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Stoop labor in the groves of Academe

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday October 16, 2008 12:45 PM

I was amused by the following, from the Chronicle of Higher Education, on one of my lefty mailing lists:


Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, long criticized for its workplace policies, is a “more-honest employer” of part-time workers than colleges that employ thousands of adjunct faculty members. That was the harsh message delivered to a group of college human-resources officials here on Monday by one of their own: Angelo-Gene Monaco, associate vice president for human resources and employee relations at the University of Akron.

“We helped create a highly educated part of the working poor, and it’s starting to get attention from outsiders,” he said, noting that unions are trying to organize part-timers....

Yet another of the unlovely realities of academic life, so sharply at odds with the "profession's" exalted self-representation -- you know, the life of the mind and all that.

Note well that Monaco's concern was anything but humanitarian:

If colleges don't improve conditions for part-time instructors, they risk increased unionization efforts, and not just from the groups that have traditionally organized professors, said Mr. Monaco. He mentioned the United Auto Workers and Teamsters as potential organizers of adjuncts. "I'm worried about them. They don't care about the full-time faculty," he said.
A good many of us don't, Gene -- and there should be more.

Comments (5)

At my now defunct alma mater, the anti-union harassment by the school's trustees a decade ago resulted in a wholesale exodus of qualified faculty, and their replacement with mostly complacent, untenured, part-time hacks. Absent the integrity of principled, competent faculty, the trustees then went on a binge of deceptive, predatory marketing to unqualified prospective students, who were milked by the poverty pimps for student loans but got no employment counseling or alumni services.

The school that inherited part of this mess now employs only MAs full-time, and PhDs as adjuncts, thereby avoiding paying competitive salaries.

As a final note to the fiasco since my alma mater's closure in June, the faculty represented by SEIU have yet to receive their pay for last summer and fall semester. Meanwhile the trustees are selling off the remaining assets with plans to provide themselves golden parachutes and maybe start a private institute elsewhere.

Never mind the poor soul who cleaned out the lecture hall the night before class (probably they're already unionized, actually)*. Perhaps I'm harder on the academy than the harm it actually does warrants, but the general claim to embrace progressive values is by all evidence humbug, assuming progressive can be define in terms of fact and as something concrete--such as solidarity with and efforts to assist one's coworkers.

*Where I work, which is a private company, not a university, the janitors are the best organized, followed by the warehouse workers. As one goes up the latter, and the the better the pay, the worse the organization--go figure.


Jay -- Your experience seems to have been different from mine. In my wanderings through Academe, it's the tenured folk who have been "complacent", and the braceros -- er, adjuncts -- anything but.

And I can't imagine what faculty, tenured or otherwise, might do one way or the other about the marketing efforts of management.

I understand that my experience was unusual, albeit enlightening. One thing that a few faculty did do about the fraudulent marketing was go to the oversight agencies with documentation, and later to media covering the scandal. All suffered malicious harassment and brutal retaliation for their effort.

Son of Uncle Sam:

An asshole H.R. rep worried about their work conditions ... that's so awesome!!!

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