Comments on: Race to the bottom http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 20 Sep 2014 17:08:06 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Chris http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-798382 Mon, 07 Mar 2011 19:08:29 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-798382 Agreed, H. Although I think it’s all even more devious than simply not having offices. Where I live, and this is purely anecdotal, I find that I’m the odd man out insofar as I actually make my living as an adjunct and teach 6-7 sections a semester. Most of my cohort do not work this way. The demographic profiles break down differently per the school. At one, the adjunct pool is really an army of retirees and semi-retirees; at another, it’s a combination of retirees and out-of-work certified teachers; and at the third, the critical mass of the adjuncts are female and all seem to have a partner/spouse who is the major earner. And most of these folks seem to be pursuing various writing careers — some are poets, others are freelance journalists, another is a play write and actress, and so on. The one common-denominator across all of these schools and demographics is that none of these folks are especially interested in going on strike.

Damn, if only I’d found some lawyer chick to marry — honestly, I say that only partly tongue in cheek.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-798326 Mon, 07 Mar 2011 15:17:39 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-798326 I think you’re right, Chris. Not having offices, space in which to gather, meetings in which to share concerns–all of these are terrific plans to destroy incipient solidarity.

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By: Chris http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-798297 Mon, 07 Mar 2011 13:47:24 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-798297 Historiann, of course you’re right, in theory. In practice, however, is a different story. Put ideology aside for a moment and consider just the logistical difficulties of organizing adjuncts. We’re invisible, to paraphrase the once great former blog. But invisibility has a practical source: we’re here, then we’re there, then we’re elsewhere, and at 7 we’re back to there for a night class. Now add the fact that we’re a fairly heterogeneous bunch and do not all share the same ideological outlook. And what I mean by this is that many in the adjunct ranks, especially the younger ones, don’t realize they’re being exploited; while many others may realize in the abstract that they’re being exploited, but they don’t care because adjunct-teaching is their part-time gig and they have no reason to rock the boat.

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By: Another Damned Medievalist http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-797965 Sun, 06 Mar 2011 21:25:08 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-797965 I used to teach in Washington State. CC faculty are unionized. Adjuncts are protected by union contracts, paid according to contracts negotiated by the unions, and get health insurance and TIAA-CREF accounts if they meet the requirements, which are not all that hard to meet.

Tenure files were interesting, but ultimately decided by faculty. Interesting in that they were very particular on the sorts of information that had to be collected for the files, and very precise on minimum requirements for tenure. Probationers were observed by colleagues every term, and by their deans once a year. We also needed letters from colleagues who attested to our service records and abilities. I can see disadvantages to the approach, in that there was probably more of possibility of “this person fulfilled the requirements and so you can’t deny hir tenure,” cases. But on the other hand, I’ve heard of enough cases where tenure was denied because of wacky departmental/divisional politics that I can’t fault the theory.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-797905 Sun, 06 Mar 2011 19:27:01 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-797905 The fact remains that adjunct labor is exploitable because there’s a surplus of it out there and it’s not organized. Tenure-track faculty are little better off because of the (over)supply of qualified labor, which is why I support unionization for all.

Chris notes that the price of unionization is the threat or prospect of unemployment. That’s not bad, compared to the men and women at River Rouge’s Battle of the Overpass who got their heads beat in by Pinkertons, in addition to unemployment! But the exploitable surplus of adjunct labor isn’t going to go away if none are willing to risk unemployment or a change of career. Think about it: the universities themselves are in control of the size of the TT pool of labor as well as the size of the adjunct pool. They set the conditions in which all faculty must negotiate for wages and benefits.

If adjuncts *all* refused to sign contracts, their bargaining position w/r/t administrators would get a lot better. My university–like most unis out there–would not function without the willing labor of adjuncts. So it seems to me that in theory, adjuncts should be more eager to organize. It’s the tenure-track faculty who already have a kind of job security (although no guarantees on compensation, benefits, or workload expectations) who will be much harder to organize.

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By: bookbabe http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-797867 Sun, 06 Mar 2011 17:51:56 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-797867 Chris, I am one of those adjuncts who’s been “fucked over” at CUNY. It is all the more galling to me, because I was a temporary full-timer for two years before returning to the adjunct pool.

The problem is that CUNY’s union is entirely focused on such issues as teaching load and academic freedom for full-timers. To the union’s administration, adjuncts are just so many more sources of union dues.

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By: Indyanna http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-797219 Sat, 05 Mar 2011 05:02:25 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-797219 This is what I love: software making policy decisions. You partner-up with a “preferred vendor,” upload some expensive piece of acronymic $h^+, then explain to the instructional staff that although the faculty senate voted to implement a certain cutoff point for grade point average for, say, dropping students from enrollment, the program in question can’t process that datum. So students with averages slightly above that point will have to put up with a letter telling them how to apply for reinstatement after they’ve served their term of “rustication”–as they use to call it in England. This actually happened some years back at Leonid State U. There is a similar limit on the number of times a student can repeat a course in which they’ve gotten a D or an F to raise their GPA, but the software rides roughshod over that governance nicety as well.

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By: Janice http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-797018 Fri, 04 Mar 2011 18:09:54 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-797018 Chris, we have a faculty union for full-time/permanent faculty and another for part-time/adjuncts here at Unloved University. We’ve had the two for almost a decade now, in large part because of the vigorous lobbying from the full-timer’s union.

That hardly makes Unloved University a paradise: even with a good union contract, the administration is cutting off a wide swathe of regular sessionals (as well as making no replacement hires).

Their solution to the lack of class options for students resulting from cutting full-time and part-time faculty? Shuffle them into online course sections run by a completely different sub-unit of the university with no union protection for the faculty involved. University regulations say full-time on-campus students can only take one distance ed course per term. Yet, somehow, the registration software “can’t” enforce that. Colour me unsurprised!

All we can try to do is department-by-department refuse to authorize online sections, but even that is a bloody knockdown fight. Then they grudgingly direct those students to another university’s online course sections rather than authorize even a single course for a sessional faculty member.

This sucks for everyone concerned, especially students.

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By: Chris http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-796998 Fri, 04 Mar 2011 15:12:09 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-796998 “I always thought that if adjuncts had been largely unionized in the last 20 years, they’d have had better pay and more job stability all along, which in turn would have made adjunctification less attractive to the bean-counters in upper administration, which would have alleviated the hiring crisis. And today is 20 years from 20 years from now….”

Right. Wow, I wonder how none of us adjuncts ever thought of this? Now back to reality. At the moment, if the slightest whisper of “unionize” reaches the ears of the dept. chair or the administration above the chair, what will happen is a sudden and inexplicable cancellation of courses/sections, which in turn will lead to the permanent layoff of many, many adjuncts. Think I’m over-stating or striking an alarmist note? Temple Univ. in Philadelphia just did it, (http://temple-news.com/2010/12/06/adjunct-layoffs-increase-concern/) and the full-timer’s (i.e. T/TT) union at CUNY recently really fucked over their adjuncts. (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/04/22/adjuncts)

Race to the bottom? How quaint. I’d say we’ve been at the bottom for a while now, but the T/TT set are only just figuring that out.

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By: Feminist Avatar http://www.historiann.com/2011/03/03/race-to-the-bottom/comment-page-1/#comment-796970 Fri, 04 Mar 2011 10:13:57 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=14337#comment-796970 Surely, unionising the TT would be a good thing in that the unions could monitor what is meant by ‘quality’, how it is applied, and raise concerns about unfair practice. It might also make the people making TT decisions more open and accountable about how they determine ‘quality’. I don’t really think these things are in conflict and may in fact help counter many of the concerns raised about how women or minority groups are often unfairly treated at TT decisions. (Not that unions always have a great track record in this area!).

Having to fulfill certain contractual obligations for promotion, extension of contract, achieving certain pay grades etc, are not exclusive to academia- and unions help monitor and ensure fair practice in these sorts of areas all the time. For those on the TT, they could also help monitor promotions and ‘bonus’ pay- ensuring that the many cases we have heard of where high-achieving women are earning less than their male counterparts are dealt with quickly and without a lengthy legal battle (in the imaginary world where unions are effective, I might add).

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