[lbo-talk] A public square

tfast tfast at yorku.ca
Tue May 22 09:26:38 PDT 2007

I must say that agree with what Andie has written below. I would add that adjunct faculty are often in a weaker position than PhD students. At least as a PhD student you are generally guaranteed a certain tenure of funding 4-6 years depending on the institution and the TA work tends to be related to your field.

Adjuncts are really screwed. They require the same amount of education as their tenured counterparts to do the same job, sans very little job control, no certainty of contract renewal, and often working contracts at two universities to put a full time salary together. In practice this means that adjuncts have very little time to organize and are often spread across two or more institutions. They are very hard to organize and easily picked-off when they do attempt to organize.

It is interesting that in Canada in many fields there is shortage of labour which has caused pressure on the universities to pump out more Ph.Ds in a shorter period of time. But even in the face of such a shortage the ratio of tenure track to adjunct hires is not increasing. At York we have worked hard in collective bargaining to mitigate this through insisting that so many adjuncts have to be converted each year. This along with tuition for Grads are the two perennial sticking issues in bargaining with the Admin.

The full time faculty have been ambivalent with many characterizing adjuncts as failed academics; whatever that means. And if it means anything it would also mean that many tenured faculty are failed academics themselves.

I for one consider myself to be extremely lucky to have made out as well as I did. I say luck because my hire was partly about timing, partly about contacts (information), partly about geography, and partly about my CV. That sounds about like life. But one should not infer too much from the happenstance and chance of life. Had I been born in 68 and had my parents stayed in the US, I would no doubt be writing to LBO from the adjunct circuit.

> You are of course right that PhDs are vastly
> overqualified for most extra-academic employment. And
> certainly the oversupply of PhD's in the academic job
> market creates a huge reserve army of the un- and
> underemployed that depresses willingness and ability
> to organize effectively; I erred in leaving out that
> crucial point, which is probably fundamental.
> For the rest, I can't agree. I don't think that the
> professoriat is more organized than other groups. By
> "professional associations that wield more power than
> the average labor union," you mean what, the American
> Association of University Professors? Give me a break
> Woj, the AAUP is powerless and ineffective. The
> American Philosophical Association or the American
> Political Science Association? Excuse me, but if I
> were running for office I'd rather have the
> endorsement of Carpenters Local 59. At least then I
> could count on some votes.
> I don't know, by the way, what bombastic rhetoric you
> are talking about with regard to unions. "Buy
> American," maybe? Have you read any union literature
> lately? Probably not, or you wouldn't say that. It's
> soporific. Bombast would be an improvement.
> In terms of defending the interests of their members,
> any other-than-union academic professional
> associations suck. Accordingly, and this leads to the
> next point, working conditions, pay, and job
> opportunities suck.
> Your notion that "professors have a greater degree of
> self-management, especially at the departmental
> level," than most workers reflects the point of view
> of a tenured professor. Adjuncts and grad students of
> course can't even participate in departmental
> decisions.
> Tenured and tenure track professors are a bare
> majority of teaching faculty in higher education, a
> proportion that has been falling steadily.
> The Organization of American Historians Newsletter
> says
> 46 percent of college faculty today are part-timers,
> most in the thirty-five to sixty-four year age range,
> and a quarter hold a Ph.D. Admittedly, adjuncts come
> from many ranks, but as one recent survey
> demonstrated, a growing minority (29 percent) is
> devoted to part-time teaching as a career. To this
> group, especially those with Ph.D.s, denial of
> research support becomes a professional glass ceiling.
> Granting agencies aggravate this problem by targeting
> full-timers. Excluded, part-timers face year-round
> employment in multiple jobs with little time or
> resources left for scholarly development.
> http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2007may/rogers.html
> See also from the Chronicle of Higher Education in
> 2001:
> >From 1975 to 1999, the proportion of full-time faculty
> members in non-tenure-track positions increased to 28
> percent from 19 percent. Recent estimates suggest that
> 45 percent of all new hires in academe are on the
> non-tenure track, including 65 percent at research
> universities.
> http://chronicle.com/jobs/2001/07/2001070601c.htm
> Even at Yale, where elite teaching is a theoretical
> priority only
> 30 percent of classroom instruction in Yale College is
> performed by "ladder faculty," a term that refers to
> professors with or without tenure. Part-time and
> adjunct instructors do another 30 percent of the
> teaching, the report said, with graduate students
> accounting for the other 40 percent.
> http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/99_07/GESO.html
> >From the point of view of tenure track but untenured
> faculty, a relatively privileged group because it at
> least is on the tenure track, there is indeed more
> self-management than for average workers, and one has
> a written employment contract with, typically, a
> terminal year rather an employment at will -- no small
> benefit, and other workers don't have anything like
> that as a rule unless they have a union. But the view
> from below is considerably less rosy than from the
> perspective of tenured faculty.
> Finally, "radicalize" is not a precisely defined term,
> but it is not meaningless, neither does it designate
> Oedipal attitudinizing. In the context it means, and
> here I track Chuck, going to the root of a systematic
> problem and attempting to do something systematic
> about it in a way that involves a goal of large-scale
> social transformation. It is compatible with the
> utmost cultural conservatism. At work I wear a suit
> and tie; decades ago I cut my hair and shaved my beard
> when I decided that I was on the far left. I publish
> in respectable mainstream journals and write in
> restrained academic prose.
> I'm not defining "the root" of the systematic problem
> more specifically because there are different views
> about what that might be, but one is the view that you
> have at the bottom and that keeps you coming back,
> that shows that you have been radicalized, that the
> fundamental problem in our society is not the various
> things that you often go on about -- the childishness
> of the over-educated self-identified left, the social
> dysfunctions of the underclass, the dumbing down of
> culture of the lowest common denominator -- but the
> private ownership of productive assets.
> --- Wojtek Sokolowski <sokol at jhu.edu> wrote:
> > Andie:
> >
> >
> > Why doesn't the professoriate radicalize and
> > organize
> > against the low salaries, job insecurity, terrible
> > working conditions? Well, why doesn't any group of
> > workers do that? But factors playing into academics'
> > apathy include, it seems to me the highly
> > individualistic conditions of work and criteria for
> > success and failure, where the (self-)perception is
> > that it a matter of individual merit, the virtually
> > complete historical absence of unionization, the
> > mobility of the national market, the extreme
> > emphasis
> > on productivity, and the perceived need to be a team
> > player and not to rock the boat. I would not expect
> > the professoriate to organize unless other sectors
> > of
> > the work force were already doing so in large
> > numbers.
> >
> >
> > [WS:] "Radicalize" is but meaningless mumbo jumbo
> > that does not mean
> > anything other than intent to piss parents and
> > authority figures off.
> > AFAICT, the professoriate as a group is far more
> > progressive and better
> > organized than the rest of society, including the
> > student body. It is
> > already organized in various professional
> > associations that wield more
> > influence than an average labor union - but do not
> > employ bombastic rhetoric
> > that unions often do. Moreover, professors have a
> > greater degree of
> > self-management, especially at the departmental
> > level, than knowledge
> > workers in the government or the business sector.
> >
> > The main reason behind low wages is not the lack or
> > organization or
> > managerial conspiracy, by the supply factor - our
> > universities produce a far
> > greater number of PhD's that they can effectively
> > employ. There is very
> > little market for PhD's outside the academia - most
> > non-academic jobs not
> > only do not require a PhD, but perceive them as
> > being overqualified - which
> > is a far worse offense than being underqualified.
> > An underqualified
> > employee can easily be trained, however an
> > overqualified poses a risk of
> > being resentful about his/her job and either leaving
> > at the earliest
> > opportune moment or becoming a trouble maker.
> >
> > Wojtek
> >
> > ___________________________________
> >
> http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/mailman/listinfo/lbo-talk
> >
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