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The Increased Teaching Load for Composition Instructors at Arizona State Provides a Disturbing Glimpse into the Future for Other Faculty

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Inside Higher Ed recently ran an article on a 25% increase in the teaching loads for full-time non-tenure-eligible writing faculty at Arizona State University. The article, written by Colleen Flaherty is titled “One course without Pay,” and the full article is available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/12/16/arizona-state-tells-non-tenure-track-writing-instructors-teach-extra-course-each

The writing instructors, none of whom were willing to be identified by name in the article out of fear of retaliation, have created a website called ASUAgainst55 [https://asuagainst55.wordpress.com/statement/], which includes a petition that I would encourage everyone to sign [https://asuagainst55.wordpress.com/sign-our-petition/].

The logo on the webpage for the group reads: “English: Start Broke, End Broken.”

It is a damning statement, but not just about this particular situation. It is a damning statement about the current state of the profession, of which the exploitation of these English instructors is simply one pointed illustration.

Consider these facts:

The English instructors now teach four composition courses…

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NLRB Ruling on the Efforts of the Adjunct and Full-Time Contingent Faculty at Pacific Lutheran University to Organize a Collective Bargaining Unit

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Pacific Lutheran University argued that SEIU should be prevented from organizing a collective bargaining unit for adjunct faculty at the institution for two reasons: the faculty promote the religious mission of the university and the faculty have managerial rights as described in the “Yeshiva” decision. On both counts, the NLRB (with one member providing a dissenting opinion) found that the university had made an insufficient case.


On the “religious exemption,” the NLRB has concluded:

“We find, for the following reasons, that although PLU meets the threshold requirement of holding itself out as creating a religious educational environment, it does not hold out the petitioned-for contingent faculty members as performing a religious function in support of that environment. Accordingly, we will assert jurisdiction over the petitioned-for faculty members.

“PLU’s public representations generally emphasize a commitment to academic freedom, its acceptance of other faiths and its explicit de-emphasis of any specific…

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“Fifteen Minutes of Fame” and a Lifetime of Notoriety

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

One of the effects of the rise of social media and “reality” entertainment is that we are all, in effect, in danger of becoming the topics of tabloid stories. It used to be that you had to be already famous at least to some degree for anyone to be interested in the stupid things that you said or did–whether those things resulted from a momentary lapse in judgment or a pattern of dubious behavior.

Now, if your story goes “viral,” you are tagged with it for life. In effect, your “fifteen minutes of fame” become a lifetime burden.

To some degree, of course, this has always been so.

When my mother attended her 60th high school reunion, she was surprised by how many of her classmates were still alive and able to attend. She said, “Even the three guys who dove into Lake Lincoln were there.” When I asked her…

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The Self-Propagation of the Consultants

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

In its list of the most influential people in higher education for 2014, the Chronicle of Higher Education includes diverse individuals and just one group, “The Hired Guns: The Consultants.”

In her article on the increasing influence of consulting firms on higher-education policies and practices, Goldie Blumenstyk seems to think that this increased influence is largely a good thing: “it’s hard to argue that colleges and universities still don’t need the help. Faced with cost-conscious students, flagging state support, and challenging student-demographic trends, just about every college leader in the nation is searching for the miracle cure-all that will reduce spending and open up new streams of revenue.”

Worse, she strongly suggests that any resistance to the recommendations of these consultants amounts to an self-serving and even gratuitous obstruction of institutional progress: “Yet seemingly more often than not, when the consultants from these national firms show up promoting money-saving approaches—like…

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Results of Graduate Students’ Strike at the University of Oregon

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The strike by graduate students at the University of Oregon lasted eight days and ended after a 22-hour marathon session with a mediator.

Here the highlights of what the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation achieved in their new contract:

1. a 10% increase in wages over the next two years;

2. two weeks of flex time for medical or family issues, with the time being made up over the next three to nine months;

3. the creation of a hardship fund allowing teaching fellows to apply for grants of $1,000 to help cover the costs of medical emergencies and grants of $1,500 to help to cover the costs of the birth, the adoption, or the foster-care of a child; the university agreed to annually contribute $50 per teaching fellow into the fund, which means that it will initially contain about $150,000; most importantly, to the teaching fellows, the hardship fund will be administered according…

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Deadline Approaching! Register for the CFHE Meeting in Los Angeles

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The following is a letter from Susan Misenhelder of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education:

Dear CFHE friends,

If you haven’t already registered, we hope you’re consulting with your organization about attending the next CFHE Gathering in Los Angeles (actually Manhattan Beach) on January 16-18, 2015. Please do plan to join us!

The focus of our meeting will be on ways to build coalitions to fight the various privatization schemes affecting nearly all colleges and universities in the U.S.  You can find an overview of the meeting and registration information at:


Please do register as soon as you can—hotel rooms are limited at the conference rate, and you need to reserve one soon to get the conference rate. The conference registration deadline is Monday, December 15.

Below you’ll find the draft agenda for the meeting.  I hope you’ll agree it’s going to be a very interesting set…

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Undermining Affordability and Access to Higher Education

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

An “On the Issues” Post from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org]


A recent report from the New America Foundation highlights one important way access to higher education is closing down for low-income students. Even after Pell grants are factored in, the net cost of college for many of these students is still rising at an unacceptable rate.

Factors driving this trend are evident in the recent history of Baylor University, an institution that has “rebranded” itself, improved its ranking in college ratings, and upped the average SAT score of its students.

While more and more scholarship money at Baylor is going to affluent students to attract them, lower-income Pell recipient students are suffering from the effects of this shift: the average net price for Baylor students from families making $30,000 or less is now $21,370.

Unfortunately, as the report details, Baylor is not…

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University of Oregon Graduate Students Walk Out

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The following paragraphs are quoted from an article written by Diane Dietz for the Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon:

“The GTFF [Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation] demanded two weeks of paid medical or parental leave, which the university refused to grant on the grounds that graduate students are first and foremost students—and because the university doesn’t want to extend benefits to 5,500 other part-time instructors who are not under the GTFF umbrella.

“’It has been an interesting song and dance,’ said Steve McAllister, bargaining team member and a graduate teaching fellow in biology. University bargainers ‘are sitting at a bargaining table with a labor union and they’re trying to call us students and not workers.’

“The university’s bargainers thought they found a work-around to the disagreement last week when they proposed creating a medical or childbirth ‘hardship fund’ that all graduate students—whether or not they held a fellowship—could tap in…

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Addenda to Aaron Barlow’s Review of More than a Score

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

—or, If Moses Was a Founding Father, Then Was Charlton Heston’s Leadership of the NRA Divinely Preordained?

Aaron’s post references the addition of new standardized tests in Texas.

In an October 11 article for the British newspaper The Telegraph, Katherine Rushton opens a discussion of the UK-based conglomerate’s “challenges” with pointed references to the business that they do in Texas:

“Most people have, at some point in their lives, felt a bout of nerves as they awaited a crucial set of exam results. Pearson’s chief executive, John Fallon, could be forgiven for having the same feeling.

“Next month, the London-listed education giant will face its own version of this peculiar kind of torture, as it learns whether Texas plans to renew its contract for Pearson to provide testing in schools. The deal is a valuable one, worth around $500m (£310m) over five years. It is also a matter of…

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Very Selective Priorities in Higher Education Funding in Pennsylvania

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Between 2008 and 2014, state support for higher education has decreased 30.7% in Pennsylvania, the 11th highest decrease among the states. The decrease has amounted to $2,206 per full-time-equivalent student. In 2014, while 42 of the 50 states have increased allocations for higher education, Pennsylvania has been one of eight states in which state funding has continued to decrease. Not surprisingly, between 2008 and 2014, tuition has increased 16.6% in the state, or $1,799 per student.

As the Republican governor and legislature have rather relentlessly cut funding and the public colleges and universities have struggled to keep their budgets balanced, the state’s unusual and somewhat haphazardly developed “system” of colleges and universities has attracted attention. Specifically, as the state’s pool of high school graduates enters what will be an extended period of decline, many observers, both inside and outside of higher education, have pointed to the resources being devoted…

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