As part-time instructors at colleges seek to improve their working conditions through unionization, they often find that the people standing in the way of their efforts are not administrators but fellow faculty members, several union organizers and labor experts observed at a conference held here this week.

Tenure-track professors can be resistant to contract provisions that erode their power over faculty appointments or let contingent faculty members assume a bigger role in the shared governance of their institution.

Union Efforts on Behalf of Adjuncts Meet Resistance Within Faculties’ Ranks,” Peter Schmidt

I think this is one of the great open secrets of academia, perhaps especially in English departments which long ago institutionalized a kind of contempt for both women and for freshman writers. I worked for a department that paid (mostly women) adjuncts about half the pay of the (mostly men) full-time professors. There were more than twice as many adjuncts as full-time professors. The adjuncts all taught freshman writing courses; the full-time faculty taught a few sections of freshman English and then, once they got tenure, stopped. There were only a small handful of tenured faculty who were in any way interested in helping to govern the university. It could only strengthen the consumer-oriented administration.

They saw themselves as individual scholars and were generally disdainful of collective self-governance, except, of course, when it came to defending increasingly obscure fields of literary study. They’d take part in any department activity in only the most cursory ways and they were wholly uninterested in the professional fate of the adjuncts, except insofar as they– along with the students– made the limited dating economy of a small Midwestern town seem just a little more profitable. Any suggestion that these adjuncts, many of whom had worked in the department for decades, be given some form of job security or equal pay was either ignored or rebuffed. I am not talking about the 1950’s either; this was the 2000’s.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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