Written by American Anthropological Association President, Dr. Monica Heller and Executive Director, Dr. Edward Liebow
Today, February 25, 2015 is “National Adjunct Walkout and Awareness Day,” a day when adjunct and contingent faculty at American colleges and universities are being encouraged to remain away from their teaching responsibilities or otherwise call attention to the unfair conditions of employment that many adjunct faculty face.
Across the academy, many adjuncts do not have professional careers beyond the academy, and are paid by the course at a fraction of the rate their full-time faculty counterparts are compensated. Adjuncts are often not eligible for employer-provided health care insurance coverage or retirement benefits. Adjuncts often do not get paid time off. Adjuncts have little employment security, are often told only days ahead of the start of the academic term whether their courses will be offered. At institutions that rely heavily on adjunct instructors, the quality of instruction may suffer, not because of the adjuncts’ qualifications, but because they lack private office space in which to meet with students, are so poorly compensated for their time that they may not be able to make themselves available for student consultations.
What is true for institutions of higher education in general is certainly the case in anthropology. The AAA is a member of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, which has a significant repository of data on working conditions, including a large sub-sample of anthropologists. The AAA’s Committee on Labor Relations has been tasked with providing advice regarding best practices in the employment of adjunct and contingent faculty. More broadly, we are trying to understand the contours of the labor market for anthropologists, and how the Association can best support our members and the discipline under these conditions.
Today is a day for heightening public awareness, and the AAA salutes those courageous anthropologists who are taking a stand for working conditions deserving of the level of academic preparation and commitment to quality education that adjunct faculty share.
The American Anthropological Association, dedicated to advancing human understanding and addressing the world’s most pressing problems since its found in 1902, is the world’s largest professional anthropology organization.