By Josh Brahinsky and Roxi Power, UC-AFT Santa Cruz
When graduate-student workers at the University of California at Santa Cruz voted overwhelmingly in December to reject their statewide union contract and follow the West Virginia teachers’ model of a wildcat strike, the precarious lives of academic workers became a news story once again.
Now that more than 75 percent of the instructors teaching in
higher education in the United States do not have tenure, it is
important to think about how the current political climate
affects those vulnerable teachers. Although we should pay
attention to how all faculty are being threatened, non-tenured
faculty are in an especially exposed position because they often
lack any type of academic freedom or shared governance
The recent results of an ambitious survey undertaken in 2010
of contingent academic workers provides a fuller picture of
national trends affecting part-time instructors. The Coalition on the
Academic Workforce designed its study to capture data about
all contingent (non-tenure track) instructors but focused on
part-time faculty working at post-secondary institutions.
Meet Joe Berry. If you don’t know his work, you should.
Author of the book Reclaiming the Ivory Tower:
Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education, Berry has
worked for decades in multiple states as both a part-time
instructor and an organizer of part-time, contingent academic
instructors. Recently retired from teaching Labor Studies, he
continues to pour his time and energy into the struggle for the
rights of the most vulnerable instructors in higher education.