Today the NY Times at least finally recognized that the casualization of college faculty is a serious problem that affects students’ education and results in poor employment conditions and compensation. No kidding. What’s amazing is that the Times editorial board appears to think that it’s the first to realize this issue (maybe part of the Old Gray Lady‘s long assumption that, as the self-proclaimed paper of record, if something wasn’t reported there, it didn’t exist). Maybe that’s why this editorial seems not to offer much in terms of real solutions, or a recognition of how deep the problems are. The problem is not simply too little money, although that’s a big part of it. The problem is what we value in higher education.
Adjunct organization is on the move. As noted in the Chronicle, adjuncts are now very close to becoming organized city-wide in Washington, DC. Georgetown, American, and George Washington are already signed on, and Howard will be joining soon. This will give much greater leverage to adjuncts in their relationship with universities there, and it already shows: they’re going to get health and retirement benefits prorated to hours worked. They’ll also save time job-hunting, because their union chapter, the SEIU Local 500, will create a “hiring hall,” a central database to match up universities with adjuncts (that will be a boon to departments, too, especially trying to hire on short notice). It’s a fantastic victory, but the prognosis on its long-term and wider effects are still hard to predict.
Last week’s two-day strike was the first in the history of University of Illinois-Chicago. We all hope it’s the last: administration because it doesn’t like to be embarrassed and get negative publicity for its own policies (Ph.D’s trying to live on $30,000 in Chicago?), and faculty because it shouldn’t have to come to this. What at least one reporter thought was notable was that increased salaries and job security for non-tenure track faculty was central to the strike. It’s not that he’s wrong; as union leaders proudly proclaim, those are central demands.