|[Thursday, February 01, 2001 - 10:38 am]
|1. Can we explore Eric's last comment: "I cannot imagine that institutionalizing a further tiering of the academy would result in anything but a further exploitation of even more people"? This further tiering is exactly how some universities are dealing with the problem of part-time instructors. I’ve heard Dickie Selfe at the 2000 Watson Conference in Louisville extol the benefits of working as a full-time non-tenure-track instructor, and in “New Faculty for a New University,” Michael proposes the invention of teaching-intensive tenure-track lines for non-research composition faculty: “a formalization of the heterogeneity that now exists on most campuses” (25). What are the benefits and pitfalls of converting part-time, pay-per-course positions to full-time teaching-intensive positions? What are other labor alternatives?
|[Thursday, February 01, 2001 - 11:30 am]
|2. The non-tenure track instructor position and
the whole idea of conversion opens a big can of worms--I've been involved
in helping to create this position in one institution (only to see the
idea co-opted and vitiated...but not altogether), hired into a newly created
one where I experienced both the best and worst of the idea, and worked
as a non-tenure instructor for one semester in a community college--the
only place where it worked well because its function was either truly temporary
(a way of not hiring adjuncts when enrollments demanded flex labor) or
leading to hiring as a tenure-track instructor based on the needs of the
department. Even at its best, when the initial motivation for it is clearly
worked out based on a specific institutional need that can't effectively
be dealt with in any other way, it can't just be created and then become
a permanent part of the faculties organization--it is a contingent move
that needs to be scrutinized and changed constantly. Generally administration
is not just interested as a cost-saving or even quality of instruction
move--it really does give them the possibility of controlling the
institutional/instructional life of an institution--all of faculty (though
it may not look like an immediate threat)--because it is very hard to prevent
the institution from hiring non-tenure track as a way of replacing tenure
lines. As many f/t faculty will say, "why not just make it tenure
track? So maybe these new comp and 'teaching' faculty won't have the publications
to actually get tenure, but that's at least six years of a good job. Maybe
you can even help to change the rules during those six years such that
teaching and valuable contributions to the life of the institution gain
more weight in tenure review."
3. I think it can be an excellent constructive move, especially when there are strongly-worded longer term contracts in place of tenure--and it can be a disaster. One of the best essays I have read recently is a co-authored piece by Richard Jewell and Chris Anson "Shadows of the Mountain." I like a lot of what Michael has to say on the subject--but I think there are limitations as to what kind of institution this position will be a good move for (from the faculty and instructional point of view, of course).
|[Thursday, February 01, 2001 - 11:40 am]
|In fact, salaries are inequitably low; salaries bear no correlation to the cost of living; adjuncts often receive no benefits or contractual job security; they are typically not paid for out-of-class contact with students; they typically have little if any office space; and they have little if any input as to the courses they teach. And this is in what is generally identified as a two-tier system. Why would further tiering not further exacerbate the problem?
|4. Admittedly, Michael's suggestion is appealing
in some respects. I recall Louis K. Menand making a very similar argument
in the Sunday New York Times Magazine several years ago, though
his, I believe, was more focused on the conception of doctoral level education
and the production of college teachers. Still, from a Labor perspective,
it's a disconcerting prospect.
5. Contrary to Michael's impressionistic assessment of working conditions for adjuncts--the veracity of which I do not doubt on his campuses--all the surveys I've seen, including the two I've conducted in CUNY, suggest that adjuncts do not have (nor feel they have) job security--de facto, de jure, or de rigueur--and don't feel professionalized. In fact, salaries are inequitably low (cf. even the MLA's absurdly inflated numbers reported in their survey of member organizations); salaries bear no correlation to the cost of living; adjuncts often receive no benefits or contractual job security; they are typically not paid for out-of-class contact with students; they typically have little if any office space; and they have little if any input as to the courses they teach. And this is in what is generally identified as a two-tier system (though I believe that is highly debatable--just talk to almost any junior faculty or to full-time lecturers, lab technicians, etc.). Why would further tiering not further exacerbate the problem? Would the addition of job security in the form of tenure forestall the, perhaps inevitable, stratification of the tenured ranks: senior research faculty--junior research faculty--teaching faculty? If not, then all we've really done is trade job security for increased workload, and possibly lower pay relative to our colleagues. And, of course, the tenure review process would need to be similarly bifurcated and reconceived.
6. And so, Tony asks, what are the Labor alternatives to this? I, too, would like to explore this essential question before our discussion ends.
|[Thursday, February 01, 2001 - 01:32 pm]
|7. The faculty is already heavily tiered, even within the ranks of the tenured. The major breaks just occur between tenure-track and non-tenure-track and between full-time and part-time. Minimal criteria to address this situation would insist on only fractional part-time appointments (no per course instruction), and that non-tenure-track appointments be associated with a mechanism to become tenure-track or at least include some job security carrying due process and academic freedom. I'll leave clarifying "insist" to someone else.
|[Thursday, February 01, 2001 - 05:05 pm]
|I see the lectureship move as potentially a way of moving from third class to second class--to actually getting on the map, out of invisibility. Stratification, bifurcation...it’s all there, it's just largely invisible.
|8. "Labor" is presently the clearest position
we can take...but labor too needs to enter into dialogue with the needs
of disciplines, the exigencies apparent in the implementation of new technologies,
the nature of academic work, and of course very different local histories
and missions--these are difficult but needed enterprises. To put in another
way--all this talk now about contingent faculty seems to be in the process
of inventing a new academic discipline--but that’s not the core of what
we want, we want to do something about it and so we need to be very careful
both how we express our positions and how we react to counterpositions...further
complicated by the fact that we either are not sure about what "academia"
is let alone how to define those who labor for and in it or have very different
ideas of its place and function. What will pull all the stakeholders together
(more or less)? In this process a lot of illusions need to be shed and
a lot of theoretical constructions need to be put on the table (some of
them very valuable, particularly the semi-Marxist model) that seem to underlie
many of our arguments, including my own (a certain naive idealism and propensity
for dramatic romanticization seem to be my strong points--hell, it works
for me). We are beginning something....
9. I'll give you an example--one of the main impetuses for us in trying to create new Lectureships in significant numbers (between 20 and 40) through union negotiation and converting adjuncts to full-time non-tenure track positions (and we wanted to avoid making them solely teaching positions for a lot of good reasons, some of which Eric emphasizes...but that's another discussion) in 1995 contract negotiations (there is a huge difference between non-tenure track positions being negotiated and being created by administration) at LIU-Brooklyn was to create a base for further political action in an institution which was and is overtly adjunct driven--everything is paid for by the money that adjuncts bring in--there is no real profit from f/t faculty teaching...the lines are clearly drawn about bottom-line interests, and the majority of the adjuncts kept quiet then and still do. We saw lecturers as a bridge--a way of keeping the dialogue alive, investing power in a movement to change things by making concrete moves (and appealing to a lot of adjuncts' self-interest). We wanted the union to have complete oversight (to remove these positions at the next contract negotiations for instance if they became suspect), but give these positions a chance. (By the way, we got this opening because of ethics--the "rules" and principles by which faculty associations and even unions define themselves--they couldn't deny us access to the process). My point of view was that if successful, whether they kept these positions or not, we would have the faculty's and union's attention which could open up the possibility of new moves. When it didn't happen it was a large part of the demise of our adjunct organization's effectiveness and the subsequent taking over of this idea by f/t faculty who implemented it five years later in a very modest way (and the modest part I am grateful for...except now they'll make it permanent). What continued was the f/t faculty feeding off of adjunct faculty labor by using our "threat" to call for the creation of a large number of tenure track positions...not positions emphasizing teaching mind you, and no conversions...because you need a national search of course. We encouraged it in a bid to raise our gravitas and the beginning of a real joining of interest...and got a slightly changed status quo instead. This kind of situation doesn't hold true for CUNY which is far vaster and more complicated--there is a different chain of power and responsibility--far different moves are needed there.
10. I've said it before and I'll say it again--even though Eric's assessment of adjuncts and their working conditions is the one most real to me, I see the lectureship move as potentially a way of moving from third class to second class--to actually getting on the map, out of invisibility. Stratification, bifurcation...it’s all there, it's just largely invisible. Which do you prefer?
11. As for the tenure process--it's already being "reconceived" in many cases towards a greater research and publication requirement...why should universities make teaching a requirement when they got the adjuncts to teach? And since that's worked so well--why not make people work even more all the way around...all of us know the drill all too well. Which leads me to my two inevitable conclusions, the only people I trust in these debates are those who are furious, and I wish I could be as pointed and succinct as Karen and Katherine.
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 10:19 am]
|How can we encourage American professorate to unite with university staff, graduate students and contingent labor for fair labor practices and against chasing the dollar, job security, and class elitism? How do we chip at those unexamined economic practices and rationalizations?
|12. Thank you for crediting me with succinctness,
Walter. I must admit, however, that the brevity and directness of my of
my conversation comes from, well, I admit it, being limited in how I see
labor and fyc. I like the word economics because it roots everything in
oikos, or the house. When one's house is in order, then one has economic
health. When the academy profits by the future solvency of its students
and workers, it is in disarray. This is neither good business nor good
education. The best of business understands good will and long-term vision.
We also teach by how we live. The question in this post is How do we make
it more expensive to use contingent labor than to have full-time, full-status,
full-benefits for all?
13. Alt 1: Collectivism. Canada's activism encourages me. I look to the success of the stalwart Canadian 3903 York University picket lines and Carleton 4600 negotiations. Weeks of picket lines significantly changed York and influenced Carleton with the threat of loss of revenue. How can we encourage American professorate to unite with university staff, graduate students and contingent labor for fair labor practices and against chasing the dollar, job security, and class elitism? How do we chip at those unexamined economic practices and rationalizations?
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 11:35 am]
|We must consider larger solutions to these systemic problems, and these solutions must include widescale public, political, pressure which can only come from a serious re-education and lobbying campaign. An organized labor movement can accomplish this, and, to an extent, is already doing so around the country.
|14. I completely agree with Walter; and, of course,
Katherine asks the right questions, as well. As I've said earlier, I have
great sympathy for the conversion argument. But I still wonder whether
conceiving a move from third to second class, as Walter suggests, is enough.
It strikes me as at least a little acquiescent, anything less than a full
court press for increased full-time tenure-track lines, that is. I mean,
let's face it, a lectureship, for many--including many current adjuncts--is
not the objective.
15. I think Walter is quite right when he writes that Labor "needs to enter into dialogue with the needs of disciplines . . . the nature of academic work." But an organized labor movement seems to be/provide the best means to achieve what we really want: changed public and political attitudes towards higher education (especially public higher ed), and re-investment in higher education. This, I believe, must be part of the long-term solution to the problem.
16. Like Katherine, many of us have been lobbying for years to make part-time faculty cost-INeffective to management, believing that by removing the economic incentive to using part-time labor we would solve the problem. And while this is undoubtedly true to an extent, there are other incentives to management that this does not address, such as their desire for flexibility. It is in management's interest, they seem to believe, to have a large portion of their workforce not just part-time, but also contingent, allowing for staffing and scheduling changes made at (and often after) the last minute. We must consider larger solutions to these systemic problems, and these solutions must include widescale public, political, pressure which can only come from a serious re-education and lobbying campaign. An organized labor movement can accomplish this, and, to an extent, is already doing so around the country, see California, for one example.
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 11:55 am]
|What I want to at least move for is tenurable positions with tenure reimagined in terms (i.e., dump published research!) appropriate for the positions. Of course, these details need to be worked out--what exactly DOES certify someone for a teaching faculty position, which in some sense does constitute a genuinely new faculty identity in post-secondary ed (perhaps we should be looking to community colleges and teaching-intensive liberal arts colleges for the answer)?
|17. Sorry, Katherine and Eric--I didn't see your
most recent messages pop up as I was composing what follows. Instead of
trying to modify, I'll respond separately. So before this gets any older,
I'll go ahead and send it in.... Walter's clearly right about the virtues
of succinctness--which I've obviously never possessed! But this is a REALLY
complicated question, requiring that one qualifies EVERYTHING one says
over and over. As has been pointed out, conditions are wildly different
on different campuses with different economic circumstances, different
senses of mission, different faculty traditions, etc.--and of course in
different disciplines, too.
18. Which leads me to my first qualification. Eric is right: we should be thinking about a whole range of alternatives--career-track, full-time instructor lines is only one of them--because, as Walter points out, the positions I've described are just not applicable in all situations, even if you accept their usefulness in some. Just before my paper was published, some people in my present dep't wanted to try to create positions on this model. But there's ALREADY a relatively teaching-intensive load in this dep't (though there's been a recent effort to change this), and I had to respond that I didn't think the positions were workable in that context.
19. And--succinctness be damned (sorry Walter)--I think I need to keep qualifying--or at least clarifying--for a while here in response to some of yesterday's thoughts in order to suggest more clearly my sense of how the positions might work, as I say in the article, "in all writing programs or English departments where full-time faculty get a load reduction for research and where regular part-time faculty are now used extensively."
20. First, I want to reaffirm my sense (as Karen and Walter do to some extent too, I think) that we're not talking about a FURTHER tiering of the academy: what my friends call the "teaching substructure" already exists, has for at least fifteen years. There's no question in my mind that we already have a clearly multi-tiered system, with at least a couple of layers of professorial stars (those who make appearances on Charlie Rose or even The Today Show and those who attract graduate students in the univ. glossy literature) on top. My sense of the political value of formalized, full-time positions is (as Walter says) that they eliminate (or at least significantly decrease) the instructorate's invisibility--which is, at present, a MAJOR part of its disempowerment.
21. Also--though I know this would be a major change--I'm NOT arguing for non-tenurable instructorships. What I want to at least move for is tenurable positions with tenure reimagined in terms (i.e., dump published research!) appropriate for the positions. Of course, these details need to be worked out--what exactly DOES certify someone for a teaching faculty position, which in some sense does constitute a genuinely new faculty identity in post-secondary ed (perhaps we should be looking to community colleges and teaching-intensive liberal arts colleges for the answer)? But I think there are already some precedents (if not models) for this. UC Santa Barbara has a "security of employment" track for full-time lecturers (though I understand recently that it's very under-utilized). Eric (and others) might tell us--hasn't CUNY for many years had "Certificates of Continuous Employment" for 5-year-plus full-time instructors (though I'm told they're falling out of favor with CUNY administrators)? I know that the university I describe in the article is just now moving toward these positions, and one of the issues the vice-chancellor seems most committed to (I'm told--of course, I see all this from a distance on my new campus) is "a tenure-like arrangement of some sort." Traditional full-timers always seem squeamish about calling it "tenure," and frankly I don't care: they can have the title and the mystique, just give instructors (again pretty much whatever they decide they want to call them) the money and the guarantee! Equitable pay, job security, and real academic freedom.
22. Of course, all the terms of these arrangements have to be worked out. I'm not part of the negotiations around these new positions on my former campus, so I frankly don't know about proposed salaries, teaching load, administrative expectations, support for professional development, tenure expectations, etc., etc.--but rest assured that if I was there I would. These are the fights we will have to fight everywhere over and over. I see no shortcuts--there will always be worries, no matter what solutions we find to this problem.
23. About the state of part-time life and working conditions, Eric is also right. I'm sure that the working conditions I describe sound downright decadent to many part-timers. I recognize that, as I say in the article, what I describe is not now the norm in the discipline, and that many part-timers do still struggle under really woeful working conditions. (Part of this, I think, has to do with comparative labor pools--it's a buyer's market in most urban centers like New York.) But my contention is that as it becomes clearer and clearer that the other layers of the academic hierarchy depend squarely on the ftes instructors generate, conditions will continue to improve. And I think now's the moment when campuses with positions like the ones I've described can be revailed upon to move to something better--some version of real, enfranchised academic citizenship. My hope is that as these positions are created--and precedents are established--they'll be moved for and put in place elsewhere on the basis of these precedents. Someone (Eric maybe?) mentioned the good practices section of the Part-Time Forum and how helpful it was to see these descriptions as a precedent. Please understand that it's my hope that my article's discussion of working conditions will serve something of the same function (and I know at least one campus where it's been cited in negotiations with a dean about changes and another where a part-timer wanted a copy for the same reason). We certainly don't want to put an artificially happy face on life as a pti; but if we suggest that terrible working conditions are universal, administrators will feel sure they can continue to get away with them!
24. Those are about all the qualifications I can think of for now. I hope long, infrequent postings like this one don't work against useful give-and-take here. I wish I had time to do several short postings rather than a single long one daily and will try to shoot for that in our time remaining.
25. But one question I'd ask. I sense some reluctance to configure full-time "teaching only" positions, especially from Walter--and particularly to reimagine tenure requirements on a teaching-only basis. I'm not sure I understand why. Apprehensions about not being taken seriously by the traditionally defined professorate? If so, I don't see how this ISN'T the case now… And I believe full-time lecturers will cultivate their own sources of clout (particularly with student constituencies) that might keep these prejudices in check.
26. ALSO: I know I don't want to divert this discussion--both of full-time instructorships and of other alternatives--which I think in the end may be the most important one we can have. But there's something unrelated that's been bouncing around in my head as a result of previous discussion. I don't know in what thread it should be inserted--and our time is getting close to up--so I'll just blurt it out here in an effort to get it on the table in case anyone else is interested. Feel free to respond (if anyone is interested enough) back on the dissecting-the-beast strand (I THINK that's where I read the discussion that prompted it) or anywhere else.
27. In terms of general modes of resistance to academic corporatization--separate from staffing and abolitionist concerns--it strikes me that there is much we can do as classroom teachers. That is, I guess I feel like there are a number of ways I feel my students being pulled into the corporate function of the university, often (in particular) being interpellated to roles as educational consumers. Many of the mechanisms through which this is accomplished are often perceived as enlightened reforms, so they seem to me especially insidious. I'm wondering if they seem suspicious to others as well, and the degree to which people imagine that resisting them (and other practices like them) might be a useful part of this more general resistance. What I have in mind (at the moment) are:
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 12:22 pm]
|28. As I've said here before, I agree wholeheartedly
with the union idea. There are lots of potential obstacles, I think, that
it's easy to underestimate--particularly ones having to do with many traditional
academics' reluctance to (1) understand what they do as labor and (2) identify
with the interests of instructors, who they often want to see as compromised
or even failed academics. (Sounds to me like Walter can speak to this in
his LIU experiences?) But unionizing seems to me the best hope for forcing
change. I know my own union at SUNY has made some moderate gains for part-time
faculty, but I think we might expect more, in particular, from a bigger,
more inclusive union.
29. I'd also like to worry Eric's point about lecturerships a bit, at least if I understand it correctly. I'm not at all sure that part-timers necessarily want to become professors. I know I can speak from my own experience here: though I'm very happy with my new job, I'm certain I NEVER would have left the instructorate if I could have made a career of it. I LOVED what I did as an instructor, and I loved the space I occupied in academia--the kind of faculty identity I felt I was cultivating. And I know a tremendous number of instructors who feel the same way--who have no desire to go on to do active research or prepare graduate students or whatever. In fact, I've had conversations with a number of Ph.D. students in Comp and Rhet that reflect something similar--they want to find some sleepy little college out of the research loop and just teaching writing to undergraduates. Don't get me wrong: there ARE instructors who want to become professors. But I don't feel like this is a universal feeling at all. I wonder if any good surveys have been done on this aspect of it all? I apologize if I've misunderstood here, Eric.
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 12:32 pm]
|Since university administrators are now management rather than faculty, the last thing they want is a lot of people on their staff who can object to management's staffing and curricular policies. Hence the attempts to get rid of tenure, and the actual dwindling of the tenured ranks everywhere in the country. So: don't we have to adopt some other model of employment patterns? Surely not that used in corporations.
|30. Hello, all. Sorry for my absence from the discussion for the past couple of days. Like everyone else here, I find that duty calls, and calls, and calls. . . . I'll try to check in often over the weekend. I submit that one thing being taken for granted in this thread of the discussion is that tenure is a sure thing. I don't think we can assume that tenure will continue to be awarded to any but the "stars"--the folks who require security of contract in order to be lured from one university to another. Obviously, the number of tenured positions in the academy has steadily dwindled since the number of untenurable positions began to rise. Now I'm not making this point because I am in sympathy in any way with presently full-time/tenured/tenurable faculty, who have in general selfishly protected their class interests to the point where they can be regarded as colluding with management. But I do think we need to consider, when we are discussing "tiers" of employment in the academy, that the tier of full-time tenured faculty will soon shrink even further--to perhaps five or ten percent of all faculty, at least in the humanities and other disciplines that are not money-makers or useful in enhancing the university's public relations. What will be the effects for all academic workers when there is virtually no tenure? Shouldn't we begin trying to imagine how to structure in the fairest way possible an academic labor force that for the most part will never be tenurable? I know that the usual reasons given by administration for the increase in part-time (hah!) employment is financial. But it is also true that tenure protects academic freedom. Since university administrators are now management rather than faculty, the last thing they want is a lot of people on their staff who can object to management's staffing and curricular policies (see the current brouhaha at Boston College, for example, where tenured faculty are having screaming conniptions about a new requirement that they be in their offices four days a week). Hence the attempts to get rid of tenure in Texas and Arizona (successful), and Minnesota (not), and the actual dwindling of the tenured ranks everywhere in the country. So: don't we have to adopt some other model of employment patterns? Surely not that used in corporations. So what?
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 01:19 pm]
|31. Katherine, the bluntest, most infuriating,
and most challenging that I've gotten is that adjuncts have to refuse to
work for such low wages--I should stop there, but I also think that there
is a real possibility that just that sort of thing might happen, with and
without activism. Simply, the last few generations of adjuncts have often
been animated by a combination of idealism/altruism and intellectual and
social ambition--as attainment of the conditions for these motivations
become less and less possible to sustain, you're going to get a corresponding
reluctance to go into this profession--not good for students or higher
education (at least in the short run), but possibly very good for labor
32. But this is only part of the picture. You also have the possibility of new kinds of academics and part-timers--masterful manipulators and free spirits with very few illusions (in both the "good" and "bad" varieties), who will have less and less loyalty to the institutions they teach through and a corresponding selfishness or freedom to follow through on whatever program they "believe" in (hmm, has this happened already?)--the ability to play the system....This is why I think the right is crazy to ignore this problem, or even think that the university going corporate makes sense--they should be sweating and throwing piles of money at higher education, enacting minimum academic wages...the present university system has actually contained political activism, whether of the right or left (not entirely a bad thing...maybe), for reasons of its structure and removal from everyday life (and that's a whole nother topic), but that won't hold up. Maybe the culture wars aren't dead?
33. And then there's the realistic picture--the further division of academia into elite and professional schools to better mirror the division of society at large. The professional schools are for training to become good citizens and docile workers in the corporate world, the elite schools for top level management with the corresponding teachers and training appropriate to both, with the elite schools maintaining, by and large, the old system. Perhaps by becoming or accepting being professional schools, labor activism for higher education professionals, working on a much more limited definition of their profession, has a much better chance of making inroads, but you also lose a lot of what I think has attracted so many of us to higher education.
34. And then there's this kind of conversation, and all the other conversations and actions that inform us and that we are trying to reflect...sometimes this kind of speculation is useful...sometimes not.
35. ...All of the above and a whole lot more (yeah, Aronowitz doesn't have the only last best job in America, being an independent scholar, a euphemism for unemployed, has its advantages. I get to think and write all day--I hope I haven't cluttered this discussion with my drafting (okay, I have--maybe you can be thankful that this is only a small percentage of it?). And I agree with Eric's positions in principle--except that I don't think that we have the means yet for a full court press--and yes, perhaps I'm being shortsighted here and/or unaware of important developments.
36. For Michael, I think the way you are defending your position is cogent and admirable giving me cause to rethink much, but I do have some serious problems on some points which makes me see a little negative edge to the larger argument:
37. For one, "We certainly don't want to put an artificially happy face on life as a pti; but if we suggest that terrible working conditions are universal, administrators will feel sure they can continue to get away with them!" I have a really hard time with this--I see where you are coming from, but I can't help seeing this as misplaced and even dishonest...for "negotiation" purposes you don't have to emphasize conditions, but you don't need to mislead either...I'm not even sure it is constructive--administrators love it when faculty think they are stupid...sometimes I think they count on it. I'm a little angry with you because everything you said leading up to this statement carried a lot of weight.
38. You seem to construct this vision of administrators as powerful figures that need to be coaxed, and coddled and humored, but you seem to forget that they are doing the same thing to you--they have an interest in these positions that doesn't necessarily coincide with yours (believe me)--I know you know this, but it isn't visible enough--all in all your position is primarily ethical disguised as realpolitick...yeah, I can identify with that, but because it's transparent, it's not necessarily a strength.
39. Next--Yes, I don't want to consider tenure on a teaching only basis (student evaluations?, observations?). Active participation in a field and scholarship in alternative forms, panels, conferences, participation in the academic life of a community and the larger community, ...service?...now we're talking, though I suspect you wouldn't disagree...and I of course agree that juried publications don't necessarily mean very much...okay, here I'm being dishonest, though I think that constructing a binary of teaching vs. research obscures very important issues and creates many dangers. From my point of view your "ALSO" doesn't divert the discussion at all--it connects in every which way with everything and reminds me of larger issues involved that need to be thought through--I'm grateful for it.
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 02:37 pm]
|40. Since Sharon brings up the Boston University situation, it's instructive to note that the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on that topic ("It's 10 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Professors Are?" making faculty accessibility an issue) says "Ultimately, if professors can't prove they're doing their share, they should be reduced to part-time status." Now, to be fair the CHE is talking about the stance of those making the new proposals at BU to require 4-day presence on campus, but I'm amused by the threat. After all, some of us have been trying for years to warn tenured faculty that they will be dragged down if they don't work to raise us (part-timers) up.
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 05:14 pm ]
|41. Michael--"ALSO" raises
the big question of whether a corrupt system doesn't corrupt everything
that passes through it. Both openings and deadends here--insidious plot?
no--but not easy to take on either since these services and programs can
accomplish goals diametrically opposed to what was intended.
42. Sharon--I'm curious, given the discussion on tenure vs. tenure track, teaching and research, what do you see happening? What is inevitable (at least from what you can see from the present moment) and what can be changed? I say this because ultimately any idea I have for the future involves academic freedom (and I might add--a society worth having it in) of one kind or another and all that it entails--are you saying that this is already an anachronism? Wouldn't fair and no tenure be a contradiction?
|[Friday, February 02, 2001 - 05:22 pm]
|43. OK--maybe a form of tenure controlled by the faculty union?
|[Saturday, February 03, 2001 - 12:25 pm]
|44. You raise a good point about the tenuousness
of tenure in general these days, Sharon. And--let me know if I'm misreading
-- but your thoughts on "the usual reasons given by administration for
the increase in part-time (hah?) [and thus non-tenure track?] employment"
strike me as almost exactly the same point I was making in the "Great Tenure
Debate" section of the CCC piece: the idea that tenure's expensive
is just an administrative alibi for controlling academic freedom and--maybe
even more important--maintaining the invisibility and marginality of large
numbers of faculty. (I find the maintaining-flexibility-of-labor-pool arguments
a little less compelling because I find there's less fluctuation in demand
for instructors than many people assume--the courses get taught over and
over, semester after semester in very predictable numbers.) But I'm not
sure what other employment models we should be looking for. I'm very much
attracted (I THINK) to Walter's vision of-- what?--rogue adjuncts: "new
kinds of academics and part-timers -- masterful manipulators and free spirits
(in both the 'good' and 'bad' varieties), who will have less and less loyalty
to the institutions they teach through and...freedom to follow through
on whatever program they 'believe' in...the ability to play the system."
Certainly goes my "guerrilla rhetoricians" one better! Guerrilla professors,
I suppose! But as compelling and romantic as this somehow sounds, I'm not
sure it's really very sustainable--as you say, Walter, this kind of marginal
contingency is pretty much what we have now, and while our best adjuncts
can turn marginality into a kind of brash, savvy intellectual independence,
we wouldn't all be talking now if we were all ultimately happy with it.
Though tenure's clearly already a compromised system, and though we should
continue planning creative alternatives, I'm not yet ready to give up on
the tenure fight. (I can tell from your MOST recent posting, Walter, that
you're not either.)
45. Also, Walter, I'm not positive I understand your anger exactly. Frankly, much as Sharon says she expects audiences to react "with incomprehension or defensiveness" when she talks about abolition, I expected many readers to be angry with my article--some of the traditional professorate angry that I'd sold out the research ideal (which I don't believe) and some instructors angry that my depiction of working conditions was so different from their own that it must be artificial or false (which I also don't believe). Though I'm a little confused by your discussion, I'm guessing you mean the latter of these? If so, I don't think I'm being either dishonest or misleading, as you say. In fact, I'd not only say that I'm not misrepresenting working conditions to negotiate in bad faith (your charge as I understand it); I'd also say that those working conditions have actually been misrepresented in large part for such purposes in the past--extreme conditions are not universal, as many have wanted to imply in order to prompt change--as well as that this implication isn't a very effective tactic in the end. I don't mean to construct administrators as all-powerful--or stupid--but I do believe that if they don't see any comparable institutions with recognizably better conditions for instructors, they won't ever feel much pressure to change. It's essentially a labor-market consideration for them: they'll pay the going rate, not only for salaries but for all the rest too. So if we never acknowledge that there are good pti positions because we want to impress people with the urgency of the situation (which is my sense of what often happens--and shouldn't), then this "going rate" never becomes public. And instructors get less.
46. You're right that you refine and complicate "teaching-only" review much as I would--though in the case of comp I'd probably add practice (writing, editing, publishing, etc.). Like you, I'm also wary of too easy and narrow teaching vs. research binaries--see the end of the 3rd section in the CCC piece--but I'm not sure separate tracks necessarily have to do this. (Certainly, we don't want instructors who know nothing about the field because they have no contact with research, or to perpetuate the dumb stereotype of researchers as people who hate to teach...)
47. Thanks for your thoughts on the ALSO section--though I'd still love to hear more about the specifics of the "every which way" connections you mention. No question these kinds of developments are always a mixed bag as far as "corruption" goes and that--well--no one has to be plotting for things to have insidious effects.
|[Saturday, February 03, 2001 - 06:32 pm]
|Our new fantastic system of fair academic labor practices will have to attach job security, academic freedom, and status to whatever faculty members define themselves as doing professionally . . . . I envision a system wherein Mary could aim for tenure as a teacher-researcher, while John could define himself (for as long as he wished) as a poet-teacher, and so on. Is this total pie in the sky or could we actually achieve something like this?
|48. I'll try to address Walter's question about
the connection between tenure and fairness. (I like his idea about union-negotiated
tenure BTW). Let me lay all this out in a simple-minded way so I can get
it straight for myself. In theory, tenure confers two things on academics:
security of contract and academic freedom. In practice, tenure has also
conferred status as well. Obviously, marginally employed academics have
none of these things. As far as I can see, tenure still protects academic
freedom, at least in more privileged institutions, and that is why it is
under siege in the corporate university, as I suggested in another post.
I'm not sure that it still protects security of contract--now it's just
harder to fire a tenured faculty member than an untenured one (unless he
or she is proven guilty of something heinous like sexual harassment). Here
in Arizona, for example, tenured faculty undergo annual review just like
untenured faculty. All the work entailed in that wouldn't happen if somebody
somewhere wasn't reserving the right to fire someone someday. As for the
status issue, I think that status accrues to faculty members not so much
because they have tenure as because they do research. And the research
has to be of a specific nature, too. As people in composition know, it
can't be too pedagogical or classroom-based, or it loses status. So marginally
employed people, who have all they can do to keep up with their teaching,
are systematically barred from achieving status in two ways--the research
they have time to do (and which they might prefer to do) is pedagogical;
plus, they are not eligible for tenure.
49. If this is all correct, then our new fantastic system of fair academic labor practices will have to attach job security, academic freedom, and status to whatever faculty members define themselves as doing professionally--see the wonderful list in Michael's essay for starters. I envision a system wherein Mary could aim for tenure as a teacher-researcher, while John could define himself (for as long as he wished) as a poet-teacher, and so on. Is this total pie in the sky or could we actually achieve something like this?
|[Saturday, February 03, 2001 - 07:23 pm]
|The best thing you can do to have nothing happen is have the stakeholders fight over the portion of the pie that they have been given rather than demonstrate a clear need for more pie.
|50. Michael--about conditions I will have to
continue to disagree, about comparisons, you're absolutely right that that
is the way it is done, and frankly, that whole model of having someone
else do it first before we'll do it drives me nuts (it's not even always
a model of efficiency), but, yes--it better explains the position you're
taking (not clear at first)...and makes my diatribe...ummm...partly foolish...it's
that ethical thing I don't want to get rid of though I'm fully aware of
how it can make me less than pragmatic. I would have attacked THAT rather
than question how you need to operate in that model (first things first--though
the comparison model can be used very advantageously if you're willing
to put in the work). Anyway--I'm out of the loop, so I haven't heard any
other points of view on your proposals outside of this panel.
51. This said--the distinctions and connections in your strategies, core principles, and basic facts is not something I am entirely comfortable with in your argument in the CCC essay--though it may all come down to a basic disagreement about some of the facts and their ramifications. It also seems to me that the way some of your argument can be seen and used falls into the claws of those who want to maintain contingency and move to better control and downgrade the profession as a whole (and what doesn't and what are our real options right now?), clearly not your intention...i.e. the best thing you can do to have nothing happen is have the stakeholders fight over the portion of the pie that they have been given rather than demonstrate a clear need for more pie ("that very few in America are willing to pay more than they do now for higher education" how much of a university budget actually gets put into instruction...why would the American public have to pay any more...maybe we could shift priorities?...you yourself mention something in that area). By taking a position that has narrow uses and needs to be very carefully qualified and yet often presenting it as a solution across the board (allowing it to be heard as such is probably a better qualification on my part) for a problem where the primary stakeholders have very little control over the process to make sure that it's done in the best way for them, you're walking a very narrow tightrope. For one, you're challenging some of the principles that make change possible--solidarity--to include a consciousness and awareness of those worse off and the possibilities open to them when you present goals and positions...offering a solution that gives them access too--you mean to, but I don't think you do enough--some of the places that will try this seem to me to be the places that need it the least (and even then use these positions to hire people for less when they could have actually paid them more...and now they get to look virtuous about it)--and then again I think there are other places where this would be a great move, and they might actually do it.
52. It's very easy to misunderstand (and I'm not sure it is entirely a misunderstanding) your concluding statements "I propose reimagining the ways that the roles now played by regular part-time faculty might be institutionalized"...if you already understand MANY adjuncts' roles as entirely compromised and question the value of institutionalizing anything compromised into an already compromised system (for instance, who would grant tenure and what criteria would they devise? would they want to make teaching faculty distinct from them as a way of protecting their privileges...granting tenure only to those who view them as top dogs, the real academics? wouldn't you start to see gender/race inequalities here?--yes, the big who and how questions pop up) then red flags will wave high. My bottom line is that you took the challenge and opened up a lot of important issues and I agree with you about a lot of things, especially about making things visible and recognizing the less than ideal situation we are in and the moves that can be made there--it is a positive move--now you're getting hit over the head (sometimes rightly so...and I REALLY like the way you are responding to it...but you're so wrong about your attitude to working conditions that it makes my head hurt...it's like, what's better, an 80 hour work week with ice cream on Sunday, or an 80 hour work week with no ice cream--you want to bring out that distinction as being very important (you're almost happy people and you're less happy people working under much too similar conditions) and then the distinction between 40 hours and 60 hours (teaching vs. research) as being less important). I'll explain further if you want...there is a whole lot more, I just can't resist obscure analogies.
53. My problem is more with the difference between what we want to happen with these kinds of moves and what will actually happen once we begin to invest the time and energy into them...will the ways they will be co-opted be even worse than the benefits they will undoubtedly bring (mostly, again, because of a lack of power to control the process)? I am not so worried about further division given the present system, but still, will it really enable visibility and action on the parts of "converted" adjuncts? Will being an adjunct for them just seem like a distant nightmare? But then why advocate against these positions and end up indirectly defending the already compromised status quo (hoping that it will fall apart more efficiently if we allow it to stagnate and putrefy untouched). No answers. Local "answers" for individual campuses are already very complicated, maybe the best place to start to see how it works--to my mind not a systemic solution. An important move--in a funny way I think it has more political weight if it isn't just applied to composition or any traditional "service" type disciplines. A call for a more "teaching"-centered higher education system (been there?)? And yes, a widening of the possibilities for faculty identity. I want to stay open on this. Right now all of it, for and against, seems half cooked to me probably because adjuncts/"contingent" faculty are between a rock and a hard place, both "inside" and "outside" the system and having to undergo the flaws of both subject positions and the contradictions (and yes, there are benefits too). The groundwork that would make your work more powerful hasn't really been done yet (among other things what do these adjuncts really want?--forget hearsay...though that's all I got now too)--your ideas help to remind me of how much still needs to be done. (I hope my comments make at least a little sense. I seem to be criticizing you for not making the perfect argument--take that as a compliment.)
54. And now I just read Sharon's post...you know, of course, that I consider pie in the sky a nutritious part of a healthy life. It is about control--and who should have control and how we get control...and control over something worth having, right? (Just to make all of you laugh--there's a party of 27 people downstairs and lots of good food--and I'm up here typing away--uh oh, I've been discovered--)
|[Sunday, February 04, 2001 - 12:16 pm]
|But a national / international discourse on the future of the profession (and the professorate) that doesn't call for a campaign of public and political re-education about higher ed and the need to support it, financially and otherwise, falls short of the mark. We can no longer put bandaids on gaping wounds.
|55. Michael, I think you are quite right about
adjuncts and career interests. Many don't want to be full-time tenured
faculty, and many don't want to do research. There is, of course, a difference
between wanting to be part-time and wanting to be contingent (or exploited,
etc.), and I know your proposal attempts to address this distinction. In
CUNY we do have Lectureships: full-time, non-tenure track, non-research
positions. Lecturers teach a heavier load than their tenure-track colleagues
(at least at our senior colleges), and their salaries are below those of
Assistant Profs. After 5 years they are eligible for Certificates of Continuous
Employment (CCE's), which grant them a tenure-like job security. But, Michael,
what you heard about the Lecturer line seems to be true, the administration
may be phasing them out in favor of cheaper, more "flexible" part-timers
and substitute full-timers.
56. There has been for some time now a bit of a hue and cry, in CUNY and elsewhere, to convert adjuncts (in large numbers or percentages) into lecturers. But as long as these teaching-intensive non-research positions are also non-tenure track and are paid below tenure track scale, I'm skeptical about institutionalizing conversion. And of course for those many adjuncts who do aspire to full-time tenure track jobs, the workload of a lecturer (27 hours per year currently in CUNY, or a 5/4 load) makes it virtually impossible to keep up with the research and writing necessary to compete for tenure track jobs. I believe this may be one of the issues our colleagues down at Georgia State are facing with their conversion experiment.
57. Again, I appreciate the thinking going into these proposals, as well as the spirit and sentiment that drives that thinking. But a national/international discourse on the future of the profession (and the professorate) that doesn't call for a campaign of public and political re-education about higher ed and the need to support it, financially and otherwise, falls short of the mark. We can no longer put bandaids on gaping wounds.
|[Sunday, February 04, 2001 - 06:45 pm]
entirely about the alternative approaches to tenure business, Sharon. You
know how I feel about too narrow approaches to faculty identity. And I
don't think it's unimaginable pie-in-the-sky at all. While maximal flexibility
sounds wonderful, though, I DO worry a bit that there may be problems it's
difficult now to anticipate with drifting in and out of different tracks,
however they're defined (research, teaching, creative work, etc). I worry
particularly that the teaching track will be a space faculty are forced
into when their output in other fields is deemed insufficient. Not only
would this be a way to demand more for less, I think, but also a way to
reinforce the sense once again that teaching faculty are second- (or third-!)
59. Walter, I'm grateful for your really thoughtful, good-willed, vital, honest advocacy; I wish I could have persuaded you a LITTLE more, since you seem to me just the kind of person--and teacher--I'd like to be able to persuade. But I very much appreciate your willingness to try my arguments on imaginatively--and to show your unfolding thoughts in so unguarded a way on the page (or screen, I guess). I don't know that I have time to respond to your most recent posting really fully, but let me offer a few hit-and-miss responses.
60. First, you're right: we may just have to agree to disagree about the state of conditions--but be aware (again) that I'm not claiming that the conditions that characterized my double part-time work are at all universal. And remember my contention that even if no other institutions in the country shared them (which I'd have a hard time believing--in fact, KNOW isn't true) the fact that they're in place here isn't accidental or incidental: I believe that there are major, systemic, structural economic forces that put them into place. Essentially, pti's do a really good job at work that's usually seen as essential at comparatively bargain rates. I'm only proposing that we recognize this and try to use it to our best advantage.
61. You're right that these positions and the arguments for them CAN "fall into the claws of those who want to maintain contingency and move to better control and downgrade the profession as a whole," that "some of the places that will try this seem to me to be the places that need it the least," and that "who would grant tenure?" and "would they want to make teaching faculty distinct...as a way of protecting their privileges…granting tenure only to those who view them as top dogs, the real academics?" are REALLY important questions. (In fact, see my note on Sharon's tenure post above.) There are ALL KINDS of potential dangers. But--as I said in my last posting--these are fights we'll necessarily have to fight along the way. There are no short-cuts around this, I think. But I think they're fights worth having--and that we're going to have to fight many of them in any case, no matter what we try to do on behalf of pti's. Are we better off staying where we are now? (And, no, I don't believe that cooption is unavoidable--if one did, then why ever work for anything?…)
62. I like the spiritedness of your analogy, but I don't believe I'm talking about adding ice cream on Sundays to an 80-hour week. What I'm moving for is a system that would provide a reasonable teaching load on a single campus, representation in faculty governance, eligibility for tenure and the academic freedom (whether now irremediably compromised or not) that comes with it, full-time benefits, and a reasonable salary (in relation to professorial salaries) with the possibility of advancement across a career. I don't think these would be incidental improvements. I also don't think it will be easy to make this happen, but I believe the pti's I know deserve nothing less, and I want to work toward it.
63. You're right that "Right now all of it, for and against, seems half cooked" and that "the groundwork" isn't in place yet. Clearly, there's much to be figured out, but I take us to be doing that work now. No? Isn't that how change gets started? I don't mean for what I've proposed to "be heard" as a solution across the board--I tried hard to qualify myself in the CCC piece--and it seems to me a problem if that's the way it reads. I'll try harder in the future. Still, I think teaching-intensive positions could have a pretty significant effect on the tenor of academic culture generally, even if they're only deployed on research university campuses. Anyway, if pie-in-the-sky seems to you nutritious, then I hope this continues to seem worth chewing on, if not entirely appetizing. Thanks again for the really fascinating discussion.
|[Sunday, February 04, 2001 - 07:05 pm]
|64. Thanks for the CUNY update, Eric. I hope
all of you at CUNY--or ALL OF US in the profession!--can work against the
phasing out process there, at least if that's the will of CUNY instructors
(sounds as if it is from your description).
65. I agree about tenure--it's no less incidental for lecturers than professors. And believe me, I know firsthand about the difficulty of doing research while teaching five courses! (That's one of the reasons I worry about mixing teaching and research tracks where these positions are put in place.) Also, please don't mistake my sympathies--I'm ALL FOR "public and political re-education about higher ed and the need to support it." I just don't see gaining universal support for 2-2 loads everywhere as a likely outcome. (Though show me where to sign up and I'll be there!...)
top of page
Abolish or Perish? Managed Labor in Composition: A Roundtable with Sharon Crowley
Introduction: Managed Labor and the Intractability of First-Year Composition
Strand 1: Dissecting the Beast
Strand 2: Institutional Effects
Strand 3: Alternatives?
Strand 4: The Requirement and Drudgery