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Substitute Teacher: Recalibrating the adjunct with Dushko Petrovich


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For the Awl, Jo Livingstone writes about the many callings of Dushko Petrovich: editor, adjunct, artist. Catch up with Petrovich’s goings on in partial below, or in full via the Awl.

The artist, teacher, writer, and editor Dushko Petrovich is recalibrating our understanding of the adjunct professor into something closer to art. Petrovich is probably best known for co-founding and editing the art magazine Paper Monument, as well as his artistic practice, which he describes as “a mix of painting, writing, editing, and really anything else that becomes necessary.” (Disclosure: I work at Paper Monument’s sister magazine n+1). He has also had a varied career as a college teacher — last year alone, he taught at Boston University, RISD, Yale, and NYU. He has perma-ruffled hair and a nice, ursine aspect.

In 2015, Petrovich launched a multimedia project called Adjunct Commuter Weekly. You can read about it in The New Yorker, Slate, and the Wall Street Journal, if you like. It only came out in one edition, then “rebranded” as a “multimedia platform” due to the “financial and time constraints of the adjunct commuting staff.” It is entirely about the challenges faced by adjunct faculty. One notable piece was Kristen Dombek’s, “Five Trains Each Way Means Ten Trains A Day,” which was about taking a lot of trains. Every staffer is an adjunct, which means that Petrovich will have to resign: he just got a tenure-track job as Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

ACW is a satiric comic performance, one borne of pain. It contains real and lucid commentary on employment conditions, but is also ruefully funny. Petrovich describes the project as the “only sane response” to an “insane work situation.” Driving “from Boston to Brooklyn or from Providence to New Haven on late nights,” Petrovich felt alone. ACW was founded to bring people together, and to spread its tote bags across campuses, in turn spreading awareness. I have proudly hauled mine from campus to campus, clutching it on my lap (when I could get a subway seat) like some kind of talisman that would protect me from my lack of health insurance with its humor. ACW has recipes, advice, and “Adjunct Sudoku” (you can’t use numbers higher than 3).

Petrovich is also currently working on “a ride sharing app, called Unter, so people can coordinate their transportation and be in touch with other adjuncts.” It’s quite difficult to tell whether he’s being serious or not, but the answer is probably: art.

*Image of Dushko Petrovich via the Awl and courtesy Petrovich