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.

The Current State of the University, Um, Not Great

darth.jpg NYU University Press recently published Marc Bousquet’s How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low Wage Nation. You can read his blog here and find his you tube page here.

Here’s the blurb from NYU UP:



As much as we think we know about the modern university, very little has been said about what it’s like to work there. Instead of the high-wage, high-profit world of knowledge work, most campus employees — including the vast majority of faculty — really work in the low-wage, low-profit sphere of the service economy. Tenure-track positions are at an all-time low, with adjuncts and graduate students teaching the majority of courses. This super-exploited corps of disposable workers commonly earn fewer than $16,000 annually, without benefits, teaching as many as eight classes per year. Even undergraduates are being exploited as a low-cost, disposable workforce. Continue reading