Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Real Life Social Network

A really nice presentation (224 slides but moves right along) from Paul Adams, who works with the Google User Experience team, on the true nature of social networks. The main point is that we do not have one amorphous group of "friends" or contacts, but rather, several distinct groups. We belong not to one network but to many.

If you don't have time for the 224 slides in this presentation, here's the actual data Paul presents. The ideas and numbers presented are also, in my not so humble opinion, relevant to adjunct organizing efforts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the state of higher education

...segues into obligatory season version of the ubiquitous "whither U" conversation ~ whether rant, lecture or dialog. Our New Year's resolution (another obligatory seasonal genre) should be moving it from rant and lecture to inclusive dialog. By inclusive, I mean not leaving adjuncts, contingent and NTT academic labor out of the national discussion and decision make. Don't just toss an occasional hush puppy panel or even all day bone to the noisy dog.

Anthony Grafton reviews Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus and Crisis on Campus by Mark Taylor. Is going to an elite college worth the cost? The sluggish economy and rising costs of college have only intensified questions about whether expensive, prestigious colleges make any difference. Michael Konczal on the 21st-century retreat from public higher education. The academy as a commodity: What if the market has already devalued the knowledge on which the entire operation of accountability is based? From Arcade, Gregory Jusdanis on the oppression of peer review. Academics have long been criticised for being out of touch with the real world; many make great efforts to dispel ivory tower attitudes, but others believe such habits will never disappear. An interview with Phillip Brown, Hugh Lauder, and David Ashton, authors of The Global Auction: The Broken Promises of Education, Jobs and Incomes. The disposable academic: Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time. Can Tolstoy save your marriage? Cultural classics offer vital lessons about how to live, but our universities don't teach them that way. An interview with Martha Nussbaum on the value of the humanities (and more). Victor Davis Hanson writes in defense of the liberal arts: The therapeutic Left and the utilitarian Right both do disservice to the humanities. We're all conservatives now: Academics from the left and right blame each other for the state of higher education, but they're in agreement more than they realize.

Our part is to come to table stunningly well informed: homework done, all sides researched ~ add well articulated objectives to the list. Hence the timeliness of yet another review.

Coming up in this seasonally appropriate Janus series: an adjuncts' top 10 list for 2010, maybe even best and worst lists. Then if not resolutions, directions and realistic objectives for 2011.

What's on your list?

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Monday, December 27, 2010

MLA Initiative: The Academy in Hard Times

#MLA11 notes, from Teaching College English, blogged by Dr Susanna Davis
About initiative: With the academy facing one of the most difficult periods in its history, the MLA Program Committee has designated 6 January 2011, the first day of the Los Angeles convention, as a focal point for a series of panels and workshops on the theme The Academy in Hard Times. Program and schedule for initiative sessions.
Closing session, 167 at 7pm, speakers 
Christopher John Newfield, U
C Santa Barbara, and Gary Rhoades, 
AAUP, are also on the Counter-conference program. 

The second MLA special initiative is The Academy in Hard Times. Two colleagues and I have a panel in this section of the MLA, In Our Own Image: Remaking Academia in a Changing Economic Climate [scheduled for January 6, 5:15 pm at the LA Convention Center]

Position statements are available for this panel:
This panel, number 133, will be presenting on Thursday, January 6, at 5:15 in 406A of the LA Convention Center. Photograph from

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Resources: CEW research on Contingency

"Resources," presumably 


has the ring of category relevancy. On the subject line, it signals what to expect: studies; surveys; links; database; research. Information. There is an obvious overlap with Reading Room, whether overly redundant or not remains to be seen. Some posts will carry both tags.

This entry comes from the Higher Education page, Center for the Education of Women (CEW), University of Michigan. Although contingency is not explicitly or prescriptively gendered, the sector trends to higher % of women teaching service courses. Journal articles on the feminization of composition date back to the 80s and perhaps earlier. Some disciplines are more so than others.

Contingent Faculty

Non–tenure track faculty, whether called adjuncts, part-timers, research faculty, or contingent faculty now make up a significant portion of the faculty workforce. CEW research identifies and describes the work conditions and work lives of these faculty based on institution-level information.

Non-Tenure-Track Pathways: Inclusive Leadership for Instructional Faculty On Campus with Women v.39, no. 8 By Carol Hollenshead. This article explores opportunities for inclusive leadership for non-tenure-track faculty, based on CEW's research project "Contingent Faculty in a Tenure Track World.

Contingent Faculty in a Tenure Track World: Final Report, Report of 2008-09 study funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  Focus groups were held with non-tenure-track faculty in 12 U.S. research institutions.

"Satisfaction and Discontent: Voices of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty," By Inger Bergom and Jean Waltman. In On Campus With Women, vol 37, #3, 2009.

Making the Best of Both Worlds: Findings from a National Institution-Level Survey on Non-Tenure Track Faculty. 2007  Results of a nationwide survey of four year colleges and universities sponsored by the Sloan Foundation highlighting the numbers, working conditions and perceived contributions of non tenure track faculty. Includes a discussion of how institutions can integrate these faculty as vital members of their professional teams and a chart book of research findings.

Non Tenure Track Faculty: The Landscape at U.S. Institutions of Higher Education 2006. CEW presents preliminary findings and analyses based on our 2005 survey regarding institutional policies and practices concerning full and part time instructional faculty in non tenure track positions. The online survey asked administrators to provide information on non tenure track faculty at their institutions, including their utilization, their working conditions, benefits and compensation, and mobility between tenure track and non tenure track positions.

The Non Tenure Track Faculty Executive Summary. Includes key findings along with methodology and background. The full report, Non Tenure Track Faculty: The Landscape at U.S. Institutions of Higher Education; Includes the Executive Summary as well as tables and charts reporting analyses of the survey data.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Update to issue 17 of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor

Higher ed concerns and issues are interconnected with and cannot/must not be separated from those of K-12

The current issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has been updated with two new field reports.

Issue No. 17 of Workplace “Working In, and Against, the Neo-Liberal State: Global Perspectives on K-12 Teacher Unions” is guest edited by Howard Stevenson of Lincoln University (UK).

The new field reports include:

The NEA Representative Assembly of 2010: A Longer View of Crisis and Consciousness
Rich Gibson

Following the 2009 National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly (RA) in San Diego, new NEA president Dennis Van Roekel was hugging Arne Duncan, fawning over new President Obama, and hustling the slogan, “Hope Starts Here!” At the very close of the 2009 RA, delegates were treated to a video of themselves chanting, “Hope starts Here!” and “Hope Starts with Obama and Duncan!” The NEA poured untold millions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours, into the Obama campaign. In 2009, Van Roekel promised to tighten NEA-Obama ties, despite the President’s educational policies and investment in war. What happened in the year’s interim? What was the social context of the 2010 RA?

Resisting the Common-nonsense of Neoliberalism: A Report from British Columbia
E. Wayne Ross

Faced with a $16 million budget shortfall, the Vancouver school trustees, who have a mandate to meet the needs of their students, have lobbied for more provincial funding to avoid draconian service cuts. The government has refused the request, and its special advisor to the Vancouver School Board criticizes trustees for engaging in “advocacy” rather than making “cost containment” first priority. The clash between Vancouver trustees and the ministry of education is not “just politics.” Rather, education policy in BC reflects the key features of neoliberal globalization, not the least of which is the principle that more and more of our collective wealth is devoted to maximizing private profits rather than serving public needs. British Columbia is home to one of the most politically successful neoliberal governments in the world, but fortunately it is also a place to look for models of mass resistance to the neoliberal agenda. One of the most important examples of resistance to the common-nonsense of neoliberalism in the past decade is the British Columbia teachers’ 2005 strike, which united student, parent, and educator interests in resisting the neoliberal onslaught on education in the public interest.

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Guest Post: Alan Trevithick responds to faculty trends

A shortened and tamer version of this appears, retitled, in this month’s Anthropology News (AN), which is a monthly publication of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Although the NFM web address, the article still gets NFM in front of the AAA, an important academic professional organization representing anthropology, a major discipline.

Cringing Liberal Elite

Canary, Eagle, Phoenix: How to Respond to Faculty’s Fall

A mournful trend: the steady replacement of full-time tenure or tenure track faculty - call them  “traditionals" - with part-time and/or limited contract instructors, “adjuncts” or “contingents.” Call them adcons.  First most evident at community colleges, this trend is now everywhere. For instance, see Nichols and Nichols' Money over Mind, Inside Higher Education, about Vassar College. 

All disciplines are blighted, as Marshall Sahlins noted in a 2008 AN issue, that in the country at large, “70 percent of all faculty are adjuncts,” and this “academic demi-monde” has been “noticeable enough” more recently even at University of Chicago.

First the canaries die. Then the eagles start keeling over.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(Counter) Conference Announcement


A Counter-Conference: Strategies for Defending Higher Education

Conventions and conferences abound in academia. You could even say they are a convention of the profession. It's time to be unconventional, break with convention, call unconventional counter-conferences. When better to schedule one than during the annual MLA Convention? 

The announcement below comes courtesy of organizer Bob Samuels, UC-AFT President, blogging higher ed and UC at Changing Universities

Please circulate this announcement to any of your faculty groups or departmental lists.

A Counter-Conference: Strategies for Defending Higher Education

This counter-conference will take place during the annual MLA Convention in Los Angeles, January 8th, 2011 from 1-5 at Merrifield Hall, Loyola Law School (919 Albany St, 4 blocks north of the Marriott). While thousands of people will be meeting at the traditional convention, we will hold a one-day event centered on discussing actual strategies for making higher education more just.  Speakers will be presenting short papers on topics like the death of tenure, the corporatization of the university, the possibilities of unionization, direct social action, the use and abuse of graduate students, organizing contingent faculty, and taking back shared governance. 


1:00-1:45 Remaking the University of California, 
(after Chris Newfield's similarly named blog, Remaking the University)Catharine Liu, UC Irvine; Chris Newfield (author of Unmaking the Public University), Joshua Clover, UC Davis

1:45-2:30 - Defending the Humanities and Shared Governance: Cary Nelson, President 
AAUP; Jeffrey Williams, Carnegie Mellon; Michelle Masse, LSU

2:30-3:15Organizing Labor and the Academic Class WarMarc Bousquet, Santa Clara University; Maria Maisto, New Faculty Majority; Joe Berry, Chicago COCAL, School of Labor and Employment Relations at UI Urbana-Champaign

3:15-4:00 - 
Graduate Students and Precarious Labor: 
Annie McClanahan, Harvard (UAW bargaining unit); 
Jasper Bernes, GSOC, UC Berkeley; 
Stephanie Seawell, UIGEO, Champaign-Urbana; 
UI Champaign-Urbana

4:00-4:30 - Quality, Access, and AffordabilityMurray Sperber, Professor Emiritus, IU Bloomington; Bob Samuels, UCLAPresident UC-AFT

4:30-4:55Open Discussion on Strategies for Changing Higher Education
RSVP by emailing or at the Counter-Conference Facebook Event page if you plan to come. $10 donation suggested but not required. You do not have to be a member of MLA to attend. 

Bob Samuels, President, UC-AFT

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Study: Evaluations don't correlate

More experienced teachers gave lower grades and received worse evaluations from Calc I students, but those same students did better in Calc II.

Study: Seasoned profs prepare students for advanced learning. 

Highly credentialed and experienced professors are better at preparing students for long-term academic success than their less-experienced counterparts, but that ability isn't necessarily reflected in their students' teaching evaluations. That's according to research by a pair of economists published in June 2010 Journal of Political Economy. The study's authors, Scott Carrell of U.C. Davis and James West of the U.S. Air Force Academy, say their results raise questions about the value of student evaluations as measures of instructor quality. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

EVO 2011: Call for Participation

EVO (Electronic Village Online) Workshops are 100% online; participation is global. Posted on behalf of EVO 2011 Coordinators: 

A Project of TESOL's  CALL Interest Section

Dear All,

The CALL Interest Section of the international TESOL professional association is pleased to offer the opportunity to participate in the Electronic Village Online (EVO) 2011 sessions. This is a professional development project and virtual extension of the TESOL 2011Convention in New Orleans. The intended audience for this project includes both TESOL 2011 participants and those who can participate only virtually.

You do not need to be a TESOL member to participate in a free, five-week, wholly online session of the EVO, January 10-February 13, 2011. Sessions are free and open to anyone around the globe. Bring your colleagues!
Please visit our Announcement Web page to select one among the various offerings.

Yours in TESOL,
EVO Coordination Team

Interested but unfamiliar or ill at ease with technology and uncertain where / how to start? Try "Becoming a Webhead," the introductory EVO workshop.

Webheads in Action is a nine-year-old community of practice of language teachers worldwide, coordinated by Vance Stevens. In the Becoming a Webhead workshop, which is an introduction to Webheads in Action, we explore Web communication tools and share the best ways of using them in our teaching practices, engage with students in virtual classes, collaborate in projects, and participate in conferences as audience and presenters. This collaboration takes place online, as we are all geographically apart. Would you like to join us?

catch of the day: trolling academia in cyberspace

This could become a regular feature... a mixture of annotated links to articles, essays, blog posts. So many to pick from, I'm bound to run out of space (unless I adapt the Omnivore format) or inadvertently miss gems. Feel free to call your attention to gaps, suggest links, etc.

The university wants three year degrees and – of course – oodles of online courses.

Muscle Memory, from the memorable Gin and Tacos

There is an activity I like to do in class from time to time in which I force students to turn off their spacephones and laptops and, as a group, accomplish some basic tasks and answer a few questions without the benefit of mobile electronics. I call it "A Trip Back in Time to 1993" (I'm sure the odd laptop could be spotted on campus back then, albeit without wifi). Since we can't leave the classroom and start running around campus, I ask them to formulate a plan to accomplish these tasks. I present them with some very simple if somewhat random questions. What are the last 5 bills that came up for a floor vote in the House? Which president signed the Posse Comitatus Act? Give me directions from campus to Washington DC. What is the weather in Moscow today? Is the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments today, and if so, what case? Stuff like that. Nothing complicated.

Union Urges College to Utilize Reserves, Oracle, SUNY New Paltz 

Members of the SUNY New Paltz chapter of the United University Professions (UUP) recently called for college administrators to utilize reserve funds in order to save faculty positions and curb cuts that could be introduced as the college copes with a $3.2 million deficit.

Class in the age of austerity, occasional notes & commentary

In a recent interview (which is scheduled to be published in Ceasefire Magazine), I [blogger David Ruccio] was asked about the recently announced austerity cuts in Britain. I explained the cuts were not necessary, and that what we needed to do was ask what the class project was behind them.

Joseph Stiglitz has provided a somewhat similar analysis of the plans to cut the deficit in the United States.

The Economist's New Clothes, also from the excellent occasional notes & commentary

The next time someone wants to argue that "Brad DeLong is not really a mainstream economist," let them ask him the following question: what do Econ 1 students need to remember most from the course? .... commodity markets are only one way among many of organizing the production and distribution of goods and services ... only one way among many of making sense of capitalist commodity markets.

Reading Habits, online that is and how they have changed this year, from the ReadWriteWeb

One of the more subtle trends of 2010 has been the way that our reading habits have changed, due to a convergence of other Web trends: mobile apps, real-time Web (mostly Twitter), and social networking as a way to track news (mostly Facebook). In the previous era of the Web, the so-called Web 2.0, RSS Readers and start pages were all the rage.

Noxious quote of the day for December 6, 2010 (from a content mill blog)

"One of the most difficult concepts for most college teachers working on an adjunct basis to grasp is the idea that post-secondary education is an industry formulated on business principals. The college students are the market, the college classroom is the production area and the college faculty members, especially the adjunct faculty, are the intellectual workers in the production area that serves the market of students seeking to earn a college degree." 

Inevitable but I still can't believe it site of the day, no hints; you'll have to see for yourself

Monday, December 6, 2010

Precarious, Precarisation, Precariat?

That's us. Precariously employed, objects of precarization, members of the academic precariat. I had a rather different post mentally laid out ~ a survey of affordable, non-institutionalized (e.g. involving neither conferences, unions nor other organizational affiliations) actions / acts of resistance available to the weary, disheartened adcon approaching semester's end, unsure and even less optimistic of what the next semester might bring. I'll still write it, but this caught my eye while searching keywords related to our condition.

Caveat: the article excerpted below does not specifically address academic labor. Yet it is relevant to the precarious working conditions of adjunct and contingent faculty.

I. Precarious literally means unsure, uncertain, difficult, delicate. As a political term it refers to living and working conditions without any guarantees: for example the precarious residential status of migrants and refugees, or the precariousness of everyday life for single mothers. Since the early 1980s the term has been used more and more in relation to labour. Precarious work refers to all possible forms of insecure, non-guaranteed, flexible exploitation: from illegalised, seasonal and temporary employment to homework, flex- and temp-work, to subcontractors, freelancers, or so called self-employed persons.

II. Precarisation at work means a growing transformation from guaranteed, permanent employment to less well paid and more insecure jobs. On a historical and global scale, however, precarious work is not exceptional. In fact the idea of a generalisation of so-called guaranteed working conditions was itself a short lived myth of the ‘welfare state’ era. In the global South, in eastern Europe, as well as for most women and migrants in the north – altogether the great majority of the global population –, precarious working conditions were and are the norm. Precarisation describes moreover the crisis of established institutions, which represented for that short period the framework of (false) certainties. It is an analytical term for a process and hints at a new quality of societal labour. Labour and social life, production and reproduction cannot be separated anymore, and this leads to a more comprehensive definition of precarisation: the uncertainty of all circumstances in the material and immaterial conditions of life of living labour under contemporary capitalism. For example: wage level and working conditions are connected with a distribution of tasks, which is determined by gender and ethnic roles; residence status determines access to the labour market or to medical care. The whole ensemble of social relations seems to be on the move.

in section III. Precarisation, the article moves beyond usual discussion of part-time/ temp labor to frame precarisation as a "complex and contested process" with the potential to transform traditional understanding and postion of labor ... but also with the potential to become farce and ideological football. Section IV connects precarious and migrant labor.

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