Live Post from #NewFac12 National Summit in Washington, DC

Hi folks, I’m on the Social Media team for the New Faculty Majority which has put on the National Summit on Contingent Labor in Higher Ed today in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the AACU meetings.

8:19 AM:  I am going to be putting up thoughts on FB/Twitter, and some thoughts here as well.  This post will grow over the course of the day.  STay tuned.

8:15 Gary Rhoads the first speaker.  Causes of reliance on conting. labor?  Core part of new knowledge regime in US higher education, which constructs college/univ as corporate enterprise, and faculty as employees.

“Just in time” students matched by “just in time” faculty—less time on campus, piecing together an over-stressed schedule of work and study, distracted, under stress….

Irony:  poverty level wages to faculty who teach college—-the path/entry point to middle class status.  YES!

Contingency worst in the institutions that serve first gen and minority students….  reinforcing the class divide between the rich and the rest.

8:35 Claire Goldstene:  Henry Kissinger said that academic battles are so fierce because so little is at stake, but in fact, in this case, the stakes are high.

Academic freedom is at stake.  Academic freedom is tied to tenure.  The majority of faculty don’t have tenure.  Thus the majority of univ. faculty are not working under conditions of academic freedom.

Is the univ. about academic inquiry, or is it about lowering costs and increasing revenue/fundraising?

As Naomi Klein said in Shock Doctrine, the current economic “crisis” shields a range of adjustments in higher ed toward a corporatist logic above all else.  But the assault on tenure and the crisis of cont. labor is not the last few years!  It’s a decades long process.

Privatization of production of knowledge.

Universities under assault from the forces of neoliberalism that have a 40 year long history.  The loss of tenure and academic freedom diminish the chance that progressive ideas and resistance to neolib will come from the academy.

This is not a NEW crisis–it is a 40 year old history of an assault on progressive ideas as expressed through progressive thought in the university setting.

8:45:  Carol Schneider, President of Association of American Colleges and University.

Asks people in univ. leadership in audience to raise their hands…..  about 5 hands go up, in a room of 200.

“Not enough!”  The crisis on the ground that all of you as adjuncts understand intimately is not even seen as a crisis or seen at all by univ. leadership.  Absolutely true.  When I was dept head, the needs of adjuncts were not on my radar.

Q and A:  800 lb gorilla in living room is overproduction of Ph.D.s.  It is shameful that department after department tries to grow their Ph.D. programs without a thought to the existence of jobs for those Ph.D.s

Gary Rhoads response:  Right now colleges are in crisis trying to meet the skyrocketing demand for college ed.  The solution is not to dis-invest in faculty and staff, it’s greater investment.  Austerity budgets and cutting costs are not the solution; we need MORE full time faculty to meet the demand.  (applause)

Panel Two:  Promising Practices, Proposed Solutions

Adrianna Kezar:  I am on the tenure track but have been on my univ. committee at USC on contingent fac; I’m the only tenure-line faculty who has been, for the past decade.

Incredible lack of awareness!  On campus after campus, people tell me: “we have no contingent faculty.”  I have to call them out. (KK:  This is astounding to me, and yet not.  Anyone else hear the parallel with: “we have no homosexuals in our country.”)

Motivation to change is largely missing.  Recommendation made by one group in isolation; we don’t engage with multiple stakeholders.  This summit is exciting because engaging multiple stakeholders.

Leadership do not see connection between faculty and student learning.

Maria Maisto, President of NFM:  tells us the motivations of the conference to respond to the Presidents’ Climate Commitment for Colleges and Universities.  And tells the sad story of Doug Wright, a long-time adjunct who lost his job in a restucturing, lost his health insurance, got cancer, bankrupted himself paying his bills, and died.  Please read about him here: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/11/30/adjunct

Jack Longman:  British Columbia is a fine place to be an adjunct.  There is a single salary scale that covers both FT and PT/NTT faculty.  Seniority is the determining factor.  Americans have trouble grasping this.

Anne Wiegard, President, NFM Foundation:  My struggles with faculty unions constantly surprise me.  However, staff are our allies and need to be included.

Q and A:  Transparency is key here.  The constant refusal is :there’s no money.  In fact, there is plenty of money.  Taxpayers have a right to demand information about uses of their funds in the higher ed system.  And the information can be used to defend rights of NTT.  The role of salaries is NOT the main reason for the escalating college costs.

Panel 3:  Regulatory and Organizing Strategies.

Rich Moser: Senior Staff Rep, Rutgers AAUP-AFT

Coalition-building is key.  It builds a community of interest based on enlightened self-interest, while acknowledging the conflicts of interest that are real and alive in the room.

The inside/outside approach—insiders mobilize to get the outsider dissent legitimated and funded.

Joe Berry, labor historian and author Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts for Change.

I am giving some tough love:   Insiders may extend a hand of charity, but they don’t understand the needs of the disenfranchised.  The disempowered must agitate and mobilize, and there is work to be done to speak with the NTT about their fears.  Fear is the greatest obstacle.

The unexpressed fear is more powerful than the expressed fear, so get the fears out and on the table.  And ask them—how secure are you if we do nothing??!

>Lunch<  I get to chat with John Casy, Lee Bessette, and Brian Coxall!  Cool!

And I get to finally meet in person Scott Jaschik, Editor of Inside Higher Ed.!  He rocks.

 

Panel 4:  Changing the Culture

Heather Wathington, Western Interstate Commission of Higher Ed and UVA Asst Prof in Higher Ed.

The needs of reform to reach and improve college experience of first gen and most vulnerable students fall on shoulders of NTT faculty, who have the fewest resources to deal with them.

While the NTT faculty are very high quality, they lack resources such as consistent email and office space, continuity of access to their students to provide a connection after the class, they are hired last minute and may not be able to create the best courses, etc.

Changing the culture will require changing the micro-practices of the NTT hiring process.

 

Debra Leigh Scott:  Adjunct Professor and Independent Filmmaker and Artist

My job is more like a barista than a professor.  We are closer to server culture than academic culture.

I wrote a play about my daughter, who is a corporate lawyer and whose first year starting salary was 5 years of my best salary combined.

We discussed this, and she ultimately said to me, “you should have done something else.  You didn’t have to struggle like this.”

I said, “I trained for a decade to do this work.  It was meaningful to me.”

She said, “you dragged me along with you in your poverty.  I refuse to be so poor.  It’s why I chose the path I did.”

When the play was performed audience members came up afterward and asked if it was really true, how poor I was.  This kind of artistic intervention will change the culture.

At another dinner at my college, an adjunct and I were at a planning dinner event.  My colleague ordered water, not wine.  The tenured faculty said, “oh come now, you have to have wine!”  When he ordered the cheapest wine, then they said, “oh come now, you can’t drink that drek!  You have to order a good wine!”

Why didn’t he want to do this?  Because he’d looked at the prices on the menu and knew he could not afford both.

Ultimately, he made an excuse and left early, without ordering dinner.

I was mortified, horrified….and also, “damn I wish I was filming this!”

Having the visual evidence of this interchange would show the real condition of adjunct workers.

I know adjuncts who have lived in their van, lived on food stamps, died without insurance, killed themselves.  Their stories need to be told, and told through art, not just blog posts by disaffected adjuncts and in the CHE.

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Center for Community Change.

There is a move underway to roll back the 20th century.  Workers rights, unions, being a welcoming country to immigrants—trying to undo all of these gains.

There is an attack on the poorest workers in the country, the marginal worker.  in response, there have been direct action campaigns

Stanley Katz, Director, Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, and 2011 National Humanities Medal Recipient.

I am actually on a contingent contract–renewed year by year.  Nevertheless I have an excellent salary, reasonable assurance of permanence, and a beautiful office.

I went to grad school in 1955; while I was there, Sputnik happened.  Jobs exploded.  nobody in my generation had to apply for jobs—there were never enough applicants to fill all the jobs there were.

In my view, we will never return to the former conditions of employment in higher ed, as we had in 1955.

We are under extreme threat to roll back the gains of the 20th century as Deepak said.

Q and A:  Can we really not go back?  I’m not sure we know that.


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