In response, this morning I found the following retweets:
Janitors are people too mt @Comprof1: anyone see the problem here? janitor makes/is guaranteed more than an adjunct? http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/us-college-may-link-presidents-pay-to-lowest-paid-staff/2011553.article …
Yeah I'm not signing up for class warfare that doesn't have clean toilets or respect for people that clean them @gingerest @Comprof1
Now, there have been times I have misunderstood a tweet or not read the attached link, so I can’t blame @TressieMcphd (someone I follow) for her tweet. However, I do feel it’s important that I go on record and clarify what I meant in my original tweet and clear my name from the accusations of trying to start a class war.
First, some of my background to put into context my comments. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the elitist implied in the tweet. In fact, I have more interaction with the cleaning crew and maintenance workers at the colleges and universities I’ve worked at than the tenured faculty in my department. Why? For almost 25 years I have been an adjunct at 3 different colleges/universities. This means I teach when the full time faculty don’t want to, namely very early morning or late night classes. This is the time when facility maintenance is done. In addition, I put myself through school cleaning houses. Believe me, I understand the social stigma and the hard work janitors do.
This said, “janitors” as we know it, are entry level workers. Most of the cleaning staff at the schools where I work were either a) parents who needed flexible schedules for childcare purposes, b) immigrants who were taking English or GED classes during their off time to move into a more professional career, or c) students who wanted to leave college debt free so took the job that would pay and give them tuition. Why do I know this? Because I spoke with them, even helped out a few of them by reviewing papers or giving them help on homework.
The problem with the article I cited from THE is that it was geared towards the UK. As such, some of the terms they used such as “adjunct” and “janitor” might be different than what we use. It is hard to get your point across sometimes in 140 characters so I used the terms used in the article and then linked the comment to the article so others could understand the context for my tweet. Obviously it didn’t happen. So here is my extended version.
Problems with the article
1. In the article, there was discussion and a quick mention of the problem with adjuncts, but more of the focus was on the unfair treatment of entry level jobs at the university, such as the “janitors”. Then the janitor’s average salary of $30,000 per year was given. I did not have a problem with the fact that janitors were fighting for benefits and a living wage. This, in fact, is a problem in both private and public institutions where those on top have a much greater income than those on the bottom. My problem was that there was no discussion of the adjuncts and TA’s who make half as much. In relation to the janitors and clerks, who were listed as the lowest paid at the university, adjuncts are not even worth a mention. To me, this is like speaking of the farm failures without addressing the impact this has on migrant workers. Adjuncts and TA’s aren’t even worth a mention.
2. If you are going to write an article about the lowest paid workers, make sure you are including those that legally the institution is allowed to pay below minimum wages, fire at will without any excuse or recompense, are not allowed sick time, vacation time, or health insurance, have no chance for promotion, and many times are carrying the greatest debt load. At my university, at least, a “janitor” can apply to be a supervisor and even get training to become a skilled maintenance worker. This is not true for adjuncts (academic personnel).
“Adjuncts” can be considered peripheral or increasingly, entry level jobs, just as a janitor is the entry level job for maintenance. However, after 25 years in which I have done everything expected to get a tenure track job, they are being abolished. In its place is a vacuum based on individual contracts in which a college or university can do whatever they want. Legally, there is no minimum wage. Legally, adjuncts can be fired for no reason or no process (unless there is a union contract). Legally, adjuncts must still pay back college loans and cannot get them waived. It is now time to start reassessing what “class” the adjunct is in and make sure that there are minimum employment standards for all workers whether they be adjuncts, migrant workers, non-profit workers, nannies, or any other job where a worker can be exploited. This can only be done by 1) making society aware of this problem/issue, 2) joining together to advocate fair working conditions, and 3) making sure there is legislation in place the protects all workers.