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CASA weekly news 04/14

Here’s our weekly roundup of casualisation news. We take a very wide and unsystematic view, as you’ll see. Anyone’s welcome to comment, or send suggestions through the week to casualcasa at gmail dot com. If you’re generally interested in Australian higher education news, Stephen Matchett’s daily Campus Morning Mail and Intermedia’s The Scan will fill you in.

What happened this week? 

The NTEU (Unicasual) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations brought out the latest edition of Connect magazine, packed with data, articles, and some global coverage of university casualisation issues. Congratulations to everyone — it’s a great read, and great to have it out in the open.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Prof Ian Chubb, addressed the National Press Club as part of the Science Meets Parliament event, a two-day meeting organised by Science & Technology Australia.  In a wide-ranging speech that gets at the strategic weaknesses in passive arguments for improved university funding in Australia, there’s some attention to the relationship between research and teaching. But on the specific impact on Australian science of the casualisation of both research contracts and university science teaching, less is said.

What happened elsewhere?

Gordon Haber, who seems to have written a novella about his US college adjunct experience called Adjunctivitis, backed up with a blog on “Academia’s Dirty Little Secret“.

Beyond The Margins blog (@BTMargins) connected the casualisation of college writing programs to the future of small presses and creative cultural industries: “In defense of adjuncts, students and writers: an open letter to the Association of Writers and Writers Programs (AWP)

Grumpy Rumblings of the (Formerly) Untenured joined in the discussion that’s happening in the US about overproduction of PhDs, especially in the Humanities, and tackled head on the question of whether completing a PhD entitles anyone to a job. This isn’t a comfortable read, but as ever the comments give you a sense of how polarising and painful this conversation is proving to be.

A Bad Cover Version blog post from late last year on the “Compounding Disadvantages of Adjunct Life” circulated again, and is a useful read for those who are trying to work out how casual teaching opportunities might factor in to academic career progress.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae section, “The Adjunct is In: But Is She Getting Paid?” took a look at casual academic experiences and student assumptions about office hours.

And online journal Hybrid Pedagogy, which has an outstanding record of promoting the voices of untenured college teachers, put out a call for stories of adjunct experience in support of increasing promotion of unionisation and collective action.  Also on Hybrid Pedagogy, a very powerful argument with 5 key points for assertive and constructive action from adjunct Tiffany Kraft:

Like many adjuncts across America, I am a qualified and collegial asset to my university, and I want to move beyond the political apathy and/or aggression that fuel this crisis. Let’s all contribute to a conversation that is thoughtful and ethical. There must be a moral imperative to discuss the truths of our profession and abide by a standard of ethos and equality. And there should be a way to extend this branch to adjuncts and other marginalized university employees with a formalized concern for working conditions.

In the UK, the Work Foundation published their substantial submission to the BIS on Zero Hours Contracts (ZHCs).

Zero hours were given relatively little attention until recently and the evidence base – while incomplete – has greatly expanded since then. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that these are a highly polarised form of contract. They can provide individuals with the flexibilities they demand, and appear to suit significant numbers of people close to or at retirement age. They may also work for people with skills and expertise in high demand and for some students. But it is also clear they can also be associated with some of the worst forms of exploitation in today’s labour market, and add to the problems being faced by low income households.

ZHCs are receiving much coverage in the UK as the indicator of a shift to precarity in employment, and are critical to academic workers in the UK, as this article on “Zero Hours, Infinite Anxiety” details.

Bits and pieces

Check out “Skilled, Cheap and Desperate: non Tenure Track Faculty and the Delusion of Meritocracy” (Mark Purcell, 2007) for US data on the tenure track labour market, but particularly for the argument, very clearly presented, that institutional status is a form of privilege “equally as arbitrary as race, gender, or sexuality”.

This week’s big read that was widely circulated: Henry Giroux in Truth Out, “Beyond NeoLiberal Miseducation“.

A number of colleges and universities are drawing more and more upon adjunct and nontenured faculty – whose ranks now constitute 1 million out of 1.5 million faculty – many of whom occupy the status of indentured servants who are overworked, lack benefits, receive little or no administrative support and are paid salaries that increasingly qualify them for food stamps.

And a CFP for a UK conference on “Governing Academic Life“, just to remind us all that colleagues elsewhere are raising critical voices about how things are going.

Finally, who knows what to make of the news that Keele University in the UK are launching a virtual student advisor called SAM (short for Student Advisory Model), to help students answer the perplexing questions of university life in a less embarrassing way than from a “real person”.

Have a good week everyone.

@acahacker and @KateMfD

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About Kate Bowles

Education technology, shared governance and casualisation in Australian higher education

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