FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 23, 2019
Peter Belmont
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail