2014 Through the Academe Blog: July

Hank Reichman’s first post of the month dealt with Foundation for Individual Rights in Education lawsuits against campus speech codes:

FIRE’s mission and approach differ from those of the AAUP and we sometimes disagree.   Nonetheless, often our concerns overlap, as was indicated in an enlightening session offered by FIRE staff members at AAUP’s recent Annual Meeting in Washington.  The AAUP does not initiate litigation or provide attorneys or direction for those who may file suit.  We do, however, submit amicus curiae briefs on important cases with clear implications for our principles, and the AAUP Foundation makes available modest grants to support faculty members who may be involved in such litigation.  It is, therefore, not our role to become involved in FIRE’s litigation project.  But in these four lawsuits I, for one, am more than happy to wish them well.

Following up on a Reichman post in June, I also wrote on Lesa Hammond’s Become a Part-Time Professor: Live and Teach Anywhere You Like:

I am not sure what the real purpose is of Hammond’s project. There is little need to add to the adjunct pool anywhere and doing so only feeds into policies that have more than decimated our faculties already. Teaching, even part-time, is no activity for the dilettante, or for someone looking to add a little prestige to their existence. It is hard work, even online (another myth Hammond promotes: Teaching is easy), and the adjunct generally ends up spending many more hours working than are ever compensated.

Ulf Kirchdorfer then also followed up on the same subject:

My absolute favorite and nightmare section is the photo of presumably a retired couple, both gray hair, at first hardly noticeable Asian features, as they sit in their recliners “teaching online.” Zooming in I was able to make out a tea set and two cups and in the right hand of the man a camera. But it was the accompanying text that froze me for all eternity: “Margaret and Phil are retired and live a quiet existence. They love teaching their online courses from their easy chairs. ‘It feels like we are sharing our work,’ says Margaret. Even though Margaret teaches English and Phil teaches a math class, they enjoy their time together as they teach.” I love my wife, but I am certain she and I could think of nothing worse than sitting “part-time” next to each other in a room most of the day working together.

Martin Kich sees that the adjunct crisis is going to get worse:

The “real problem” behind the exploitation of adjunct faculty is quite obvious: universities have continued to produce a reasonable number of Ph.D.’s but no longer are willing to hire a reasonable number of them into full-time, never mind tenure-track, positions.

Brian C. Mitchell addressed the future of higher education:

The sustainability strategy for each institution will be different. For the core group of institutions that have historically defined the foundation upon which American higher education is built, the tools exist. These include deeper strategic thinking, better assessment, sustainable partnerships, and shifting enrollment approaches. The question is not so much how to solve the problem but whether to admit that the problem exists.

Jonathan Rees continued to consider the implications of MOOCs and their “superprofessors”:

Superprofessors deserve this kind of academic freedom too – not just the freedom to determine the content that they teach, but to teach in an environment which they ultimately control. Give a for-profit private enterprise power over your virtual classroom, especially a massive virtual classroom, and that freedom becomes significantly more tenuous for all of us. Most of us faculty will never get the opportunity to teach a MOOC ourselves, but if the superprofessors of the world lose that freedom it will ultimately become harder for any of us to control the way we run our own courses, whether we teach online or off.

Seth Kahn called for all of us to sign a petition asking the Department of Labor to investigate adjunct working conditions:

For those of you who are interested in the larger adjunct labor movement, I would also argue supporting this campaign is important because it opens up yet another new approach to fighting for equity. We’ve seen creative approaches growing and intertwining at a lively rate in the last few years: Josh Boldt’s Adjunct Project; SEIU’s Adjunct Action campaign; the New Faculty Majority; more recently the#mlademocracy campaign, which has successfully put forward a slate of contingent and contingent-supportive candidates to run for the organization’s offices; and the AFU’s petition to the Department of Justice to investigate Higher Ed writ large for denial of civil rights and collusion.

There was much more during the month, of course, but that’s a good taste!

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