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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Some stories need prompting

Looking forward to traveling to UMASS Amherst tomorrow night to see the debut of "Prompt," a short film based on the screenplay I wrote earlier this year.

The script was selected as one of five shorts filmed as part of the Women Only Project sponsored by Counterfeit Cow Productions. The parameters of the original call for screenplays was one location, two to four women characters, and five pages max. Scripts also had to be penned by women.

Because the project was women-centered, I felt it was a safe place to share my story of when I was raped as an undergrad, became pregnant, and had to make a difficult choice that was right for me at the time.

When the call for entries landed in my inbox, this type of story had made the news once more. Frustrated as I listened to the call for restrictions on women's choices and freedoms yet again, I decided it was the perfect time to dramatize some of what had happened to me. It is my hope that in sharing my story I may help someone get the mental help they need in a timely manner, instead of suffering in silence for years.

And now I look forward to seeing the screen story unfold in which a radio interview with the imagined me plays in the background, giving a young co-ed the strength to confide in someone. No one should have to go through this sort of thing alone, which is why I am also pleased to attend the screening with my BFF. Films are better with friends. Especially debut screenings of your own short stories.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

New England Contingents United Plans First Unconference to Bring Adjunct Faculty Together

Contingent, also known as adjunct, faculty from New England are invited to join in the first unconference sponsored by the newly formed New England Contingents United—or NECUnited—Saturday, October 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on North Main Street in Concord, NH. Though the event is free, attendees are asked to RSVP so an accurate headcount will assist with set-up and coffee orders; to RSVP please visit www.GreenChairPictures.com/nh-adjunct.html.

The organizers of the NECUnited Unconference hope to bring together adjunct faculty from around New England with the theme “Connections,” which emphasizes that adjuncts are not alone. Far from it, since most colleges and universities now fill 70 percent or more of their teaching positions with adjunct instructors. Adjunct faculty are contract workers paid low wages for their services with no benefits and no guarantee of work semester to semester. The national average compensation is just $2,700 per three-credit course—a rate so low that it means about a quarter of adjunct faculty must rely upon public assistance to survive.

The unconference offers an open meeting where people interested in higher education and contingent/adjunct workforce issues can come together in sessions proposed on the spot. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture, what a house party is to a church wedding, or what a pick-up game is to a varsity game: it’s more informal and participatory.

The organizers decided to host an unconference rather than a traditional conference for many reasons, including that the agenda is decided the morning of the unconference, rather than being set beforehand by a committee. This means that the issues that are most important to attendees can be addressed and discussed during participatory breakout sessions. By leaning on the knowledge base of those in attendance rather than hiring speakers, an unconference also keeps costs low.

Organizers anticipate some discussions to revolve around union forming and ongoing negotiation strategies, which has led to the invitation of union organizers, including representatives from SEA/SEIU and from AAUP, as well as faculty members who serve as union representatives. The documentary “Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Faculty” will also be screened, should enough participants wish to view it.


NECUnited organizers include adjunct faculty from NHTI and the state’s Community College System of NH, Keene State, UNH, UNH-Manchester, and PSU, as well as lecturers from UNH. More information about the Saturday, Oct. 17th NECUnited Unconference at the Concord, NH, Holiday Inn, is available at www.GreenChairPictures.com/nh-adjunct.html.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Servant Class of Adjunct Professors Reveals the Shame of American Universities and Colleges One Article and Blog Post at a Time

Thanks to Amy Rebecca Williams of the Facebook group Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Faculty for finding this June 16, 2014 gem of an article: "The Teaching Class" by Rachel Reiderer, published in Guernica, a magazine of art and politics.
 
Why it matters still: More than ever adjuncts are relied upon to teach a majority of classes at universities and colleges across the country. These folks, most of whom have studied and earned advanced degrees in their fields, are paid a per-class rate that is at or below minimum wage, and does not usually include pay for class preps pre-term, which--when a class is canceled due to low enrollment--means that they receive zero pay for having ordered books, written a syllabus, and prepared the first couple weeks of classes. I have been not paid for my work on several occasions and now limit myself to ten hours of work pre-term, which means that I scramble to recover the first couple weeks of classes, as I am doing now.

Adjuncts also do not receive benefits. Health? No. College reimbursement for self, spouse/partner, child? No. Matching retirement contributions? No.

When students require after-hours assistance, adjuncts are not compensated for their time. Yet, most willingly give it. When we are asked to write recommendations, most of us eagerly accept, though again there is no compensation. When we are required to attend training sessions, many colleges do not pay for our time; when I ask about it, as I do every time I am faced with this demand, I am threatened with the pulling of my class assignment from one of the universities where I teach.

I am lucky. I have a husband who supports my choice to leave adjunct teaching at the end of 2015--to take my life back from the disheartening higher ed system that has created a servant class of teachers. I will miss the students, and a couple of my colleagues, but not the abuse. Never the abuse.