Sep 07 2014

The Class Struggle Inside the Public University

Category: Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 3:47 pm

Exploitation in the ivory tower

(excerpted from CBC Radio One, September 7, 2014)

It is a black mark on the ivory tower, a story of insecurity, fear, jealousy, thwarted ambition, poverty and inequality. And it’s a reality that university presidents, and many professors, don’t like to talk about.

Universities in Canada – which threw open their doors this week to almost a million undergraduates – are propped up by a huge army of part-time teachers, who are highly qualified and poorly paid. They have no job security or pension, and little hope of ever getting a full-time position. They go by many titles: sessional lecturers, contract academic staff, adjunct faculty.

Today more than half of Canadian undergraduates are taught by these very precarious workers, not by the big-name  – and well-paid – academics that universities like to feature in their recruiting ads. The institutions simply couldn’t function without them.

Higher education has a new business model. And it affects everyone on campus – the administration, the high-end “professoriate”, the lowly sessionals and the students.

To listen to Ira Basen’s documentary “Class Struggle,” click here.

To read the companion CBC News story “Most university undergrads now taught by poorly paid part-timers,” click here.

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Sep 05 2014

The Faculty Non-renewal Process

Category: Academic Integrity,Online PublicationBob Hanke @ 2:55 pm

‘My Position Became 6 Separate Contracts for 40 Pct. Less Pay’

by Marc Ouellette

(excerpted from The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 28, 2014)

To the Editor:

I have to admit that I have generally avoided writing too much about my own experience as a contract faculty member because, quite frankly, it does always sound somewhat maudlin. Then I realized that it’s not maudlin if it’s typical; rather, it’s part of a pattern. The pattern is one of blame, denial, obfuscation and, yes, the entitlement Catherine Stukel lists in her jeremiad (“Is That Whining Adjunct Someone We Want Teaching Our Young?” The Chronicle, August 25). However, the entitlement is entirely on the side of those like Ms. Stukel who are quick to point out that things went well for them and therefore if it didn’t go well for the rest of us, it’s our own fault. I do appreciate a good example of transductive reasoning when I see it.

To be sure, it wasn’t my fault when my home province added more than 100,000 students across the board in a period during which they deleted more than 1,100 full-time faculty positions. Indeed, I was hired on a tenure-stream-convertible basis, but nobody wanted me or my predecessor—the position had existed for almost a decade, teaching core courses in the second most popular combined honors program in the faculty—to achieve tenure stream because that would mean a loss of teaching. The chair even joked about it with others during department meetings. While I still had to manage the 40-40-20 load on that contract, I was teaching 3+3 instead of 2+2. The part that was my fault was succeeding. To get that job, I still had to interview and later found that I was definitely the darkest horse in what was expected to be a dog-and-pony show to confirm the hiring of a favorite of certain members of the committee. (As an aside, the dog-and-pony-show interview has become something of a pattern itself and I have come up with some questions to ask hiring committees so that I can tell whether I’m the dog or the pony.) My first year, I earned a merit award in the top third while achieving some of the highest teaching evaluations in the faculty. What made the latter more intriguing was the fact that these were large classes. Eventually, after several years of nominations and being a finalist, I did receive the major teaching award.

In the interim, mind you, my department and faculty decided that I was too expensive, as were 9 of my colleagues. So, during a semi-official moratorium on tenure-stream hiring, my position became six separate contracts for 40 percent less pay (at the time) instead of being converted to tenure-stream. To make things worse, when my students found out via a colleague’s reportage of the same scenario, they banded to protest. This, combined with my excellent evaluations made it clear that I was a Rasputin in the process and was only popular because I was easy on students (with Cultural Studies being an easy ride to begin with). While I continued teaching and became a union activist as a result of the increasingly terrible treatment colleagues and I were receiving, the move to right the wrongs was clearly a further misstep on my part, as three separate grievances (two settlements and one unresolved) will attest.

The last was most interesting and came after a round of provincial negotiations (I had attained the position of vice-chair of the committee for the largest union in the province) in which I was told point-blank by the provincial representative for Ontario and by the human resources chiefs for the Council of Universities that adjuncts “are in the way of graduate students.” I had heard this in the department from my chief rival, in particular. What made this most insulting was the fact that they had developed, cultivated, and perpetuated this myth to obscure their own faculty non-renewal process! Their own policies eliminated more than 1,100 positions, let alone the thousands needed to accommodate current and future growth. Instead, the fastest growing employment segments have been post-docs (who can be disappeared after three years, as if they never happened) and executives. An economist at my own institution did the research for the government(s) regarding the need for faculty renewal and expansion. Yet this data was not only ignored, but the the province and the Council representatives denied its very existence. Then again, they weren’t that happy when some of us obtained the actual budget and revealed that the university was misleading people about its surplus.

To read the rest of this letter, click here.

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Sep 03 2014

The Making of a Lost Academic Generation

Category: Online PublicationBob Hanke @ 1:54 pm

The Academy of Broken Dreams

by Tim Pettipiece

(excerpted from University Affairs, September 3, 2014)

A lot of attention has been paid in recent months to the plight of part-time and non-tenured faculty teaching at North American universities, sometimes known as the “adjunctification” of university teaching. I can comment only on the Canadian experience, which by recent accounts is a far better situation than in the United States, where part-time professors can actually be impoverished.

Still, the reality is that at many institutions in both countries, the percentage of undergraduate teaching being done by non-permanent staff has dramatically increased.

This development is relatively recent. Throughout my entire university education (1996 to 2006) I don’t recall taking a single course that was not taught by a tenured or tenure-track faculty member. Yet here I am, one of the no-longer-silent majority of university teachers with little to no hope of permanent employment.

For a long time, I thought it was just me, that I had somehow failed in some key aspect of my dossier. I know now that I am not alone. An entire generation of scholars and scholarship is being lost due to this dramatic shift in academic hiring. In fact, not one person from my PhD program cohort has managed to land a tenure-track position.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

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Jul 06 2014

COCAL and Working USA Call for Papers: Contingent Academic Labor

Category: Conferences,ResearchBob Hanke @ 8:34 pm

Contingent Academic Labor

WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society (WUSA) is devoting a special issue to contingent academic labor in the USA, North America and throughout the world.  The journal encourages cross-disciplinary essays drawn from the social sciences and the humanities that examine the contemporary significance of contingent academic labor using a range of methods and empirical analysis.  Essays should focus on the study of work, labor, capitalism, the state, and bureaucracy.

The editors especially seek essays drawn from presentations at the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor XI conference in August, 2014 in New York City. We encourage submissions by activists and organizers as well academic researchers. Articles can be case studies, memoirs, interviews or oral histories, if they also raise more general points of interest.

We encourage essays that include one or more of the following:

* Reach theoretical insights in addressing the relevance of the status and experiences of contingent academic labor through comparative/historical perspectives.
* Examine the conditions and experiences of adjunct laborers in the context of the political economy of knowledge.
* Compare and contrast contingent academic laborers to analogous workers in the labor market that is referred to as “precarious work”.
* Examine the ways in which the politics and economics of contingent labor intersect with issues of race, gender, ethnicity, and/or sexuality.
* Contribute theoretical insights on the actuality and potential for forgoing bonds of solidarity that increase working class power and build stronger institutions.
* Contribute to the strategic discussion of organizing among contingent academics and the considerations of alliances, techniques, structures, and consciousness.
* Compare and contrast the situation and collective struggles of contingent academics in the US with those in other nations, especially Canada (including Quebec), and Mexico.

Please submit papers by October 15, 2015.
All essay submissions are sent through a peer review process.  Click on the names below to send essays to editorial board members and guest editors.
Joe Berry (Editorial Board)
Marcia Newfield (Editorial Board)
Polina Kroik (Associate Editor)
Immanuel Ness (Editorial Board)

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Jan 11 2013

Hidden Sessionals

Category: Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 6:20 pm

Sessionals, up close
Sessional instructors are now a crucial part of the teaching equation at most Canadian universities. Some say it’s time to include them more fully in the life of the institution.

by Moira MacDonald

(excerpted from University Affairs, January 9, 2013).

They are called sessional lecturers, part-time instructors, contract or contingent faculty and chargés de cours. Some are fresh out of graduate studies, others may have taught for years. Whatever their name, these non-tenured, non-permanent teaching staff share a common desire for better recognition, pay and treatment that more closely resembles how institutions treat full-time faculty.

University Affairs has assembled a sampling of what the pay, benefits, job security and other key work-related conditions look like for sessionals at a range of small, medium and large Canadian postsecondary institutions. Most were randomly chosen, while ensuring geographic representation. York University and University of Toronto were deliberately picked because they have a reputation among sessional teachers and with faculty associations for some of the best contracts for sessionals in the country. Vancouver Community College, which is neither a university nor a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, is included (in a separate chart) because its contract with sessional staff has been described as the “gold standard” by the New Faculty Majority, a group of academics in the U.S. that has organized to improve the working conditions of sessionals in that country.

In the charts, salary scales presented are base rates; various academic departments may have their own arrangements for compensating contingent faculty. And, although universities employ a host of different kinds of non-permanent academic staff – including graduate students who may use sessional teaching as a way to gain experience – these charts focus on the teaching members who are no longer students and who teach on a course-by-course basis.

Pay is always a factor and, as our charts show, there is a wide range. But as important a benchmark as it is, it may not be the top job concern.

“The biggest one is job security. Its absence is profound,” says Leslie Jermyn, chair of the contract academic staff committee for the Canadian Association of University Teachers. She currently works on a 24-month, contractually limited appointment, teaching three full courses a year at York. A sessional teacher since 1993, Dr. Jermyn began teaching two years before finishing her PhD.

Her career is emblematic of a way of life. What once was a stepping stone for a PhD en route to a full-time, tenure-track appointment – or an interesting way to use a master’s degree – has become, for many, a way to earn a living. Some teach at more than one institution and in more than one city. To be sure, there are also those who do the job as a complement to full-time work in their fields, including business people, lawyers and civil servants.

To read this rest of this article and see the charts, follow this link.

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