Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Special to Angular Anne: "You Are Not Your Fucking Copy Code." Phaedrus from Philly on Part-Timer Philosophy.

Back for a fourth year of full-time adjuncting, I think I met Angular Anne's soul-sister last week. A new hire to teach one class, she had to excuse herself from a small breakout orientation session, explaining “I have to print my syllabus.” The facilitator (an administrator with pseudo-faculty status) asked her if she had an office yet. “Office?” What about a computer? “Computer?”

So there we are, sitting around in a huge, nearly empty computer lab, which itself is overseen by the facilitator of our group, whom I have always found helpful and friendly, who then tells this new, clueless, apologetic adjunct how she can walk down the campus quad, cross a street, and find a computer lab where — Wait for it… Wait for it… “You can print for ten cents a page.”

Nice try, Herr Direcktor, but the correct answer was “You can use one of the many computers and printers under my direct discretionary control, and which are not currently in use by anyone, given that this is the week before the semester starts.”

The other adjuncts know where the copier is and how to use it—or how to get around the administrative lockouts and/or procedures designed to prevent you from using it. You were not told these things originally for the simple reason that the people responsible for giving you the information do not like you, on spec. You are adjunct. You do not matter. You are scum. Why faculty and administrators believe these things is a mystery, one that the sages and mad prophets have puzzled over for centuries.

I’ve been at it a tiny while here, and I’m at peace with who I am, what I do, and what purposes it serves in the several grand schemes at work at any major research place. I understand and accept why I’m paid less than the guy who teaches two classes a year; I understand and accept why I meet my twice-as-many-students in a cubicle while his massive office sits empty half the year while he’s on sabbatical and/or fellowship and/or course-release to go do research in Poland, and/or interviews for other, better assistant professorships behind our college’s administrative back—but what I do not understand, and refuse to accept, is why Anne doesn’t get the copy code, the key to her classroom, a tour of the facilities, and a walk-through of her computer system, like she’d get at any other craptacular job in the private or public sector.

I don’t understand and refuse to accept why she has to be treated with that kind of dismissal and disdain—if for no other reason than because she cannot do her job this way, without copies and keys and the basic knowledge of how her department works. Shutting her out isn’t just disrespectful of her, but of her students and her students’ needs. The rest of it is comedy compared to this last thing—that a department would take—that so many departments we know and “love” do take—its primary academic responsibility so obviously and obliviously for granted is not funny at all, but tragic, and frightening.