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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Sep 07 2015

The Future of the University

Category: JournalsBob Hanke @ 9:20 am

Perspectives for the New University

The new issue of Krisis, Journal for Contemporary Philosophy deals with the future of the university. The desire for a special issue on this topic was provoked by the Maagdenhuis protest at the University of Amsterdam in the early spring of 2015. The energy of surprise and enthusiasm released by the protests, the fact that direct and confrontational action “worked”, that it was even taken seriously and responded to, seemed to open up new horizons. We strove to capture some of the imaginative energy that was released by these events.

The issue is organized along three points of focus: struggles, diagnoses and futures. Under the heading of struggles, the reader will find contributions that not only describe specific fights taking place but also be able to sense the passion and engagement. Diagnoses deal with the problem at hand. What is actually the problem and how can we grasp it in such a way that we do not argue ourselves into passivity? Finally, there are contributions which explicitly propose future images of the university, both in terms of structure and organization as well as alternative concepts and callings.

To download this special issue, go to:

http://www.krisis.eu/content/2015-2/Krisis-2015-2-complete-issue.pdf

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Jul 05 2015

CUPE 3908 Call for Presenters: Academic Precarity Symposium

Category: ConferencesBob Hanke @ 11:54 am

Challenging Academic Precarity

October 2-4, 2015 Artspace, Peterborough ON

Academia has long been heralded as the ivory tower to which we all should aspire and those that are admitted are thought to be well compensated. With the prevailing winds of neoliberalism blowing at the doors, the corporatization of the university has witnessed the reduction of tenured faculty positions. At the same time, increasing resources have been assigned to professional administration. The result is that more and more full-time academics are paid part-time wages and forced to endure precarity when alternatives abound.

This interdisciplinary symposium seeks to situate and understand how these trends emerged and continue to develop. The first two days will feature a keynote address, roundtables and panel discussions. The final day will be an exploration of avenues for future intervention and activism.

We seek proposals for the following possible subject matter:

* Political economy of ‘just in time’ academic labour
* Forms of resistance and protest
* Engaging tenured & tenure-track faculty
* Student academic workers’ plight
* Mobilization strategies
* Challenging precarity with art
* Movement to zero tuition

We welcome diverse proposals and formats including, but not limited to, full panel proposals, multimedia presentations, artistic interventions, and, of course, more conventional academic papers.Please send all abstracts and/or presentation proposals in either .rtf, .docx, or .pdf formats to office@cupe3908.org by August 25th, 2015. Please limit your proposal to no more than 250 words. Notifications will be sent out by September 1, 2015. Please send all other inquiries to: James Onusko at vp1@cupe3908.org

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Mar 30 2015

York U Strike in Context

York strikers show the way — now let’s build a truly public university

Protracted labour dispute raises questions of post-secondary governance and funding

by Justin Podhur

(excerpted from Ricochet)

The strikes at York University, the University of Toronto, and elsewhere have opened a long overdue debate about student debt, precarious labour in the academy, rising tuition, and, to a lesser extent, university governance. The York University strike offers an opportunity to argue for the continuing relevance of universities as public institutions. The importance of the public in the public university is especially true for York, which, if it embraced its role as such, could tackle a new list of issues and lead the way for other educational institutions.

Precarity, debt, and defensive struggle

York’s contract faculty are the precarious academic labourers whose difficulties have been brought into some public light by the York strike and other labour actions in North America. The contract faculty settled earlier in March. The teaching assistants and graduate assistants had to battle on until the end of the month to win their objectives.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

 

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Feb 15 2015

This is Contract Faculty Time

Category: Academic Freedom,Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 12:55 am

York Faculty in Support of Contract Faculty

Produced by videographer Alex Lisman, in conjunction with the CUPE 3903 communications committee, this new video features eight, tenured York University faculty members speaking about the obligation to engage the issue of contract faculty, the problem of precarious academic labour, the contribution that contract faculty make to teaching and research, and what the administration can do to exercise higher educational leadership and address this growing problem in the current round of collective bargaining.

To view this groundbreaking, revealing, educational video, click here.

Canadian higher education now faces an ominous situation. Increasingly, the university is being turned into a corporate business where education is viewed as a commodity. As a consequence, to quote John Ralston Saul, “democracy is weakening. Corporatism is strengthening. Certainly corporatism is creating a conformist society” (The Unconscious Civilization: 1995).

Corporate efficiency is the main force now driving York University where the administration holds all the power to implement policies with little regard to York’s avowed mission of academic pursuit, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. York is chipping away at the collegial entity of the professoriate who endeavor to consciously shape the university in pursuit of its motto: Tentanda Via: the way must be tried.

One can easily see how York University’s commitment to its mission of  ‘social justice and collegial governance ‘ rings hollow, and the top-heavy administration is inclined to pursue short-sighted policies. An instance in point is its continual rejection of the contract faculty’s legitimate claims and insistent denial of their hopes of becoming full-time academics, despite their being fully qualified and fully utilized at a marginal cost. The contract faculty have been carrying nearly half of the total teaching load in the university, all for inequitable remuneration and inelegant terms of employment. It is obvious that the administration cannot hope to fill the classes offered in the university, unless it is prepared to water down the quality of teaching, or replace human creative minds with robotic computers, which will indeed ensure certainty of discipline and control.

The university pursuing the ‘Matthew Effect’ (Robert K. Merton:1968) seems to thrive on accumulating advantages from the contract faculty’s precarity! Is it not YorkU’s time to redress the inequities the contract faculty have bravely suffered so long, and is it not ethical to fairly integrate them into academe?

— Indhu Rajagopal, PhD
Professor, Department of Social Science, York University
Author of Hidden Academics: Contract Faculty in Canadian             Universities (University of Toronto Press, 2002)

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