So I learned that a good way to help your 3-month-old with his first flight is to pretend that takeoffs and landings are your favorite things in the world. Even when they’re not. I also suspect that loudly pretending that you are having a great time with takeoff and landing is just as irritating to other passengers as listening to your offspring cry. In any event, Emile laughed and chuckled his way into the air and back down to earth.

Thanks to Mark Bauerlein for starting a thread on academic labor, including a very kind mention of How The University Works and spurring me to deliver on my now-five-month-stale promise to post some thoughts on core academic-labor readings — an Academic Labor Bookshelf. I’ll make that a two-parter and publish it this week.

For now, here are the details of academic labor’s most important conference, the Coaliton of Contingent Academic Labor event, held biennially. This year, COCAL VIII is organized by the indomitable Mary-Ellen Goodwin and will be hosted at San Diego State August 8-10, 2008.

The overwhelming majority of faculty serve contingently. Contingency is the norm of faculty employment in the United States.

I’ve long urged COCAL and CGEU (the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions), which also organizes a summer conference, to meet jointly.

Together the folks attending these events comprehend the system of academic labor better than most of us writing about it.

COCAL was born out of activist events and a contingent-labor congress held conjointly with the 1996 Modern Language Association, and organized by, among others, a core group of CUNY adjunct activists and MLA Graduate Student Caucus agitators, including among many, many others, Eric Marshall, Vinny Tirelli, Vicky Smallman and yours truly. In the aftermath, at Stanley Aronowitz’s urging, I founded Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, and, like some of us, took a tenure-track job: with almost as many others, like AAUP’s Julie Schmid and Debby Herman, Eric and Vicky joined the labor movement.

In short, COCAL was born out of a collaboration between the major academic unions, faculty serving contingently, and graduate-employee activists. IMHO, that collaboration is not only the future of the organization; it’s the future of the academy.






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