Welcome to the COCAL VI Conference Website


The first set of photos from the conference is now online.  In the next couple of weeks, we should have pictures from our professional photographer (and Roosevelt University adjunct) Aaron Gang.  If you have photos you'd like to share, send them to the webmaster (electronically, please) along with specific information on the subjects and photographers.  Enjoy!  Here's a sample:

Revised Program 

The first steps have now been taken towards providing a complete and revised program.  The web page versions for Friday and Saturday now include the names and paper titles (but no affiliations) for those who submitted papers in the "strategy stream" workshops.  Some corrections and additions have also been made to several workshops.  In addition, more sponsors have been given credit.  Please send any corrections, additions, etc. to the webmaster and/or Joe Berry.

Country Reports

Included with the registraton packet were summaries of the conditions for adjunct faculty in the countries represented at the conference.  They are now here in PDF format:

Minutes of Closing Plenary and Resolutions

At our closing plenary on Sunday, August 8, COCAL VI considered and passed several resolutions dealing with Campus Equity Week scheduling, teach-ins and other matters.  Follow the link below to find copies of those resolutions and the minutes of that plenary (thanks to Suren Moodliar).

Closing Plenary and Resolutions

The "Report Card"

Our march on Friday afternoon to higher education institutions in the Loop featured the "report card" posters.  Small versions of these were handed out to conference participants, and you may now download a PDF file of the report card (blank, so that you may grade your own employer).

COCAL 6 Report Card

Post-Conference Report

NOTE: This report of the conference from Joe Berry, Organizing Committee Chair, is meant to be a generic description. Anyone is welcome, if credit is given, to use this report and revise upon it for local newsletters or other purposes within the contingent faculty movement.

Over 200 people, contingent faculty activists and their allies, assembled August 6-8 at Roosevelt University and Columbia College for the sixth Conference on Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL VI). For the first time, the conference included a significant delegation from Mexico as well as participants from throughout Canada, including Quebec, and all over the United States. Besides the heavier international participation, one of the contrasts between COCAL VI and earlier conferences was the much more extensive focus on strategy. This included a series of three workshops on local, national/international and whole-society vision strategic strategies, as well as plenary panels where national faculty union leaders and leaders of other organizations of contingent workers were asked to put forward their strategic perspectives. Another addition to previous conferences were a series of pre-and-post conference activities that included a mural tour, a Haymarket Labor History tour and a trip to the Second City comedy club.

It should be noted that COCAL VI was only possible because it built upon the achievements of the previous COCALs, back to 1996, in Washington, NYC, Boston, San Jose, and Montreal. It was their efforts that drew together a truly binational movement network that could then engage in the discussion and activities that were COCAL VI.

For many people, the highlight of the first day was the march through downtown Chicago where a "Progressive Report Card" was presented to five of the local institutions that employ large numbers of contingent faculty. With final grades ranging from C+ to F, the Report Cards made clear that while unionization clearly improves the situation, general standards remain low and many faculty are still working in truly intolerable situations. The march dramatized for many visitors how important it is to have a large enough percentage of contingent faculty organized in order to really push up area standards to something resembling what exists in highly organized areas such as California. The march also received press coverage from the major commercial media, both the Chicago Tribune and the local ABC television station.

The conference itself reflected a high level of sophistication in many discussions. One example of that was a pre-conference authorís panel where most of the presenters and the books they were representing were themselves contingent faculty rather than outsider researchers.

In addition to the three strategy workshops there were also three workshops on campus organizing and three on contract bargaining, all of which attracted large attendance. Additional workshops focused on such issues as contingent advocacy in professional associations, the experience of graduate employee unions, discrimination on the job and in the movement, recent job actions, and legislative and political initiatives. Particularly provocative for those who attended was a workshop on teaching for equity: promoting justice for contingent workers in the classroom, where participants discussed the techniques for effectively "coming out of the closet" as a contingent to oneís students, risks involved, and the value of collective support in doing so.

Three social events symbolized how far the movement has come in the past eight years since the first Congress of Adjunct, Part-time, Graduate Teaching Assistants, and Non-tenure Track Faculty in Washington in 1996. One indicator was a reception held after the demonstration at a local club that was sponsored jointly by the often warring Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association, as perhaps their first public jointly-sponsored membership event. The Illinois AFL-CIO also provided financial support for this reception. This sort of joint endorsement of the independent contingent faculty movement would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, especially in Illinois.

The following day, at a reception at Roosevelt, awards were given out in the memory of Dave Wakefield and Jim Prickett, two movement activists from the California Community Colleges who died prematurely. The awards, given to Rodger Scott of San Francisco and Margaret Quan of Contra Costa Community College District honored two recent retirees for their lifelong contributions to the cause of contingent faculty, particularly in the California Community Colleges where organized struggle has been going on since the mid-1970s. These awards represented the first time that COCAL has consciously recognized its own history and begun the process of honoring its own ancestors.

The third social event was also a marker. At the conference dinner, Saturday night, participants heard from Stewart Acuff, Organizing Director of the AFL-CIO, who was pleased to come and speak about the difficulties and promises of organizing generally, to a group that he knew was actively involved in just that back home. He was quite well received as was the AFL-CIOís workers rights teach-in program that is attempting to build support for the right to organize through teach-ins on college campuses.

Finally, the conference held a closing plenary at which it heard some strategic reports and made plans for future activities, such as the continuing success of Campus Equity Week. This session, though short, represented the first time in the history of the movement that a general discussion of what can and should be done was conducted that included active participation from the United States, both English and French Canada, and Mexico. No one that heard it failed to recognize what a step forward this represented for the movement as a whole. A number of resolutions were considered and passed. After that session, though it was the Sunday of a three day conference, dozens of people stayed to caucus first by national union organization, then by region, to make plans how to implement many of the ideas that had been discussed in plenaries and workshops. An advisory committee of over twenty then met to debrief and evaluate the conference and officially encourage our colleagues in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest generally to follow through on their tentative initiative to hold COCAL VII there in 2006.

Full conference information, pictures, and a revised program reflecting the actual conference as it transpired are available on the conference web site, www.chicagococal.org and photos at http://www.chicagococal.org/cocal6-photos-index.htm.

Other Resources

Flyers such as the Call for Papers, brochure, etc. are available on the COCAL VI Resources page, available here or by clicking on the Resources button to the left.  See also the Chicago COCAL Resources Page, which contains several bibliographies (by Karen Stanley, Joe Berry, and Tom Gradel) as well as Chicago COCAL's links page.

What is COCAL ?

The Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor is a floating conference and a network of North American activists working to improve higher education through the collective achievement of job security, livable wages, academic freedom, and time and resources for academic research and professional development for contingent academic laborers. COCAL promotes grassroots contingent faculty organizing through events like Campus Equity Week but is not affiliated with any single labor union. To achieve its aims, COCAL dedicates itself to alerting the broader community about the trends to undermine the tenets of higher education by staging media events, improving legislation governing funding and so-called accountability efforts, and identifying colleagues at institutions and assisting them in forming collective bargaining units and winning strong contracts. Because COCALís world view recognizes that the fight for contingent faculty parallels the struggles of other contingent workers, many members also participate in NAFFE (The North American Alliance for Fair Employment), a broader network concerned about the growth of contingent work in general. In addition, many members of COCAL organize around issues such as war, health care, free trade, and human rights. COCAL sees the strength and freedom of faculty as a key to maintaining accessible, quality higher education and, ultimately, free inquiry for a democratic society.

Past COCAL conferences: Montreal, San Jose, Boston, New York, Washington D.C.

This year's event will be hosted by Roosevelt University and Columbia College in Chicago's downtown Loop.

Program Highlights

Like past COCAL conferences, Chicagoís gathering will include plenary speakers and workshops addressing issues relevant to contingent faculty in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. including:

Social events will include a reception in a favorite world music club and art gallery and some meals on your own in nearby restaurants.

On Friday afternoon, conference participants will join local activists in a march to a number of nearby campuses to publicly issue progressive "report cards" on working conditions.

To view the draft program schedule, please visit www.chicagococal.org.

Whatís New This Year

Mentor Match-up

Seasoned activists and union staffers who volunteer to participate will be matched with emerging leaders. Mentors will serve as "conference buddies" during COCAL VI, offering to introduce friends, answer questions, and provide an informal orientation to the conference.


Besides caucuses based on national union and common geographical location, COCAL VI introduces a new set of caucuses (people of color, women, queer, perhaps others).

Registering ahead is not required for caucus participation. However, because caucuses are a new feature of COCAL, we are interested in assessing the level of interest in order to provide proper room or restaurant accommodations. Note that the listed groups expressed interest in forming a caucus during the last conference. However, other caucuses, such as teaching disciplines, may form if there is interest by even a small number of registrants. Please indicate if you are looking for another caucus group that is not listed.

Pre- and Post-Conference Activities

Chicago is a great place to vacation in the summer. We hope that the low rates we negotiated for hotel rooms will motivate some participants to bring their families. Tours of neighborhood murals on Thursday afternoon and Haymarket labor history sites on Monday morning will be available. Please reserve seats at registration.

On Sunday night after the conference, Chicagoís famous Second City improvisational comedy troupe will perform in a private show for conference participants and their guests. Please reserve seats at registration.

For more information on Chicago tourist attractions, see www.metromix.com.

Call for Papers

The conference will feature a new series of workshop discussions on local, regional, and national organizing strategy and one on our movementís long-term vision. Panels of speakers will moderate discussion on their papers. All papers will be posted on the COCAL VI website for participants to read before the conference. Please consider submitting a discussion paper. See the papers page  for more info.

Prickett/Wakefield Award

The COCAL VI organizing committee will present this award to an activist in honor of two of our deceased brothers and movement pioneers, Jim Prickett and David Wakefield, who made major contributions to the struggle for contingent faculty rights in the California Community Colleges of the U.S. Nominations are solicited.


We hope to offer access to childcare. Please be sure to indicate interest in this option by May 1.


COCAL has obtained special group rates for hotel accommodations. All locations are within walking distance of the conference sites, and all make accessible rooms available upon request. Please see the housing page or the hotel Web sites for more information.
  1. The newly renovated Harris Family Hostel (www.hichicago.org) offers dorm style semi-private doubles: one bunk bed per room arranged in a suite of four rooms with one bath and common area.
    $40/person/night (including tax).
    Best location for those with limited mobility. 24 E. Congress Pkwy., Chicago, IL 60605

    Reservations: 312-583-2225 or groups@hichicago.org.
    Call by July 14. After that, rooms subject to availability.
    Cash/Visa/Mastercard. Mention "COCAL."
    Spanish speakers: ask for Ray. French speakers: ask for Amanda.

  2. Single rooms (one double bed) at Club Quarters (www.clubquarters.com) start at $86/night plus tax. Weekend rate as low as $56/night based on availability.
    111 W. Adams St., Chicago, IL 60603

    Reservations in English or Spanish: 212-575-0006.
    Call by July 8. After that, rooms are subject to availability.
    Mention "Roosevelt University" and group code "RS0806."

  3. Singles (one double bed) start at $80/night and doubles (two double beds) at $90/night plus tax at the Travelodge (www.travelodge.com).
    65 E. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60605

    Reservations in English or Spanish: 312-427-8000 x5003.
    Call by July 8. After that, rooms are subject to availability.
    Speak with Sadi Lugo and mention four digit group code "C-O-C-A."

News from the Conference

One-Day Registration Rate

For those in the Chicago area, or others who can only attend one day of the conference, COCAL VI is now offering a one-day rate of $50.  Please indicate this on your registration form - payment through PayPal for one-day registration isn't available.

Payment for Registration

Because the conference is nearly upon us, please pay online or at the conference.  Checks may get delayed in the mail at this late date.  If you plan to pay at the conference, you may still fill out the online registration (fill out the check payer form), but please send an email to cocal6@chicagococal.org indicating that you've filled out the online registration and will pay at the conference.

Travel Advice

There is a new page offering advice for travelers to Chicago, which will be updated periodically.  At this point, we have some tips on how to handle visas and customs, as well as travel tips to Chicago's airports.  Click here or on the Travel button to the left.


Papers continue to trickle in for the three strategy sessions.  As of August 2, there are thirteen papers, two of which are revisions of earlier submissions.  To see what there is, click here or on the Papers button to the left.


Last revised on November 22, 2004 by the Webmaster.