May 24 2017

The University in the Populist Age

Category: Books and ArticlesBob Hanke @ 2:31 pm

The university in the populist age

by Steven Tufts and Mark Thomas

(excerpted from Academic Matters, May 23, 2017)

Right-wing populism threatens the future of higher education, but remaining passive and retreating to a disinterested vision of the university will actually strengthen the attacks. Faculty have a responsibility to work in solidarity to fight back against these threats.

Right-wing populism has been on the rise in recent years, intensifying following the 2008 global financial crisis. 2016 marked a key moment in the right populist turn, with both Brexit and the US Presidential election constituting formal political legitimacy for right-wing populist leaders and movements. Despite widespread opposition following the election of Donald Trump—itself often taking populist forms—a range of right-wing populist forces continue to push forward. In both Europe and North America, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic rhetoric and violence has escalated. Populist figures are giving voice to and emboldening longstanding racist and xenophobic currents in western societies. Other variants of authoritarian right-wing populism are also growing. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government in Turkey has now dismissed over 7,000 academics and in some cases jailed scholars.

Not surprisingly, many academics fear populism. Distrust of elites, perhaps the primary defining feature of populism, is a threat to universities as they currently operate. The threat extends to those who make a living in postsecondary education, be they tenured professors, precarious contract faculty, or staff.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

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May 14 2017

Contingent No More: An Academic Manifesto

Category: Contract Faculty,EssaysBob Hanke @ 5:42 pm

Contingent No More: An academic manifesto

by Maximillian Alvarez

(excerpted from The Baffler, May 3, 2017)

A SPECTER IS HAUNTING ACADEMIA—the specter of something that has yet to definitively claim a name for itself, but is rising nonetheless. So many of us have been buried underground, so many breathing through small breaks in the soil that covers our pristine university campuses where guided tours are given and frisbees are thrown, where deep-pocketed donors stroll nostalgically and future debtors gaze longingly. Looking up, we may, each of us, feel like the forgotten seeds moldering beneath these hallowed grounds—but we are, all of us, the tectonic plate holding them together. When we move, the world above will feel it.

Academia is in the midst of an acute, unsustainable crisis. For those working in the higher-education industry, and increasingly for those outside of it, it has become impossible to ignore.

To read the rest of this manifesto, click here.

 

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Apr 26 2016

The Managed University Gets a Failing Grade

Category: EssaysBob Hanke @ 6:02 pm

The Managerial University: Failed Experiment?

by David West

(excerpted from Demos, April 14, 2016)

Recent decades have seen a protracted attack and painstaking demolition of the traditional or ‘old’ university and an associated purging of academics. The rise of managers and ‘managerial’ doctrines were supposed to make universities more efficient and productive, more lean and transparent, and above all, more modern. In practice, managerial reforms have given rise to a range of pathologies and side effects. Bullying is widespread, many staff are unhappy. But the spread of managerialism is also threatening the university’s role as a centre of committed teaching, disinterested scholarship and critical research. Examination of the actual effects – rather than stated aims – of the managerial experiment is long overdue.

The managerial experiment has been inspired by a few guiding ideas but one basic assumption. Just as economics and political science assume that individuals and elected officials or appointed public servants behave as rational self-interested actors, this campaign assumes that university academics are generally out for themselves. According to this view, the old idea of the university as a community of self-governing scholars dedicated to humanist values of truth and learning was all very well in theory but never entirely realistic. Like many publicly-funded organisations, universities invariably fell short in practice. Scholars with guaranteed tenure became lazy. Teachers neglected their students and researchers rested on their laurels. These failings were allowed to persist, according to this story, because self-interested academics were also self-governing. These assumptions set the scene for root-and-branch reform.

In their enthusiasm for the ‘new managerialism’ and the ‘modern university’, however, politicians, bureaucrats and those academics who have hitched their fortunes to the new model seem wilfully blind to the practical results of their reforms. There is some truth in their criticisms of the old idea of the university, but in practice the management of the modern university also leaves too much to be desired. Some of the problems that beset the new model were anticipated by sceptical academics. Their criticisms were dismissed as the products of antiquated thinking and self-interest. What can you expect from academics defending their own privileges?

The theory of the modern university can be reduced to – and in fact amounts to little more than – a relatively simply set of rubrics. At the heart of the new model is the belief in the need for incentives, both positive and negative. The importance of incentives is at the heart of liberal and neoliberal convictions about the virtues of capitalism. Enterprises and workers within them are spurred to industry and innovation by rewards for success and punishment for failure. So academics must also be rewarded for their achievements and punished for their failures.

To read the rest of this essay, click here.

 

 

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Dec 27 2015

2016 OCUFA Conference Addresses Academic Precarity

Category: Conferences,Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 9:10 pm

Confronting precarious academic work

February 11-12, 2016

The conference examined the realities and impact of precarious academic work on our universities and consider solutions now and for the future.

Key themes include:

  • Current realities of precarious academic work and the impact on faculty, students, and higher education
  • Learning from the experience of precarious labour in other jurisdictions
  • Responding to the challenges of precarious academic work: current directions and future needs
  • Re-imagining academic work for the future

The 1 1/2 day conference was held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Toronto.

You can access the conference agenda, slides and audio here.

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Nov 07 2015

The Cost of Casualized Labour

Category: Academic Freedom,Contract Faculty,NewsBob Hanke @ 11:39 pm

Casualization of Academic Labour has its Costs

(excerpted from the CAUT Bulletin, October 2015)

In the ongoing massification of post-secondary education, university and college administrators are increasingly turning to temporary or contract academic staff to teach and work in their institutions’ lecture halls, labs and libraries.

“More than 30 per cent of academic staff in Canadian post-secondary institutions are faced with short-term, insecure employment and struggle to find decent work,” notes Sylvain Schetagne, CAUT’s director of research and political action.

Living with uncertainty about when and what you might teach next creates financial, intellectual and emotional strain. Most contract academic staff live on four-month contracts and worry about finding a job for the next semester.

“The inability to plan is a major issue and a great cause of stress in the lives of contract academics,” said James Gerlach, who has taught on contract at Wilfrid Laurier University since 2006 and also serves as chair of CAUT’s contract academic staff committee. “You can teach six courses one year and two courses the next year. You can live on six courses, but not two.”

According to a 2015 United Way report, precarious workers face significant barriers to building stable and secure lives. Precarious workers face greater challenges finding childcare and addressing health and safety concerns in the workplace. They face more gender and racial discrimination and spend less time with their families and in their communities.

Unpaid work is also a widespread reality of the insecure academic job landscape. Office hours, advisement and recommendation letters, for example, are rarely spelled out in contracts, but these tasks can be part of job expectations, says Gerlach.

“Contract academic staff are paid for a fraction of the work they need to do,” he said.

To read the complete story, click here.

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