Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fordham Students and Transparency in Catholic Higher Ed

Ok, kids, this is maybe one sort of transparency, but not what I had in mind. 

End of October it was, and I was saying look in coming weeks for an article in the Fordham student newspaper, The Ramfor a good student-written article on adjunct faculty.

Well, that wasn't The Ram, it seems, but The Paper, which is the other student newspaper at Fordham, and I did manage to figure that out, and to grab a few copies before they all disappeared.

You know, it was a very good article, by Matt Winters, and I hope the editors will post it up on their website, and soon, because, in truth, it was buried--and big time--in the middle of an issue which did not, to put it mildly, feature any outward sign at all that anything serious was contained within its exuberantly adolescent pages.

By which I mean to say: These darn kids! They're all beer bong and grasshopper now, and that's natural, sure, and there's nobody likes a sock hop more than me, you'd be surprised, but these young people, you know, it breaks your heart, they'll find themselves sadly in need of fiber and formic acid when the hard freeze comes, and I'm just trying to provide some guidance. You can see more here. 

So straighten up and fly right! 

I expect a corrected copy of that whole edition, in my box, by Monday morning, with Matt Winters' excellent article on adjuncts featured prominently on the front page, and NO images of attractive nearly naked young ladies suggestively brandishing machine guns. Just cut that stuff out right now and it won't be too soon. 


Now, in another sector of Catholic academe, please see An Open Letter on Transparency: Fears, Problems and Solutions, by John H. Sceski, Managing Editor of the Catholic Higher Education Advocate (CHEA).

I think perhaps you need to register to comment, something you really should do, especially if you work at a Catholic school. Here, though, are the last several paragraphs of John Sceski's letter and I join him in asking you to "please get involved."

To test the waters, over a year ago CHEA contacted the heads of faculty senates and congresses at what we believed were eight Catholic universities where faculty appeared to have more clout and success in working with their administrations. We asked these Catholic schools to provide the following information (This request still exists on the Stats & Legislation page of the CHEA site):
The average percent faculty salaries have increased over the past three years (if any).The percent of the school’s budget devoted to faculty compensation compared to capital expenditures.The current ratio of full-time faculty to contingent faculty (i.e. adjuncts, visiting assistant professors, graduate students, non-fulltime faculty of any type) and the percent of increase or decrease in the use of contingent faculty over the previous three years.The number of departments/programs added or deleted over the past three years.The average years of service required to achieve tenure.The average percent of increase or decrease of healthcare cost at your institution over the past three years.

Most schools did respond, but not with the requested information.  In fact, several individuals requested complete anonymity concerning any communication between themselves and CHEA. To be connected to providing the requested information and make it available for public consumption is just too professionally risky.  CHEA now realizes it was wrong to request that information from publicly recognized leaders.
But without transparency about the true state of things how can we effect change at our schools that will benefit our careers and Catholic higher education in general?  Two solutions seem to be available: 1) If every Catholic school provides the above information (and perhaps more directly damaging information about practices at its school), then the rules of the game change since administrations will now know that such practices are commonplace and the likelihood of being punished for participating in an industry wide practice will diminish, 2) create a safe haven where anonymous dumping of information cannot be traced back to its source, but the information is accessible for all to see.  CHEA will now make option number two a reality.  Personnel from any school will be able to post information on the CHEA “Information Dump” in a way that it cannot be traced to its source.  We cannot claim credit for this idea. In February 201 3, CHEA linked to a story about Gustavus Adolphus College (see here) where an information dump was created that empowered their faculty to effect real change at the college.
No doubt downsides remain. Schools that choose to provide information when other schools do not provide such information run the risks of having such information negatively affect: hiring, funding opportunities for research, potential donors, accrediting agencies and the like.  As well, non-sourced and untraceable information invites reporting abuses.  Indeed, scholarly activity eschews not citing one’s sources, so this solution seems at odds with established academic practice.  However, our quest for a better workplace is not solely an academic matter. It seems reasonable to trust in the intentions of those individuals who dump information and the critical thinking skills of the people who choose to access this information. 
Finally, CHEA is requesting a dialogue with Catholic academe about the value of such an information dump before it is launched.  Criticisms of what is written above and new ideas are welcomed.  Please get involved.
John H. Sceski, Ph.D.
Managing Editor

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cringing Again-OSHA Inaugurates New Faculty Protections

I'd just like to take this opportunity to welcome myself back to this space, and to note that I've been doing some very dangerous work lately 1) trying to recall my username and password, and 2) researching the increasingly bizarre claims of our higher education leaders. But there is hope: check out the OSHA info on "temporary workers."

The OSHA site features info on the Protection of Temporary Workers: God Bless Big Government!
Who knew they were trying  to protect adjunct and contingent faculty from noxious fumes (from DOE?)? 

I expect to shortly have a decent source of oxygen, and will be posting again regularly, just as soon as all the hoses and other gear are properly installed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Ok, I admit to a bit of dead horse beating here, but what the hell?

How can this horse be dead? Where's the work ethic anymore?

President Obama had at least one good joke to begin his address at the Morehouse College commencement this morning: 
I know some of you had to wait in long lines to get into today’s ceremony. I would apologize, but it didn’t actually have anything to do with security. These graduates just wanted you to know what it’s like to register for classes.
Ha ha. Really. I like it.  

Didn't say anything about adjunct faculty, though, which, while it isn't funny, is important if you’re like me in thinking that the ongoing enfeebling of the nation's faculty is the real problem with higher education. 

Not funny at all.

President Obama did have a few words going on about responsibility, leaning on some remarks by Benjamin Mays, Morehouse president from 1940 to 1967, noting that the college should aim to produce graduates "who are sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society and who are willing to accept responsibility for correcting [those] ills.”

"Live up to President Mays’ challenge," U.S. President Obama urged.  "Some of you may be headed to medical school to become doctors. But make sure you heal folks in underserved communities who really need it, too."

That was a prelude to softsell marketing of Obamacare. Obamacare? I’m a fan, in principle, but did the President take what was a golden opportunity, at Morehouse this morning, to point out that some unscrupulous employees—that’s probably a zillion colleges and universities, unfortunately, have been using Obamacare as an excuse to further injure the livelihoods and lives of America’s majority faculty?

No. Why did I even ask?

And, by the way, President Obama didn't say anything at all to any of Morehouse men who might be thinking about a career in high ed.

There must have been some. I wonder if they were thinking about the majority higher education faculty in this country—the faculty that already, being the "super-majority" in the community colleges and "lesser tier" 4-year colleges, knows quite a lot about serving "folks in underserved communities." A shame the current President, of the United States, seems so unaware of that.

Now, also get you to the Hofstra AAUP adjunct site, which has a very good post. 

And go comment-here's mine:
Hi folks-thanks for posting this. It’s a shame isn’t it, that we weren’t able to mobilize even more noise around this classically hideous example of institutional inequity, but at least we got some of it going. I tried to find some sort of info on whether or not there would be higher ed union or other supremos at this event– some published itineraries perhaps, of leadership types who might have been in the good seats– with a view to doing a twitter thing and twitting them for their fecklessness in the face of an obvious pr opportunity…but ran out of gas, not least of all because I had to/still have to, write a new final exam for a new course… To give tomorrow. But, again, it’s great to see this post, thanks.
And, of course, also visit the New Faculty Majority Blog, which has all manner of current adcon news going on-Thank you, Vanessa!

And then get to the New Faculty Majority Facebook page as well.

I really think the White House should be all tied with adcon tweets and so-forth...don't you?


May 16, 2013  Ok, I'm sorry. I was wrong. 

So this crow was just helping me out, ok? Nothing bad happened to this crow.

And here is a comment from Kathleen Rand Reed, in which she explains the whole misunderstanding:
I spoke with Karen Miller, Chief of Staff, for President John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., at Morehouse and several other knowledgeable persons.  No slight was intended toward the adjuncts.  Usually the "full-time" faculty sits on the stage during commencement. Normally, some members of the faculty are not present --whether away on a vacation, choice not to come, whatever the reason.  This time because of the historic significance of the President speaking at a commencement--in Georgia, at Morehouse an HBCU, etc, almost every faculty member this side of Alabama and any other state wants to be and plans to be on that stage in full regalia.  This situation left a full stage, issues  around fire codes, no room for everyone on stage, security and the like.  Morehouse goes out of its way as an institution to teach its students "compassion, civility, integrity and even listening".  They are not about to go back on that commitment to its students, its faculty (all of its faculty) and the public and especially POTUS. Please do not project onto a revered institution some malevolent intent when the full story has not been told.
Let's hear a loud round of applause for the Morehouse coup of having Obama as the commencement speaker.  Wow!
I know, right? Wow. Now I'll have to eat that crow, probably with egg on my face. Disgusting.

See, Dr. Reed seems to be a nice person, and an anthropologist too, so I’m sure she knows that the American Anthropological Association, through its association with Coalition for theAcademic Workforce, for instance, is VERY SERIOUS about raising the profile of adjunct and contingent faculty.

And, furthermore, she’s clearly someone who commands respect within the academic establishment, because I found a recent post of hers, for instance, on the  "BLOG OF ACADEMEMAGAZINE," where I also read that "OPINIONS PUBLISHED HERE DO NOT REPRESENT THE POLICIES OF THE AAUP."

What a minute! What’s wrong here! Yes, I knew it! I knew the AAUP wouldn't stick up for the excluded adjuncts down at Morehouse College! And where’s AFT, come to think of it! Or NEA!

Are you kidding me!  Shame! Shame!

So, glad I could clear that up. I have three grading deadlines on me. Gotta go.

May 13, 2012 -- Hi there—you may not be able to read this very good article by Peter Schmidt in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, because it’s behind a paywall, but you can read it below because, well, I’m not sure, but somehow it just appeared here.
BTW, Morehouse College doesn’t have THAT many adcon faculty-only 50 or so (half are part-timers), so you’d think that seats wouldn’t be THAT hard to come up with….
(That’s all for now: I am still grading 24 gazillion tests and papers—Alan Trevithick)

[Update (5/15/2013, 11:15 a.m.): Morehouse College announced on Wednesday that adjunct faculty members would each receive one ticket to be in the audience at the commencement ceremony because additional tickets became available after students’ ticket needs were met. The adjuncts will not, however, be able to sit with full-time faculty members on the stage.]

The original CHE article did not feature this poignant illustration, by the way, and, also, not all adjunct/contingent faculty dress like this. I do, of course, but I'm hardly putting myself out there as representative. Many of us who routinely get kicked to the curb in this way manage to do so in a a stylish, indeed, elegant, manner.

Despite all the time they spend in its classrooms, part-time faculty members at Morehouse College are at risk of being kept away on Sunday when President Obama delivers this year's commencement address on the campus green.
Faced with overwhelming demand for seats at the event and the security concerns associated with a presidential visit, the historically black private college decided in February to deny tickets to its roughly 50 part-time faculty members. It has since reversed itself to the extent that it is at least trying to find a way to let adjuncts attend, but Elise Durham, a Morehouse spokeswoman, said on Tuesday that "we just don't know yet" if that will be possible. "We are making every effort to do what we can," she said.
The Atlanta institution clearly is dealing with exceptional circumstances surrounding the first appearance of a sitting U.S. president to deliver one of its commencement addresses. Nevertheless, its decision to deny tickets to its part-time faculty—while seating full-timers onstage—is being perceived by some national advocates for adjunct instructors as emblematic of how colleges often give that population second-class treatment when it comes to inclusion in campus events or access to campus facilities.
"It is so common for adjuncts to be excluded from things," Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority, said on Tuesday. She said even those adjunct faculty members who hold full-time jobs outside academe, and therefore are not as unhappy with their pay and benefits as adjuncts who try to make a living by teaching, "will get very upset about these kinds of exclusions, because they are an insult and they are disrespectful."
"This is just more of the same," said Debra Leigh Scott, who teaches part time at Temple University and is co-producing the documentary Junct: The Trashing of Higher Ed. in America. Calling adjuncts "the invisible people" on college campuses, she said, "It is not at all surprising that the administration would make a decision to further erase the existence of adjuncts at this type of thing."
The Chronicle was unable to reach any Morehouse adjuncts on Tuesday afternoon who were willing to talk about their exclusion from the commencement ceremony, first reported last week in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But Keith Hollingsworth, a professor of business who is chairman of the college's Faculty Council, said, "They are not happy, of course. I don't think that is a big secret."
"Normally," Mr. Hollingsworth said, "we have a very open graduation ceremony," with seats in the front reserved for students and their families but others open to anyone who wanted to attend. "This is the first time we have had to restrict it," he said. "The whole emphasis is to try to have as many tickets for the students as possible."
Ms. Maisto said that at some colleges commencements pose a much different problem for adjuncts because they are required to attend the events without being reimbursed for their time.
At Morehouse, President Obama's scheduled appearance at the commencement has generated high demand for seats, security concerns limiting the number of seats available, and an exceptional level of scrutiny for the college. Morehouse's president, John S. Wilson Jr., already has come under criticism for reducing the role played in its graduation ceremonies by the Rev. Kevin R. Johnson, a Morehouse alumnus who leads a Baptist church in Philadelphia and had recently criticized President Obama in an essay in The Philadelphia Tribune.
In past years, Morehouse had set out about 10,000 seats for its commencement, with no ticket requirements, and let about 3,000 additional people stand in the back. This year, for security reasons, it has had to remove a section of seats, reducing the number available to 9,500, and to require everyone in attendance to have a ticket. It has offered one ticket each to its 170 full-time faculty members, who will have to go through background checks before being seated onstage; one ticket each to members of its staff; and 12 tickets to each of its students.
Ms. Maisto of New Faculty Majority said the situation at Morehouse is an example of how adjuncts "are often reminded of our status" by being given inferior treatment, even when equal treatment would not cost the college any additional money. "It is as much about academic culture as it is about economics," she said, "maybe even more so."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Adcom Mayday: Be Bright, Be Loud

I’m looking for a good hook here, but why bother when I can use this:

Mayday! This is an emergency call for help! We face a dangerous crisis in higher education. It affects almost every university, college and community college. It is not limited to any city, region or state. It is called contingency: the majority of teachers in higher education today are grossly underpaid, at-will employees, lacking any meaningful job security and the academic freedom essential to quality education.

That’s from the 2013 Mayday Manifesto endorsed by lots of solid adjunct/contingent groups—the Executive Board (statewide, New York) of United University Professions (UUP), New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity, the new Adjunct Faculty Association in Pittsburgh organized by the United Steelworkers, and many others.
So go sign that now. And sign this as well, the Adjunct Justice Petition. You'll feel better, and this movement will be moving ahead. 

And then look at the NFM blog which will give you a info on Mayday adcon-related events, including one sponsored by the Ohio part-time Faculty Association, from which group I’ve taken the graphic above.

And the SUNY New Paltz UUP  site, from which I’ve taken the one below—SUNY New Paltz is the place where the excellent language of the 2013 Mayday Manifesto was developed.  

So, as you can see, tomorrow, May 1st, there are many events planned around advocacy for improved working conditions for the majority higher education faculty in this country—adjunct and contingent faculty.
Ok, let me try that again: tomorrow, there are actually too few events planned specifically to protest against the vile four-decades-old scandal in higher education that is the raw exploitation of academic labor through the use of poorly=paid, job-insecure, no-or-low benefit faculty—adjunct and contingent—who are keeping higher education afloat in this country.

A final note: as you don your red clothing tomorrow, emblazoned with the appropriate slogans, I suggest you keep it simple, so that non-specialists can follow. Avoid, for instance, such things as “Say no to Vampire Weasels” or “FTT Shadow Failure: Shame!”

Stay with something simple, like “Learning=Earning? Ha-ha-ha!”

However we’re able to do it, let’s cast some light up what Maria Maisto of NFM has called Higher Education’s Darkest Secret. And while we’re lighting up that darkness, let’s also turn up the volume.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NEA, IPEDS, MLA, CLE Rank Dawson Community College Higher than NYU

Therein you will find out a lot about what's happening in higher ed, like this, "public colleges and universities are getting shortchanged," and this: "gender gap shows no sign of shrinking."

You know, new ideas and new information that will empower you to think in a creative new way about how to manage the challenges of the future. My favorite has to be this:  

Contingent faculty members who provide instruction without the benefit of tenure or permanent employment 
make up a significant portion of the teaching force 
in postsecondary education. 

You know, that just makes sense to me, and it's nice to see what's just been a hunch of mine authoritatively established as the real McCoy. I mean, I know I've provided instruction without benefit of tenure, or even—it's embarrassing to admit this—without even the protection afforded by plain old permanent employment.

And I’ve done it a lot.

What can I say? It's just the heat of the moment, I suppose, and my own personal weakness—I love to teach.  

What is a Significant Portion?
So, how many contingent faculty have been providing instruction in a risky manner?  Readers will want to know. However, I'm unable to locate any numbers or percentages in NEA’s Special Salary Issue.

We do learn some things:
1) The majority of contingent faculty appointments are part-time!
2) The percentage of full-time contingent faculty has been growing!
3) The median pay for a 3-hour class is $2700!

Fifty Shades of Community College
Look, I’m busy, so I'll just look at the first college on each state list—that’ll be all community colleges—and we’ll see about that significant portion thing. What I’ve got for you here is, as usual, from the Modern Language Association’s wonderful Academic Workforce Data Center, which, as you all know, uses data from the pretty wonderful Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to tell us what percent of faculty the nation’s colleges and universities are are non-tenure stream. 

What makes the Academic Workforce Date Center better than the IPEDS itself is that you can get at the data in a wink, whereas at IPEDS itself you need at least two winks and a long nap. 

Some rules: in what follows, the percentages are percentages, of total faculty, for those that are rode hard and put away wet, in the higher ed game, every day. That's the percentage of that institution’s total faculty who are adjunct or contingent, or non-tenure stream, or as I sometimes say, adcon. Now, remember too, as NEA just told you, most of these “without benefit of tenure or permanent employment” folk are part-timers.

So, Alabama? First on the list is Alabama Southern Community College, and there you’ve got adcons at 50% of total faculty. That's almost all part-time, which is the usual pattern: any exceptions, places where most of the adjunct/contingent faculty are NOT part-time, I’ll note. 

Prince William Sound Community College.                                        82%

Arizona Western College.                                                                  100% 

Arkansas northeastern College.                                                         100%
(More than half of these are full-timers.)

Allan Hancock College.                                                                       75%

Aims Community College.                                                                100%

Asnuntuck community College.                                                           87%

Delaware Technical and Community College-Owens.                      100%

District of Columbia                                                                          N/A

(This is sad. You know how they don’t have any representation 
down there? Well, they don’t have community colleges either.)

Brevard Community College.                                                              79%

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.                                             54%

Hawaii Community College.                                                               55%

Black Hawk College.                                                                        100%

Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington.                                    100%

Des Moines Area Community College.                                             100%
(Looks like these contingents are almost 100% 
full-time. That's pretty unusual, isn't it?)

Allen County Community College.                                                     80%

Ashland Community and Technical College.                                      76%

Baton Rouge Community College.                                                      99%

(This was second on the Louisiana list, because I couldn't find 
any info on the first, which was Acadiana Tech-Lafayette. At 
Baton Rouge they're almost all full-timers.)

Central Maine Community College.                                                  100%

Allegany College of Maryland.                                                           64%

Berkshire Community College.                                                           73%

Alpena Community College.                                                             100%

Alexandria Technical and Community College.                                 49%

(So what's with the college president here? That's about 
what the percent of adcons is at Fordham University.
Oh well, I'm just doing community colleges now.) 

Coahoma Community College.                                                         100%
(About 2/3 are full-time) 

Crowder College.                                                                             100%

Dawson Community College.                                                            17%

Hold on a Minute: 
Dawson Community College?

That's right—83% of the Dawson Community College faculty are genuine tenure track or tenured full-time faculty! There's only 30 of them, sure, but still. Another 10 points maybe, that almost looks like New York University upside down. Dang.

(You know, New York University President John Sexton could probably not have been reached 
for comment on this issue. That's just a hunch. But, hell, I probably couldn't get the janitor,
 or somebody from the faculty senate over there to comment on this article.)  

Central Community College.                                                             100%

College of Southern Nevada.                                                              73%

New Hampshire
Great Bay Community College.                                                        100%

New Jersey
Atlantic Cape Community College.                                                    78%

New Mexico
Central New Mexico Community College.                                       100%

New York
Adirondack Community College.                                                      64%

North Carolina
Alamance Community College.                                                       100%

North Dakota
Bismarck State College.                                                                     66%

Belmont Technical College.                                                             100%

Carl Albert State College.                                                                100%

Blue Mountain Community College.                                                72%

Bucks County Community College.                                                 75%

Rhode Island
Community College of Rhode Island.                                              60%

South Carolina
Aiken Technical College.                                                               100%

South Dakota
Lake Area Technical Institute.                                                        100% 
(Most of these are full-timers.)
Chattanooga State Community College.                                          71%

Alvin Community College.                                                             63%

Davis Applied Technology College.                                             100%

Vermont Technical College.                                                           54%

West Virginia
Blue Ridge Community and Technical College.                           100%

Blackhawk Technical College.                                                       76%

Casper College.                                                                              45%

So, there you have it, for a bunch of community colleges, anyway. Certainly does look as if you've got a significant portion of the teaching force there providing out-of-wedlock instruction, I guess you might call it, without the blessings and the benefits of the real thing. That's not good. I mean, water on the side two times and no whiskey in sight? 

On the other hand, I’m not one to complain, and what’s good for the goose and so-forth adds up this: there must also be a pretty substantial portion in some of these places—I mean, just you look at the numbers yourself—who are in stable, long-term relationships with their colleges, marked by affection and mutual respect and so-forth, perhaps not in a constant state of romantic elation because that's not always to be expected after the intoxicating transport of early courtship, but settled and happy and looking forward to a long life together so long as that blessing may flow, for evidence of which I ask you to please see this recent and touching PBS News Hour report: 

Colleges and Universities see Graying Workforce
Holding on to Coveted Positions

You tell me if that’s not so. Go ahead. And while you’re at it, go tell New Faculty Majority the same, and maybe even the Adjunct Project. They all want to hear some sort of sad sack kind of thing, sure.

But listen up. As to NEA’s role in all this? I say any union that’s been able all these years to keep Dawson Community College a whopping 83% full-time tenure-track faculty, well, that’s a labor organization been doing something right!

Now, of course, I'm no statistician, and there may be a reason, or a couple or three even, for some of those figures not coming in at that high Dawson bar, such as: 

1) Most adjunct/contingent faculty at community colleges are part-time by choice and don't need the money anyway, being instructors of welding or merger law, purely for the love of it, and controlling great ironworks, or shipyards, maybe, or legal practices, or even holding down one or two vital government positions. 
2) They've inherited great wealth and are yearning to give back, or some such thing. Some of them, the women mostly, just can't help it, either, please remember, because of their natural giving dispositions, and since they're mostly well enough off anyway, having married vice-presidents or various members of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, we could leave them alone and strictly out of any future planning on this matter.
3) Might be that my sample is flawed, and, in fact, most NEA-affiliated community colleges will turn out, on restudy, only some 17% adcon, like Dawson Community College, and then most of those could be yoga instructors maybe, and highly  appreciative of all forms of flexibility which, as we know, is an often praised virtue of this form of employment. 
4) It could be worse, and probably will get so in not so long, what with the MOOCS and all, and so there's other things to worry about. 

All of which, then, taken together, would seem to require further collection of facts, the study and analysis thereof, the subsequent production and making available of reports, discussion of which, being invited in this or that forum, will perhaps allow movement on identified fronts to be contemplated in a mature and serious manner, a thing for which I'm sure we all of us devoutly yearn.