UI faculty to observe National Adjunct Walkout Day with protest
Members of the University of Idaho contingent faculty plan to protest Wednesday to observe National Adjunct Walkout Day, which raises awareness about the working conditions of university faculty who work part-time without benefits.
Jeff Jones, temporary lecturer in the Department of English and one of the protest’s planners, has been at UI for 10 years and said contingent faculty members work in “unfair” conditions.
“We’re hired and fired at the beginning and the end of each semester,” Jones said. “We work on semester-long contracts and we have no employee benefits. It’s a risk for us to speak up at all.”
Eight temporary lecturers from the Department of English will hold a “Grade-in,” a gathering of faculty to grade assignments together, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Idaho Commons. At 2 p.m., the group plans to march to the office of College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences Dean Andrew Kersten, because Jones said he refused to meet with the group Wednesday.
Jones said at least 25 people are committed to the Grade-in portion of the protest, including several permanent faculty members who wish to show their support.
Jones said adjunct faculty members at UI are ineligible to receive health benefits, sick leave, discounted tuition rates for classes, teaching and research awards and are not offered a retirement plan they can pay into through the university or an opportunity to speak on faculty governance.
“We had benefits until 2009, and those were revoked,” Jones said. “They reclassified our positions, basically, and made us temporary lecturers as opposed to full lecturers and we weren’t even notified of that, like personally.”
While Jones said he hopes the protest enacts change in the way UI classifies their adjunct faculty, he said he’s more interested in seeing students and permanent faculty members start a conversation about the working conditions.
Jones said contingent faculty are vulnerable to UI’s vulnerabilities, which affects everything — from upper-administration policy decisions to daily classroom instruction.
“We’re the canaries in the coal mine, if you will,” Jones said. “How the university treats its most vulnerable employees may be indicative of what’s down the road for the permanent faculty. That’s why we all have to work together to redress the inequities. Contingency harms all of us, and I hope people start to notice that on Wednesday.”
Jones said anyone is welcome to participate, and if people cannot come to the events they can instead walk out of their classrooms to observe the cause. He said one person is going to bring “swag,” so protest participants are noticeable by passersby. He also said there would be a statement put together so people can sign and show their support.
Amber Emery can be reached at email@example.com