Comments on: Why volunteer labor is too expensive for American universities http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Fri, 26 Sep 2014 17:45:49 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Faculty Blog Round-Up: Budget Cuts http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-450646 Fri, 02 Oct 2009 17:18:03 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-450646 [...] (a.k.a Ann M. Little, historian at Colorada State) discusses the offer of UNC emeritus faculty to teach for free during the budget crisis, and the administration’s refusal.  There’s a lively but polite debate in the comments [...]

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By: Ann Bartow http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-448509 Tue, 29 Sep 2009 15:49:11 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-448509 The difficult thing about volunteers is that if they turn out to be lousy teachers, it’s hard to get them to improve. As you say, no one has leverage over them. So if volunteers are inclined to bad behavior (telling war stories instead of covering the material, not showing up for class, showing up drunk, sexually harassing students etc.) all you can do is get rid of them, which can be an unpleasant business as they usually will not go quietly.

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By: Feminist Avatar http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-443789 Thu, 24 Sep 2009 09:53:28 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-443789 In a museum/ archive that I used to work for, we had quite a few volunteers, and one of the rules for using them was, that they could not perform the functions of paid staff. Any work they did must be in addition to normal work such as special projects (like transcribing documents which normal staff would never have time to do, or digitising photographs). The reason for this was that volunteers should not be seen as ‘free labour’ which is exploitative. Furthermore, using volunteers to do staff duties effectively acknowledged that staff could not do their job without volunteers, lending weight to requests for overtime payments and demands for greater staffing. This was something that management insisted was not true (in a long-running dispute about staffing levels).

This is probably why university’s aren’t jumping all over the ‘free’ workers idea- it means agreeing that the current situation is unnacceptable. [Which I realise is kind of the opposite from what I argued above, but I actually think both can be true, because once free labour is agreed to, it's a slippery slope]

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By: Z http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-443454 Thu, 24 Sep 2009 02:27:12 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-443454 P.S. I also really like the idea of retired faculty volunteering to serve as TA types and writing center personnel at institutions that don’t have these, but need them.

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By: Z http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-443450 Thu, 24 Sep 2009 02:25:28 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-443450 I *really* like Tom’s idea. They could run the university out of the faculty club or the local espresso house (which would mean their meetings would be semi-public, too).

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By: PoliSci Prof http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-443292 Wed, 23 Sep 2009 21:18:33 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-443292 I, too, am part of a unionized faculty but at an institution without graduate students. We don’t have the TA’s to handle the general education courses and that is where we really need the help. I don’t think I want our administrators to get the idea that if they can get retired faculty to volunteer, they can avoid hiring the tenure tracks we really need.

Do retired faculty have any idea of what’s been happening to class sizes since they retired? In 5 years, the “standard” size of an introductory course on my campus has gone from 30 to 45 students–and many sections are at 100 or 120. Fortunately, physical classroom size stops administrators from expanding further.

If retired faculty want to help out, they can serve as tutors for all of the students who need more individualized attention that the PAID faculty can’t get to.

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By: Indyanna http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-443237 Wed, 23 Sep 2009 19:24:39 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-443237 That last suggestion is a screenplay waiting to happen. Revolving teams of forty or fifty emeriti making dispensible the entire suit brigade. And possibly by the by taking selective revenge on still-active cutting edge juniors who may have hounded them into retirement.

Patch me through to Richard Russo!

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-443236 Wed, 23 Sep 2009 19:22:04 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-443236 Ha! I like Tom’s suggestion that the retirees volunteer to be administrators. That would save a hell of a lot more money.

HistoryMaven, Sisyphus, Roxie, and all of you make good points. But–since most of us agree that Corporate University (TM) is the evil way things are going right now–how do you account for the UNC administration’s utter lack of interest in the retirees’ offer? Why wouldn’t the Vice Provost of Institutional Efficiency seize on this as a strategy to undermine faculty and adjunct pay? If this scheme is as insidious (however well meaning, as Tom notes) as most of you think it is, why aren’t the evil geniuses at UNC cackling with delight and signing up emeriti right and left?

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By: Tom http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-443199 Wed, 23 Sep 2009 18:45:40 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-443199 I applaud the retirees’ wish to do some good for their former institutions, but I also agree that we need to recognize that work is worth pay.

Maybe I’d really rather see the retirees use their wisdom and experience where it could do even more good: not teaching classes, but taking on the administrative work of deans and provosts and vice presidents and presidents on a volunteer basis. Now that might save some money! Four or five retirees collaborating to do the work of one vice president would not save the (relatively) few dollars spent on a handful of sections of classes, but a real six-figure amount!

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By: HistoryMaven http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/23/why-volunteer-labor-is-too-expensive-for-american-universities/comment-page-1/#comment-443198 Wed, 23 Sep 2009 18:40:51 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=7552#comment-443198 I don’t know, right now, where I stand on this. I agree that the UNC administrator’s comments are insulting: many scholars end their employment with universities but not their professional careers nor their scholarly work.

Thinking like an administrator: Are there issues of state retirement rules about returning to one’s former employer or to public teaching generally (my state has that rule)? Volunteering may not include a paycheck, but are there are other costs or perquisites that would make states or the IRS edgy? On the other hand, has there been a practice of hiring emeriti for a course or two, and would this act of kindness and dedication upend that practice, perhaps to the detriment of those individuals who may need the additional pay? How would volunteer workers affect a university’s liability insurance? What’s in the faculty union contract (if there is a union)? Where’s the AAUP on this? And are there issues for administrators who have to deal with the mysteries of accreditation?

Now, I don’t know the answers to those questions, and they may not be germane. But the article does not explain the contents of the retired faculty’s “well-thought-out offer.” It seems that they’ve figured it all out, and if that’s true, the administration should have been able to respond quickly. Then again, the administration’s “leery” attitude is not an outright objection (aside from the well-documented bloat of administration at UNC making for a non-response).

Then there’s the whole issue of teaching’s value: teaching has, historically, been devalued–poor pay (especially when women entered the profession), poor support, and the like. If universities could really find highly skilled individuals with years of experience who would teach for free….

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