Brooks Winchell, 9/22/2014
Current Occupation: Student Support Services Coordinator/ Adjunct Lecturer
Former Occupation: Adjunct Lecturer
Contact Information: Brooks Winchell received his MFA from Lesley University in poetry, but since then, he has primarily been writing fiction and non-fiction, much of which grapples with issues in higher education, and some of which has been published elsewhere. He has been involved in the industry for 9 years, first as an Adjunct Lecturer, and currently as a Student Support Services Coordinator.
Adjunctopia: A paradise of isolation awaits you!
I am an adjunct, literally an extra, and not all together incidentally, I am lonely. I am alone all day, except when I am in class, but that doesn’t really count because students aren’t that important. I mean they are important in the way that they “are the future” and how they “hold intellectual potential,” etc. but as human beings I can relate to, they are of only mild consequence. I mean I can’t, like, tell them how fucking annoying my kids were yesterday or how absolutely idiotic the department chair was for making so-and-so decision, or how intensely throbbing my headache is after last night’s Percocet binge. We can, of course, connect on vague pleasantries like the weather or some interesting bit of current news, but on the whole, we are entirely disparate since they don’t really want me in their world any more than I want them in mine, which brings me back to my initial point – I am a lonely fucking adjunct.
Even to the faculty, I’m like “that weird dude in there using the photocopier” or the shadow that slinks thorough the office during an important meeting to grab a few blue books. Transient. I am not of much consequence, you see, as evidenced by my salary. And, of course, I don’t really do much to correct this “misconception” (if that is truly the case) since I stopped wearing regular pants a long time ago and show up to the University exclusively in sweatpants, tee shirts, and Red Sox hats. Plus, my hygiene isn’t really all that good, and I have given up completely on non-contract-mandated meetings, particularly the ethereal, bullshitty departmental ones on “theoretical frameworks” or “pedagogical approaches” since I have only a rudimentary understanding of either of those phrases. It doesn’t matter much besides because my entire livelihood is subject to the whims of budget cuts and class sizes, and my presence reminds every one of the low tensile strength of a university career and the entire university system in general.
In these senses, I can’t really blame my colleagues for turning the other way when they see me in the halls or hushing up quickly when I interrupt a lively exchange on the subjective nature of assessment in order to droll extra-slowly through to check my empty mailbox. The truth is that the actual, useful half-life of an adjunct is 3 years, and after that it begins to degrade like spent plutonium. I know it myself, having seen my share of haggard, 20 year adjuncts who have blown out their own brains with gin and tonics and can barely remember what classes they teach (not that it matters as long as a warm body shows up). And I am well on my way there, have adjuncted now for 7 years and never once, in all that time, worn a bowtie. I don’t even own any bowties and probably wouldn’t even understand a sarcastic bowtie if I saw one. I am terribly ill-humored, as you may have guessed, and completely unrefined in almost every way. I don’t even read the texts for my own classes anymore so much as drag them around by their hair uttering senseless gutturals.
It would probably help if I attended even one fucking holiday party or signed even one extra-large birthday card, but it is hard to give a shit when I work at like 18 schools, and hard too, for them I imagine, to invite me when I all I do is mope around in my uncombed hair and slippers as if on extended residency at the asylum (where I am sure to end up some day). So I accept my lonely fucking adjunct life and even, perhaps, perpetuate it in some ways, like yesterday, when I encountered that preeminent scholar taking a whiz in basement urinal and sidled up next to him to his absolute dismay. It could have been the perfect opportunity to discuss my freshest critical insights into his latest book, seeing how he had no option to disappear (being mid-stream and all). But even then, alone with my hostage captive for a full thirty seconds, there was nothing but crickets and the intermittent spritzing of porcelain. It was not at all like I imagined in my own mind – both of us sitting fireside, pondering life and literature with a scotch in hand. The reality was I froze and couldn’t even utter the meekest sound, except to say: “It’s cold outside.”
“It sure is” he said, “plus, there’s that news story.”
“Right,” I said zipping up and slinking back into my quiet life of travelling around from here to there, class to class, temporal and temperate like some god-forsaken volcanic Island, “nothing but cold and news.”