Adjuncts seek better treatment

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Adjunct organizer Geoff Johnson speaks at Adjunct Action Day. Photo by Thomas Contant.

Adjuncts of Southwestern College organized a rally to get better wages and equal protections as full-time instructors.

Very few people showed up. There were more adjunct speakers at the rally than people in the audience.

Adjunct instructors teach almost 75 percent of the college’s classes. They do not have the same benefits as full-time professors. Many adjuncts work more hours than a full-time professor because they travel to multiple schools to accumulate enough pay to survive.

English adjunct Geoffrey Johnson led the rally. He said that time on the road and long hours diminish the quality of education.

“You’re not going to give students the education they deserve,” he said. “They are giving a stressed education.”

Mark Freeman, a math adjunct, said he is a “freeway flyer,” a person who may teach at several colleges a day. Freeman said he teaches at five colleges, including distant Palomar College. Freeman said he travels at least 80 miles a day from college to college. He said he is a single father who works long hours to provide for his son.

“We get by,” he said. “There’s months where money is tight, but we manage to make ends meet. You can live on it, but you can’t afford a lot of luxuries.”

Adjunct English instructor Cody Dolnick said part-timers have a higher risk of losing their jobs or not getting re-hired. Dolnick is a longtime SWC adjunct that travels three hours from Joshua Tree.

“Before I moved to Joshua Tree, I was based in San Diego,” he said. “I couldn’t abandon the benefits that I had at Southwestern. It’s too financially dangerous to try to get a job closer to where I live. It’s very easy to be a first-year adjunct at a college and not get hired back the next year.”

Some adjuncts have to live on family insurance plans because part-timers cannot get a professor’s plan.

Dave Hurwitz, an English adjunct, said he injured his leg at SWC and could not get the same medical benefits as full-time employees.

“I was better off applying for unemployment for the two months instead of workers comp because I would not get any wages,” he said. “If you’re going to be an adjunct instructor, be married to someone with good insurance. Otherwise you’re screwed.”

Mexican-American Studies adjunct Gregorio Pantoja said he is not bothered by the day-to-day routine of a part-timer, but is more concerned with the bigger problem of quality education. Society is distracted with the mundane aspects of life, he said, rather than critical issues like education.

“Society is more willing to fight for keeping the Chargers in San Diego, but will not go to a PTA meeting to support their children,” he said. “It is more than just Adjunct Action Day, it is also a day to rally for education. Once we lose the ability to educate our society, we begin to lose true democracy.”

President Dr. Kindred Murillo and Trustee Roberto Alcantar showed their support for adjuncts by speaking at the rally.

“It is so important that the adjunct faculty teaches for us,” said Murillo. “The value they bring to this college is outstanding. It really is more than a full-time job.”

Alcantar agreed.

“I am thankful for the work and sacrifices they make, because they could be doing something else and making money some other way,” he said. “But they are here, and they are here because they care about you. They care about our school and community, which is why we have to fight for them, too.”

Dolnick said he is asking students and faculty to get more involved helping adjuncts get paid office hours and disability leave. Johnson agreed that adjuncts need more support.

“You need to get involved,” he said. “You need to be the people that are making the actions. You need to make California the society and the place you want it to be.”

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