About Marc Bousquet
Marc Bousquet is a tenured asssociate professor at Santa Clara University, where he teaches courses in radical U.S. culture, internet studies, and writing with new media. His book How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation has just been released by NYU Press with a foreword by Cary Nelson. He serves on the national council of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and was the founding editor of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor.
Posts by Marc Bousquet
Monday, March 22, 2010
What Contingent Faculty Really Want?
A new survey conducted for AFT adds confusion to the already muddled debate about the majority of faculty serving outside the tenure system. Ultimately the union is interested in a particular problem--organizing--for which in many states part-time status represents a legal boundary for the construction of bargaining units.
This legalistic definition of the group, and the “who’s the market for our services” orientation makes perfect sense for AFT. But it’s not a particularly good standpoint for analysis.
The problem is that the study focusses on part-time faculty to the exclusion of all the other major categories of non-track faculty, including full-time nontenurable, graduate students, post-docs, staff, etc.Continue reading "What Contingent Faculty Really Want?"
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Higher Ed Inspires Labor “Videos of the Year”
Eric Lee’s Labour Start clearinghouse for global labor news has just announced nominees for its first-ever award, Labor Video of the Year. Two of the five finalists are inspired by working conditions in higher ed. I think both are among the three likeliest to win.
My top choice is the clever, often hilarious series of 30-second spots produced for the three-month strike by the union representing 50% of the teaching faculty at Canada’s York University, CUPE 3903.
Eventually ended by an extraordinary legislative intervention, this legal job action was strongly supported by undergraduates and tenure-stream faculty, who joined the picket lines of contingent faculty and grad students at this leading research institution.
Featuring extremely high production values and great writing, the videos use just a few frames to effectively communicate the hypocrisy of the administration, and the exploitation of contingent faculty & grad students.
A close runner-up is The Janitor, tracking the daily experiences of campus custodial staff--many of whom are also current or former students.
In my view the strongest competition to both entries is provided by a snarky Australian effort, What Have the Unions Ever Done For Us? (Answer: duh, pretty much everything you take for granted in terms of the workplace, from sick leave to the eight-hour day.)Continue reading "Higher Ed Inspires Labor “Videos of the Year”"
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Baddest of the Bad
What’s worse than David Horowitz’s brand of right-wing drivel giving yellow journalism a bad name? A ghost-authored Horowitz sequel, padded with over 150 witless, tendentious summaries of courses that the compilers erroneously imagine will frighten middle America into hauling the faculty up the nearest telephone pole.
The current issue of American Book Review highlights their Top 40 Bad Books. Heading the list for me is One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine our Democracy, by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin. Since I often can’t make time to review excellent books, I don’t usually waste pixels on bad ones. But one has to make an exception for the epic badness of Horowitz’s failed hit job.
At least the first book in this series, The Professors, gave the “101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” something to brag about in their red-diaper parent-participation preschools (whilst plotting Trotskyite mayhem from behind piled bookshelves).
This cheesy compilation is too lazy even to attack faculty scholarship. It’s little more than a list of syllabi with a shrill “I see Marxism!” appended to each--150 times. The somnolence it produces is hard to describe.
Evidently they should have credited Google as the third author.Continue reading "Baddest of the Bad"
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Learning to Remember
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
It began with a handful of direct actions and refusals--bold occupations, sit-ins, a one-day strike and walkout, and a manifesto that fired the imaginations of students planetwide.
Today it is a mass movement, with marches and pickets across the country scheduled for Thursday’s National Day of Action. The hope and the stories will keep coming all weekend. If you jump a bus for Sacramento, you might get a seat next to Etienne Balibar. If you try to enter the UC Santa Cruz campus--the epicenter of the movement--thousands of students and workers will be picketing every gate. Over a hundred major actions are scheduled.
But Tuesday morning, March 8 will begin the next news cycle. Where will the movement be then?
It might look a little bit like this video. Give it ten seconds. I’m pretty sure you’ll watch it to the end.
While there seems to be endless conversation about the violence of smashing windows and the damage to the movement done by spontaneous action, there is a notable absence of discussion about the violence of class division in American society and its relationship with higher education.
Is the movement so fragile that a smashed window destroys it--yet broken bodies don’t bring it to boiling point? We are told that the streets must be policed in order to be safe--that no one will join us--that people who would have supported the cause are now frightened to participate. Yet what we see is laughter, dancing and a freedom that is not possible to describe in the language of everyday capitalism. How, we must ask, is a movement that collapses under the weight of overturned trash cans going to withstand the presence of millions of people challenging their relationship to the economy?
As I listened to this young voice, I could not help but think: “This is Carl Sandburg with a video camera."
Continue reading "Learning to Remember"
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Scientific American: Academic ‘Labor Market Gone Seriously Awry’
In a draft article published to its website today, Scientific American blasts some of the junk analysis bedeviling mainstream higher ed coverage and what passes for policy “thought” about academic labor. “The real crisis in American science education,” the article concludes, “is a distorted job market’s inability to provide [young scientists] careers worthy of their abilities.” Bingo.
The piece turns around an apparent contradiction: half the policy analysis decries a “shortage” of US scientists and engineers, and the other half claims an “oversupply” of persons with doctorates in science.
That doesn’t make sense--except when you understand that both camps are wrong.Continue reading "Scientific American: Academic ‘Labor Market Gone Seriously Awry’"
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
MLA Confidential, Part 1
Slow dissolve: Manhattan, fifteen years ago. I walk a few blocks from my place on Third Street-- next to an anarchist squat, across from the NuYorican Poets Cafe--to the headquarters of the Modern Language Association (MLA), then in Astor Place.
Inspired by a California law that set 75% as a minimum standard for classes that should be taught by a full-time stable faculty, even in its community colleges, we want MLA to establish educationally sound full-time/part-time ratios in the disciplines it represents.Continue reading "MLA Confidential, Part 1"
Friday, January 29, 2010
Howard Zinn: A Public Intellectual Who Mattered
A guest post by Henry Giroux
In 1977 I took my first job in higher education at Boston University. One reason I went there was because Howard Zinn was teaching there at the time. As a high school teacher, Howard’s book, “Vietnam: the Logic of Withdrawal,” published in 1968, had a profound effect on me. Not only was it infused with a passion and sense of commitment that I admired as a high school teacher and tried to internalize as part of my own pedagogy, but it captured something about the passion, sense of commitment and respect for solidarity that came out of Howard’s working-class background. It offered me a language, history and politics that allowed me to engage critically and articulate my opposition to the war that was raging at the time.
I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and rarely met or read any working-class intellectuals. After reading James Baldwin, hearing William Kunstler and Stanley Aronowitz give talks, I caught a glimpse of what it meant to occupy such a fragile, contradictory and often scorned location. But reading Howard gave me the theoretical tools to understand more clearly how the mix of biography, cultural capital and class location could be finely honed into a viable and laudable politics.Continue reading "Howard Zinn: A Public Intellectual Who Mattered"
Friday, January 22, 2010
Kindle or Netbook?
Ebooks are here to stay, but how will you read them?
As sales suggest, dedicated reading devices--Kindles, Nooks, etc--have begun to meet the expectations of leisure readers and business travelers. (Those expectations have been changing as well, after the socialization represented by a quarter-century of reading on screen.)
Providing fast, inexpensive and even free access to many titles, portability, adjustable type, searchable text, and a growing list of other functions, these devices meet many readers’ needs on both airplanes and nightstands.
But these dedicated devices just aren’t ready for the prime time of academic and professional use. Limitations and glitches in their annotation functions, difficulties with copying text, and even the need to mimic the paperback book experience present real issues for the scholar, student, lawyer and engineer.
Also, rather than remedy these defects: the teams developing next generations of these devices are focussed on other issues--larger screens, color display, the ability to do email, surf the web and upload other documents and media.
Where are these devices going? It seems pretty clear. Larger, a touch heavier, more functional--their competition is driving them all in the direction of becoming netbooks, the lower end of which retail in the same $200 to $300 price range that the dedicated devices are getting, but which already offer tons more functionality.
Friday, January 08, 2010
History “Job Czar” Shuts Down Phd Production (PhD “Oversupply” Continues For Two Decades)
This is part 3 of a 3-parter in response to the annual job report for historians, who have maintained a “we’re special” attitude toward contingency, but it’s probably relevant to those of us in English and cultural studies still thinking magically.
Okay, let’s imagine the impossible of total supply-side control. Clamp off admissions to EVERY doctoral program in history immediately and what happens?
They all keep pumping out new PhDs at contemporary levels for ten years. Scratch that. They actually pump out higher levels, because fewer of those enrolled will drop out, believing that they have better chances. So that keeps the “supply” at status quo rates for, say, thirteen to fifteen years. Then of course there’s all the underemployed circling the drain. They’re good for at least another five years’ supply.
Another thing. Young people being so clever, they’ll find ways around that job czar and the gerontocracy, enrolling--as so many already do--in American Studies, cultural studies, women’s and ethnic studies. So while history is choking off “supply,” the “competition” will continue merrily.
So even after total lockdown on admissions, this “oversupply” will continue for two decades at minimum. When could “production” start again? After a decade? At what level?
One more thing. Since we’re still staying hands-off on the demand side--what administrators want is what administrators want, and what can us chickens do about that?--that “demand” will continue to be restructured downward on a dozen fronts: dumping humanities from curricula, more casualization, automated courseware, etc.
So I remain confused, if not downright skeptical. To those of you scoffing at how impractical it is to try and attack the problem where it lives--on the demand side, with aggressive administrator restructuring of demand, I want to say this: Really? You think this is the practical alternative?Continue reading "History “Job Czar” Shuts Down Phd Production (PhD “Oversupply” Continues For Two Decades)"
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
“I Re-wrote Those Motherfuckers From Scratch”
Bérubé How many submissions did you receive for The Institution of Literature?
Williams 385, not counting the nine essays you submitted, eight of which sucked, if you don’t mind my saying so.
Bérubé Not at all. I totally respect your opinion when it comes to essays of mine that suck.
Williams Well, they did. As did many of the 65 essays I accepted, 38 of which I had to rewrite.
Lyon That sounds like a lot.
Williams Yeah. I take editing seriously.
Bérubé Well, how much rewriting did you do? We’re talking line edits, right?
Williams Fuck no. I rewrote those motherfuckers from scratch.
Bérubé Really? What did their authors say about that?
Williams I didn’t ask them. Why?
Bérubé Well, because most of the time, when editors make substantial changes to a manuscript, they run them by the authors, that’s why.
Williams Fuck that. If I ran things by people, do you know long it would take me to produce an issue?
Bérubé No, how long?
Williams Too fucking long, that’s how long. There’s no way I have time to send editorial suggestions back to people who’ll only sit on them for four or five months and then get back to me with a bunch of bullshit complaints about what I’ve cut. Besides, do you think that guys like Leitch and Kumar give a shit either way? It’s not like they’re going to notice. Hell, I stuck three paragraphs from the Grundrisse into your first essay and you didn’t say a fucking word.
Bérubé Wait, wait. That whole bit about how “the question of the relation between this production-determining distribution, and production, belongs evidently within production itself”? That wasn’t mine?
--excerpted from Michael Bérubé and Janet Lyon, The Early Years: An Interview with Jeffrey J. Williams
In this fanciful interview composed for the minnesota review roast issue celebrating Williams’ eighteen-year run as editor, Lyon and Bérubé capture the true picture of Williams talking out of school about the task of editing the journal that Paul Buhle called “the standard-bearer for dissenting views on American literature and culture,” read by his students at Brown with “near-religious fervor,” outlasting “nearly all of the journals of its type founded in the 1960s and 70s."
Profane, forthright, daring and stylish, Williams made editing an academic journal into a platform for public intellectualism to an extent unmatched by anyone of his generation: during Williams’ tenure, mr garnered more mentions in the Chronicle of Higher Education than any other academic journal.
For a warm and frequently hilarious farewell--patched together in just under two weeks from call for papers to shipped print job--wizard managing editor Heather Steffen compiled a mock entry in Jeff’s day planner, a flowchart of his acceptance guidelines for fiction, 4 top ten lists, a mad lib, 4 mock interviews, a previously unpublished actual interview, and 21 funny and touching short notes from grad students to luminaries. You can read the full Lyon & Berube performance, browse the table of contents or download the whole thing (pdf).Continue reading "“I Re-wrote Those Motherfuckers From Scratch”"
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
UC-Davis Occupiers Force Concessions
In a second occupation at Mrak Hall, student activists forced the administration to negotiate, make several concessions, and enter into discussion about their demands. See the full story, complete with a scan of the agreement signed by UC administrator Janet Gong.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Students Occupy UC President’s Office
Several hundred students gathered at the Oakland courthouse Monday to protest the filing of felony burglary charges against protesters last week, then began an impromptu march over to the University of California’s Office of the President (UCOP), the building from which Mark Yudof directs the entire UC system. About 70 members of the crowd pushed past police and gained entry by a rear door of the building, according to at least one report, including photographs taken from a cell phone.
During the ensuing sit-in, students demanded to meet with Yudof, and eventually were met by two staffers who apparently admitted earning salaries of between 250,000 and 350,000 dollars.
“The most important thing was the occupation of the building itself and the students’ defiant mood,” wrote one participant. “They were not going to be stopped by a few cops."
Friday, November 20, 2009
Follow the Berkeley Standoff; Mass Media Whups Trade Press on Occupations
Follow the Berkeley standoff via microblog. Also see this video of a unionized campus worker addressing several hundred UCSC students during the third day of the current occupation. Best updates on California occupations here; best strike and breaking media from UPTE; and all other UC news at Newfield et al’s place here.
Update 5pm PST: Berkeley police turned off the campus wireless and sent in the SWAT team: the last transmission was the microblogger recording SWAT smashing the hinges off the doors. Image of the cops bursting in can be found here. Latest: reports of 40 UC-B students arrested, 1 seriously injured.Continue reading "Follow the Berkeley Standoff; Mass Media Whups Trade Press on Occupations"
Occupation Movement Sweeps California
Arrests of 52 students at UC Davis and others at UCLA ended 1-day occupations at both places, and at San Francisco State, but a new occupation has begun at Berkeley, where the occupiers report that police beat and pepper-sprayed students to re-take the building’s first floor. Students appear to hold the second floor at this time. Two buildings remain occupied by hundreds of students at UC-Santa Cruz, which has been the epicenter of the California occupation movement.
Since the first UCSC occupation featuring only a few dozen students earlier this term, their rhetoric and tactics have spread across the state: even the the more respectable “UC solidarity” movement uniting staff, faculty and students have taken up their mantra, to “escalate” the struggle.
The expanded wave of occupiers, featuring a reported 200-300 students in the Kerr admin building and 500 students in the Kresge town hall, have articulated detailed demands: see below.Continue reading "Occupation Movement Sweeps California"
Thursday, November 19, 2009
California Is Burning
Update: you’ve got to watch this video.
Yesterday the UC Regents walked into a room packed with gasoline and nonchalantly lit their cigars--handing down tuition increases that will hike 2010 rates 44% over 2008, turning higher ed into a gated community for the offspring of California’s “Real Housewives” class. Their bet is the usual bet made by the comfortable: someone else will get scorched.Continue reading "California Is Burning"