We want to share with you a powerful letter, below, that Adjunct Professor Frances Richard (Fine Arts, Painting and Drawing, Visual and Critical Studies) has sent to Stephen Beal, Tammy Rae Carland, and members of the Administration's bargaining team. We hope it inspires you as much as it does us!
As you have probably gathered from our recent emails, this is a critical time in the bargaining process. We can't emphasize too much how important your involvement is right now. Three colleges in our area - Mills College, Dominican University, and Saint Mary's College - have been bargaining along with us these past two years, and have recently signed contracts - some of the best in the nation! We take heart from their achievements but also know these schools got their contracts because members participated in strong pressuring actions in the final stages of negotiations.
We have been holding strategy meetings, and tomorrow, Friday June 3, will be calling you sometime between 5pm and 7pm to answer any questions you may have, and to also ask in what ways you are willing and able to get involved. There are many options – from sending a brief e-mail to attending a public action, all of which are being planned.
If you would like to talk but won't be available tomorrow, please feel free to let us know a good time for one of us to contact you.
The Non-ranked Faculty Bargaining Team
The Contract Action Team
Dear President Beal, Provost Carland, and members of the Administration Negotiating Team,
I have been an adjunct for all my teaching life. For years, this was a professional choice, as it allowed me time and flexibility to pursue the other, equally important aspects of my practice--writing and publishing poetry and criticism, and editing magazines. I've written three books and co-authored, contributed to, and edited many more; I've written for the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, Independent Curators International, Creative Time, The New Yorker, BOMB, Aperture, and many others. I've won prizes, grants, and fellowships--I write from a residency right now--and I've been part of the editorial team at two artist-run publications, Fence and Cabinet. I have a piece in a national magazine (The Nation) going out this week. And I've taught across the spectrum of institutions, from the Ivy League to art schools (RISD and Parsons in addition to CCA) to the Bard Prison Initiative.
I know perfectly well that my adjunct colleagues at CCA and at each of the other schools I've named could write similar lists. Every long-term adjunct I've ever met has a wildly impressive, expansive, and rigorous record of engagement in her field. Often she--my generalized adjunct colleague--excels in several fields at once.
It's only in the last few years that I have felt the sharp edge of the adjuncting system cutting into my livelihood, and into my sense of the integrity of university education in the US. I used to take pleasure in assuring students that they could become artists, work as freelancers, and thrive: I'd done it, and so had most of my friends. You are artists yourselves, so doubtless you can understand how important it has been to be able to tell students, with absolute honesty, that the path of the creative intellectual and imaginative craftsperson remains open to them in contemporary culture, regardless of their economic and family backgrounds, despite the pressures of a capitalist-realist system whose internal logic reduces every public effort to market value.
I don't like encouraging students to be bold and risky in their work, when they are burdened with debt and their teachers scrounge to make ends meet.
It's painful to write the same email again and again--perhaps you know the one--telling a student and/or a colleague--one after the other--that I understand why this or that deadline or meeting-time has to be shifted because they've suddenly found they are being evicted.
It's disheartening to explain to my students why I simply cannot afford to offer them another free studio visit, editorial session, letter of reference, reading list, extra-curricular-project mentorship, or what-should-I-do-with-my-life conversation. And it's unnerving to offer that uncompensated time again anyway, as if I could absorb into my own livelihood-energy-thought the discrepancy, the shortfall, that the devaluation of labor in the university system generates; as if I could absorb that systemic asymmetry into my own work so that students can be buffered from it, sheltered in the illusion that their education is an expansive resource generously offered.
It's shocking when a brilliant colleague tells me--as one did a few weeks ago--that she is leaving teaching altogether, because the financial pressures of the adjuncting system are destabilizing her family.
I do, of course, love hearing from students that their education has been invaluable, that my class and the classes taught by my colleagues have changed their lives.
But it's upsetting to know that while students too often pay more than they can afford for this experience, CCA (like so many other schools) pays adjuncts less than a living wage, with no job security, and only limited and capriciously implemented procedures toward advancement.
I hate telling students who want to teach that this is what they can expect in future.
It's impossible not to see that the dearth of faculty of color--and of students of color--and of adequate support systems for students of color--at CCA (as at so many other art schools) is directly related to the precarity of the profession for contingent faculty.
I am happy to work for an institution whose mission statement centers social justice, innovation, and "making art that matters."
But it's demoralizing to understand that these commitments to social justice, innovation, serious cultural and political contribution, collegial respect, and pedagogical wholism do not currently ensure equitable labor relations for the adjunct and lecturer faculty.
I wish I didn't feel anxiety and trepidation about speaking like this, to the leaders of my institution, about practices and tendencies that extend far beyond our institution, that affect all of us who teach and care about teaching and learning.
And I don't like hearing that CCA's lawyer told the CCA Adjunct Action bargaining team "fuck you" not once but four times in a recent meeting. It's startling to have it reported that he told women in the room to stop talking. It's bewildering that he instructed members of the Administration negotiating team not to examine the ratified union contracts from St. Mary's, Mills, and Dominican University.
I support my union bargaining team and urge the College administration to negotiate in good faith, in a timely fashion, with respect. These are, after all, the collaborative ethics that we all strive to instill in our students as makers of culture.
With best regards, in the spirit of collegiality,