Academic Labor Links

I’m way behind on this, but there are a number of academic labor issues of all sorts that I’ve been meaning to mention lately. As always Marc Bousquet’s blog is a great resource for a number of these issues (here’s my review of his book, How the University Works), including news that Ted Kennedy has introduced legislation that would protect workplace rights for graduate employees.

  • First, via Dr. Crazy and New Kid, news of the University of Toledo’s plan to radically revise its curriculum from its current focus on serving as a comprehensive metropolitan university into one focusing exclusively on STEM2 (science, technology, engineering, medicine, and math) fields. New Kid eloquently explains why these changes, which are perfectly consistent with the further corporatization of the university, will harm the university’s historical mission. There’s a petition you can sign to protest the proposed changes in the university’s mission.
  • Via KairosNews, a discussion of an Inside Higher Ed article that reports that the plagiarism website Turnitin.com has essentially offered to pay for positive papers at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the largest and most influential composition studies conference in the U.S. I’ve never been a fan of Turnitin as a plagiarism deterrent, but the ethics here strike me as incredibly problematic. If Turnitin wants to have their message heard, they should feel free to apply for the conference, but there should also be some disclosure involved that the presenter is being compensated in some way by the company. Rebecca Moore Howard has more to say on this issue.
  • Horace has a discussion of the AAUP report on faculty salaries. While some of the issues described in the report don’t always apply as readily at my university (such as the disparity between the salaries of faculty members and football coaches), the report highlights some of the problems with the increasing corporatization of the university and on the use of adjunct labor (among other problems). But as the title of the report points out, it’s well worth asking where our priorities are when football coaches sometimes make ten times what senior faculty make and when universities across the country increasingly rely upon contingent labor.
  • Finally, news that Wendy Gonaver, a professor of American studies, was fired from her position at Cal State Fullerton when she refused to sign the state’s loyalty oath because of her religious beliefs. Gonaver, who is a Quaker, felt that her pacifism conflicted with the militaristic language of the oath, which originated in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s.

Update: Shahar Ozeri has a thoughtful discussion of the University of Toledo issue, correctly pointing out that it’s not exactly the shift to a STEM2 curriculum that’s the issue but the fact that the university’s president did not consult the faculty senate and the fact that the new curriculum seems to have a very narrow definition of “education,” instead treating it essentially as a kind of career training.

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