The College Art Association is undoubtedly one of the most powerful organizations in higher art education. Yet surprisingly, the adjunct labor force that accounts for the majority of US professors is not represented on the CAA board. Anuradha Vikram is the only adjunct professor running for a spot on the CAA board. Read her letter, published by Adjunct Commuter Weekly below.
Dear Readers of Adjunct Commuter Weekly:
I humbly request your vote in the upcoming College Art Association board election. I am running for a seat on the College Art Association board of directors in the hope that I can represent the concerns of part-time college and university faculty to this influential professional organization within higher education. I am the only adjunct candidate in this year’s board election. This past year, the Association embarked on a strategic plan that includes recognition of the importance of representing adjunct interests during this critical time in our field. The Association’s annual conference is a gathering point for adjunct faculty, who often travel there on their own dollar seeking interviews for full-time employment. Though historically oriented toward full-time faculty research, the conference does provide a venue for adjunct faculty to establish research credentials along with their teaching experience despite rarely receiving support for this from their schools. In recognition of adjunct contributions to the life of the Association, a discounted Adjunct rate for membership has recently been introduced. This is a cost that is only worthwhile if the Association is actively addressing the concerns of part-time faculty in a committed way. My intention is to ensure that the Association fulfills this commitment thoughtfully, meaningfully, and in a timely manner.
The Guardian recently reported that the American model of contingent faculty is becoming increasingly popular at British institutions. Before the precarity that is threatening the very fabric of education spreads internationally, the professional organization for faculty in art and art history at the college level has a responsibility to take up the cause of contingent hiring. The visual arts disciplines are ideally suited to communicating the consequences of these threats to higher education. The Association is well positioned to broker common ground between full-time and part-time faculty to take action in the face of administrative bloat and the well-documented student loan debt crisis. For this to happen, adjuncts need a seat at the table. Unionization efforts have given part-time faculty a much-needed support system, but also created friction between faculty levels that distracts from the shared interest of preserving intellectual freedom and sustainable values. In the Graduate Public Practice department at Otis College of Art and Design, we experience a convergence of these issues that is prompting ongoing research as well as soul-searching within our teaching community. Because the department, founded and led by Suzanne Lacy, is anchored in social justice values, the ensuing conversations may offer a model for how to encourage and facilitate dialogue on these subjects with an international platform such as the College Art Association can provide.
If you are already a member of the College Art Association, I encourage you to vote for me this coming February. If you are not, consider joining the Association at the part-time faculty level and casting your vote in favor of a voice for adjuncts. Thank you for your consideration and your trust.
*Image of Jessica Stockholder’s 2014 CAA Conference keynote via surfacedesign.org