Some links relating to contract faculty

Special Issue: Understanding the New Majority of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty in Higher Education—Demographics, Experiences, and Plans of Action. Adrianna Kezar and Cecile Sam. 2010.
“This monograph provides a portrait of non-tenure-track faculty, describes studies of their experiences, and proposes plans of action. Much of the research, particularly early on, tried to provide a picture and description of this faculty that have been largely invisible for years.”

The University of Stockholm Syndrome. Ian Bogost. August 18, 2010.

An underclass is educating your children. Rob Faunce, Chronicle of Higher Education. September 2, 2010.
“I think we’ve all heard that refrain before, but perhaps it’s time to hear it again, and to think about the conditions of our younger peers as we move on into mythical jobs and mythical tenure.”

Solidarity vs. contingency. Cary Nelson, Inside Higher Ed. September 7, 2010.
“The only true solidarity among current faculty members requires granting tenure to all long-term contingent faculty members. […] The only goal worth fighting for is full justice for all who teach.”

Undocumented and unsung-Growing worldwide dependence on part-time faculty.
Liz Reisberg, Inside Higher Ed. November 8, 2010.
“Among the most interesting were the very large gaps in available data about who is teaching and the remuneration they receive. In most countries national data are collected and compiled by the Ministry of Education, but they are generally incomplete. One consistent pattern in all of the country studies was that there has been a dramatic increase in part-time contracts but with virtually no national data available about their number, profile or remuneration. As a result we are left to guess at what percentage of the teaching faculty is part-time, who they are, and how they are compensated.”

Conditions imposed on part-time adjuncts threaten quality of teaching, researchers say. Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education. November 30, 2010.
“The two Michigan State University researchers who conducted the study […] stressed in an interview this week that they fault the conditions part-time instructors work under, and not the instructors themselves, for their failure to use effective teaching methods more often.”

Whatever happened to tenure? Stephanie Findlay, Maclean’s. January 17, 2010.

Documenting adjuncts’ pay gap. Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed. January 20, 2011.

Loyalty or desperation? Lee Skallerup Bessette, Inside Higher Ed. February 16, 2011.
“I was told upfront that I would never get a full-time job there because my specialty and interests were not a priority. Can I help it if I adapt as mercenary an approach to being an adjunct as they take towards adjuncts? Nothing personal, just business.”

Review of “The Faculty Lounges”. Dan Berrett, Inside Higher Ed. June 8, 2011.

Taking the leap. Janet G. Casey, Inside Higher Ed. November 21, 2011.

The time is now: Report from the New Faculty Majority Summit. Lee Bessette, Inside Higher Ed. January 30, 2012.

A call to action. Kaustuv Basu, Inside Higher Ed. January 30, 2012.

The ‘new majority’ of contingent faculty try to get heard. Léo Charbonneau, University Affairs. February 14, 2012.

Rhetoric and Composition: Academic capitalism and cheap teachers. Ann Larson, Education, Class, Politics. March 3, 2012.

The adjunct problem is every professor’s problem. Jonathan Rees. March 20, 2012.

Data storm. Kaustuv Basu, Inside Higher Ed. April 2, 2012.

The disposable professor crisis. s.e. smith, Salon (originally at Alternet). April 4, 2012.

Just not that into you. Kate Bowles, Music for Deckchairs. June 10, 2012.

Original sin: What responsibility do tenure track faculty have for the rise of adjuncts? Jonathan Rees. June 18, 2012.

The adjunct scramble. Kaustuv Basu, Inside Higher Ed. August 23, 2012.

Working for change in higher education: The abysmal state of adjunct teacher pay. Jeffrey Nall, Truthout. November 25, 2012.

Making the case for adjuncts. Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed. January 9, 2013.

Sessionals, up close. Moira MacDonald, University Affairs. January 9, 2013.

Chart of the Day: Overwhelmingly female adjunct staff face low pay and few employment protections Kay Steiger. January 9, 2013.

Quit! L.S. Powers, The Adjunct Project. January 28, 2013.

Why are so many academics on short-term contracts for years? Anna Fazackerley, Guardian. February 4, 2013.

The academic graveyard shift. Andrew Lounder, Education Policy. February 11, 2013.

Profiles: The faces of precarious work. Laura Kane, Toronto Star. February 23, 2013.

Academia’s indentured servants. Sarah Kendzior, Al Jazeera. April 11, 2013.

Tackling the cap. Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed. April 24, 2013.

When tenure-track faculty take on the problem of adjunctification. Jennifer Ruth, Remaking the University. May 25, 2013.

The pink collar workforce of academia. Kay Steiger, The Nation. July 11, 2013.

Who teaches university students? Contract teachers. Craig McFarlane, The Globe & Mail. June 21, 2013.

Don’t cheer the rise of the adjunct. Jonathan Marks, Minding the Campus. September 16, 2013.

Zero hours in universities: ‘You never know if it’ll be enough to survive’. Harriet Swain, Guardian. September 16, 2013.

Death of an adjunct. Daniel Kovalik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. September 18, 2013.

Zero opportunity employers. Sarah Kendzior, Aljazeera. September 23, 2013.

Sifting through the scant data on contingent faculty. Léo Charbonneau, Margin Notes. October 29, 2013.

What does the national data say about adjuncts? Matt Bruenig. December 4, 2013.

Adjuncts and theories of politics. Fredrick deBoer. January 3, 2014.

Thinking beyond ourselves: The “crisis” in academic work. Melonie Fullick, Speculative Diction. January 10, 2014.

False statistic: 76 percent of American faculty are adjuncts. Matt Bruenig. January 14, 2014.
“The article says tenured or tenure-track professors make up 24 percent of the workforce. The remainder are not all adjuncts. They are a mix of adjuncts and all these other kinds of employees who the Times distinguishes from adjuncts.” [Read the comments on this one.]

The new old labor crisis. Tressie McMillan Cottom, Slate. January 24, 2014.
“Think being an adjunct professor is hard? Try being a black adjunct professor…to be clear, there’s been a labor crisis in higher ed for a long time. It just hasn’t always been a crisis for everyone in higher ed.”

The Just-In-Time Professor. House Committee on Education and the Workforce
Democratic Staff. January, 2014.

An ‘alarming snapshot’ of adjunct labor. Sydni Dunn, Chronicle Vitae. January 24, 2014.

Congress takes note. Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed. January 24, 2014.

Invisible hands: Making academic labour visible. Christina Turner, rabble. January 24, 2014.
“…while [in Canada] the average salary for a full professor in 2010-11 was $138,853, contract instructors make $4000-8000 per course and have no benefits or job security and little academic freedom.”

The income gap between tenure faculty & adjunct contract professors in Canadian universities. The Current, CBC. January 27, 2014.

Representing the new faculty majority. Stephen Slemon, ACCUTE. January 30, 2014.
“We still don’t have competent statistics about contract academic faculty numbers within the Canadian postsecondary industry, a fact that speaks volumes in support of the hypothesis that ignorance is motivated. We do know that the numbers are growing.”

Sessionals. Alex Usher, One Thought Blog. March 6, 2014.
“Basically, no one “decided” to create an academic underclass of sessionals. Rather, they are an emergent property of a system where universities mostly earn money for teaching, but spend a hell of a lot of it doing research.”

Remaking the Public U’s professoriate. Jennifer Ruth, Remaking the Public University. April 2, 2015.

The new normal. Kate Bowles, CASA. April 12, 2015.

The adjunct revolt: How poor professors are fighting back. Elizabeth Segran, The Atlantic. April 28, 2014.

Slavery should never be a metaphor. Tressie McMillan Cottom, The Adjunct Project. May 5, 2014.

Casualisation, (dis)ability and academia. Carla Barrett and Natalie Osborne, CASA. May 15, 2014.

I was a liberal adjunct professor. My liberal students didn’t scare me at all. Amanda Taub, Vox. June 5, 2015.

The teaching class. Rachel Riederer, Guernica. June 16, 2014.

The plight of hidden academics. The Agenda, TVO. June 24, 2014.

Sessional instructors: what we know so far. Léo Charbonneau, Margin Notes. July 16, 2014.

The opposite of good fortune is bad fortune. Ian Bogost. July 20, 2014.

New move in union-busting? Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed. August 5, 2015.
“…union members are saying [Duquesne University] has hit an unprecedented low in the fight, threatening in a legal brief to fire adjuncts who participated in the unionization process.”

I used to be a good teacher. Alice Umber, Chronicle Vitae. August 20, 2014.

Is that whining adjunct someone we want teaching our young? Catherine Stukel, Chronicle of Higher Education. August 25, 2014.

Offensive letter justifies oppressive system that hurts both faculty and students. Marc Bousquet, Chronicle of Higher Education. August 29, 2014.

‘Traditional’ academics are an endangered species. Geoff Maslen, University World News. September 9, 2014.

Calling it out. Kate Bowles, Music for Deckchairs. September 10, 2014.

No country for old adjuncts. Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed. September 24, 2014.

First Amendment rights for adjuncts. Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed. October 31, 2014.

Your waitress, your professor. Brittany Bronson, The New York Times. December 18, 2014.

Adjunct to tenure track. Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed. January 12, 2015.

A day without adjuncts. Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed. January 27, 2015.

The woman behind #NAWD. Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed. March 5, 2015.

Academia has to stop eating its young. Showey Yazdanian, The Globe and Mail. March 5, 2015.

More contract work in post-secondary education – a former bastion of secure work. Mary Wiens, CBC. March 5, 2015.

Academia’s 1 percent. Sarah Kendzior, Chronicle Vitae. March 6, 2015.
“No amount of publishing, teaching excellence, or grants can compensate for an affiliation that is less than favorable in the eyes of a search committee. The fate of aspiring professors is sealed not with job applications but with graduate-school applications.”

Crisis in academic labour puts Canadian universities on the brink. Erin Wunker, rabble. March 10, 2015.

Past is prologue when it comes to contract faculty. Melonie Fullick, Speculative Diction. March 11, 2015.

At universities, who is going the teaching? Editorial, The Globe and Mail. March 13 2015.
“Those superstar professors and public intellectuals who bring High-Ranked U. its global stature? They’re preoccupied with producing research, the university’s reward for greatness, and increasingly the university’s measure of greatness.”

What next for #NAWD? Lee Kottner, University of Venus. March 23, 2015.

O adjunct, my adjunct! Carmen Maria Machado, The New Yorker. March 25, 2015.

“Most students couldn’t afford to live on what we make”: The grim reality of MUN’s contractual faculty. Laura Howells, The Muse. April 2, 2015.

The professor divide at American universities and How to Fix It — The Case for a teaching-intensive tenure track. Jennifer Ruth, LSE Impact Blog. April 10, 2015.
“In our forthcoming book, The Humanities, Higher Education and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments, Michael Bérubé and I propose that universities and colleges put the professoriate back together again by building teaching-intensive tenure tracks.”

The cost of an adjunct. Laura McKenna, The Atlantic. May 26, 2015.

Zero-hours contracts and precarious academic work in the UK. Jonathan White, Academic Matters. Spring—Summer 2015.
“In the UK there are tens of thousands of people working on zero-hours contracts with no guarantee of work from semester to semester. Many of them are students, recruited into doctoral programmes by universities hungry for their course fees and then used to teach fee-paying undergraduates.”

Gratis. Kate Bowles, Music for Deckchairs. June 10, 2015.

I am an adjunct professor who teaches five classes. I earn less than a pet-sitter. Lee Hall, Guardian. June 22, 2015.

Contingent faculty aren’t working in the minors. John Warner, Just Visiting. July 9, 2015.

Employment (in)security and shame: Working hard on soft money. The Smart Casual. July 15, 2015.

Landmark court case win by NTEU, voids Swinburne anti-worker EBA. Josh Cullinan. National Tertiary Education Union. July 17, 2015.

Solidarity to Save Jobs. Jacqueline Thomsen, Inside Higher Ed. August 6, 2015.

The economic inequality in academia. Richard Goldin, Counterpunch. August 13, 2015.
“The reinforcement of professorial class privilege begins with the hiring process for the few available tenure-track jobs. Excellence in teaching, without academic publications, will rarely qualify an applicant for a university level tenure-track position.”

‘Sessional’ Instructors: Return of the Penniless Scholar? Katie Hyslop, The Tyee. September 21, 2015.

In Search of Solidarity for Sessional Instructors. John-Henry Harter, Briarpatch. September 2, 2015.

Fed up with precarious work, academic staff speak out for fair and full employment. CAUT. October 7, 2015.

Silence on campus: Contingent work and free speech. Alex Press and StudentNation, The Nation. February 17, 2016.

UBC, WTF?

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the recent events at UBC, it’s that silence can say more than words, whether you’re withholding information or telling someone else to keep quiet. That probably sounds obvious, but the university’s announcement of Arvind Gupta’s resignation—and its handling of the events that followed—reflect some problematic assumptions about who should be able to speak, when, and what should be said.

What was it that triggered UBC’s current public crisis? Gupta’s July 31 departure was announced publicly on August 7 in classic “Friday Afternoon News Dump” fashion: UBC published a news release, which was tweeted shortly after 4pm EDT. In a news release where roughly 50% of the text was devoted to celebratory prose about the incoming interim president (Dr. Martha Piper), UBC gave no explanation for Gupta’s resignation except that he had “decided he can best contribute to the university and lead Canada’s innovation agenda by resuming his academic career and leadership roles in the business and research community”.

Additionally, a Globe and Mail article was published around 5pm, containing interview quotes from UBC Board of Governors (BoG) Chair John Montalbano. Rather than clarifying the situation, this article only exacerbated the impression that the university hoped to bury the issue as quickly as possible. Gupta’s quoted comments—restricted by the NDAs that had been signed—were equally unhelpful, referring back to the university’s statement. Montalbano appears completely unfazed, stating “I don’t believe we will miss a beat”.

That article highlights what’s been so provocative about the UBC case, i.e. the “cone of silence” approach taken by the university’s administration, even as the BoG Chair seemed to have been saying quite a lot (more on this below). While there was a press release, it was immediately treated as an incomplete account because in the context of Gupta’s five-year term ending abruptly after only one year, the information UBC provided wasn’t “enough”. An (apparently) partial message suggests that there’s something to hide. This much should have been obvious at the outset, but UBC’s communication has remained unbendingly evasive; even their Twitter feed contained nothing helpful when I checked, beyond a single tweet with their press release on August 7.

Because of this suddenness and silence, public speculation began immediately. Why was Gupta resigning after only a year? Was it a health problem or some other personal issue? Was it a disagreement with the Board or opposition from senior administrators (the remaining ones, anyway)? The pressure of financial challenges? Gupta had no real experience in administration; was the position simply too much for him—or was he perhaps not living up to his promise? If it was the latter, one year seems like a pretty short trial period. If this was a “smouldering crisis”, it didn’t take long for the flames to be fanned—and it certainly wasn’t visible or predictable to everyone in the institution. UBC Faculty Association President Mark MacLean wrote in a public letter on August 10: “this news came as a complete surprise to me, and I have spent the weekend trying to make sense of it”.

UBC faculty members were among those who produced blog posts and columns offering their own interpretations of events (examples from the past few weeks include E. Wayne Ross, Nassif Ghoussoub, Stephen Petrina, Christopher Rea, James Tansey, and Charles Menzies). Which brings us to the second thread in this story. On August 9, Dr. Jennifer Berdahl—a full professor who holds the Montalbano Professorship in Leadership Studies: Women and Diversity in the Sauder School of Business—published a blog post about Gupta’s resignation, in which she described her “personal observations and experiences” with him. She placed these observations squarely in the context of her research on diversity and workplace dynamics.

Of Gupta, Berdahl wrote that “he exhibited all the traits of a humble leader: one who listens to arguments and weighs their logic and information, instead of displaying and rewarding bravado as a proxy for competence”; and that “UBC either failed in selecting, or in supporting, him as president” (a position she wasn’t alone in holding). More controversially, she described the culture of leadership at UBC as a “masculinity contest” in which Gupta did not fit, and where his strengths were not sufficiently valued.

Berdahl’s post soon came to the attention of BoG Chair John Montalbano, who went so far as to express disapproval to her in a phone call the day after it was published. Montalbano, who is CEO of RBC Global Asset Management, also happens to be the donor whose funds support Berdahl’s professorship. According to Berdahl, he chastised her for bringing negative attention to the Sauder School and UBC, describing her words as “hurtful” and “unfair to the Board” and repeatedly mentioning both the RBC funding and related conversations that he was having with other administrators. This was followed by further communications from Berdahl’s Division Chair; the Associate Dean of Faculty; and perhaps most ironically, the Associate Dean of Equity and Diversity. Their message was clear: the blog post had done “reputational damage” and was upsetting to a powerful donor who was also Chair of the Board.

Berdahl’s account of these experiences, which she posted on August 16, brought a whole new dimension to the UBC situation. What she described was an unequivocal breach of academic protocol, and it generated outrage far beyond UBC and beyond the group that had initially been concerned about Gupta’s resignation. It also changed the focus of the story and helped to further position Montalbano as the chief villain in it. Even those who were more sanguine about Gupta’s departure and/or had viewed Berdahl’s earlier post with skepticism, were happy to leap to her defence over an issue of academic freedom.

Berdahl’s experience has raised again a key issue with regards to the definition of academic freedom: should professors’ commentary be limited to their “area of expertise” or to what is required for teaching and research, or should it be applicable to more general matters of university governance? Even for those who think that comment should be limited to a faculty member’s research area, Berdahl’s position is unique this regard; her research is in fact about organizational dynamics. Surely then she is qualified to speak critically about the dynamics in her own institution, based on what she’s observed first-hand? The post states fairly clearly that Berdahl is speaking from her own experience and framing this through the theoretical lens that she uses in her work. This approach was of course criticised for a variety of reasons, but being critical of what someone said is not the same as telling them to stop saying it.

I wasn’t hugely surprised at the points Berdahl was making, because the gender issue here isn’t a new one. It’s a point I’ve seen raised, usually off-the-record (and not by women), during the course of my dissertation research. It’s something that Julie Cafley of Canada’s Public Policy Forum, who wrote a dissertation on Canadian universities’ presidential departures, is also pointing out as significant. Another factor to keep in mind are the gender dynamics of public expertise, which favour a particular performance of masculinity (one that intersects with perceptions relating to race). So is there not a connection between these issues and the points raised in Berdahl’s blog post on this topic? Why were so many people—university faculty included—so quick to dismiss the legitimacy and relevance of what she said, along with her right to say it?

For some people, the problem was the quality of the writing and the analysis in the post; it wasn’t written either with the rigour of an academic article, or the clarity of a post intended for a broad audience. Others disagreed with the conclusions indicated therein, which were interpreted as accusations of racism and sexism. But if the question here is whether the post was covered by UBC’s existing policies on academic freedom, to me it looks like the answer is “yes”.

That’s why, whatever Berdahl’s analysis pointed to, in his reaction to it Montalbano stepped over a line that would have been clear to anyone familiar with academic work and the policies that govern it. The outcome was that after denying the allegations, Montalbano still faced public pressure to step down as BoG Chair—which he did, on August 25. Former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith will “undertake [a] fact-finding process” on the incident, to culminate in a report by October 7. Meanwhile, UBC has provided no further information about Gupta’s resignation, which clearly hasn’t stopped major media outlets from publishing further commentary.

I can see at least two stories being told here: one of them is about accountability, and the other is about academic freedom. They’re both stories about the ethics of (crisis) communication—on the one hand, a major, sudden change occurred and not enough information was provided. On the other hand, when a faculty member wrote a public interpretation of that change, she was shushed by the BoG Chair and others.

Accountability is significantly about communicating with those who have an interest in the outcome of a situation. Even when there’s information that for legal reasons can’t be disclosed, there are ways of handling it appropriately. The rampant speculation (and subsequent calls for transparency) should have been entirely predictable given that UBC is one of the country’s top universities, that there was widespread publicity about Gupta’s appointment (and presidential searches cost money), and that the resignation happened after just 13 months. Those gaps left between expectations and actual communication were filled in with assumptions generated by context: that something very bad must have happened, since no-one could talk about it. Would things have turned out differently had the university taken a different path at the outset, or are the rules governing such situations inherently troubling for public academic institutions?

Academic freedom, too, is a communication issue as well as one of intellectual integrity; there’s a reason it’s so often conflated with “freedom of speech”. It’s what professors are saying—what they’re communicating and to whom—that’s often framed as a (political) problem, as was the case with Jennifer Berdahl’s blog posts. This reaction to her words only confirmed the initial impression that something worth hiding must have happened, since a faculty member was being pressured to tone it down.

What will happen next at UBC? In an August 9 post at Inside Higher Ed, Kris Olds wrote that “a crisis is a wonderful teaching and learning moment. Use it, and be prepared to see it used, for this is what a university is all about”. Only time will tell whether the lessons from this crisis will be put to good use. UBC will need to tend to reputational damage, but even more so, the damage done to internal trust within the university. One sign of how the university plans to proceed is provided in Martha Piper’s op-ed in the Vancouver Sun. Piper’s piece, whether you agree with her perspective or not, is probably better written than anything else produced by UBC representatives during the past month; but it’s clear that the university is trying to maintain the same upbeat tone that failed so badly at the outset. If (as some have argued) there’s a deeper, ongoing problem with the culture of governance at UBC, it’s going to take not only time but also some honesty to address it appropriately.

List of Sources on Contract Faculty

In light of the recent strikes at York University and University of Toronto, linked below is a list of some of the sources I’ve tracked down relating to PhD ‘demand’, the academic job market, contract faculty, and labour unions. The focus is on Canada – and it’s by no means exhaustive – but there are some references here from other countries as well. I’ve also tried to include a range of perspectives on the issues. Here’s the link:
Sources on contract faculty and academic unions in Canada.

Journal Commentary: The role of communication in governance – Universities and (new) media [July 31 2013]

I’ve had a short essay published in the Journal of Professional Communication. The essay is about the role of communication in organizational governance, and takes the university as an example of how new media are affecting organizations’ public relations practices and the kind of work that must be done by/through communication.

The journal home page is here, and my essay is in Volume 2, Issue 2.

The link to a PDF of my piece is here.

Speculative Diction: Degrees of Certainty [March 27, 2013]

In the Canadian press there was a lot of discussion about the “skills gap” in the weeks preceding the federal budget announcement, so I wrote this post about the way the discussion is informed by the politics of funding and the increased amount of risk that universities are expected to manage.