Last week was the first ever National Adjunct Walkout Day, a grassroots protest to push for fair pay and better working conditions. Protests and teach-ins took place on as many as 100 campuses nationwide, prompting at least one university to create a task force to address labor concerns. It’s little wonder that a national movement has sprung up around the adjunct system, which offers little or no job security or access to benefits and significantly lower wages than regular faculty. I sympathize — I was an adjunct, and I could only tolerate the stress and exhaustion for two years.
I taught as many as five classes each semester at four campuses in D.C. and Maryland, crisscrossing town by bike and public transportation during work days that sometimes lasted 13 hours. I never knew what my employment would look like the following term and constantly applied for part- and full-time teaching positions in case I didn’t get rehired. Many of the courses I taught—composition, professional writing and journalism—were required for undergraduate or graduate students, yet those programs ran almost entirely on the backs of adjuncts.