“a thing added” — a perspective by Mike Madigan (submitted to NPR)

Paper stack, stacks, still to be graded. The other day asked, after I said I was an Adjunct English Instructor, “What’s an ‘adjunct’?” Good question. What are adjuncts? Depends who you’d ask. Monikers such as ‘freeway flyers’, ‘gypsy educators’, and then the other day I look into the adjunct pickle further and found an article calling us the “fast-food workers of academia”. Huh, I thought.. so does everything about the adjunct have to entail some humor or minimization? Then another article I found on a blog was a colony of adjuncts basking and cascading in grievance and propelling barbs at everyone from the governor to department chairs, to deans, trustee members, to the adjuncts themselves and their ever-failed unions. Oh, and that worry, “How many classes will I be assigned next semester?” Then I posed to my character and sensibility, after 9 years of chasing sections, begging for them and looking to colleges I know damn well I don’t want to commute to: “WHY?” Why am I doing this to myself– wait wait… I love teaching, I love the classroom, I love even the papers and the grading, even. But the game… I don’t like the obvious and ceaseless metastasising of the adjunct strut. Our commutes, pay, the benefit issue–which I have no time in this talk to tear apart, as I should–and the word itself, ADJUNCT. Just part, partial, right? But, as you’ve probably or read or heard or known from somewhere, someone, we’re 75% of the teaching body. Probably more, now. Again, WHY? What are we doing to ourselves? I know, I know, you love to teach, I get it, but just know, know your ‘why’. They see us as ‘things’. Just THINGS. Partial, partially. And the papers build, lower in height but only to rebuild and remind me: adjunct, adjunct…
Me, I’m transitioning into another world, another “career”, I guess you could say. So I won’t have to depend on the undependable, the non-reliant, the habit that’s nothing more than a structure on rotted and shaky stilts. Now, I actually enjoy going to campus, embrace my adjunct’d Personhood as that’s what I’ve elected. They, be they the trustees or deans, chairs or whatever other string-tuggers there are, didn’t elect it for me. They didn’t assign me anything. I don’t chase anymore. I’m in control. And I’m no longer partial.
I’m whole.
Bring on the papers.