Jul 28 2009

Increase in Part-time Academic Labour World-wide

Category: Academic Integrity,News,University FinanceBob Hanke @ 9:15 pm

CAUT president highlights threat posed by the casualization of academic work at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education

(excerpted from CAUT News, July 13, 2009)

Around the world, more and more university and college administrations are using the economic crisis as a pretext to impose hiring freezes and lay-offs, and to increase the use of part-time and fixed-term academic staff hired at low pay, with few if any benefits and no job security.

This was the key message in a presentation by CAUT President Penni Stewart at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris.

“Higher education is quickly becoming one of the most casualized professions, perhaps second only to retail services,” said Stewart. “In many counties, fixed-term academic staff comprise the majority of those teaching in post-secondary systems.”

Stewart pointed out that in the United States, close to three-quarters of academic staff are off the tenure track, and in Central America, the number of professors employed on a casual basis has doubled in the past ten years.

In Uganda, Stewart said, the government floated a proposal a few years ago to eliminate tenure and convert all professors in the country onto fixed-term contracts.

“The conditions of work for contingent faculty are generally poor – especially in contrast with their full time peers,” she said. “Many teach multiple courses – sometimes at several institutions….contingent staff are given few opportunities to participate in governance, wages are low relative to full time academic staff, and access to research and conference funds, libraries and office space is limited.”

Stewart said the casualization of academic labour is “perhaps the most significant threat to academic freedom today.”

“Let’s be perfectly clear: staff employed on fixed-term contracts do not need to be fired if they offend powerful interests,” she said. “Instead, their contracts are simply not renewed.”

The international conference brought together over 1,000 participants from around 150 countries at UNESCO Headquarters over four days, including ministers, university rectors, faculty, students and representatives of the private sector as well as regional and multilateral institutions.


Jul 14 2009

CUPE 3903 Unit 2 Chronicle Call for Contributions

Category: Point of InformationBob Hanke @ 8:50 am

We invite contributions from CUPE Unit 2 members to the Fall 2009 issue of the CUPE 3903 Unit 2 Chronicle. The inaugural issue was published in January 2009 and it is important to build on this innovation in communication.

To read No.1, download the digital version available on the CUPE Unit 2 website. No 2. will be published in mid-September 2009 to coincide with the beginning of the new academic year. Download the designer, graphically-enhanced Call for Contributions here.

We welcome reflections on the longest strike, the current internal state of the union and Unit 2, expressions of our experience of the interpretation and implementation of the new Collective Agreement (especially the conversion program and the LTSA program), analysis of how York University works (especially the new Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies), discussions of trends in posting and withdrawing courses, critiques of the grievance process and university administration, accounts of the challenges and difficulties of teaching and doing research, critical perspectives on the casualization of labour at York and beyond and what it means for York faculty and students (especially workload, collegial governance, and academic freedom), the meaning of solidarity with YUFA faculty, strategies for resisting the political economy of post-secondary education before the next round of negotiation/strikes, and reviews of books and articles on academic labour conditions in the university.

Contributions are welcome from all Unit 2 members. Articles should be 500-1000 words in Word document format, double-spaced in Times New Roman 12-point font. Accompanying or stand-alone photographs with captions and photo credit can be submitted that are 150-300 pixels per inch in .jpg, .tiff or .bmp file format. Graphics, like cartoons or drawings, should be formatted in .gif or .png format.

The deadline for all submissions has been extended to, Tuesday September 8.  Submissions, comments or queries can be sent to the issue editors: Bob Hanke (bhanke@yorku.ca) or Jon Johnson (jjj@rogers.com)

Jul 10 2009

The Silence of Contingent Faculty

Category: DiscussionBob Hanke @ 3:46 pm

The Silence of the Grads
Academe has its own version of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ when it comes to adjunct faculty members

by Steve Street (excerpted from the The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 9, 2009)

I wore red to class on April 30, in honor of the first New Faculty Majority Day called by the National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity. I had on my red T-shirt from a previous union rally over a checkered oxford — obviously a statement not of the fashion kind. But I didn’t explain the red shirt, and no students asked, and in a way, that was good for education: My classes were about my classes.

But in another way, that silence illustrated something about the presence of so many contingent faculty members in academe — something less quantifiable about their effect than the graduation rates or other criteria that have been used to assess quality. Education is ultimately an inner experience, but schools are its communal interface, and when they create more silence than talk, less education is going on.

Not that I would have introduced my own working conditions into the classroom (although telling one’s students about contingency is not really like involving children in a dispute between parents, as a colleague’s false analogy put it, because the parents are equal partners). Faculty working conditions are indeed student learning conditions. But the economy, the culture, and life itself already provide too many distractions in the classroom; the last thing students need is another passion getting between them and what they are supposed to be learning.

One colleague, however, likens a teacher’s decision not to mention his or her adjunct status to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality. Of course that policy is no real solution to anything, whether it be gay rights or any of the issues arising from the two-tiered faculty system. So contingent faculty members who want to consider their teaching jobs a career or a livelihood, albeit one at a quarter of the salary of their tenure-track colleagues, can’t. They must either constantly protest their inadequate working conditions or be tacitly complicit in the very system that exploits them.

To read the rest of this column, click here.