Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Life in the Pissant Swamp: We Are Writing to Inform You That Pharoah Has Requested...

It is amazing to think that within the short space of my academic life, academia has changed dramatically. In the 1970s, when I matriculated into university to study for a bachelor of arts degree 67% of university faculty were tenured. In 1970 adjuncts constituted 20% of all higher education faculty. Tuition at some colleges and universities like the University of California Berkeley and the University of Texas at Austin (two of the finest premier research universities in the world) were so low that they were almost free. A professor from my department at IU, Religious Studies was finishing up his two year stint as Dean of Arts and Sciences by the early 1980s. Grants and loans were readily available, regulated, and reasonable. I received a loan for college from a bank that actually where people knew me as this was when banks were local, the owner of the bank lived locally, and there was a division between commercial banks and casino capitalist vampire banks.

Things had begun to change when I started teaching in the 1990s. Between 1998 and 2008 spending on instruction in America's colleges and universities had risen by 22%. However, in a harbinger of things to come, spending on administrative staff rose by 36%. At the massive University of Minnesota alone administrative hires were up 37% between 2001 and 2012. Between 1985 and 2005 elite administrative hires rose 85% while the administrative staff of elite administrators rose 240%. By the 2000s the professor who served as dean for two years and then returned to teaching had become largely a thing of the past. Todays deans are brought in from other schools, make their name by transforming departments or programmes (not always or even usually in positive ways), and then move on to other schools just as long as the job involves a move up the class and status ladder and hopefully, for them, ends in a college presidency (sound like corporate America? It should). At the same time as bureaucrats increased at American universities student numbers increased at American colleges and universities by 56%. College and university tuition has risenat a rate higher than inflation since the 1970s. Since the 1980s alone it has quadrupled. As for spending in the 2010 and 2011 school year colleges and universities spent $449 billion dollars. 29% of that went to instruction, 35% went to administrative costs even after you subtract college food, housing, hospital, and independent operation costs.

Since the 1990s I have been adjuncting in various universities across the United States. These days I adjunct at MicroMegaStateUniversity where I receive a paltry $2500 dollars per class taught. I usually get two or three classes. Teaching part-time, by the way, is not a part-time job. I have to prepare for classes by writing lectures, preparing materials for class discussion, generate tests, generate paper assignments, grade all of them, answer student queries in person and by email every day of the week, do tasks set me by the bureaucracy--to justify their existence they have to create more and more things for us to do--not to mention teach classes which require as much energy as performing in a Shakespeare play. What makes it all worth it is the benefits we in the MegaStateUniversity system four year and research colleges get for doing all this work for meagre pay. As of April of last year my retirement pension was vested. As of December of 2015 I will have my health insurance after retirement. Hopefully the Koch Brothers and their ilk won't have gotten their hands on both by the time I hit 65. After December of 2015 I hope to never have to teach again.

Teaching is just not worth the hassles, the hassles of whinging kids, grade inflation, holding your tongue while students threaten and abuse you. And than there are the administrative hassles. I just learned that one of my American History 2 classes, US History from the Gilded Age to today, has been "randomly" chosen for the Social Science "College’s Spring 2015 General Education assessment process". What this means is that I have to fill out a bunch of forms written in bureaucratise--bureaucracies have to develop specialist discourses or languages to justify and legitimise their existence and convince interested onlookers that they are doing something worthwhile and scientific (without even realising that hermeneutics put the last nail in naive positivism's coffin long ago)--all for no increase in pay. As one college bureaucrat put it "[p]erforming General Education assessment is an expectation for teaching faculty...there is no extra service compensation for this activity." By the way, I can't imagine a college bureaucrat being asked to do anything similar.

So what does the union that we adjuncts are part of, the UUP, doing about all of this? Very little as far as I can tell. They asked for a raise for adjuncts during recent contract negotiations. They didn't get it and they clearly didn't pull out all stops in order to help us lowly slaves at the bottom of the faculty ladder move even a half step up. In the era of the ever increasing power of the boards of directors (filled to the brim with bankers, capitalists, lawyers, and such) and their administrative underlings all of us, the decreasing numbered of tenured faculty and the increasing numbers of adjunct faculty are working for the Pharaoh and his ever more numerous princes and viziers. Liberal Arts college, RIP. Where is Moses when you need him?

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is coincidental.

No comments:

Post a Comment