We are your neighbors. Your friends. Your long-lost relatives. Once we were your classmates. Your roommates. Your office coworkers. We play the field. Work multiple jobs. We carry backpacks, briefcases, computers. Grade into the wee hours of morning. Intellectualize. Dissect everything out of habit. We teach because we love it and because we are too specialized to do anything else. We lack health care. Job security. Parking space. Office space. Photocopies. Petty cash. Any cash. Vacation days. Sick days. But not furlough days, when we are made to work for free.
We are halftime, part-time, anywhere/anytime. We fall to budget cuts. Senior faculty. Tenured faculty. Even when we are better than them. We are hip. We are slovenly. We are idealistic workers in a political system. We are jaded and clinging to idealism as though it can save us. We know it can’t. We have quotas to meet. We normalize grades. Separate them from bad moods. We are subjective. We juke the stats. Our commutes are $15+ a day. We are not reimbursed. We have lost free food events. We are tired. And damn, we are hungry.
You have seen us on the subways, grading furiously with our backpacks between our knees. You have seen us on buses and trains, clacking out comments on our laptops. You have heard us bemoaning Blackboard 9. You have emailed us asking for extensions, conferences, demanding better grades, threatening to go to the department head, the dean. We have humored you. We have covered our own asses because no one else will. We have no social life. We miss our social life. We publish or perish. We publish and perish anyway. We crave tenure we are too inexperienced for, too avant-garde for, too bad for, too good for. We are hired and fired according to experience, qualification, personal bias, racism. We are hired as late as August. Fired as early as May. We smile. We bear up. We try to make a difference. Make it look easy when it never is.
We are expected to be there and we are, work horses, numerous because we are paid less for more. We are called professors. We are called menial staff. We try to form unions only to be told we aren’t allowed to. Or we would unionize, except we can’t afford the fees. We live on less than $20K/yr. We are expected to survive.
We are white, black, Asian, Latino, European, inner-city, suburban, rural. We are anyplace that will have us. We are MFAs. MSs. PhDs. ABDs. Overqualified. Underpaid. Over-caffeinated. Under-slept. Desperate. We are the underdogs of academia. You know us by our name adjunct. And we are many.