Adjuncts Connect at ‘Unconference’

Adjunct faculty pose for a photo at last weekend's Unconference.

Adjunct faculty pose for a photo at last weekend’s Unconference.

Two dozen adjunct college faculty members gathered this weekend in Concord to network and build connections with colleagues from schools across the region.

The gathering was billed as an “unconference,” and if you haven’t heard of that, you’re not alone.

“I’d never heard of an ‘unconference’ before,” said Rick Watrous, and SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member who helped organize the event. “Essentially, there’s no set agenda until the attendees arrive on the morning of and decide what to talk about.”

If the unconference seems unconventional, consider that adjuncts (alternately referred to as contingents) face an unconventional problem when it comes to meeting and sharing ideas.

“We have this basic problem of getting adjuncts together because we tend to have crazy schedules,” said Watrous, who’s an adjunct professor at NHTI. “Unlike, say, workers who are in one building and see each other all the time, we rarely see each other.”

The theme of the unconference was “connections,” and Watrous said attendees definitely expanded their links to other adjuncts across the state. After watching the documentary “Con Job” (the title is a play on the term contingents), attendees got into open discussion on successful unionization drives and contract negotiations. Watrous thinks the connections made will help as his chapter, the CCSNH adjuncts, heads back into bargaining next year.

“One thing we’re doing is sharing our contracts,” he said. “I think seeing what other people have successfully negotiated will be very useful as we head into negotiations.”

Attendees at the conference came from various colleges, including UNH, Southern New Hampshire University and CCSNH, and were represented by several different unions. Watrous noted that there were some nonmembers in attendance, but by the end of the day, they seemed to decide that joining up made sense.

“If we needed any affirmation, we definitely realized once again that there’s strength in numbers,” Watrous said.

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