the plight of adjunct professors. Across the country, adjuncts are increasingly coming forward and banding together to demand better treatment by colleges and universities.

“We need to get the word out there,” says Cerasoli, who has also been looking for adjunct work at New Jersey colleges. “It’s hard because people are afraid to speak out. These colleges will retaliate. . . . When you’re adjuncting, it feels like the Vietnam War. You go into the office and you don’t know who your enemy is.”


Bus to Philadelphia, campaign for PA Labor Candidates

Join other AFTNJ members, UFT members from New York and PFT members, students and progressive activists to campaign for labor supported candidates in Pennsylvania.
Sign Up>>

Randi Weingarten

AFT National President Randi Weingarten

Join Randi Weingarten in Philadelphia next Saturday. “Pennsylvanians will not be fooled: They know that Gov. Corbett has robbed Philadelphia’s schools of desperately needed funding. They know that teachers and support staff are doing everything they can to fill in the gaps. And they know we need new leadership that will reinstate a fair funding formula. Philadelphia’s children deserve better.”

Get on the Bus
Where: Labor Education Center, 50 Labor Center Way, New Brunswick, NJ
When: Sat, Oct 25, 2014, 8:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Lunch will be provided at the destination.
Sign Up>>
Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf received a unanimous endorsement from the members of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Executive Council which represents over 800,000 union workers, the largest labor organization in Pennsylvania.

“Over the last four years, our economy has struggled, our schools have suffered from misguided cuts, and Pennsylvania has fallen to the bottom in job creation. If we are going to strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy, we need to rebuild our middle class by making sure our policies place them on level playing field. At my company, I paid my workers a living wage, gave them great benefits, and even shared 20 to 30 percent of my profits with them. I will bring this same level of fairness to governing, and I will restore Tom Corbett’s drastic cuts to education and give our Commonwealth a fresh start,” Tom Wolf said.

President Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Snyder also announced the endorsement of Democratic State Senator Mike Stack for Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Stack has a very strong record of supporting workers as a member of the State Senate and is also a member of the Philadelphia chapter of SAG-AFTRA.

Meet Us There
If you would like to travel on your own, we will be working out of the Seafarers Int’l Union Hall, 2604 S. 4th Street, Phila Pa 19148. Meet at 9:45 AM. Lunch will be provided.

SRC’s contract slam hurts those most essential

By Clark DeLeon

Monday, Oct. 6, is another day that will live in infamy, now that the state’s School Reform Commission, in a Pearl Harbor-like sneak attack on organized labor, unilaterally ripped up the Philadelphia public school teachers’ union contract.

I haven’t changed my mind about the ultimate failure of public education in the city because of the complete lack of political will in Pennsylvania to properly fund a school system responsible for educating mostly poor, and mostly black or Hispanic children.

But I didn’t think the end game would be so badly played. Permit me to summarize:

After decades of annual financial crises, the fate of whether Philadelphia public schools would open their doors in September hinged on the approval in the state legislature of a bill that would affect Philadelphia nicotine addicts unwilling or unable to cross City Line to buy a pack of smokes to avoid the $2 tax.

I actually witnessed such a transaction at 45th and Baltimore Avenue, after the cigarette tax took effect. A guy in front of me at the cashier at 6:30 Tuesday morning had a 16-ounce container of coffee and he ordered a pack of Camel Lights. “What?” he said, when told he owed more than $9.

He hadn’t heard about the new tax. He looked in his wallet, but he had only $9. I told him that he could buy cheaper cigarettes in the suburbs. “Can I return the coffee?” he asked, and then left with the Camels.

With such a dependable tax base, school authorities expect to raise $230 million “in annual predictable funds.” Unless, you know, the tax base dies off or is inspired to quit or even walk across Cheltenham Avenue.

But within days of achieving funding salvation, the SRC turned on the very people who would deliver that salvation to the children of Philadelphia, the teachers and staff secretaries and nurses working without a net in the city’s public schools.

By breaking the teachers’ contract to require that union members pay up to $200 a month for health benefits formerly paid by the district, the SRC expects to save $70 million annually. But even with that money, a district official warned of another deficit next year.

What will they do then? Cannibalize pension funds? Auction off schools on eBay?


New president says Essex County College on ‘path to exceed expectations’

By Naomi Nix, NJ Advance Media for

NEWARK — With conviction in her voice that carried throughout the auditorium, Essex County College president Gale Gibson today declared a new era of excellence for the school.

After being sworn in as the college’s 7th president Gibson gave an inaugural address that celebrated the colleges’s achievements and laid out a hopeful vision for the future.

“As my grandmother would say, you are placed in a position for a reason,” she said. “And I believe I am placed in Newark as the President of Essex County College to continue the greatness of this college.”

Gibson spoke before a crowd of about 300 in the school’s gymnasium, saying the school was pursuing the “path to exceed expectations.”

She bragged about various student achievements, including those who went on to attend Ivy League colleges or competed in the olympics.

“The great work we do at Essex County College is a well-kept secret, but it shouldn’t be,” she said.

Gibson also highlighted several of her plans and current initiatives for the college including increasing study abroad options, shifting more courses online and starting to award credits for life or work experiences.

“You can clap for that one.” she told the audience.

Still the school faces challenges. Even after the college’s accreditation was renewed in 2013, the graduation rate hovers below 10 percent, according to Gibson.

To that end, Gibson said, she plans to bring more college readiness coursework to Newark high school students to curb the share of students who need to take remedial classes in college.

Recently, 14 students from East Side High School graduated with the high school diplomas and associate degrees from Essex County College, she said.


Thousands join street protest before raucous SRC meeting

Kristen A. Graham And Aubrey Whelan, Inquirer Staff Writers

Furious over the Philadelphia School Reform Commission’s move to unilaterally cancel its teachers’ contract, 3,000 people shut down North Broad Street on Thursday, vowing more disruptive action if the panel’s action is not undone.

The eyes of the nation are on Philadelphia, said American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, in town for a massive rally held before an SRC meeting.

“Philly is ground zero for injustice,” Weingarten told the crowd of sign-waving teachers, counselors, nurses, and supporters. “The SRC has become a morally bankrupt institution.”

“We’re not rolling over and we’re not taking it,” said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Joined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the SRC filed a motion for declaratory judgment Oct. 6 in Commonwealth Court to affirm its action, taken to save $54 million by making PFT members pay toward their health benefits. The union is expected to file a counter-motion shortly.

Labor will watch to see what the courts do, said Patrick Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Labor Council, AFL-CIO. If they don’t rule in the PFT’s favor, he said, watch out.

“We will turn this city upside down,” Eiding said. “We’ll see you in the streets if it’s not taken care of.”

Eiding and Henry Nicholas, president of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, alluded to the possibility of a general city strike – asking members of all unions to walk off their jobs – if the cancellation is not rescinded by the courts. PFT members are prohibited by law from striking.


As Ebola Fears Touch Campuses, Officials Respond With an ‘Excess of Caution’

By Katherine Mangan

Colleges across the country faced Ebola scares this week that sent at least one graduate student to the hospital, several employees into quarantine, and untold numbers of students into an unnecessary panic.

The widespread fear that has gripped the nation since two health-care workers in Dallas contracted the Ebola virus from a Liberian man who died there on October 8 has campus officials performing a delicate dance.

On the one hand, they want to take extra precautions when there is even a remote chance Ebola might find its way onto their campuses. On the other hand, they’re trying to avoid what a University of Wisconsin epidemiologist called “hysterical reactions that are not based on science.”


Long-Discussed Charter-School Reform Bill Finally Gets Legislative Hearing

By John Mooney

But debate is likely to take months, as hurdles ahead include Christie administration content with status quo for reviewing, approving new charters

The latest and maybe best-chance version of a new charter-school law finally got its first public airing yesterday after more than three years of debate.

But don’t expect a final bill – let alone legislation ready to be signed into law – any time soon.

The Senate’s education committee, led by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), yesterday held a two-hour hearing on her newly filed bill, which would rewrite the nearly 20-year-old charter-school law.

The bill would, most notably, create a new board in addition to the state to serve as an authorizing agency that would review and approve new charter applicants, then monitor their performance.

In addition, it would set up a process for filing charter applications, with specific plans, in individual school districts, as opposed to the statewide canvassing that happens now.

But the bill is just one of a handful in the Legislature seeking changes to the law. While Ruiz’s stature in the state Senate gives her legislation a head start, she said yesterday that there is a long way to go in gaining a consensus.

“This is just a start of the conversation,” she said at the close of the hearing.

Asked later what comes next, Ruiz said: “This will be months. We can’t rush this.”

Already months, if not years, in the works, Ruiz’s bill is a mix of ideas that have been long-discussed and couple of provisions that have been fiercely resisted.

For instance, the proposal for a separate authorizing board has been pushed for years by a number of groups, including the state’s charter-school advocates. A similar bill came before Ruiz’s committee three years ago.

But there is hardly consensus about even that, and it has faced resistance from the Christie administration, which says the existing procedure – with the state education commissioner and the state Department of Education making the final decision on charter applications — works just fine.

Notably absent from Ruiz’s bill is also any provision that would give local communities a definitive say on charter applications, a principle long pushed by some district leaders and advocates. The legislation only calls for public hearings on any new proposals.

Yesterday’s hearing added little new to the debate, but not for lack of trying.

On one side, a number of advocacy groups raised alarms about the growth of charters in the state, and the impact they have had on district public schools.

The Education Law Center, the Newark-based advocacy group, brought some new evidence indicating that the state’s long-standing count of 80-plus charters vastly undercounts the actual number of charter schools in New Jersey.

It said in a press release and again in testimony before the Senate committee that the state itself acknowledged in recent legal arguments that 23 of its approved charters encompassed more than one school, and it put the count at closer to 130 separate charter schools in the state.

Other critics called on state officials to get a better handle on the spread of charter schools – and especially charter networks — in New Jersey.


Ras Baraka sends letter to President Obama criticizing ‘One Newark’ school overhaul

By Naomi Nix,  NJ Advance Media for

NEWARK — Newark mayor Ras Baraka has not been shy about his opposition to Newark Public Schools controversial reorganization.

Baraka has participated in rallies, held disparaging press conferences and even called for Superintendent Cami Anderson’s resignation.

Now, the newly-minted mayor is appealing to another authority: President Barack Obama.

Baraka released an Oct. 1 letter he sent to Obama, asking the President to intervene in the “disruptive and illegal education reforms” taking place in the school district.

The school district responded but did not immediately comment. The New Jersey Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Under the One Newark Plan State Superintendent Anderson is utilizing reforms that lack a a research base and that violate numerous federal, state and district policies”, Baraka wrote.


Tuition freeze: N.J. Assembly passes 7 bills on higher education

By Matt Friedman, NJ Advance Media for

TRENTON — A bill that would allow New Jersey college students to pay the same tuition for nine straight semesters is one step closer to becoming law.

The state Assembly today voted 48-21 to pass the bill, which was one of seven bills the lower house passed today that are intended to rein in college costs.

“The time for change in higher education has come,” said Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), a sponsor of the bills. “For the last 20 years New Jersey’s families have been at the mercy of what I would say is an oligarchy of presidents of higher education who determine their financial future.”


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