Sunday, April 27, 2008
Organizing Abraham Lincoln
cross-posted from howtheuniversityworks.com
An award-winning play about organizing grad employees opens May 3 in Philadelphia.
ADMINISTRATOR: Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste. I go by many names. Doctor, Boss, Sir, Chairman, Gentleman, Scholar, Dean, Pillar of the Community, Cheap Bastard, but you can call me the Administrator. --Joe Camhi, “Screw U, a play in one act” performed at Portland Community College
One of the things that many folks don’t grasp about the shift to administrative domination of the university is that it has been intentionally accomplished, by a culture-war from above. If you read the truly appalling discourse of university administration, you find that it long ago moved to an emphasis upon transforming organizational culture--targeting faculty culture for change and aggressive re-engineering. This administrative movement shot into high gear in the mid 1970s after anti-union labor economist Clark Kerr and his pet Carnegie Commission gazed with trepidation at the then-rising faculty union movement. Just as the 1960s had been the “decade of student power,” Kerr wrote, the rising culture of faculty solidarity seemed certain to make the 1970s the “decade of faculty power.” What we need, Kerr suggested, is a “management science of reaction.”
And boy, did he get what he wanted. Administrations have succeeded hugely in substituting for faculty values their sick culture of competition, quality engineering, market responsiveness, and mission-centeredness--academic capitalism, in the indispensable formulation of Leslie, Slaughter and Rhoades. The studies I’ve read conclude that university administration has achieved a profound “corporatization of the self” in most faculty, despite occasional “concrete opposition” in faculty institutions, chiefly unions.
But there is an emergent culture of struggling back from below, evident in the self-organization of graduate employees and contingent faculty. California COCAL used to have a great online resource of some of the Wobbly-style agit-prop performed by the West-coast contingent faculty associations: I hope they get it back up soon. And I just taped a Wobbly grad student activist at the University of Chicago and his comrades singing a truly affecting resistance song.
These performances work--they communicate the dishonesty and bad faith of administrations to students, parents, and legislators--in the taped Portland Community College productions and following open-mike responses of the students, you can hear the horror in the voices of the students when they learn that their faculty earn less than $20,000 a year.
The Philadelphia academic unions have been very active in supporting the campaigns and rights of other workers in the metropolitan area, and the proceeds will go in support of fired Embassy Suites housekeepers affiliated with UNITE HERE.
If you’re in the Philadelphia area on Saturday May 3, check out “Organizing Abraham Lincoln,” the award-winning play about the bad-asses at TUGSA/AFT Local 6290 (the Temple grad employees’ union), sponsored by the Temple Association of University Professionals/AFT Local 4531, the Temple University faculty and librarians’ union, and co-written by Lonnie Carter and Rich Klimmer.
Location: Saturday evening, May 3 at 7:30, Rock Hall, Cecil B. Moore and Broad St., Temple main campus
If you can’t make it, you can send a check to: TAUP- AFT Local #4531 AFL-CIO, 1900 N.13th Street, Barton Hall Room A231, Philadelphia PA 19122-6013 or write April C. Logan, TUGSA/AFT #6290, Department of English, Temple University, AprilCLogan (at) aol.com .
I believe that during the 70s the president of Portland Community College was a pioneer of adjunctification and the transformation of the school into a service purveyor to various constituencies, especially employers. Costs for students were lower than in the competing four-year school (Portland State U.) and many programs were vocational, some geared to specific jobs or even specific employers. The good vocational programs (the 2-year computer science certificate) were excellent, though I believe that there are also some dud programs preparing people for disappearing jobs.
Thanks for quoting my play. It is nice to know that it was performed in Portland. I didn’t know that until I read your article. How was the production?
I would like to know and get some evidence that the President Lincoln was also a community organizer. I think he was but some people disagree with me.
Please help me out on this one.
Dr. Lakshmi C. Mishra