Friday, August 31, 2012

Highlighting the challenges of contingent workers from nonfiction TV writers to housekeepers

… but apparently not those of the contingent faculty that the eponymous  ProfStaff  analyzed and wrote up. Dated June 30, 2012, this article predates the publication of ProfStaff's report but not the survey it was based on  Although not news to adjuncts, the article in the post title is still relevant, all the more so in the context of this and related discussions from "killing the American University in five easy steps" to the "new narrative" thread on the adj-l listserv. 

What is not news either but even more relevant in above contexts: the "other contingent workers" Sen. Franken refers to does not include adjuncts, contingent faculty, academic workers, tenuous labor, precarious academic labor or whatever the naming flavor of the week is. Perhaps just "other"?
Capitol Hill got a dose of reality today at a panel featuring entertainment insiders and lawmakers who discussed the perils of the freelance economy and revealed the behind-the-scenes challenges facing professional employees like writers in nonfiction television, as well as temps, subcontractors, and freelancers in nearly every industry, who lack the protections and structures of traditional employment. 
Sen. Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota and a member of three unions himself, opened the panel by noting the lack of employment protections he faced as a writer at the beginning of his career. He called attention to important provisions in the Rebuild America Act that would help protect writers and other contingent workers. [emphasis added]
Read the rest of "Highlighting the challenges of contingent workers from nonfiction TV writers to housekeepers." Then read more about the "Where is Professor Staff?"Report here (on this blog) or here at Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE). As for the "new narrative" discussion, you can follow it and participate by subscribing to the Contingent Academics Mailing List

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Faculty Unions and Struggle: For, By, and Against

I work at three places, and belong to AFT-affiliate (NYSUT) locals at two of them. Do I lose interest in unions when I teach at the third?

Of course not, not least of all because I believe that union successes and failures, in the long run, raise and lower the bar for adjunct and contingent faculty working conditions.

But I have three ways of thinking about unions: for, by, and against.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Featured Poem on Luzma Umpierre's page

A sure sign that I am past my evening expiration date. This was intended for my poetry blog. This happens from time to time: a sign of juggling too many blogs. Usually, I copy, paste, delete. This time I paused, reconsidered: Luzma is an academic activist who commented on Debra's #5steps post (which is still going strong), informed us that she warned colleagues about the coming state of higher ed 20-25 years ago but no one paid any attention. That would be the Ostrich Plan below.

There are multiple purposes here: honoring Luzma Umpierre albeit belatedly, a poem that fits suits the academic Zeitgeist even if not about it, a reminder that lit was once more my game that panegyrics. And who does not need a survival plan? Now for Luzma's New Poem (a regular feature on her page), Survival Plan by J.L. Torres

To live in Puerto Rico
you need a survival plan
El Departamento de Ai Bendito
recommends one from below:

The Armageddon Plan

Reading Room: Pushback on campus

It's been a busy week with the multifaceted and still dizzying responses to Debra's famous #5steps post, CHFE/NFM "Professor Staff" report, articles on MOOCs in higher educationa link just one of many) springing up like mushrooms in mainstream and highered media, implications for both future of higher education in general and contingent academic labor in particular, my own immersion (another post for another time, perhaps on another blog, sundry NFM projects in various stages and no others that slip my mind at the moment. Overload. Antidote: a trip through unrelated but higher ed relevant links. Welcome to the Reading Room.

Tom Medvetz (UCSD): “Scholar as Sitting Duck” : The Cronon Affair and the Buffer Zone in American Public Debate.  review Crazy U  by Andrew Ferguson and  In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic by Professor X. Welcome to College Insurrection , aimed to give conservative and libertarian student writers a larger platform and audience.     
If you didn’t know any better, you might think that the main thing conservatives learn in college English classes is how to complain about college English classes. From Radical Notes, Raju J Das on academia as a site of class struggle. 25 years later, Allan Bloom is just as misunderstood and necessary as ever. Richard Thompson on the conservative pushback on campus. A survey finds that social psychologists admit to anti-conservative bias.    
It might not be seismic, but there is a shift in academia away from the faddish and back towards the traditional. Jonathan B. Imber on misunderstanding intellectual diversity. Agnotology, the art of spreading doubt, distorts the scepticism of research to obscure the truth — areas of academic life have been tainted by the practice.
Pushback on campus is not the only reader's treat on Omnivore, the inestimable and always eagerly anticipated Book Forum blog

Saturday, August 25, 2012


 I will be teaching at four schools this semester ( 2 private 4 year institutions, 1 state 4 year university, and 1 two-year community college) least I think so.

Classes start at two of these this coming week and once course is still one below the minimum needed to run. The other schools start the following week and two courses are in jeopardy there. Plus enrollment is down to the point that full time faculty are having their classes cancelled and rushing to pick the best classes adjuncts have been assigned to. Do I have a schedule? Did I make a mistake in turning down other classes since they conflicted with my 'schedule'. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Outing the eponymous Professor ‘Staff’

The long awaited NFM Foundation report from CFHE Center /think tank is out and fab. I really wanted to write “simply mahvelous” but fabulous is what Gary calls it, so I’ll go with ‘fab” and the awesome alliteration of “fab Foundation” report as assembled, organized, written and edited by Gary Rhoades and our own fab five. Steve Street (to whom the report is dedicated), Maria Maisto, Esther Merves, Judy Olson and Anne Wiegard. Introducing the release, Gary Rhoades writes,

Attached (linked actually, see below) is the second report of the think tank, the Center for theFuture of Higher Education, courtesy of the FABULOUS work of the NewFaculty Majority Foundation

"Who is Professor ‘Staff’ and how does this person teach so many classesoffers not only data about "just in time" employment and insufficient access to instructional resources for contingent faculty, it also provides a tool for redressing SOME of those problems at limited cost, though we emphasize in closing the report that there is a structural deficit in higher education that must be resolved to ensure affordable, quality higher education. 

The key points in brief [but no surprise to any contingent faculty] are as follow:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Killing -- And Reviving -- The American University in Five Easy Steps - Forbes

Debra's Famous #5Steps Makes Forbes! How often does an academic from a discipline other than business, economics or IT, an adjunct, especially one in the arts and humanities, manage that? 

Opening with HG Wells quote,"History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe" (the same as Lingenfelter's report), Steve Denning (Forbes Contributor, Radical Management: Rethinking leadership and innovation) writes,
Debra Leigh Scott has written an insightful article about the decline and death of the American university. Even more important is to think through how we revive it. 
Ms. Scott starts from the period post World War II, i.e. the 1950s when the GI bill, and the affordability — and sometimes free access — to universities created an upsurge of college students across the country. This surge continued for a time. Colleges had a thriving professoriate, and students were given access to a variety of subject areas, and the possibility of broad learning. Then something went wrong. 
It happened, she says, in five easy steps.
Read the rest and commentary at Killing -- And Reviving -- The American University in Five Easy Steps - Forbes

Friday, August 17, 2012

Steve M. Street, Prominent Advocate for Adjunct Faculty, Dies of Cancer

Steve Street started this blog, February 2009, originally to supplement Bob Samuels' New Faculty Majority Day. On the basis of my posting comments and his desperation, Steve invited me to contribute and then recommended  me for the New Faculty Majority organizing committee (before we even had a name). Later, he drifted away from blogging, which was not really his preferred medium but a responsibility he accepted to help both a friend's project and the fledgling adjunct coalition that later took its name. He will be sorely missed.

We're not ready yet, not psychologically, but hope to come out with an in depth piece commemorating Steve, sharing memories, more pictures and links to his writings. Until then, our thanks to Peter Schmidt for so promptly posting notice to The Chronicle of Higher Education today Friday August 17, 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

COCAL Updates August 8

Joe Berry writes, 

unam01I am now leaving for COCAL X in Mexico City and may or may not have sufficient time and internet access to send out another COCAL Update before I return to the US August 21. If not, have a good remainder of your summer and and excellent start of the school year, for all those who start early. 
Three notes of self promotion: My partner Helena Worthen and I have written three articles that have recently appeared or are about to appear that should be of interest to this list. (photo, UNAM by David Milroy)

  1. 2012, Berry, J. and Worthen, H. “Why We Should Support Organizing in the For-Profits” Radical Teacher, #93 (latest issue)
  2. Forthcoming, 2012, Berry, J. and Worthen, H., “Faculty organizing in the higher education industry: Tackling the for-profit business model”. Working USA (in the next issue)
  3. Forthcoming, 2012, Berry, J. and Worthen, H., "Higher Education as a Workplace" (title may change in editing). Dollars and Sense, Sept./Oct. Special Labor Day Issue

If any readers would like copies of these articles emailed to you when the final versions become available, just drop me an email. In solidarity.
In addition to Joe Berry, other New Faculty Majority members attending include David Milroy for CFA and NFM board members Judy Olson, Jack Longmate and Steve Street. All are now in Mexico City. I promise to do my utmost at harrying them for reports to share with you.

Updates in brief and links

More responses to the Delphi report on the changing faculty and support for adjuncts

Cost of misclassifying workers as independent contractors (this happens to some teachers especially in extension and similar programs)

Grad unions active while awaiting NLRB ruling on their right to unionize under NLRA

Cyber learning and the for-profits

A Philly PA area  adjunct deals with cancer while teaching up to 7 classes.

Good blog post on workplace issues by Cory Robin, a TT prof in CA and formerly a leader of the Yale grad union and author of the great book, "FEAR, the history of a political idea" which has a wonderful chapter on fear as a factor in the workplace, drawn largely from his Yale experiences.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Joe Berry's COCAL Updates, July28 & Aug3 & links about #ContingentFaculty, #academiclabor & #organizing in #highered. To subscribe to regular Updates, email  More about Joe Berry.  Updates are also archived at Follow COCAL International on Facebook  

Chicago, Chicago...
Chicago teachers show mobilization and real strike threat can win, but fight and strike prep continues. 

Good story out of Chicago Reader on how Mayor Emanuel and Mitt Romney have the same education program and why (and Obama too). It also makes very clear why we need to support the Chicago Teachers Union as much as possible in their fight to preserve public education in Chicago and nationally. See Labor Notes article on the same issue  

Around the adjunctiverse

#ForProfit #Highered @VillageVoice

"Only a Con Man Could Love, Barbarians in the Ivory Tower" by Cris Parker (not at the gates but all the way inside and, having paid off the watchmen, sacking the premises).
For-profit colleges haven't always been scrupulous when it comes to raiding the federal treasury. Between student-aid and GI Bill programs, most schools receive 90 percent of their revenue from the American taxpayer. And the recruiters—often little more than salesmen paid largely by how many people they enroll—are driven mercilessly to keep those cash registers ringing. 
Students don't get much in return. Although tuition rates can run as high as those at America's most esteemed universities, the education is generally substandard. In the end, most kids wind up walking away with a questionable degree bought at top dollar—and a mountain of debt to accompany it.
Great title, fab graphic but that's just the start. Read the rest of the Voice's extensive and detailed article on For-Profit Colleges Only a Con Man Could Love

#adjuncts & #studentloandebt

…the movies, not just one. DIY this time, not BYOP. Unfortunately, there is still not much public awareness of student debt among NTT faculty. See for yourself: search  YouTube for "student debt crisis." Then add "adjunct" or "faculty" and search. Here's a chance to fill the information gap. Robert Applebaum, founder of million+ member grassroots student loan debt forgiveness movement challenges student loan debtors to create and submit videos. He writes,
ForgiveStudentLoanDebt is re-branding as "Student Debt Crisis" to reflect the fact that the reforms we seek are not limited to just forgiveness of loans, but a whole host of other steps that chip away at the status quo. 
I'm writing today to ask each of you to participate in our very first video submission challenge: create your own short video that we can use to spread our message in favor of fundamental reforms to the way in which higher education is paid for in this country.
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