FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View

So the 2016 Republican National Convention is done. Rolling Stone’s list of its 12 Most WTF Moments gives substantial attention to Melania Trump’s speech—the now-famous plagiarism from an earlier speech by Michelle Obama. Oren Nimni of Current Affairs has boiled down that scandal’s real revelation: “It shows us that cheap myths about the rewards of ‘hard work’ are now central to both parties’ vocabularies.”

Michelle Obama’s defenders point out that Michelle actually embodies the hard-work success story. Granted. But the narrative of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps to overcome, as Michelle’s recycled speech puts it, the only limit to the height of your achievements, misses a vital political reality. No one succeeds without the hard work of others, and we need to pull each other up collectively. For one thing, that means maintaining structural support for a healthy education system.

May I ask what the Obama administration has done to solve the adjunct faculty crisis in higher education? Non-tenure-track contract workers, also called “contingent” faculty, now make up more that 70% of all teaching appointments, reports the American Association of University Professors. For the last two decades, adjunct faculty have been telling law and policy makers about the abuse per se in this practice; yet the Democratic Party at its various levels keeps ignoring this unconscionable situation.

Michelle Obama, who has held key administrative posts at the University of Chicago, knows the crisis. Why hasn’t Michelle Obama personally stepped in to insist that U.S. academic administrators offer secure jobs and benefits to the people who have created and taught the classes their institutions market? If you’re not part of the solution when you could be—whether you are a salaried administrator, or a professor with the security denied to most of your colleagues, or a professional association that approves a curriculum knowing it is adjunct-run, or Michelle Obama—then you are making life harder for those of us working our years away for short-term contracts that do not cover even a modest rent while political speeches remind us all how hard we can work.

This graduation season, Michelle Obama gave a commencement speech for the City University of New York. The country’s largest urban public university, CUNY is historically dedicated to bolstering opportunities for people of modest backgrounds. Michelle Obama’s speech, at CUNY’s flagship City College in the Harlem District of Manhattan, lauded this year’s graduates for their own struggles. But the bright-pink elephant in the room—City College reportedly makes higher-than-average use of both part-time and adjunct teaching staff—never got a mention. CUNY suffers from the nationwide problem of financial resources largely directed into administration while students are deprived of a stable faculty and curriculum.

At this time, knowledge is critical to a public understanding of civilization-threatening problems. A 2014 Pew Research survey showed that most people who’ve attained a college degree know that global warming is driven by human activity, while most people without that education do not. And if this is so, higher education matters urgently to sound politics.
But opportunities to contribute to society, its knowledge, and its policies are being denied to current and future teachers and researchers.

Meanwhile, people positioned to change this are speechifying at commencements. How ridiculous if we’re reduced to wondering who supplied the motivational phrases. When public speakers tell bootstrap stories while structures meant to nourish our political health are crumbling, of course we’ve heard it all before.

More articles by:

Lee Hall, J.D., LL.M., is an independent author, an adjunct professor of law and legal studies, a retail worker, and the creator of a studio for the Art of Animal Liberation on Patreon, for which support is always welcome and deeply appreciated.

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail