Confronting the Gig Academy through Community Building

By Anjali Madgula, Rutgers 2021 graduate in English Literature and Student Organizer with the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union

As a Rutgers student, it can be difficult to access information about where our tuition money goes. For those of us trying to understand the financial and corporate decisions that shape Rutgers, open community discussions allow us to organize and connect with faculty, staff, and other students. Community building is one reason why the adjunct faculty union hosted a panel discussion to wrap up the #RUAS Week of Action!

On November 19th, students joined us at our online panel, “Confronting the Gig Academy” to hear more about adjunct faculty experiences and to find common ground in our collective fight for a more accountable university. The panel aimed to share how poor working conditions for adjuncts affect both faculty and students and to invite students to get involved with Rutgers One, a coalition of students, faculty, staff, and alumni that works to share demands and host collective actions at Rutgers. With about 60 attendees, the panel brought students, faculty, and grad workers together in a community check-in. Resources were shared, stories were told, and solidarity was—we hope—felt by all.

Our event was co-sponsored by the Rutgers chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Sunrise Movement, as well as RU Progressive—student organizations that are actively organizing for a better university. Our panelists were union Vice President and philosophy and journalism instructor Bryan Sacks (Camden/New Brunswick), English graduate student and instructor Matthew Midgett (Camden), creative writing graduate student and instructor Hannah (Bird) Jackson (Newark), and organizing committee lead and theater instructor David Letwin (Mason Gross Arts Online).

We posed three questions to the panel: What has been your experience of being an adjunct/part-time lecturer? What have your working conditions indicated to you about the broader issues that affect adjuncts and students at Rutgers? And, how do you see your fight for a better contract fitting into the broader labor movement? Attendees also made the event special by asking excellent questions and sharing their own insights about how the gig academy at Rutgers has affected both faculty and students. One attendee shared about her experience of being denied funds for her student organization simply because her advisor was an adjunct, writing: “My organization won a grant for a large amount of money” but was ultimately denied the funds because the university claimed that “an adjunct professor was not [a] sufficient [advisor]… even though he was very well versed with what we were doing.”

We thank our amazing event cosponsors, panel attendees, and everyone else who has supported Rutgers Adjuncts Speak Week of Action. I am excited to see how both storytelling and fostering spaces to listen to each other will continue to demonstrate how interconnected both our struggles and solidarity can be—especially in light of the incredible demonstrations and victories of worker movements across the country.