Filming 'Junct: The Trashing of Higher Ed'

Two filmmakers start tour to capture voices of those off the tenure track.

May 29, 2012

It was part road trip, part documentary shooting, with the goal of raising awareness about issues faced by adjuncts and others on the fringes of the power structure in academe.

Debra Leigh Scott, a member of the board of directors of the New Faculty Majority, an adjunct in the Philadelphia area and an independent filmmaker, and Chris LaBree, another filmmaker, hit the road last week in a Ford Escape crammed with filming equipment that took them to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toledo and back to Philadelphia.

The two of them have been working on a documentary called Junct: The Trashing of Higher Ed in America, for the last year, and the recent trip was part of an effort to gather more adjunct voices.

The documentary, Scott said, was about the “corporatized university and the way it ruins lives  -- how its labor model impoverishes the majority of America’s faculty, and how tuition and debt burden, impoverish and indenture our students.”

Scott said she wanted to meet with people involved in “reclaiming academia” and to build a network of university professionals who have a “non-person” status on campus and thus have difficulty coming together as a group. “In the course of doing the research for this documentary, it became clear that there were many stories and a variety of experiences across the country which we wanted to know more about,” she said.

“The Homeless Adjunct road trip seemed like a way to allow us to come into various regions of the country, meet people, talk about our experiences, and look forward toward creating a new and better future for our profession and academia.”

The duo met with dozens of adjuncts last week, though some declined to speak to them on the record. “Part-time faculty often fear for their jobs if they speak up about issues of labor exploitation,” she said. As part of the tour, Scott and LaBree met with part-time faculty members who are trying to form a union at Duquesne University and students who have been part of the Occupy movement in the city. The “adjunct tour” will go to New England, the Southwest and the South next. “But before we do that, we have to raise money,” she said.

Their trip ended with a meeting and an on-camera interview with Michael Bérubé, president of the Modern Language Association and a professor of literature at Pennsylvania State University. Bérubé has spoken often and forcefully about issues the adjuncts face and the need to provide them with more support. "Everything that publicizes the working conditions of NTT (non tenure-track) faculty is important," he said.


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