Academic Labor and Passivity

In this article over at The Atlantic, “Why Does Academia Treat Its Workforce So Badly?” the author, Megan McArdle, makes a series of rather interesting observations (triggered by this piece in Inside Higher Ed):

Academia has bifurcated into two classes:  tenured professors who are decently paid, have lifetime job security, and get to work on whatever strikes their fancy; and adjuncts who are paid at the poverty level and may labor for years in the desperate and often futile hope of landing a tenure track position.  And, of course, graduate students, the number of whom may paradoxically increase as the number of tenure track jobs decreases–because someone has to teach all those intro classes. Continue reading

AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom Launched

AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom:

With this issue we introduce a new online project—the AAUP Journal of  Academic Freedom. Scholarship on academic freedom—and on its relation to  shared governance, tenure, and collective bargaining—is typically scattered across a wide range of disciplines. People who want to keep up with the field thus face a difficult task. Moreover, there is no one place to track the  developing international discussion about academic freedom and its collateral issues. Edited collections and special issues of journals have helped fill the  need for many years, but there has been no single journal devoted to the subject. Now there is. It is published by the organization most responsible  for defining academic freedom.

Publishing online gives us many advantages, the first being the ability to  offer free access to everyone interested. A link to this inaugural issue will go  out by e-mail to nearly 400,000 faculty members. We hope they forward it to students and colleagues everywhere. Online publication also gives us the  freedom to publish quite substantial scholarly essays, something that would be much more costly in print.

We invite people to submit essays for our next issue. Whether the journal is published as an annual volume or twice a year will depend in part on the  number of quality submissions we receive. We will also maintain a continuing  relationship with the AAUP’s annual conference on the state of higher education, itself founded in 2009. We are publishing four essays from the  2009 conference but expect to increase that number next time. This first  issue is devoted to essays solicited by the editor, with members of the
editorial board checking essays for historical errors. The next issue will be  conventionally refereed. Neither the editor nor the board members are ex officio. All were appointed on the basis of their publishing history and expertise.

Here’s the Table of Contents of the first volume: Continue reading


Nate points out a journal I haven’t seen before – Worlplace – in the latest issue that are some really nice essay, including thing one – “Theses on College and University Administration: A Critical Perspective” by John F. Welsh (.PDF) – here’s a taste:

Thesis 3: The Peter Principle does not operate in higher education. Certainly, administrators find their level of incompetence, usually sooner rather than later, but that does not preclude their upward movement in the hierarchy. The Peter Principle is based on the assumption that the performance of roles at the apex of the organization requires superior competence. In higher education, competence matters only at the base of the organization to achieve the teaching, scholarship, and service missions of colleges and universities. Competent performance in the organization is necessary only by departmental administrative assistants, faculty, and students. Beginning at the level of departmental chair and proceeding upward, “effective administration” is largely a non sequitur as far as the academic life of colleges and universities is concerned.

Thesis 5: Accountability, therefore, is not a reciprocal or interactive dynamic within colleges and universities. Accountability is a one-way process of surveillance and subordination of faculty, students, and staff to the policy dictates of political and economic elites. Colleges and universities are not sanctuaries and they are not autonomous. They are elements of the state capitalist system. As such, they both reflect and reinforce the basic organizational principles of state capitalism: organizational resources are mobilized to expand the control of the state over individuals and groups in order to maximize profit, and to ensure political order through obedience to political and corporate authority. The reduction of management and leadership skills in higher education to the

service of the state and private capital provides an organizational field for corrupt and predatory behaviors to emerge and flourish.

Thesis 7: Strategic management, personnel evaluation, assessment, and public relations are the primary means by which administration expands its control over faculty, students, and staff. “Accountability” is the fixed idea that legitimates predation and the expansion of administrative control.

Thesis 17: Faculty senates and collective bargaining units have little function in higher education beyond the ritual subjugation of faculty to administrative, economic, and state power. Targets of administrative abuse are either left to their own resources to fight the organization, or they are forced to band with other targets in spontaneous and unmediated forms of rebellion that do not fit neatly within the universe of administratively sanctioned behaviors.

The Tyranny of Academia

Via Lumpenprofessoriat: an article from IHE:

For the adjuncts at the six universities and 13 community colleges governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, the solution they came up with was to ask politely. They worked with administrators to craft and re-craft a proposal to raise the maximum pay offered to adjuncts so that someone working a 5-5 course load (the kind of load that many tenure-track faculty members would consider unworkable) could be assured the chance of topping $20,000 in annual income. They weren’t even talking about such matters as health insurance (which isn’t provided). Continue reading

File under Academic Freedom

Inside Higher Education reports on a conference last week at the New School on Academic Freedom and the University.

“It is by no means clear how much the academic community has learned from the McCarthy years,” said Ellen W. Schrecker, a professor of history at Yeshiva University who, like O’Neil, spoke Thursday during a conference focused on “Free Inquiry at Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times,” held at The New School, in New York City.

Citing some examples, Schrecker mentioned the University of Nebraska’s recent cancellation of a speaking appearance by William Ayers, the education professor whose history with the Weather Underground has played a prominent role in the presidential campaign; the high-profile dismissal of Ward Churchill from the University of Colorado; and the tenure denial of Norman Finkelstein at DePaul University. “Universities are still accommodating themselves to the demands of politicians and other outsiders to eliminate embarrassing faculty members,” Schrecker said.

“In the name of financial exigency and market competitiveness, administrators have been subverting the autonomy of the faculty. Worse yet, faculties are disappearing,” she continued. “Two-thirds, that’s two-thirds of today’s teaching, is being done by what’s known as contingent faculty members. These people, no matter how skilled or qualified they may be, cannot provide the same kind of education as a traditional faculty.” Continue reading

The State of Academic Labor: Reaching New Lows

Just caught this over at Inside Higher Ed. Outrageous!

For many adjuncts, an extra course assignment can make all the difference in the world. More money, of course, but also the chance to do more teaching at a single institution. And for some, that extra course may result in a total teaching load that moves them up a pay scale or entitles them to health insurance or other benefits. At San Antonio College, some of those extra courses are coming with an unusual stipulation. Adjuncts are being encouraged to take on extra courses, as the institution can’t afford to hire as many full timers as it would like. But San Antonio also has rules — providing benefits and higher base pay — to those who teach 12 credits or more. What to do? The college is asking some part timers to take on the extra courses that bring their total to 12 or beyond, but then to agree in writing to pretend that they aren’t teaching 12 credits.

Concerned faculty members provided Inside Higher Ed with copies of signed waivers and memos that are used in such situations. A department chair writes a dean a memo saying that a given adjunct will be teaching just over 12 credits this fall, but then adds that the adjunct is willing to sign a form so that he doesn’t get the benefits to which he would otherwise be entitled. Then the corresponding waiver, which is notarized, has the same adjunct certify that he is waiving 1 semester credit of pay, so that he will be paid for less than 12 credits, even though he has committed to teaching just over 12 credits. The faculty members who provided the documentation did so on the condition that the adjuncts who agreed to these terms not be identified.

Gwendolyn Bradley, who works on adjunct issues for the American Association of University Professors, said that the practice “seems to mark a new low in the exploitation of adjunct faculty.”

Read the full article here.