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New Faculty Majority Summit: Can We Bridge the Trust Gap?

Saturday January 28th is the first ever National Summit on Adjunct Faculty issues. Will it make a difference? 

January 26, 2012

This Saturday, I will be live blogging (right here on IHE!) the New Faculty Majority’s first-ever National Summit, held in conjunction with the AACU.  The day is packed with great speakers, all speaking to issues and challenges of the modern university: the adjunctification of the professoriate. Even the title gets me excited: “Reclaiming Academic Democracy.” I’m particularly interested in the session on “Changing the Culture” because, to me, that is the biggest obstacle we face if we want to change higher education for the better and decrease the number of adjunct faculty, increase the number of tenure-track faculty, and generally improve the working conditions (and thus learning conditions) in universities.

A fellow blogger who will be attending, Eliana Osborn, put the call out on her blog asking for advice as to what she should be asking about at the Summit. The comments devolved into an opportunity for those who view adjuncts as sub-human to air their grievances; we are less-than, unworthy, and generally to blame for our predicament.  Or this post by Isaac Sweeny (who will also be in attendance). But it isn’t just about other faculty’s over-all attitude towards contingent labor; the recent study of Provosts seems to reflect a fundamental distrust of the administration towards faculty, particularly unionized faculty. There are three (and your could even argue four) distinct and heavily entrenched factions within higher education: Administration, Professors, Adjuncts, and Support Staff.

And we, as distinct and independent groups, would seem to loathe one another.

This, of course, isn’t the condition at every institution, for every individual. But you can’t read comments on blogs, articles, and news stories dealing with adjuncts and not feel increasingly under attack. Add to that the growing public dissatisfaction with higher education, well, we’re busy attacking each other to try and deflect and defuse more pressing issues.

So I go to the conference this weekend both hopeful and full of cynicism. I am looking forward to being able to meet and talk to MLA President Michael Bérubé, with whom I’ve already have had discussions about adjunct issues. But I am also excited to meet those of us “on the ground” who are working to make a difference and change higher education. Seeing as how we do, indeed, make up the majority of the faculty at universities now, we have to work to initiate change – no one is going to do it for us. But I am not so naïve as to think that this Summit will change the minds of the rank-and-file administrators and faculty who cry poverty or meritocracy.

If you can’t be there this weekend, there are a number of ways to follow along. You can come back here and follow my live-blogging of the event. You can follow #newfac12 on Twitter. You can also check out the blogs and twitter feeds of the following people who will also be in attendance and live-tweeting/blogging:

Karen Kelsky (@Professorisin)

Brain Croxall (@briancroxall)

John Casey (@johnacaseyjr)

Josh Bolt (@jshbldt)

Eliana Osborn

Also follow Vanessa Vaile (@VanessaVaile), member of the NFM.

Change can happen. Come and join us online to start making it so.

Other Resources:

AHA/OHA Statement on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment Standards: One of the first statements of such kind.

MLA Committee on Contingent Labor: You can also find here a link to the MLA’s recommendations for contingent labor conditions.

The AAUP’s resource/information page for contingent labor issues: Included here are studies, statistics, information on advocacy and policy.

The CCCC Forum: The newsletter put out by the Conference on College Composition and Communication about adjunct issues. Also, their Committee for Adjunct/Part-time/Contingent Labor.

The New Faculty Majority Blog and Adjunct Advocate: Two valuable sources of information, stories, and resources for adjuncts.

How The University Works and Remaking the University are invaluable for understanding the economics of the modern public university.

Finally, this is why I don’t say contingent anymore. Actually, read this first.

If I’ve missed any other resources, or if you’re going to be in D.C. for the summit, please let me know in the comments. 


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