CASA runs on the same oily rag as casualisation itself, so we might not always manage a weekly news roundup, but we thought it might be helpful to you if we bundled together some of the miscellany of relevant-to-casualisation material that pops up online. There really is no order to this.
There are also regular, relevant news updates on the NTEU Unicasual website. This is the best way to follow what’s happening in relation to Enterprise Bargaining in Australian universities, for example, where casualisation is often a factor. And The Scan, published in Melbourne, is a rich online source of news and information on what’s going on Australian universities.
If you have any suggestions for events, news or articles that you’d like us to highlight in this digest post, send them our way: firstname.lastname@example.org.
OK, so what happened this week?
In Australia, sector leaders went to Canberra for the annual Universities Australia conference, stalked in a friendly way by CASA and supporters on Twitter.
The Chair of Universities Australia, Prof Sandra Harding of JCU, gave a lunchtime address about sector direction to the National Press Club. The Education Minister, The Hon Christoper Pyne, addressed the conference dinner on the broad view of the new Australian government in relation to universities around two themes: “classical values” and “new frontiers”. The Opposition Higher Education spokesman Sen Kim Carr also addressed UA, and we’d be glad to link to that speech here too, but if you’re a subscriber to The Australian, you can read about it here.
Three strategies were also covered at the conference: the “New Colombo Plan“, discussed in a speech by Sen Brett Mason, which stimulates Australian universities to expand their international reach; the proposed restructure of TEQSA (discussed here by The Scan,) and the collaboration between UA and key industry groups including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Business Council of Australia, to get Australian students “work-ready” . (The Conversation have a piece up discussing this initiative with two key higher education analysts, Dr Gavin Moodie and Prof Simon Marginson.)
Reading through these gives a fairly consistent sense of the keynote strategies and initiatives that will be affected by the realities of casualisation in universities. We’re including them here not because we’re a policy site, but because it can really help those who work casually to understand how the sector imagines its own business and future.
What’s happening in other places?
In Inside Higher Ed, a conversation between two long-term adjuncts on the problem of a PhD that’s perceived in a pretty ruthless job market as “not newly minted enough“, and a realistic article on the kinds of calculations US colleges are making to try to juggle their dependency on casual hiring with the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Two blog posts had a lot of coverage this week. Ann Larson’s Education, Class, Politics blog has a very substantial post on the restructuring of US higher education, and the impact on the people who work in it, with a strong focus on casualisation. Kelly J Baker is writing a series for Chronicle Vitae that will resonate with many at CASA, and her piece this week looked at the personal impact of casualisation:
Here’s the thing about being a contingent worker: Life begins to feel contingent too. I could never truly settle down because my job could disappear with the new budget cycle. Making long-term plans seemed fruitless because my situation was unstable. My life was stalled. I was not moving backward, but there was no forward motion either. The gears were gummed up. I felt like I was in a tedious holding pattern and I might stay there forever.
Noam Chomsky spoke by Skype to the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, and the transcript of his remarks is online at AlterNet. (“The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education. The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations. But it’s a standard feature of a business-run society to transfer costs to the people.”)
Open Media Boston covered the recent decision by adjuncts at Lesley University to unionise; the Australian situation is a bit different, but this gives a sense of the way in things are turning in the US.
French casuals (“vacataires”) launched a petition for support that has received international coverage.
Allies speaking out
US academics with tenure are speaking up about the problems that widespread precarity cause for their whole, huge system. Fabian Banga, who’s a department Chair, highlights the ways in which his adjunct colleagues don’t have access to the benefits of secure employment, and calls this out as “the struggle that affects us all”. In a post on the purpose of the tenure track, Roger Whitson asks two tough questions: “Why am I here when so many of my colleagues from graduate school are still adjuncts? What qualities do I have that will make the lives scarred by academic exploitation better?”
Call for participation
We’ll include CFPs from time to time because these are indicators of a conversation about work that’s happening. We do know that one of the toughest parts of academic casualisation in Australia is the lack of resources to trek to conferences, even if you have a paper accepted. But sometimes it’s just good to know that the questions are being asked.
So here are two:
(at The New School, a university in New York City, NOVEMBER 14-16, 2014)
OK, that’s it for now. Big thanks to everyone who supported the opening of CASA, who dropped by, subscribed, promoted and shared what’s happening here. We’re not journalists: send us feedback and let us know what you’d like to know about. We’ll try to find it. And if you find it, the hashtag #auscasuals will share it in the Twitter feed that comes into this site.
@KateMfd and @acahacker