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Broward College Adjunct Task Force Is a Joke

On Wednesday, Broward College will be the site of a gubernatorial debate between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. Good time to bring attention to another important issue at the college.

In recent years, colleges and universities have faced a crisis within their ranks. Fewer and fewer teaching jobs are designed as full-time positions with benefits, and administrations instead use highly educated but poorly paid part-time or contract workers to teach the bulk of classes. Though these lecturers or adjunct professors frequently teach classes of the same quality and/or duration as the full-time professors, they typically accept the poor compensation in hopes that they can one day slide into permanent positions. Meanwhile, a few top-level administrators get away with six-figure salaries that come as fruits of the adjuncts' labor. Some adjuncts are starting to organize in response; a national walkout day is slated for February.

I am an adjunct who teaches history at Broward College. Despite having worked here for a decade, the maximum I can earn teaching a full load of classes is $16,000 a year -- poverty wages. In the past year, I have harnessed the discontent of my fellow adjuncts and attempted to engage the administration to rectify the two-tiered labor conditions.

Now, the college administration has utilized a classic time-stalling technique of creating of a "task force" to get to the bottom and really do some sleuthing over what makes perpetual adjuncting such a sort of academic purgatory.

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As CUNY Professor Corey Robin notes: "employment sanctions are in fact one of the most common methods of political repression in this country." Internal norms at universities -- carrot-and-stick models used to get adjuncts' compliance, petty political networking, and increased difficulty for adjuncts to be granted a livable income -- have been used to greatly strengthen the posh bureaucratic layer of the college.

Broward College administration responded to the initial adjunct agitation by me, Kim Laffont, Alice Wujciak, and others with the creation of an "adjunct task force," which will meet until early next year.

Upon any scrutiny, it is quite clearly a public relations farce.

Adjuncts have asked for two main things: stable and predictable hours on the basis of seniority and increased income. But College VP and Provost Linda Howdyshell (whose salary package I've requested via a public records request) opened the task force by declaring that a doubling of maximum adjunct wages to $32,000 per year was not going to happen. She also swatted down the argument for more stable scheduling, arguing that it was unfair to so many talented new adjuncts.

I think if they seriously believe this argument, then clearly, we need to apply it to administrators too. We need to really consider creating flexible administration, with three-month contracts at extremely low wages and no benefits, in order to increase efficiency. So we will know if they are serious if, and only if, they apply this model to themselves.

This isn't simply a problem of yet another bureaucratic bumbling government agency but rather a private-sector-driven problem. The Board of Trustees, whose members include Sean Geurin, Pamela Stephany, John A. Benz, Gloria Fernandez, and Elizabeth Tonkin, collectively represent a constellation of commercial power that ranges from finance to health care. Over the summer, at a series of monthly Board of Trustee meetings, they all heard limited testimony about the precarious living conditions of long-term adjuncts, and after a few rounds of hearings, they opted to go along with the administration's task force idea, which, as noted earlier, is a farce to the extent that it ignores the only core issues of money and secure and predictable income and course loads. They also dared to condescendingly tell the active adjunct representatives (I was present but did not speak) not to keep coming back and signing up to speak at board meetings about the adjunct situation.

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Evan Rowe
Contact: Evan Rowe