Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day, Things Change; Things Stay the Same...

I was looking through my old May Day activities, and I came across this letter I had written to my petition followers two years ago, in 2014. Back then I had a little over 4000 signatures, yet today we have 10,141. 

Has that made any difference? Unfortunately, no. 

Indeed, what is a stark awakening  when looking at this piece from two years ago  is that conditions are eerily similar, if not worse. Though more people seem to know about our conditions, more people seem to condone them too, or look the other way. 

We must not give up. We must keep fighting, struggling to make a difference, a change for the better. 

I am a Man: Mural Design Artist Marcellous Lovelace
Based on Civil Rights movement, Sanitation Workers' Protest March, Memphis, 3/28/1968
photograph © Ana M. Fores Tamayo

But perhaps if we become more inclusive of all sectors of society, as I have tried to do, as Vanessa Vaile from Precarious Faculty, as other activists like Sean Kennedy, Adrian Tawfik of Democracy Chronicles, and others I know have tried also, we can get more work done. Instead of looking inward, then, we need to build bridges to others; in this way, our work can make a difference. 

After all, as teachers, we are forever looking at the bigger picture. We need to keep doing that, and looking not at the microcosm of our world but at the world at large we are affecting. 

Besos, not borders,

Ana M. Fores Tamayo, Adjunct Justice

Facebook Page:
Twitter: @anamfores


My Dear Friends and Colleagues, 

 As we celebrate this May Day, I want to tell you about the history of this petition for Adjunct Justice: we have gathered almost 4100 signatures in one year. When I began this petition, I never thought we would be heard. Many times I have been ready to give up. But many times family and friends, petitioners, former students have kept me going. And so, I realize that we have just begun to fight. Today, on this May Day, important things are happening. Though we still have a long way to go —and many more signatures to gather— we can feel good that we have a common cause. In SUNY at New Paltz, New York, educators are gathering; at the University of Akron in Ohio, adjuncts are standing together. The New Faculty Majority is becoming a more visible name. In the virtual airwaves, we are all around. So I am here, as many of us are, in solidarity. Please continue to battle with us. 

I remember when I began this petition being ashamed to talk about my paltry compensation —$1800/course, no healthcare— or being worried to name the college that reprimanded me. I remember hoping the college might see the error of its ways, that it would capitulate, that it would call me and say, “Oh no, it’s been one big misunderstanding.” But the only thing I heard was that Tarrant County College District of Texas —like most institutions of Higher Learning across the United States— talked out of both sides of its mouth. It told adjuncts it could not do its important work without us, yet it, like most of Higher Ed, showed us our importance by paying us exploitative wages. I cannot even call that a salary: how can we call what they pay us that? 

Most times we do not earn a living wage. 

A couple of months ago, I saw a documentary on poverty in America, and its migrant workers. The 1960 Harvest of Shame, presented by CBS, obviously introduced people that were dirt poor; poverty was a sad but immediate presence. Anyone who saw that show then, as today, was well aware of these people’s poverty. What is not so obvious —but because this is so, it is much more insidious— is the plight of adjuncts teaching across America today. We are those same poor in the Harvest of Shame. How can we survive on the compensation we’re given? But many of us need to. And yet, as professionals, how can we show or talk to our students about our abject poverty? 

Although our adjunct positions were originally created to supplement outside incomes, or to help students see the professional viewpoint —those who came in to teach what they did during the workday— that is no longer true. For many of us, what we teach is our sole source of income. And now, with the ambiguity of the Affordable Care Act, many universities are limiting courses in fear they will have to pay healthcare. So they are in fact doubly crippling us. What was originally intended to help the poor is now being used as a loophole by universities to escape responsibility. Schools’ cutting adjunct hours because of any possible ruling has grown like a virus. Before, universities seemed to be in waiting mode, but from recent events, they now seem to have decided that things might not bode well for them, so they better cut hours while they can. Universities have been dropping adjunct course limits like flies.

We are indeed an invisible lot. 

Mainstream media is only beginning to hear about our cases, but just barely. When I spoke to my congressman a few weeks ago, he barely knew about adjuncts, and he gave me lip service. Is education not important? Moreover, the fear of retribution is palpable; it shrouds our invisibility more so. People are afraid. They will not speak out. If we do, we are dismissed. I can understand that fear. But this is why it is so important for us to speak out about adjuncts, whenever we can and in whatever way we can, to make America know about this great underclass of people —of knowledge workers, of us— who are the migrant workers of Academia, and who are being abused, who are subsisting on less and less each day. Education is crumbling, and it will be everyone’s loss in the end.   

Students suffer because educators suffer. How can we teach if we cannot survive? Teacher working conditions become student learning conditions. And as I have often said in the past, the most vulnerable in our society are the ones to lose the most. Poor students, like us, are the ones who will suffer most. 

Please share our petition!

Self Portrait, © by Camila Pacheco-Fores
published with permission of the artist

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.

Anne Sexton
“Her Kind”

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