Thursday, September 4, 2008

Some Affable Advice for Angular Anne.

  • Oh, Annie. You're fucked. This is the way it works in adjunctland. I've been a resident there for 3 years, 3 terrible years since I finished my Ph.D. in Sino-American Literature. (And I can't find a job? Who knew?)

    You'll need to find an old-pro adjunct you can latch on to. There will be plenty around. Go to wherever the mailboxes are (those dark rooms with 235 individual mail cubbies) and look for someone who is stooped of shoulder and carrying a canvas tote bag bulging with papers, staplers, pencils, a lunch, water bottle, etc. That's the person. Ask your questions. Act dumb. Be nice. Beg if you must.

    The thing is, there are ways to find out how the game is played, but NOBODY in the regular college can really help you. There's a guilt among "regulars" about us adjuncts. Inside they know they're ripping us off, AND the students, and it helps them to cluster around the other tenured folks and talk about mission statements and departmental outcomes. Realizing that a veteran adjunct HAS TO CALL CAMPUS SECURITY TO GET LET INTO HIS CLASSROOM EVERY SINGLE MORNING BECAUSE THE DEPARTMENT IS TOO FUCKING DUMB AND LAZY TO PROVIDE A KEYCARD THAT ACTUALLY WORKS just gets in the way of the good they like to think they're doing.

    Buy into the adjunct subculture of your college. Those folks know the tricks, the passages, the pathways to doing a good job in your classes...oh, and hang in there. Just think of all the luxuries your salary is paying: rent, car payment, used shoes, generic cans of beans.

  • You need to make friends with the department secretary, pronto. Treat her (him? not likely) as a professional with answers. Bring cookies if necessary. Come in with a list (and a pencil to write down answers), and smilingly ask for the kindergarten version, because you are starting from nothing. Ask all the same questions you asked for here--including whether there was a mailing you missed or an email list you should have been on. (And maybe add on a couple more about payroll and long-distance phone calls.)

    The questions you're asking are cultural, the kind of thing that's not written down anywhere because everyone already knows. If you're lucky, the secretary will adopt you: she'll start calling IT to find out why you can't get into your email, she'll call the bookstore and smooth the path to getting your books, she'll help you navigate the parking office, she'll call the secretary in the other building with the locked classroom (and with any luck she won't have had a falling-out with this woman back when they both worked in the Registrar's office.)

    If she does adopt you, program her phone extension into your cell phone. She can be your most valuable ally. Oh, yeah, and see if you can find out first what her title is. If she's an "office specialist" or a "unit business manager" or a "grand high departmental potentate," don't call her a secretary.