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, November 16, 2009
Pay to Work? GEO Says No!
Does your idea of public higher education include values like fairness and diversity? Yeah, me too. Ditto for the several hundred grad students drumming in the rain in Illinois today, after their union struck to defend tuition waivers. Get updates and join their 2,500 fans on the GEO Facebook page.
Charging tuition to working graduate students is essentially a pay-to-work scheme that would represent an educational death sentence for many grad students, as Robert Naiman at Huffpost puts it.
Noting that the administration’s refusal to bargain tuition security would fall most heavily on “out-of-state, minority, and foriegn graduate students,” AAUP president Cary Nelson walked the line with GEO this morning.
“The diversity that is the lifeblood of the campus is at stake,” he said.
California Students Demand: “Let us Study!"
Continue reading "Pay to Work? GEO Says No!"
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Festive Disobedience, or, Direct Action Can Be Fun
Everywhere you look, students and faculty are hitting the streets--digital music in their ears, cell phone cameras in hand, uploading their manifestos from occupied dean’s offices. It turns out civil disobedience doesn’t have to be boring.
The membership of the grad student union at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign just overwhelmingly authorized their leadership to call a strike at will--winning the support of legislators, the undergraduate student senate and the faculty in a savvy media barrage couched in a series of rallies, including one slotted for Nov 12 on the site of the next trustees’ meeting. This is the same union with a long history of creative disruption in response to intransigent administrations, ultimately forcing the administration to bargain with them by an imaginative well-planned occupation of the administration building (also during a trustees’ meeting).
Militants across the University of California are feverishly building support for a Nov. 18 faculty & student walkout and staff strike with dozens of creative events like tonight’s Bay area Night of Student Art and Protest. Just as I was typing this, my email beeped with an announcement of the UCLA students’ all-night crisisfest.
Oh, yeah. And the cell-phone-camera and adrenaline-fueled pan-European university occupation movement has just jumped the channel to London, complete with mandatory Facebook group. (Hat tip to Eli Meyerhoff.)
AAUP Gets Jiggy With It
Even the “you’ll tear my print budget from my cold dead hands” contingent over at AAUP are taking to Youtube in an effort to combat the so-dumb-as-to-be-unbelievable Garcetti decision and its consequences for academic freedom.
Of course Youtube is so 2005. This year’s movie tool is the text-to-movie app over at Xtranormal. ("If you can type, you can make a movie.") Some student did one on Garcetti, in fact. (Not the best example of the genre, but a way cool app.)Continue reading "Festive Disobedience, or, Direct Action Can Be Fun"
Thursday, November 05, 2009
The Audacity of Audacity
The 2000 students sitting in at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts ignited occupations at a handful of neighboring buildings and campuses, then leapt across Austria and into Germany (where already last summer a quarter million students, faculty, teachers, and parents struck to fight various sleazy American-model* initiatives being pushed by the aptly-named “Bologna Process").
Californians are mad as hell too. Over 600 militants from every sector of California public education--K-12, CSU, UC, the community colleges--met last week to plan a rolling series of actions in a statewide mobilization.
The first statewide event is a planned massive, open-ended and systemwide UC strike beginning November 18, the day that California regents vote on a 30% increase in tuition and faculty/staff furloughs. The planners vow to stay out if the regents vote to support Yudof’s proposals. Future mobilizations will include all education sectors--stay tuned.
Left vs. Left: Debating the Occupations
Speaking of California militance, there’s an interesting discussion of one of the UCSC occupation manifestos over at the AK Press blog, featuring its authors and some of the New School occupiers. They’re in dialogue with Brian Holmes, who sparked the conversation by saying, essentially, students can’t be workers.
AK’s Charles Weigl does a fantastic job of capturing the differences between Holmes and the student-movement intellectuals by posing three nicely-turned questions:
1) Whaddya mean the management class is being proletarianized!?! Isn’t this somehow an insult/misrecognition regarding the REAL proletariat?Continue reading "The Audacity of Audacity"
Monday, November 02, 2009
Of Special Interest to Literature Faculty and Grad Students? AAUP Reports on Conversion to Tenure
As I’ve previously noted in this space, English studies is one of the few disciplines to lose lines in absolute numbers (not just a percentage) over the ten years 1997-2006; losing 3,000 lines or ten percent of all tenured positions in the field. That trend has likely continued, and hardly represents the true hit to literature faculty, since lines in English include those in several fields, such as writing, where new lines have been added. This is the text of an email blast sent out by AAUP to 370,000 faculty, announcing the release of a draft report on conversion to tenure, co-authored by me, and featuring several examples of different ways that different institutions have moved to stabilize their faculty. We’ve already received over 150 comments, most positive and most thoughtful: direct yours to Gwendolyn Bradley. We anticipate issuing a final report early this spring. Hint: don’t miss the special section on the AAUP website.
The last four decades have seen a failure of the social contract in faculty employment.
With more than two-thirds of faculty working outside the tenure stream or for wages that would embarass Wal-mart, the once-reliable regime of professional peer scrutiny in hiring, evaluation, and promotion has all but collapsed.
The Profession Agrees
In opposition to this trend, a powerful new consensus is emerging that it is time to stabilize the crumbling faculty infrastructure.
Concerned legislatures and administrators have joined faculty associations in calling for dramatic reductions in the reliance on contingent appointments. But how shall we get there?
Conversion to Tenure
By far the best stabilization practices are those that include the rigorous professional peer scrutiny of the tenure system. Managerial plans for hiring and assessment rarely approach the level of scrutiny that faculty peers apply to themselves. There is no basis in AAUP policy for regarding those in teaching-intensive positions as second-class citizens or ineligible for tenure.
A new draft report surveys several noteworthy forms of stabilization practiced or planned at a variety of institutions, highlighting those that feature conversion to tenure for faculty already employed at the institution.Continue reading "Of Special Interest to Literature Faculty and Grad Students? AAUP Reports on Conversion to Tenure"
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Is Your ‘Fiscal Crisis’ Real?
Is your administration using “the economy” as an excuse to extort more work for less pay from an already over-burdened faculty?
Buying Howard Bunsis a plane ticket to your campus might be the best investment you can make right now.
Bunsis, a Michigan professor of accounting and treasurer of the AAUP, has been tracking administrator claims of fiscal crisis for several months. His conclusion, published in this issue of the Chronicle, is that at many campuses, there’s no financial crisis at all. At many schools, tuition and other revenue is up, or existing reserves could easily cushion the shortfall.
Furthermore, Bunsis observes after detailed analysis of university financial data, where cuts have to be made, they don’t need to be made to the core education function--they can be made in athletics, construction, services, and other ventures.
“We need administrations to start focusing on the core mission of our colleges and universities: educating our students,” Bunsis says.Continue reading "Is Your ‘Fiscal Crisis’ Real?"
Friday, October 23, 2009
Academia Insurgent: The Occupation Will Be Televised
In response to the massive re-orientation of education toward job training, privatization and the standardization of curricular outcomes mandated by the Bologna Process, students across Europe have been turning out by the thousands. This past June, as many as 250,000 students, parents, schoolteachers, college faculty and staff coordinated a week-long education strike in 90 cities across Germany.Continue reading "Academia Insurgent: The Occupation Will Be Televised"
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Will Occupation Become A Movement?
With a 150-person sit-in at Berkeley and members of the two UCSC occupations beginning a southern tour of talks at several campuses near Los Angeles this week, the movement appears to be gathering steam. In the next 24 hours, occupiers will explain their strategy for movement building--"demand nothing, occupy everything” --at UCLA, Irvine, and Cal State Fullerton.
The administration appears to be helping to set the stage for escalation by, according to witnesses and victim testimony on the movement blog, macing students without warning and heavy-handed efforts at police infiltration and espionage.
I interviewed a graduate student with knowledge of the events surrounding the second occupation at UC Santa Cruz last Thursday and Friday:
Q. I understand the group occupied a particular administrator’s office. Can you tell me how that decision came about?
The administrator in question is the Dean of Social Sciences, Sheldon Kamieniecki. The social sciences have been particularly threatened by the “necessary” budget cuts and restructurings, with proposed lay-offs that would destroy both the Community Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies programs. Among those who planned this action, the sense was that Dean Kamieniecki did not pursue alternatives, particularly in terms of keeping the jobs of lecturers vital to these programs, and accepted the cuts passed down in spite of massive student discontent. The decisions of the group are both political and tactical, if the two can be separated. As such, the space was chosen both because of Kamieniecki’s office and because its central location and physical layout made it possible to take the building and to bring a large number of students there to participate following an earlier potluck and discussion.
Q. Shortly after the occupation began, there was an incident with the campus police. What happened?Continue reading "Will Occupation Become A Movement?"
Monday, October 05, 2009
“This is Only the Beginning: We Left in Order to Escalate”
In lower Manhattan, students demonstrate in solidarity with protesters at UC Santa Cruz.
The Occupy California group peacefully ended their weeklong occupation of a UCSC facility last Thursday, but announced that they left “in order to escalate” their confrontation with the state and campus authorities.
During the event, messages of solidarity poured in from Britain, South Africa and Croatia, from campus bus drivers and the SDS, from San Francisco State, from Irvine, from Brandeis, Columbia, and the City University of New York.
California’s statewide Defend our Education coalition of K-12 educators, staff and faculty from the UC and Cal State system passed a formal unanimous resolution of support, as did numerous student groups across the U.S.
The largest solidarity demo took place in lower Manhattan, home to TakeBackNYU and the New School Reoccupied, where arrests, expulsions, and other disciplinary actions in response to widely-reported building occupations last year have left simmering resentment. A day after news of the occupation hit indymedia news sources, protesters from both lower-Manhattan campuses marchedContinue reading "“This is Only the Beginning: We Left in Order to Escalate”"
Monday, September 28, 2009
“Occupy and Escalate”: Inside the Barricades at UC Santa Cruz
During last week’s massive 10-campus walkout, several dozen students and workers occupied [video] the Graduate Student Commons at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), issuing statements frankly acknowledging their intention to escalate the conflict: “Occupation is a tactic for escalating struggles,” they note at their website, “We must face the fact that the time for pointless negotiations is over.”
Their supporters aim to initiate some actual thought about the role of higher education in the economy. “A university diploma is now worth no more than a share in General Motors,” observes the author of the compelling Communique From an Absent Future:
We work and we borrow in order to work and to borrow. And the jobs we work toward are the jobs we already have. Close to three quarters of students work while in school, many full-time; for most, the level of employment we obtain while students is the same that awaits after graduation. Meanwhile, what we acquire isn’t education; it’s debt. We work to make money we have already spent, and our future labor has already been sold on the worst market around. ...Even leisure is a form of job training. The idiot crew of the frat houses drink themselves into a stupor with all the dedication of lawyers working late at the office. Kids who smoked weed and cut class in high school now pop Adderall and get to work. We power the diploma factory on the treadmills in the gym.
Noting that public employees, the homeless and the unemployed have been demonstrating across the state, supporters argue that “all of our futures are linked” and the struggle over higher education is “one among many, [so] our movement will have to join with these others, breeching the walls of the university compounds and spilling into the streets."
I completed an interview with their spokesperson this morning, on the fourth day of the occupation.
Q. Sounds pretty raucous in there. How long have you been at it?
We’ve occupied this space for almost four days now! This is one of the longest student occupations in many, many years.
Q. How many of you are there, and who do you represent?
There are several dozen or so occupiers, plus countless numbers of supporters on the outside. It’s been very impressive. For example, one first-year student, after being on campus for just one week, almost immediately organized food drives with students in the dormitories for us.Continue reading "“Occupy and Escalate”: Inside the Barricades at UC Santa Cruz"
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Walking to Save UC
Dear University of California students, staff and faculty: Thank you. As a California parent, I am grateful for your courage in standing up to this administration in the massive walkout you’ve planned for tomorrow, September 24th.
You are wise. Without you, tuition would soon rise to a point where most Californians couldn’t afford it. Public higher education in this state used to be free--and now it’s going to cost more than a new small car every year? Pretty soon a UC bachelor’s degree will cost the equivalent of four luxury cars. Who can afford that? Thank you for throwing yourselves into the trenches against the Schwarzeneggers and the Yudofs who want to turn public higher education into a subsidy for the rich.
You are compassionate. You are demanding that cuts not fall on employees earning less than $40,000. Thank you for demanding fairness, and asking that--if cuts are actually necessary-- the thousands of wealthiest UC employees dig a little deeper.
You are honest. The reality is that undergraduate tuition subsidizes every other activity in the university, and the administration has billions of reserve funds. As Bob Samuels says, “UC does not have a budget crisis; it has a crisis in priorities.”Continue reading "Walking to Save UC"
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Dismal Science Fiction
Another scarily bad article from The New York Times on the economics of higher education is making the rounds. Purporting to explain why college costs keep rising, columnist Ron Lieber does a job so superficial, so thoughtless, so unresearched and unfact-checked--in sum, so embarassingly bad--it really wouldn’t have passed editorial review in many responsible college dailies.Continue reading "Dismal Science Fiction"
Friday, September 04, 2009
It’s Labor Day--And We’re All Oakland AAUP
I’m acquainted with Joel Russel, chemistry prof and president of the AAUP chapter at Michigan’s Oakland University. Courteous, soft-spoken and gentle to the point of self-effacement, he’s naturally conflict-avoidant and careful with his speech.
But yesterday’s scheduled start of classes found him walking a picket line with most of his colleagues and several hundred supportive students, determined to hold the administration of his institution accountable to students and the public.
“Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste"
Oakland’s administration, Russell contends, is engaging in a version of the sleazy managerial opportunism sweeping the country--using claims of fiscal crisis as a form of extortion, to seize even more control of the institution’s mission, raise tuition and fees and further impoverish the faculty.
(Only about a quarter of all faculty today are even eligible for tenure*; in many traditional humanities and science disciplines, even this minority earn wages similar to those of bartenders and waitstaff--a fact that has real consequences for the class, race, and gender segmentation of the academic workforce.)
As Russell told the Chron, “The Michigan economic crisis is real. Oakland’s is not."Continue reading "It’s Labor Day--And We’re All Oakland AAUP"
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
The Real Boudreaux
The professional opinion of the chair of the George Mason University economics department is mistaken for the punchline to a Cajun joke.
Last Thursday, 350,000 faculty members--most of them without any hope of entering the dried-up tenure stream--received a militant blast email from the AAUP:
The AAUP serves notice that we are working to end “at-whim” employment for contingent faculty. At its June 2009 annual meeting the AAUP put Nicholls State University and North Idaho College on censure for terminating the services of contingent faculty members who had been teaching in good standing for many years: one had taught as a full-time contingent faculty member for twelve years; the other had taught for thirteen consecutive semesters as a part-time faculty member. The North Idaho College case was the first in which the AAUP has censured an administration for violating Regulation 13 of the Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (“Part-time Faculty Appointments”), which draws on some procedural safeguards embedded in tenure to extend stronger due process rights for contingent faculty in part-time positions. (join AAUP)
This drew a quick response from that reputable academic outlet, the PhiBetaCons blog (The “Right” Take on Higher Ed) at National Review Online, authored by the chairman of the George Mason University economics department, Don Boudreaux.
Boudreaux’s intellectual argument, such as it is, is a classic if-then castle in the air: if AAUP succeeds in making it more difficult to fire faculty (you know, like having a cause other than we want to get back at your husband, as in the North Idaho case), then it will be more expensive to hire faculty on contingent terms.
If that is true, Boudreaux continues, fewer such faculty will be hired. Therefore, he triumphantly concludes, without any actual research,"it’s doubtful that your efforts will help the very persons whose well-being you claim to champion!”
Wow. You can just see this genius dusting off his hands after dispensing with Cary Nelson and Gary Rhoades in 144 characters or less.Continue reading "The Real Boudreaux"
Friday, August 28, 2009
“Private” vs “For-Profit” in the Health-Care Debate
I just came across Mike Stanfill’s cartoon from last week, which captures a truth about the way the coding of the words “public” and “private” function in our debates about our laughing-stock-of-the-developed-world system of “health care."Continue reading "“Private” vs “For-Profit” in the Health-Care Debate"
Monday, August 24, 2009
Featured in Prize-winning Article, A Whistle-Blower is Fired
Late last night, disabled faculty veteran Gerald Davey posted to the adjunct faculty discussion list (join) to explain that he’d been fired, less than a year after blowing the whistle on San Antonio College administration’s scheme to defraud contingent faculty by forcing them to sign waivers relinquishing pay and eligibility they had earned under state law.
The adjunct representative to his faculty senate, not only did Davey refuse to sign, he contacted AAUP and the media, eventually forcing the administration to admit breaking the law. Essentially standing alone, he was eventually featured in a prizewinning series of articles.
“Those who predicted retaliation in a term or a year were correct,” Davey wrote. “Having traditionally taught 6-11 hours per term, I was reduced to 3 hours in the Spring term with the hiring of a new, much less qualified adjunct.
“For the Fall, my chair wrote me two days before the start of classes that I wasn’t placeable” Davey continued, claiming that the chair trumped up a refusal to teach a class offering, a pretext he dismisses as “entirely made up and of course completely untrue… a wholesale lie."
Largely subsisting on disability pay from a previous academic position, Davey is one of the few members of his department to hold the Ph.D. and publish in his field, has won multiple awards for excellence in teaching, and in 2006 was featured as one of the “20 Best Teachers” in the district.Continue reading "Featured in Prize-winning Article, A Whistle-Blower is Fired"