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A Thanksgiving Toast: Here’s to San Precario (Saint Precarious)

precarious-university-uc-santa-cruz-lecturers-picket-1Is it strange to toast a fictional character during a family dinner? I say no, especially if the character symbolizes the kind of precarious work situations most adjuncts face in order to even have Thanksgiving. Since you’re already providing the food, perhaps San Precario can provide some food for thought.

San Precario, the patron saint of precarious, casual, temporary, fractional workers, first appeared in Milan, Italy in 2004, taking the form of a fast food worker. Sometimes appearing as male, sometimes as female, (Santa Precaria), the saint’s purpose is to create a visual iconography of the increasing casualization of the workforce, i.e., the administrative trend of adjunctification currently threatening America’s halls of higher education.

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The saint is sometimes depicted with multiple arms representing the multiplicity of casual contracts and jobs as well as to represent that, through necessity, casual workers develop multiple skills and juggle several jobs in order to survive. References to the workers’ martyrdom are held in the hands: For adjuncts, they might hold the employment page from a newspaper, a syllabus, fast food and car keys (or bus fare). San Precario may appear as a teacher, a temporary office worker, a supermarket employee, maintenance worker, or professional mom trying to handle her work responsibilities while breastfeeding her infant.

Visual symbols inspire comment and conversation, and can promote public awareness of the changing working conditions of part-time teaching professionals as well as other workers. So, as we enter a season filled with parades and gatherings, wouldn’t it be nice if San Precario showed up at a couple of your local events to help raise public awareness of what’s happening to the faculty at America’s colleges and universities? How can adjuncts and students at your university conjure the saint and what information might his/her presence provide?

So, as you’re toasting symbols of gratitude, love and abundance this Thanksgiving, take a moment to acknowledge San Precario and show respect to the legions of people s/he represents.

“Thank An Adjunct” – Food Drive Edition

thanks-food-drive

Even if you’ve decided there isn’t enough time to plan an Adjunct Food Drive before Thanksgiving of 2016, there are other upcoming holidays and there’s always next year. Food drives can be valuable, not only for the people they feed, because they provide an opportunity for the following:

  • Develop community involvement
  • Raise awareness
  • Gain press attention
  • Educate those outside academia

So, think about the other opportunities for a food drive in the coming year … winter holidays, Valentine’s Day, maybe even Mardi Gras.

thanksgiving-drive-bags

Should you pursue a Food Drive, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process.

  • Form your team. Make sure you have at least a couple collaborators to share responsibilities.
  • Decide on a date and specific hours for collection. And, have a back-up plan in case of bad weather.
  • Find a place for the drop-off.
  • Figure out where you can store the food and prepare it for distribution. You’ll also want to think about gathering boxes or bags.
  • Promotion (see separate section below)
  • Make and distribute flyers, posters, etc.
  • Recruit volunteers for the day of the event. You’ll want folks collecting and organizing food plus you’ll want someone ready to talk to administrators, press, etc. An additional suggestion … Find a way to make it fun. Gather artists, musicians, dancers … folks who’ll give a carnival feel to the event and draw attention to it.
  • Make signage for the event. Make sure people can see what the event is and where it’s taking place.
  • Create thank you notes for donors.
  • Sort food.
  • Distribute food …pictures are important.
  • Send thank you notes to your volunteers.
  • Follow up with the press – send pictures from food sorting and distribution.

More on Publicity …

Gathering food for adjuncts in need is at the heart of this food drive, but there’s another purpose for planning an event such as this … publicity for the cause. Anything that gets the attention of the press and public that drives attention to the issues adjunct and students face in higher education is important.

  • When creating print collateral (flyers or posters) or press releases, be sure to include statistics: Make sure people know that adjuncts make up over 70% of higher education faculty and that the percentage is growing.
  • Include the fact 1 in 5 adjuncts live below the poverty line while facing student loan debt and trying to support families.
  • Make sure people know that 25% of adjunct faculty depend on some sort of public assistance to get by.

Contact your local media. The newspaper, television and radio are great. Don’t forget local bloggers or podcasters and the school paper. Send press releases to national media as well. If NPR, CBS, MSNBC, Democracy Now, VICE and other media outlets get multiple releases from multiple schools, they’ll start to take notice.

Contact organizations who are already in place to support adjuncts. Get to know both national and state / local organizations that stand with you and might offer some form of support, even if it’s just a Tweet or some advice. New Faculty Majority, Faculty Forward, PrecariCorps, SEIU, Fight for 15 … we have a lot of brothers and sisters in the trenches and need to take time to communicate with them and find ways to help each other.

The bottom line for a Food Drive or any act of activism is to stand up for current and future adjuncts and, but doing so, to improve higher education for everyone. We won’t move forward if we’re afraid to step up or to ask for help. Together, however, we stand strong and can make a difference.

Your ideas and experience are always welcome. Make this a conversation by commenting, reblogging, and talking on social media.

And THANK YOU to all adjunct professors!

thankful

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