Re: Adjunct Activism
[quote author=“lotus”]Being a part-time professor, I’ve become very familiar with the Fear Factor administrative technique: fear of losing a class because of low enrollment, fear of losing health benefits, fear of ruffling feathers of the higher-ups. I mean, the word adjunct says it all! “A thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part…a person who is another’s assistant or subordinate.”
I’ve taught at the same institution for six years now, so I’m very chummy with my colleagues. I’ve got a reputation among the students. I occasionally have lunch with the copy room guy. I’m comfortable with my position…
The Fear Factor creeps in every time I think of trying to organize something on campus. There is a robust Campus Crusade for Christ club, a healthy Vietnamese Catholic club, a large Muslim Student Association, a weekly bible study at the cafe across the street. Nothing for skeptics. Nothing for agnostics, atheists, or humanists.
How can I reach out to freethinking students and encourage their organization without becoming an administrative scapegoat? How can I start something at the college I love that may cause me to lose my friends, my reputation, and perhaps my job entirely?
And how can I step up so that no other professor—adjunct or otherwise—will have too struggle with these fears?
Lotus: Four strategies—
1. Work with Center for Inquiry to bring an event to your school, which will attract students to the “cause.” A major event is the single most effective way of generating a buzz about our issues, while at the same time bringing something of value to your school that administrators will tend to appreciate rather than view negatively.
2. Realize that working with the Center for Inquiry on a campus doesnt mean you have to be in the business of supporting an “atheist support group.” While many secular, skeptic, atheist, Bright and humanist students do often feel besieged, especially considering the increasingly religious climates on American campuses, Center for Inquiry campus groups run the gamut: some are science advocacy, some treat the paranormal, some are more philosophical, some are more social, some are cutting-edge and activist on religion and separation of church and state, especially when it comes to issues concerning the proper role of religion in education. Find the focus that works best for you and your campus.
3. Realize that by working with us on a campus as a faculty supporter (even adjunct), you are contributing to the learning community of your university. Through the events we help put on, we challenge students across the country to not take their education for granted. If the goal of university is to promote unfettered inquiry into every area (this is the noble tradition of the university) then our issues of concern fall naturally within that scope—many professors and administrators have found our programs to be exactly what the University sadly these days has been lacking, namely, critical inquiry into unchallenged beliefs. And if you cant engage in that while in college, where can you?
4. Sometimes simplicity trumps grand strategy. If we identify students on your campus interested in starting a group, just providing support (faculty sponsor, a helpful and encouraging ear, etc) is all that is required from you. Socializing with skeptic and humanist students, helping put on social events like movie nights, and remembering to not be exclusivist (allowing for students of all viewpoints to get involved) would be a good start.