Mayday Manifesto

The Mayday Manifesto, published by the Student/Labor Collation at SUNY, begins with a long list of historical grievances about the use of adjunct and contingent labor in U.S. Higher Education. It’ll be familiar fare to anyone who reads this blog. It concludes with a list of demands that is worth reproducing as wildly as possible:

The conditions under which contingent teachers are forced to work undermine the quality of higher education. Their miserable working conditions adversely affect student learning conditions, thus short-changing our students and threatening the future of our nation. This is no way to prepare the next generation for an increasingly competitive global economy! Funding education on the cheap has resulted in most American students no longer being competitive with those in dozens of other countries.

To reverse this disastrous trend, the undersigned urge that the following steps be adopted on a priority basis:

1. Increase the starting salary for a three-credit semester course to a minimum of $5,000 for all instructors in higher education.
2. Ensure academic freedom by providing progressively longer contracts for all contingent instructors who have proven themselves during an initial probationary period.
3. Provide health insurance for all instructors, either through their college’s health insurance system or through the Affordable Care Act.
4. Support the quality education of our students by providing their instructors with necessary office space, individual development support, telephones, email accounts and mail boxes.
5. Guarantee fair and equitable access to unemployment benefits when college instructors are not working.
6. Guarantee eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to all college instructors who have taught for ten years, during which they were repaying their student loans.
7. With or without a time-in service requirement, allow all college teachers to vote and hold office in institutional governance, including faculty senates and academic departments.

It’s not complete– I think class sizes ought to be capped as well– and in many ways it sets a very low bar. An adjunct teaching 8 classes a year, for example (assuming a workload of only 2 courses in the summary) would, after taxes, be working just above the poverty level for a family of 4. I think the rate ought to be high enough to make loads higher than 8 courses per year unnecessary. This is one way to improve education in every sort of institution. If we were to take into account the amount of experience and skill needed to teach at the college level, $10,000 per course would probably be a reasonable baseline. Still, the list is a great start. If you have a Gmail account you can sign the manifesto here.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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