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Literally a decimation. And so many women faculty, toiling out of the tenure stream for incredibly low wages. 

Part 1: Key facts and kudos
Part 2: Complaints and concerns
Part 3: Interview with Paul Lauter

Most of my blogging between now and early January will relate to the worst-timed gathering in the profession, the Modern Language Assocation annual convention Dec 27-30, with a strong bias toward faculty in English studies.

Feel free to tune out if you don’t care about what happens to one of the largest teaching faculties in the country, encountering nearly every student—including disproportionate encounters with those who don’t earn degrees or never make it out of the first year.

I wouldn’t blame you for not caring much about these teachers—the Modern Language Association has only recently taken real notice of them, having abandoned meaningful consideration of lower-division disciplinary issues to NCTE’s Conference on College Composition and Communication. Ditto for workplace matters, which the late Phyllis Franklin once announced to me was “really AAUP’s job.” English studies is still reaping the fruits of Franklin’s leadership today—a rich, briskly efficient disciplinary association that can’t quite bring itself to reach into the crapper where the discipline’s most immiserated faculty desperately swirl….

That’s why the recent Report on the Academic Workforce (large pdf) is a mixed bag for me personally.

On the one hand, I’m happy and relieved to see some of the major recommendations in this report, and think it takes a number of critical, long-awaited steps in data gathering, angle of analysis, policy thought, and disciplinary self-reflection. It’s the first time I can say that the MLA has made a thoroughgoing effort to describe how faculty are really employed in English, and make recommendations based on that reality. It’s a must-read for anyone in the field.

On the other hand, despite welcoming most of the recommendations, graduate employees and faculty serving contingently—not to mention quite a few of us writing on these issues—can be forgiven their disappointment that it’s taken MLA so long to act on observations and demands that have been made with perfect clarity over the past quarter-century, since the events leading to the landmark Wyoming Conference Resolution. (In one of the interviews she gave about the report, Franklin’s successor Rosemary Feal claims that the shift to a nontenurable faculty has been “rapid and largely unnoticed.” Um, not really.)

It’s a long report, and I have a lot to say about it, plus—I hope—an interview with Paul Lauter, one of the report’s authors, and one of the earliest and best analysts of the role that permatemping began to play in English by the early 1970s. A couple of key facts in this post; more key facts and kudos in the next; complaints, concerns and interview with Paul to follow.

Key Facts

+ Between 1993 and 2004, the hiring of nontenurable faculty continued to dramatically outpace tenure-track hiring in the profession as a whole. In terms of raw numbers, however, most disciplines actually gained tenure track lines, or at least held steady. Political science gained 2.5% new lines; philosophy and religion packed on 43%.

English, however, lost over 3000 tenure track lines, an average annual loss of 300 positions. This amounted to slightly more than 1 in every 10 tenurable position in English—literally a decimation. If that trend proves to have continued—and all indications are that it has–by early next year we will have shed another 1500 lines.

+ Rewards in English are profoundly stratified by gender. While men hold the majority of tenure-track lines in Carnegie Research and Master’s institutions, women hold a substantial majority of tenurable lines at the less prestigious baccalaureate and two-year schools.

Only a third of tenurable positions in community college English departments are held by men. Additionally, women continue to substantially outnumber men in nontenurable positions—both full and part-time at every institution type.

Part 1, with more key facts and kudos regarding some of the recommendations, will continue….



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