In response to the fake teacher shortage “requiring” some communities to import education workers from abroad, one of my colleagues at “Brainstorm” (hereafter simply “BS”) wondered whether we should send higher education faculty serving contingently into schoolteaching.
To which I replied as follows.
Faculty who serve contingently are not surplus labor that need to be shunted into another line of work. It should be obvious to anyone without “market”-themed toilet paper stuck to their shoes that there’s plenty of work in higher education for all of these people — they’re all working, duh! — it’s just that the work has been converted from what used to be a decent job into adjunctery and nontenurable drudgery by well-paid, generally tenured management knuckleheads who get off on spending money squeezed from your wages on skyboxes and “centers of excellence” for their cronies.
Faculty serving contingently are a boatload smarter on the academic workplace than management, who are paid not for their intelligence but for their dulled ethical sense and their embrace of a spectacularly vacuous corporate culture.
You can hear some of their good ideas and learn about their victories over management by attending the 8th International Conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, hosted by COCAL-California, San Diego State University. August 8-10, 2008.
Especially interesting will be Don Eron and Suzanne Hudson’s panel, Tenure for Contingents, featuring campaigns for job security from faculty serving contingently across the U.S. and Canada. Major unions in New York, California, and Michigan have already won substantial continuing employment rights, and the panel will explore advanced campaigns in Colorado, New Jersey, and Montreal. For more, see the documentation at the University of Colorado–AAUP website’s Instructor Tenure Project.
Kicking off video related to COCAL VIII is “The New Majority Faculty,” part 1 of 2 with Elizabeth Hoffman, a long-term activist with the California Faculty Association. That segment, featured above, describes the miserable new norms of faculty life — developed and quite aggressively defended over the past three decades by management’s deep thinkers.
Part 2, “The Committee of Two,” follows in a day or two, and next week I feature some smoking mad contingent faculty: Melanie Hubbard, a Columbia Ph.D. with articles, an NEH fellowship, and a book contract who has served as full-time contingent faculty for 10 years and “Anonymous,” a long-term part-time lecturer.
Also see Unions and Academic Democracy, part 4 of 4 in my extended interview with activists from Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago, a portrait of an emerging union drive at a private institution. They reflect on the benefits of organizing, whether unionism is an end in itself, and on the nature, purpose, and extent of democracy in higher education.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll feature another grad-employee four-parter with a group of activists from GSOC-UAW at NYU, another private institution, but at entirely a different point in their experience. The NYU folks reflect on a successful organizing drive and first contract, setbacks with the NLRB, a failed strike, the strategy of continuous organizing, the arrogant law-breaking of the administration, and other topics. You can also just get their book from Temple University Press, a superb case study.
Graduate-employee unionization in the U.S. is more advanced at public institutions, and organizing at private schools stalled for a while in the aftermath of the Bush mob’s hijack of the NLRB, but there is a resurgence of militancy among grad employees at private institutions.
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