In the UC system, lecturers represented by UC-AFT (University Council of the American Federation of Teachers) have a clear pathway to job security with relatively high pay and full benefits (including pensions). These teachers also at times have a strong role in departmental governance and curricular development and have their academic freedom protected. Although, there is still plenty of room for improvement, at one of the largest public university system in the country, activism and organization have led to a model that should and can be replicated throughout the United States.
“An Existing Just Model for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty” Bob Samuels
Every once in a while, I like to remind myself that the it is possible to clean up the mess that’s been made of my profession. I think the old system– full-time employment and benefits– made a lot of sense and was by far the most effective model for learning and research. Keep it simple. I think the best solution is to go back to that system; if nothing else, no system worth pursuing is going to be any less expensive. That may be a lost dream.
In a sense, then, we are fighting against a perceived symbolic enemy, the tenured professor, who many (administrators, right-wing economists) believe is by definition complacent if not ineffective and who’s employment security makes it nearly impossible for schools to adjust to changing conditions. In effect, Samuels wants to make an end-run around the boogie-man through a new kind of job, with equivalent but different forms of pay and security.
We accept the final defeat of tenure, in other words, in exchange for getting back much of what we lost: relative employment security, fairly good pay, a pension, protections for academic freedom of speech. It’s an attractive idea, not only as a way forward, but also as a foundation on which to build an entirely new, non-exploitative system. It’s a model that works, after all, only if adjuncts have a union to fight for their interests.