A new report out today from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (of which the AAUP is a member) focuses on problems faced by contingent faculty–and, by extension, their students–at the start of term. The report, based on a survey by the New Faculty Majority of 500 adjuncts, find that many have “at best, inadequate access to sample course syllabi, curriculum guidelines, library resources, clerical support, and the like. They often have only limited, if any, access to personal offices, telephones, computers, and associated software, and technological tools and training.”
The humanities have more to lose in the current budget wars than either the sciences or technical fields, says AAUP president Cary Nelson, in “Fighting for the Humanities,” just out in the new issue of Academe (the full issue will be released next week). This is because people take it for granted that scientific knowledge must advance, but view the humanities as more dispensible. Yet, Nelson says:
[T]the sciences are not the only group of disciplines that challenge belief systems. The demand that we see ourselves, as humans, differently from how we have before—the assertion that knowledge of ourselves and of our history is fundamentally false—is part of the continuous burden of the humanities, and it is almost always unwelcome.
Given the various assaults on higher education in general and the humanities in particular, Nelson asks:
[C]an we prevent the humanities from being tamed? Can we preserve the academic freedom to celebrate diverse and idiosyncratic cultural achievements and to draw provocative comparisons and contrasts across the whole of human knowledge? Can we maintain the capacity to challenge received beliefs, the confidence in righteous nationhood, and our blindness to injustice and prejudice?
Only, he suggests, if we embark on a “humanities offensive”: an educational project wherein we assert what we believe and explain it.
Read the whole article and let us know what you think.
There was lot of Twitter buzz this weekend about a roundtable at the Modern Language Association convention in Seattle on the fight for public higher education (see a roundup of Tweets). The roundtable (organized by yours truly, although in the end I wasn’t able to participate) included Michelle Masse, Jeffrey Williams, Jason Jones, Bob Samuels, Christopher Simeone, and Marc Bousquet on the topic of 1) attacks on public higher ed and 2) what faculty and graduate students should be doing to shore up quality, affordable public higher education.
There is more about the roundtable in the Chronicle of Higher Ed—just ignore the misleading title.
And just out, here’s more on the student debt problem from Jeffrey Williams, professor of English and cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University and one of the roundtablers. Escalating student debt is a kind of bondage, he writes in “Academic Freedom and Indentured Students,” an article in the new issue of Academe (the whole issue will be released next week).
He notes that two-thirds of American college students now graduate with substantial debt, and compares this system to indentured servitude, affecting students for a significant part of their future work lives and limiting work and life choices. He continues:
At its core, student debt is a labor issue, just as colonial indenture was, subsisting off the desire of those less privileged to gain better opportunities in exchange for their future labor. One of the goals of the planners of the US university system after World War II was to displace what they saw as an aristocracy; instead, they promoted equal opportunity in order to build America through its best talent. The new tide of student debt reinforces rather than dissolves the discriminations of class. Finally, it violates the spirit of American freedom in leading those less wealthy to bind their futures.
Read the article for yourself and weigh in with your comments.
In the new issue of Academe, Bruce Burgett argues that for public universities in states like Washington, the temptation to privatize is becoming overwhelming. He writes:
Given the rise of market-based models in educational policy circles, the threat of the current moment is that the economic stress public institutions are experiencing will lead them to jump at any partnership or initiative that promises new revenue, treating their mission to provide broad access to higher education as a luxury that is unaffordable in the current crisis.
Is this going on with your state’s public institutions?
In the new issue of Academe, Elizabeth Capaldi, executive vice president and provost at Arizona State University, writes about how her university has handled steep cuts in state funding.
She says that while some university activities–for example, a named fund, building, or chair–are supported by dedicated funds, “the state and the students themselves are the primary funders of the educational functions of public universities.” Thus, although faculty have tried to shield students, “the recent state budget cuts have thus had a disproportionate effect on the education of students.”
Because administrators do not like to talk publicly about the negative effects of budget cuts, many people outside the university do not realize how much damage these cuts are causing. While it is important for legislators and governors—and the public at large—to understand these negative effects, advertising the effects hurts our ability to recruit faculty members and students and depresses morale. We know, however, that when we increase class size, rely more heavily on contingent faculty, and cut staff, we are indeed interfering with the quality of education we provide to students.
Is your institution dealing with budget cuts? If so, what are the most visible effects and what is kept hidden?
This photo collection from the Atlantic, with pictures collected from Occupy demonstrations across the world, really brings home the breadth of the protests.The AAUP’s Council and Collective Bargaining Congress endorsed the Occupy movement last week–a move that, judging from the volume and intensity of e-mail responses, evoked strong feelings among our membership.
For many reasons–including the fact that student access to higher education is increasingly threatened by mounting costs and loans and the fact that faculty themselves have become predominantly low-wage workers with few protections for academic freedom–faculty at more and more institutions are issuing statements of support for or participating in the movement. To name just those tha crossed my computer screen in the last day or two: Oberlin College, Temple University, Columbia University, the New School, the City University of New York, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California, the Cal State system.
What are faculty at your institution doing?
The AAUP recently submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services in response to proposed new rule making on institutional review boards, the campus bodies that oversee research on human subjects. In accordance with the AAUP’s 2006 report on this subject, the comments emphasize that IRBs should evaluate risk based on empirical evidence, that there should be no IRB review of interview, observation, and survey research with legally competent adults, and that the federal government should not regulate research it does not pay for.
The 2006 report was prompted in part by many complaints of inappropriate IRB actions, particularly
Every two years, faculty and allies across the United States and Canada take part in Campus Equity Week, a week of events calling attention to the prevalence and working conditions of faculty in contingent appointments. This year’s Campus Equity Week will be held from October 24 to 30. (In Canada and some US states, it is called Fair Employment Week.)
The purpose of the week is to generate awareness about working conditions on our campuses and advocate for improving those conditions. As most readers of this blog are probably aware, the vast majority of US faculty are now in non-tenure-track jobs, with lower pay, less job security, and fewer rights than their tenure-track colleagues.
In an essay in the current issue of Academe, Elizabeth Cramer and Charles Ford discuss how, despite improvements in the climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, staff, and faculty on college campuses over the last generation, discrimination persists. They cite the harassment and suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi last fall, harassment of other gay students, and incidents in which lesbian and transgender faculty were fired, denied tenure, and otherwise discriminated against.
Readers, what is the climate like for LBGTQ faculty and students on your campus? Do you think discrimination is overt, subtle, or nonexistent?