Month: July 2014

Mixed Results in Organizing Adjunct Faculty at Private Universities in Minnesota

ACADEME BLOG

SEIU has been pursuing a regional strategy to organize adjunct faculty in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. The campaign is called Adjunct Action. Thus far, the results have been mixed.

In mid-June, adjunct faculty at Hamline University became the first adjuncts in Minnesota to form a collective bargaining unit, voting to unionize by a 72%-28% margin. Over the past academic year, 194 adjunct faculty taught at the university, which employs 184 full-time faculty. But to be eligible to vote, a faculty member had to have taught in the spring semester. Of the 83 eligible to vote, 64 cast ballots.

Around the successful election at Hamline, organizers at Macalester College decided to postpone a scheduled vote on unionization.

And most recently, the adjunct faculty at St. Thomas University voted by a large margin to reject unionization. Over the past academic year, about 460 full-time faculty and more than 600 adjunct faculty…

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Doubling Down on the Exploitation of Adjunct Faculty

ACADEME BLOG

In an article titled “Outsourced in Michigan” written for Inside Higher Ed, Colleen Flaherty chronicles the movement among Michigan’s community colleges to outsource the hiring of adjunct faculty and the management of related “payroll duties” to a corporation called EDUStaff.

EDUStaff had previously specialized in providing substitute teachers for K-12 systems. So, if you have been dismissing the warnings that what has been occurring at the K-12 level will be increasingly migrating to the postsecondary level, here is some further, very direct evidence on that pattern.

The Far Right is very clearly intent on privatizing all public services, including public education at all levels. It is not a scare tactic to assert that this is occurring. It is, instead, willful ignorance to deny that it is occurring, that it is a very serious threat, and that it demands very determined and persistent opposition.

The outsourcing of adjunct hiring in…

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Another Story about Sexual Abuse Related to Collegiate Athletics—This One Involving One of the Most Highly Regarded Marching Bands in the Nation

ACADEME BLOG

In response to a complaint by a parent, Ohio State University launched a two-month investigation of its nationally renowned marching band. That investigation led to the firing of band director, Jonathan Waters. Waters had served as band director since October 2012, but he had been an assistant band director for a decade previous to that.

Business Insider has provided a concise summary of the major findings of the investigation, which were initially reported in the Columbus Dispatch:

“Several of the marching band’s traditions stemmed from offensive, often sexualized, nicknames given to new ‘rookie’ members, according to the investigation. Nicknames given to rookies mentioned in the report include ‘Twinkle Dick,’ ‘Jizzy,’ and ‘Jewoobs’ (given to a Jewish student with large breasts).

“The report states that rookies would often learn tricks associated with their nicknames. Here are some examples:

–A female student sitting on laps and pretending to orgasm. This included…

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Our Internal and Public Messaging about Administrative Bloat

ACADEME BLOG

Bonuses, both for performance and longevity, have become commonplace for higher-ed administrators at both public and private institutions. Indeed, these bonuses have become so commonplace that they now generally go unnoticed and unquestioned. But when such bonuses continue to be given during periods of great budget constraints, while faculty and staff compensation and/or positions are being cut in order to balance the budget, they sometimes do, at least briefly, attract controversy, especially when presidents attempt to justify the obvious inconsistency in their messaging.

This sort of controversy erupted a half-decade ago at the University of Toledo, when in response to state funding cuts that were a consequence of the Great Recession, President Lloyd Jacobs announced that mandatory faculty and staff furlough days would be instituted, that more (largely lower-paid) staff positions would need to be eliminated and the outsourcing of basic services to private contractors continued, and that some faculty…

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Update from Northern New Mexico College

ACADEME BLOG

In its July 9 issue, the Albuquerque Journal-News reports that the administration at Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) is now complaining about being inundated with public-records requests. Written by T.S. Last, the article “NNMC Claims That It Is Overburdened by IPRA Requests” is available at: http://www.abqjournal.com/426873/abqnewsseeker/nnmc-claims-its-overburdened-by-ipra-requests.html. (IPRA apparently is the acronym for Inspection of Public Records Requests; so why it would not be IPRR is ambiguous to me.)

According to the administration of NNMC, it has received 30 such requests in the past month—for copies of e-mails and of personnel and budget records. The administration asserts that the requests represent a substantial burden on the institution’s already strained finances and overburdened personnel: specifically, fulfilling the requests will cost $15,000 in legal fees and consume 200 work hours of college employees, some of whom are typically employed at other tasks; the internal cost has been estimated at $8,000.

Although I…

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When This Blog Becomes a Point of Contention

ACADEME BLOG

Having followed all of the comments on Sean Kennedy’s post and the follow-up post from the AAUP leadership, I’d like to offer several observations:

It is very clear that no one has been prevented from expressing his or her opinions or from doing so without constraint.

The comments do, however, collectively serve to illustrate why the leadership made the statement about what may or may not be appropriate for posting on this blog: this at least initially internal dispute has become an opportunity for venting all sorts of concerns and complaints that, if not well beyond the scope of the original issue, have not really served to clarify very much about the original issue beyond what has been very pointedly stated in the original post by Sean Kennedy.

Moreover, the original issue has to do with the way in which ongoing contract negotiations are being conducted, and what has lost…

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Too Big–and Too Awful–to Fail

ACADEME BLOG

The Department of Education and Corinthian Colleges have been engaged in extended negotiations over how the for-profit corporation will either shut down or scale down its various entities, including the Everest University, WyoTech, and Heald College chains.

The government actions against Corinthian Colleges came after the Harkin Report highlighted Corinthian’s extraordinarily high student-loan default rate, its abysmally low graduation rate, and its clearly predatory marketing and recruiting practices.

Given the scope of the problems at Corinthian Colleges, one might wonder why the government simply does not shut the whole thing down.

The most often cited reason is that some 72,000 students are still enrolled with Corinthian and simply closing Corinthian would prevent them from completing the degrees that they are pursuing.

The actual reason is that just about the only way that a student can escape paying off student loans is that the college closes and the student either ceases…

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Why Go To COCAL XI? The Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor Conference

ACADEME BLOG

Joe Berry has distributed this message to his extensive contact list and has asked that it be disseminated more widely.

Having spent many hours talking to folks about coming to the COCAL conference [www.cocalinternational.org], both this upcoming one in New York City August 4-6, 2014, and previous ones, I am moved to list the most common reasons that seem to resonate best with people. It helps that they are all true as well. We are not trying to sell something for profit here and since COCAL is not a very structured organization, we are certainly not into political empire-building. So here goes. Use this list as you see fit, but mainly circulate it widely, with my email joeberry@igc.orgon it and add your own if possible.

1. This is the only national grassroots, up-from-the-bottom, gathering of contingent/adjunct/precarious higher ed faculty in the US (and now including folks from…

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The Looming Crisis in Higher Education

ACADEME BLOG

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.

This situation will change when enrollment in graduate programs starts to contract, and even to crater, because students confront the reality that they have significantly less than a fifty percent chance of finding full-time employment after completing their doctorates—when they confront the reality that the majority of them are spending up to a decade or more in graduate school, and in the process accumulating far more debt on average than undergraduates accumulate, all in order to earn a wage comparable to what they could earn as an “associate” at WalMart.

Because the current pool of adjunct faculty has been built up over several decades but is continually eroded by the…

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