Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University

Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University

Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University

Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University

Synopsis

In defense of composition's contingent faculty, adjuncts, and graduate students Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University exposes the poor working conditions of contingent composition faculty and explores practical alternatives to the unfair labor practices that are all too common on campuses today. Editors Marc Bousquet, Tony Scott, and Leo Parascondola provide a perceptive and engaging examination of the nature, extent, and economics of the managed labor problem in composition instruction--a field in which as much as ninety-three percent of all classes are taught by graduate students, adjuncts, and other "disposable" teachers. Twenty-six contributors explore a range of real-world solutions to managerial domination of the composition workplace, from traditional academic unionism to ensemble movement activism and the pragmatic rhetoric, accommodations, and resistances practiced by teachers in their daily lives.

Excerpt

I'm writing this foreword from the bowels of middle-management, as an asso ciate dean at New York University. My portfolio includes helping to direct a composition program for artists and coordinating labor policy for faculty. nyu has seen its share of initiatives by labor and management, with successful organizing campaigns by graduate students and adjuncts and by a new president who has designated the school an enterprise university. It is perhaps a sign of the times that an administrator would have himself walked the picket lines as a graduate student (as I did at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1980) or have edited a volume on academic labor in response to the hot autumn of 1996 (an issue of the journal Social Text, which, expanded, became Chalk Lines: the Politics of Work in the Managed University, published by Duke University Press). These times have also produced the scholar-activists who appear in this important collection, a collection that points to where committed careers can lead. These are pathways carved within the university that lead to different futures and possibilities for the present — roads very much taken that give different ways of valuing the work we do together.

It would seem wholly uncontroversial to say that a job is work. Yet the labor activism occurring on campuses across the United States finds itself repeatedly having to make the point. Undergraduates, graduate students, adjuncts, staff, and full-time faculty are organizing, often in intricate coalition with one another, but they are being met with administrative claims that education is a calling, a service to higher ends than everyday labor. To the administrative mentality, higher education figures as a world to itself, in which whatever work that occurs is focused on earning a grade, not a dollar. From the administrative point of view, anyone who would disturb this Victorian chastity by addressing the conditions under which the work of teaching and learning takes place is dividing the house of education with alien values by introducing the grime of industry where it does not belong.

The claim that unions have no place in higher education is factually inaccurate, as public universities are more likely to have organized faculties than most other occupations. Administrative arguments against unionization appeal to both preindustrial values — academics share an intimate community — and postindustrial . . .

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