Feb 06 2015

Report Back from COCAL XI

Category: Academic Freedom,ConferencesBob Hanke @ 11:28 am

International adjuncts in solidarity: COCAL XI

Precarious academic labour transcends borders in 200-member adjunct “think tank.”

by Kane X. Faucher

(excerpted from University Affairs, January 29, 2015)

This past August, I attended the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour conference (COCAL XI) in New York City. The biennial event, which has been running since 1998, brings together adjuncts from around the world to discuss the challenges that face “adjunctification” in higher education. For those who are interested, the 2016 COCAL will be hosted in Edmonton, Alberta. Previous Canadian cities to host have been Quebec City (2010), Vancouver (2006) and Montreal (2002). For those not familiar with COCAL, it is not an organization but a movement that empowers local labour actors both inside and outside the academy, recognizing that labour fairness is a key principle of social justice.

Due to its international scope there are some acknowledged limitations such as labour laws, university and college structures, union coverage, and other issues particular to regions and specific institutions. To overcome these differences, the conference focuses on what unites contingent academic workers, and works to develop an array of tools and tactics in the spirit of collaboration and solidarity. The affectionately dubbed “COCAListas” – organizers and attendees alike – all share a strong belief in the value of higher education, resisting its commodification, and pushing back against the exploitation of our underpaid and too frequently unappreciated academic professionals. Issues of labour equity and academic freedom are treated as inseparable and essential aspects of the higher education mission.

Amidst serious and high-level policy talk there was also occasion for a collaborative poetry reading, a presentation of books written by and about adjuncts, and numerous “hallway chats” between sessions where attendees could discuss finer points not covered during the plenary sessions. Plenary speakers included representatives from New Faculty Majority (NFM), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ-CSN), as well as several faculty unions from across Canada, US, and Mexico – a veritable who’s who of academic labour organizations – all dedicated to improving the working conditions of academic workers.

To read the rest of this article, click here.






Tags: ,

Jun 28 2014

The Plight of Hidden Academics

Category: Academic Freedom,Academic Integrity,Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 11:50 am

on TVO, The Agenda, June 23, 2014

Many of Ontario’s colleges and universities employ sessional lecturers. What does that mean for the quality of education Ontario students are receiving?

Panelists: Moria MacDonald, Marie Van der Kloet, Bob Hanke

To watch this half-episode, follow this link.

Tags: , , , , ,

Jun 10 2012

Call for Papers — Non-Tenure Track Faculty Conference

Category: ConferencesBob Hanke @ 5:12 pm

Mid-Atlantic Non-Tenure Track Faculty Conference

“The New Faculty Majority:

Teaching, Scholarship, and Creativity in the Age of Contingency”

October 2012, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (exact date and location TBA)

This conference will be an opportunity to think more deeply about the state of contingent, non-tenure-stream faculty: the intellectual work we engage in and the struggle to survive as committed teachers, academics, researchers and artists in unstable and unsustainable working conditions. Contingent labor constitutes the majority of faculty, yet we are the lowest paid and most overburdened workers. We represent the front line in academic experiences at the undergraduate level and offer irreplaceable interactions with students. We are artists, scholars, researchers and examples of inspired teaching.  How can we use what we know to create a more sustainable and equitable system, one that will benefit everyone at the university? What change is most needed? What does it mean to constitute the new faculty majority at your college or university?

Papers and panels will be invited on the following topics:

— maintaining a scholarly or creative life in an era of non-tenured faculty invisibility

 — art and creative writing panels (framed by your experience of creating this work under NTT working conditions)

 — documenting the institutional experiences of contingent faculty

 — comparative analyses of salary, contracts, and other aspects of employment

 — histories of academic labor struggles

 — best practices for contingent faculty

 — unionization for contingent faculty

 — the proletarianization of the professoriate

Please email nttfconference@gmail.com if you are interested in presenting at or planning the conference. You will be asked to provide a brief abstract of what you can imagine presenting. Panel proposals in addition to those on this list are also welcome.

Tags: , , , , ,

Apr 06 2012

Contract Faculty Representation and Academic Freedom

Category: Academic Freedom,Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 5:30 pm

Contract Faculty Should Agitate For Representation

How and why one professor created a contract faculty committee
by Kane Faucher
(excerpted from University Affairs, April 2, 2012)

In mid-February, I and a group of dedicated contract instructors saw our committee voted into existence as part of the governance structure of our faculty. After several months of meetings that involved itemizing our concerns, and the drafting of our terms of reference aligned with the academic unit’s constitution, we finally attained meaningful representation within our unit. This marks a somewhat unprecedented move in faculty politics, recognizing the heavy debt owed to our most vulnerable and precarious members: the part-time instructors who, in some units, teach a majority of undergraduate courses.

This is not a process that other faculties and departments can easily duplicate, unless there is political will among administrators to enfranchise their part-time instructors to combat institutionalized inequities. The first hurdle many part-time instructors face is fear – that any action they take may be perceived as insubordination and thus limit their employment opportunities. As well, they may suffer a certain degree of learned helplessness, feeling that it is impossible to alter the current structures to allow for meaningful dialogue between contingent faculty and the established members of academia.

In some ways, we can consider such agitation for fair representation according to Pascal’s wager. If one’s labour is contingent and precarious in doing nothing, then pushing for representation at the risk of not being given a contract for the following year may result in the same scenario. Among contingent faculty, there are no guarantees of future employment, and so this group has the least to lose in improving their conditions.

The cynic will be quick to state that being en-franchised within one’s academic governance structure is far from the ideals of attaining job security and benefits. In addition, this service component would most likely not be remunerated.

But, rather than viewing this as a divisive stance, part-time faculty should recognize that forming their own committee and seeking to establish a participatory role in the life of an academic program is good service experience. It also makes the contract teacher more visible in the unit and allows him to become a stakeholder in curriculum development. Moreover, it may bring together part-time members who otherwise don’t have occasion to interact. Organizational health and efficiency is improved by consulting with relevant stakeholders – which would include perspectives from “the trenches.”

What does visibility mean? It means being a welcome participant in the decision-making process, being acknowledged for professional and research contributions outside of one’s contract, having a collegial “hallway rapport” with full-time colleagues and a collective will to end classist labour divisions in academic culture. A collective stance may end instances of arrogance, condescension, outright hostility and any other marginalizing attitude from some faculty members who engage in a practice of discrimination.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Tags: , ,

May 19 2010

Wake-Up Call for Tenured Faculty

Category: Academic Freedom,Academic IntegrityBob Hanke @ 7:07 am

Confessions of a Tenured Professor

by Peter D. G. Brown
(excerpted from Inside Higher Ed, May 13, 2010)

I must confess right off that I did not become a contingent labor activist until I turned 60, a mere six years ago. Until then, I was a fairly typical senior professor, passionately involved in teaching my students and interacting with my tenured colleagues on a variety of faculty governance committees. I have also pursued a fairly active research agenda. In addition to publishing my own scholarly articles, I have edited over a hundred books dealing with modern German literature, Jewish history and women’s studies. This year saw the publication of the third book I have written on Oskar Panizza, the 19th-century German author.

When I began teaching at Columbia and Barnard in the 1960s, almost all the positions in their German departments were tenure-track. I came to SUNY New Paltz in the 70s, when there were only a couple of virtually silent and invisible part-time adjuncts among the 35 teachers in the entire Foreign Language Division. It was not until a few years after the dawn of the new millennium that I, like Rip Van Winkle, “awoke” after decades to a brand new reality: the number of tenure-track faculty in my department had shrunk to a mere 10, while some two dozen adjuncts were now teaching the bulk of our foreign language courses. Yikes!

As everyone in academe now knows, the professoriate has experienced a radical transformation over the past few decades. These enormous changes have occurred so gradually, however, that they are only now beginning to receive attention. The general public has remained largely unaware of the staffing crisis in higher education. As contingent colleagues around the country came to outnumber the tenured faculty and as they were assigned an ever larger share of the curriculum, they became an inescapable fact of academic departmental life.

Nationally, adjuncts and contingent faculty — we call them ad-cons — include part-time/adjunct faculty; full-time, nontenure-track faculty; and graduate employees. Together these employees now make up an amazing 73 percent of the nearly 1.6 million-employee instructional workforce in higher education and teach over half of all undergraduate classes at public institutions of higher education. Their number has now swollen to more than a million teachers and growing.

I must confess that belonging to the de facto elite minority makes me very uneasy. Most tenured faculty view themselves as superior teachers with superior minds. In this view, the arduous six-year tenure process clearly proves that all of us are superior to “them” and have deservedly earned our superior jobs by our superior gifts and our superior efforts. I must also confess that we tenured faculty really do appreciate the fact that ad-cons have unburdened us from having to teach too many elementary foreign language courses, English composition and the many other tedious introductory, repetitive and highly labor-intensive classes, to which we tenured souls have such a strong aversion that it must be genetic.

As I got to know my adjunct colleagues better, I began to see these largely invisible, voiceless laborers as a hugely diverse group of amazing teachers. Some are employed at full-time jobs in education or elsewhere, some are retired or supported by wealthier others, but far too many are just barely surviving. While instances of dumpster diving are rare, adjunct shopping is typically limited to thrift stores, and decades-old cars sometimes serve as improvised offices when these “roads scholars” are not driving from campus to campus, all in a frantic attempt to cobble together a livable income. Some adjuncts rely on food stamps or selling blood to supplement their poverty-level wages, which have been declining in real terms for decades. At SUNY New Paltz, for instance, adjuncts’ compensation when adjusted for inflation has plummeted 49 percent since 1970, while the president’s salary and those of other top administrators have increased by 35 percent.

In considering the plight of ad-cons, it is noteworthy that throughout SUNY they are represented, along with their tenure track colleagues, by United University Professions (UUP), America’s largest higher education union with some 35,000 members. The union’s contract has yet to establish any salary minimum whatsoever for the many thousands of UUP members who teach as adjuncts throughout the SUNY system that serves 465,000 students. After I first learned that each campus had a Part-Time Concerns Committee, I was dismayed to discover that our UUP chapter’s “Part-Time Concerns Rep” was actually a tenured professor who was out of the country for a year doing research. I soon became convinced that our adjuncts could use a more independent organization and a stronger voice of their own.

When I sent out an e-mail with the subject line “Calling all Adjuncts” in 2004, about 10 percent of the 350 adjuncts teaching here showed up for an initial organizational meeting. This was the largest meeting of adjuncts that had ever occurred in the college’s 182-year history. At that meeting, several dozen brave adjuncts formed the Adjunct Faculty Association. Soon thereafter, the adjunct group launched a highly visible campaign to push for higher compensation, and in less than a year it had brought about the first substantive wage increase in years.

The adjunct association’s leaders would later also become activists within UUP, where they broadened their struggle for contingent equity. Together with adjunct activists from other SUNY campuses, we formed a Coalition for Contingent Faculty within UUP. A recent report recommends the establishment of a new statewide officer’s position, vice president for contingent employees, as well as structural changes within the union to ensure meaningful ad-con representation on UUP’s executive board, in its delegate assembly, and on its contract negotiations team.

Five years after convening the adjuncts in New Paltz, I did something similar on a national level. I confess to having served as emergency midwife at the birth of New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity. NFM, the only national organization advocating exclusively for ad-cons fifty-two weeks of the year, is now incorporated as a nonprofit educational organization in Ohio, awaiting federal tax-exempt status. NFM’s latest project is a major national initiative to remove impediments at the state and federal level, which, since the 1970s, uniquely and systematically deny unemployment compensation to ad-cons when they become unemployed. Tenure-track faculty, ad-cons, unions, legislators and other government officials urgently need to work together to assure that unemployed college teachers can finally receive unemployment compensation, just like workers in other professions. The need is particularly acute in difficult times like these with critically high rates of unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Those contingent colleagues who were unfamiliar with my previous work have easily overcome their initial hesitation and puzzlement at working with me, a member of the oppressive tenured elite that they have grown to generally mistrust, if not actually despise. They saw me invest thousands of hours and substantial financial resources to advance the cause of contingent equity, and their fear has long since dissipated. But even now, when they disapprove of a position I’m taking and want me to back off, they are quick to accuse me of acting like a typical tenured professor, their ultimate insult. And I must confess that it really hurts.

I am also asked by tenured faculty why on earth I would be spending so much time and effort advocating for a group of “others” whose fate I have never shared. I suppose this is a perfectly legitimate question, but I do find it a bit odd. Why wouldn’t I insist that these precarious colleagues be allowed equitable compensation, job security, fringe benefits and academic freedom? And why shouldn’t I want them to have equitable access to unemployment compensation, professional development and advancement?

What kind of callous person would I be if I were not profoundly disturbed by such obvious inequality? And what does it say about myentire profession when over 70 percent of those teaching in American colleges today are precarious, at-will workers? This new faculty majority, frequently and erroneously mislabeled as part-timers, are often full-time, long-term perma-temps, whose obscenely low wages and total lack of job security constitute what is only now being recognized as the “dirty little secret” in higher education.

The exploitation is indeed filthy, but for me and my tenured colleagues, this scandal is neither little nor secret: the vast majority of those well-educated, skilled professionals who daily teach millions of students in our classrooms are actually being paid far less than the workers who nightly clean them. Ad-cons are treated as chattel or as servants who can be dismissed at the will and whim of any administrator from departmental chair to dean or provost. And woe to those ad-cons who elicit the wrath of their campus presidents! They can be non-renewed without any due process whatsoever, simply zapped, either individually or by the hundreds. We all know this, but most tenured faculty colleagues choose to simply look the other way. C’est la vie. Tough luck. Life just isn’t fair. Keep on walking and change the subject.

This is such an outrageous injustice that I am embarrassed and shamed by my tenured colleagues’ widespread inaction. Even most of my union “brother and sisters” voice little concern about a two-tiered system where they make at least three times as much per course as their adjunct colleagues and enjoy all the other wonderful perks of tenure: lifetime job security and the academic freedom it provides, regular opportunities for advancement and promotion, comfortable pensions, large furnished offices, telephones, computers, sabbaticals and other generous leave opportunities — the list goes on and on. As the wine flows freely at lavish banquets during delegate assemblies, my fellow unionists sing “Solidarity Forever!” Yet the huge numbers of ad-cons are barely represented at delegate assemblies or in most union leadership councils. Even though unions focus now and then on the poorest and weakest members of their bargaining units, in my experience ad-con issues are only included, if at all, at the very bottom of organized labor’s legislative agendas. Unfortunately, across-the-board pay raises inevitably increase the gap between tenure-track and adjunct faculty.

The argument frequently cited to explain or justify the inferior status of ad-cons is that most of them lack terminal degrees. Perhaps a quarter to a third possess doctorates and other terminal degrees, but most do an excellent job in daily teaching millions of college students their courses in English, business, law, medicine, science, foreign languages, math, art, education, history, business, forestry, speech, media communication, theater, music, social sciences, anthropology, film, philosophy and just about any other field imaginable. Though less than half of the ad-cons have Ph.D.’s or other terminal degrees in their field, there is no evidence I have seen to suggest that those with terminal degrees are actually better teachers than those without them. While faculty with the most advanced degrees are likely to be pursuing more significant research, that is hardly justification for treating those focused primarily on teaching as if they were expendable, easily replaceable field hands.

I confess that I must have been overly naïve, but I was utterly dumbfounded when an administrator repeatedly told me that he saw no value whatsoever to the institution in keeping any adjunct instructors more than a couple of years, after which they ought to simply move on and find something else to do. I’m sure my tenured colleagues would find it totally unacceptable if they could be told at the end of any semester that they should simply leave, that there was no value to their accumulated expertise, thank you, because the college wished to hire a fresh young face at a lower salary.

It is time that more tenured faculty woke up to the fact that their entire professional existence, replete with their comfortable incomes, their fascinating research, their coveted sabbaticals, their agreeable teaching loads of less labor-intensive and more satisfying courses — all this is made possible by the indispensable efforts of a million ad-cons doing so much more for so much less. Equitable compensation, health and retirement benefits, opportunities for advancement and professional development: all these should be available for everyone in higher education and are long overdue. Since teachers’ working conditions equal students’ learning conditions, it is a truly deplorable message we are sending our students! With more than 70 percent of our college teachers lacking any kind of job security, academic freedom has largely disappeared from our colleges, drastically lowering the overall educational quality. It is of such grave concern to professional societies and the American Association of University Professors that they are now strongly advocating some form of tenure for contingent academic labor.

I must confess that, as a group, ad-cons often strike me as more fun to be with than many of my tenured colleagues, whose focus on research interests is typically quite narrow. It’s difficult for me to hear my tenured colleagues chatting about vacation travels, car shopping or the challenges of sending their children to private schools and colleges, when so many of our contingent colleagues are trying desperately to find summer work, praying that their cars will run for another year and wondering if their children will even be able to afford college. Adjuncts typically focus on teaching, and the precarious nature of their employment drives them to excel in their classroom performance. Not surprisingly, they often have a more lively interest in developing innovative pedagogy. In my experience, most faculty meetings that exclude ad-cons tend to largely serve administrative interests. Even union meetings with my tenured colleagues, though frequently lasting five hours, often accomplish precious little. In contrast, organizational meetings with my busy contingent colleagues last half as long and are invariably dynamic, interactive and productive.

Tenured faculty members across the country need to wake up now and begin to play a crucial role in supporting equity for their contingent colleagues. This is your official wake-up call, folks, along with a cordial invitation to all ad-cons and tenure-track faculty to please join New Faculty Majority today! If more tenure-track faculty would summon the courage to speak out in support of their fourth-class colleagues, it could really make a decisive difference in college senates and governance councils, in union governing bodies and in state legislatures. Not only are tenured faculty members largely immune from retaliation; they possess widespread credibility plus significant monetary and other resources to help tip the scales in favor of equity. Slavery was not ended without the selfless support of free persons. Women could not have achieved their substantial gains over the past century without the outspoken support of more than a few men, nor would civil rights and gay rights struggles have been able to successfully advance without the sizable backing from those fortunate enough not to be victims of discrimination.

Will my tenured colleagues in higher education heed the urgent call to help restore academic freedom, solidarity in fact as well as in song, and the integrity of the profession? I must confess, I really don’t know.

Tags: , , , ,

Next Page »