04/11/2017

Adjunct faculty activists mourn a dedicated colleague

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The adjunct faculty community lost a leader and friend when David Wilder, an adjunct art professor, artist and adjunct activist, was killed by crossfire in a drive-by shooting in Cleveland March 25. Three people have been arrested and charged with his death.

Wilder was a part-time adjunct who taught art history at Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College and John Carroll University—one of the many adjuncts who make a living by piecing together assignments at different schools. He was also a contemporary artist, with degrees from Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Cincinnati and Kent State University, and he was a doctoral candidate in art history at Case Western Reserve University.

Wilder was a dedicated unionist and committed to improving working conditions for adjunct faculty. He was a founding member of the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association, an independent faculty advocacy organization formed in 2013, and an active member of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization.

Widely respected for his work building a community of adjunct faculty in Ohio, Wilder circulated petitions, organized rallies and information sessions, explained benefits and brought creativity into the work as he went, "jazzing up higher ed" with a petition at a jazz fest and designing the "scarlet A" that indicates "adjunct" for buttons, t-shirts and fliers associated with the adjunct advocacy movement. Most recently, he was part of a committee of artists working on Campus Equity Week 2017, compiling a toolkit for people who might want to use oversized puppets for their demonstrations. In addition to being creative, friends and family describe him as fearless, kind, modest and witty.

In 2015, Wilder agreed to be profiled as part of a news story about Adjunct Walkout Day, and he used his own experience to describe the challenges so many adjunct faculty face: low pay and precarious job security. At the time, he earned just $11,000 a year teaching four courses at two different colleges, and supplemented his income by serving at hotel banquets and producing catalogs for auctions. His concern over adjunct working conditions was really about the quality of education for students as well as faculty.

Colleagues have been actively supporting the Go Fund Me page set up to help with funeral expenses; any additional funds will establish a scholarship fund in his name.

"David was a dear friend and someone I worked with very closely since 2009 when we first started trying to advocate for adjuncts at our college and then started to organize," says Maria Maisto, a board officer of the New Faculty Majority. "He was dedicated, determined and had fierce integrity in addition to being kind, thoughtful and a trusted friend. His loss is immeasurable, both to me personally and to the adjunct community."

[Virginia Myers]