It’s time to professionalize all faculty
By John Martin, CCA Director, Northern Part-time Faculty
Thanks to CCA, I was privileged to attend the 10th biannual conference, of the Coalition for Contingent Academic Labor which met at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City for four days in August. The conference is an international gathering of faculty from United States, Canada, Mexico and even one from Korea.
This gathering is a place to meet and hear the ranks of part-time faculty from community colleges and universities on issues regarding attacks on higher education and contingent, non-tenure track faculty throughout the industrialized world.
Scores of workshops
There were scores of workshops there as well as various thematic workshops throughout the conference from such topics on health/social security and retirement; academic advancements/evaluations and recognition; unions/federations; labor rights/contracts; union/political/cultural rights; and forms of struggle and achievement.
Some noteworthy quotes jotted down while I was there: “Teaching is a strategic profession and it should not be marginalized.” “Teaching is not a hobby and should never be treated as one.” “The victims of precarious workers are students.” “Education is public property.” “The fragile nature of the work is due to the fragile conditions of the protected against the non-protected.”
It was made clear throughout the conference that the central job of every country and union is to “professionalize” all faculty because that is what is necessary for student success. Although this is certainly a labor issue, it must become a student issue first. It was stressed that “All faculty working conditions are [tied to] students learning conditions” and that the rise of “neo-liberalism” [market capitalism] and globalization is driving the move toward more precarious workers and ultimately toward privatization.
This one theme was central for me. One speaker commented that neo-liberal arguments are resonating due to the economy with more contingent academic laborers, less resources to teach and a sustained unrelenting attack on public institutions and public workers. That ‘austerity’ is the natural plan wanted by capitalists with a market-based model to privatize public services and education. Austerity policies (beyond neo-liberalism) will move us to fascism and “barbaric capitalism.”
Huge increase in part-time
Case in point: it was stated that in the last 40 years there has been a huge increase of contingent academic laborers. They have been exploited through low wages, lack of benefits and job security. Statistics show that nationally there has been a 60 percent growth in part-time staff in the last 12 years while simultaneously increasing tuition representing both the starvation and exploitation of labor.
A speaker from British Columbia described the “ghettoization of faculty” and how it bodes sadly for the future. In BC, they use a variety of terms to describe part-time faculty, including non-regular faculty, adjuncts, contingents, provisional and part-time. There has been no recent hiring of full-time/tenure track faculty in order to save money. However, they have been increasing administrative staff. Sound familiar?
The problems they face are not uncommon or unfamiliar for all if us in the states: integration of non-regular faculty into the community, the marginalization of faculty who cannot make financial commitments and a negative atmosphere of the academic institution in general are the norm. BC is working toward pro-rata salary while facing the fact that all employers are looking to save money on the backs of faculty.
Our struggle is yours
The COCAL experience is one where all faculty can gain insight into the plight of higher education and the global future of progressive thought. The struggle of part-time faculty is the struggle for all faculty, students and higher education in general.
The next COCAL will likely be held in early August, 2014 and will be hosted by CUNY in New York City.