3.2.14

FISH OR CUT BAIT.

The tenured faculty are the stewards of the university.

They're catching on at Chicago State.
Every member of the faculty must and presumably does take the debacle seriously and with grave concern. We do not agree on every particular of the critique, but we all recognize that our university is in peril. We have known for far too long that our students, and their families and neighborhoods, are denied the quality of education that they need and want and that this regime has refused to provide as it plays petty political games and treats this university as a patronage pit.

So we recognize that, as documented repeatedly in this faculty blog and various investigations by the Faculty Senate, the current regime has failed. It has demonstrated a woeful lack of basic understanding of what a university is and how it should function. It has acted with hostility toward faculty, deals dismissively with staff, shows indifference to students, and disrespects the community.

Unless the current regime takes on the monumental task of transforming itself, with all that that involves, it must end. It must end for the good of the university and all whom it serves.

We must replace it with an effective and informed administration that acts in good faith and works with all in a spirit of good will. How can we get there? Recognizing that we can control only our own actions, faculty nevertheless must take the lead. Previously the Faculty Senate and the faculty union cast overwhelming votes of no-confidence. We need to reinforce that message and to make clear that it represents a strong consensus of CSU faculty.

Hence, coming days will bring more votes of no-confidence. We must use them to inform and mobilize, and to send the clear message of massive denunciation by this faculty of this regime.

Complementing the votes, a petition shall soon circulate. It seeks the public statement by tenured faculty of their condemnation of this regime and their urgent request that those with the authority to replace it do so. To make the message clear and powerful, we need dozens of tenured professors to step forward and identify themselves in their principled opposition to the regime.

We understand and appreciate that this entails some considerable risk, given the record of the executive administration and its avowed intention to stonewall. We can expect veiled threats and individual blandishments. Yet, if tenured faculty will not take this step, what hope do we have of convincing others to take the actions that they should take?
Indeed. Do the working conditions and the academic environment have to deteriorate to the low estate of Chicago State before the faculty push back?

Or is Marc Bousquet correct?
I once shocked a colleague by responding to one of those newspaper stories about a prof "caught" mowing his lawn on a Wednesday afternoon by saying that many tenured faculty were morally entitled to think of their salaries after tenure as something similar to a pension. After all, in some fields, many folks will not receive tenure until they've been working for low wages for twenty years or more: a dozen years to get the degree, another three to four years serving contingently—and then, finally, a "probationary" appointment lasting seven years at wages commonly lower than those of a similarly-experienced bartender.
To screen for tenure, though, a faculty member has to demonstrate a commitment to the work.
All of the reasonable studies of faculty work suggest that this person will put in between 50 and 55 hours a week for most of those years, more or less voluntarily. There are plenty of enforcement mechanisms to make sure that most faculty will teach, serve, and do scholarship in some rough proportion to their abilities and inclination, but after a quarter-century of strict selection and socialization, it is rarely necessary to invoke them to get the faculty to do their jobs.
Professor Bousquet even approves of the rebel, or perhaps, the faculty member who goes Galt.
It's hard to make a case that the rather unusual instances of lifetime associate profs who skate by on twenty- or thirty-hour work weeks are gaming the system. Instead, they are the unusual few who have refused to allow the system to game them. Whatever one thinks of these rare birds, one has to acknowledge the strength of character it takes to refuse the overwhelming appeal of the administration, the ideology of the profession, and the continuous hailing of their students and colleagues to give so much more than the standard set by other workers in the public service.
While the strivers in the department, or the deanlets and deanlings, seek to extract more free labor?
Contemporary management innovation in and out of the academy revolves around creating workplace conditions that they hope will induce workers to freely discount their wage. In the administration of higher education, this means a delicate balancing act, in which management continuously tries to seize control of institutional mission without killing the academic goose laying its golden eggs. The history of workplace change in higher education over the past forty years is a slow, grinding war of position or culture-struggle, with administration continuously pushing to see just how partial or inauthentic it can make the autonomy, integrity, and dignity of academic endeavor without inducing the faculty to fall out of love with their work.

Likewise, the history of corporate management's effort to imitate the success of higher education workplaces can be expressed as, "How can we adjust our corporate culture to resemble campus culture, so that our workforce will fall in love with their work too?" That is, the managers desperately want to know, how can we emulate higher education in moving from simple exploitation to the vast harvest of bounty represented by super-exploitation?
Somewhere, though, the positional competition collides with the labor-leisure tradeoff.
So far the most common examples for the average worker involve the donation of additional time represented by the ideology of professionalism. Workers not previously considered professional and not compensated like professionals now routinely donate countless hours to their employers: doing one's email at 6 am, taking phone calls in the evening, writing reports on weekends, traveling and attending employer events on personal time, and so forth.
Or, as Maryland mathematician Ron Lipsman notes, the work is no longer fun.
I yearned for the academic life. I wanted the freedom to choose my own lines of professional inquiry; to be independent; to have the opportunity to interact with the best minds (around the globe) in my field; to do something worthwhile - whether it led to a marketable product or not. Were I faced with the same choice today, I'm not sure that I would make the same decision.
Access-assessment-remediation-retention does that to a professor.  Throw in deferred maintenance and course management software such that each professor is doing the clerical work and handling referrals to student support, and it's enough to say Enough.

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