Steve Street thinks you could be part of the problem, and he’s right.

In the current issue of _The Chronicle,_ faculty activist Steve Street writes from the perspective of the overwhelming majority who serve contingently to the shrinking minority of us who serve in the tenure stream.

Titled Don’t Be Kind to Adjuncts, the piece has an appropriately angry and dismissive tone. (The original title, softened by the editorial staff, was “Kick an Adjunct Today.”)

Keep your sympathy, he says. Don’t bother being kind, he says, unless you’re willing to step up and fight on behalf of the exploited majority:

unless you can also put equity for us — proportional pay, benefits, security, and opportunities for professional development and advancement — front and center in department meetings, faculty senates, budget allocations, and even mission statements.

There may well come a time when the tenured minority do these things. It’s worth noting that they haven’t thus far. There are exceptions, of course, but fairly consistently over the past four decades the tenurable–in their senates, disciplinary associations and even their unions–have played along with administrations in permatemping.

This was preserving their own perquisites the easy way–not by arguing for the profession’s contribution to society, defending tenure and faculty governance, but accepting expedience and selling out the future in exchange for the easiest path to 4% salary increase and easy course releases.

And that’s what the tenured did when they were still in the majority!

So, as I’ve said to Steve before: I agree wholeheartedly that this is what the tenurable ought to do. I agree that change will come faster and better when the tenurable end their complicity and silent, relatively comfortable acquiescence.

But I doubt they’ll do that unless and until the time comes when the majority–faculty serving contingently–step into leadership.

My long experience in the movement–and my long study of movement cultures in the United States–suggests that there won’t be effective leadership by the tenured on these issues until there is leadership by the nontenurable. The nontenurable majority will have to show the tenured what to do.

While my little boy was having trouble getting back to sleep, I watched a suffragist docudrama I’d speculatively recorded, but didn’t necessarily plan on ever watching, HBO’s Iron-Jawed Angels.

I’m not a big fan of docudramas, but this one was exceptional, featuring Hilary Swank as Alice Paul, who was an insurgent within the suffragist movement. She had to fight against the established leadership of women in the movement–to defy them and suffer retaliation, mount a campaign to embarass those women and the politicians they supported, picketing the White House in wartime under a banner referring to the president as “Kaiser Wilson,” endure vilification, go to jail, and be force-fed.

So is my response to Steve that he should be prepared to become a political prisoner? No.

But faculty serving contingently are fired every day. Many would have more dignity, better pay, and more due process working at Wal-mart. They generally don’t have anything resembling guarantees of academic freedom, as AAUP president Cary Nelson freely acknowledges. They usually don’t have anything remotely resembling equal pay and equal rights in the profession, forming second, third, and fourth tiers that amount to a state of academic apartheid of second, third, and fourth-class citizenship, or, really, non-citizenship. In many of the most ill-paid fields, adjunct labor is overwhelming female–often spouses of male faculty earning much more.

There are, in other words, both analogies and actual, traceable, historical ties to the women’s movement and Alice Paul’s demand for equal rights, in the embodied women serving in these degraded jobs.

Historically the women’s movement didn’t succeed by asking male politicians to enact reforms, but by self-organization, direct action, and forcing those changes. It swept male civic, social and political leadership into its orbit.

The same will be true of faculty serving contingently.

The next issue of AAUP’s ACADEME is devoted to the “new majority faculty.” In my piece, I talk about some of the ways that faculty serving contingently are emerging into leadership–often using some of the same forms of creative disruption employed by Alice Paul.

In my view, every issue should be devoted to faculty serving contingently, and 100% of organizing, membership and lobbying efforts should be devoted to the issue of contingency for the next couple of decades.

But that’s not going to happen until faculty serving contingently JOIN–not just AAUP, but their disciplinary associations and, where possible, senates and unions–form insurgent caucuses and candidacies–and take over the organizations, becoming the leadership and hijacking the resources to the struggle.

In the next issue of Academe:

The Core of Academe
By Gary Rhoades
If you’re concerned about academe, you need to be concerned about contingent faculty.

Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Studies
By Deirdre McMahon and Ann Green
Teaching composition off the tenure track.

Nameless, New Haven, and Nicholls
By Jordan E. Kurland
Three recent AAUP cases.

Organizing in the Lab
By Benjamin Weaver
Postdocs seek union protection.

The Seamy Side of Science
By Daniel S. Greenberg
Something seriously amiss with postdoc programs.

How to Succeed in an Academic Science Career
Juan Carlos G. Marvizón
No tenure, no salary, no role in governance.

Battling for Hearts and Minds
By Marc Bousquet
Administrative culture vs. contingent faculty.

Including Contingent Faculty in Governance
By Joe Berry and Elizabeth Hoffman
Job security is a prerequisite.

Legal Remedies for Contingent Faculty
By Nicolas Manicone
Contracts, handbooks, and the law.

Gaining Access to Unemployment Insurance
By Beverly Stewart
Strategies for success.

Lobbying for Contingent Faculty Interests
By Nicole Byrd
Lobbying in and outside of unions:

Working without a Union in New Mexico
By Niame Adele and Christine Rack

Organizing a Legislative Forum
By Jack Longmate

Multi-union Efforts in New York
By Marcia Newfield

Lobbying in a “Right-to-Work” State
By Andrew William Smith

Contingent Faculty and Student Outcomes
By Audrey J. Jaeger
Exploiting faculty hurts students.






XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Share your wisdom