Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Overcoming the Challenges of Contingent Faculty Organizing

Acadame
September 2014

Now is the time for contingent faculty organizing. The drumbeat of publicity in popular and higher education publications means that contingent faculty on your campus know not only that being a college professor is no longer an almost certain path to the middle class, but also that they are not alone. While contingent faculty are culturally middle class or elitist, they are blue collar financially. I get paid roughly what a Boston Public Schools bus driver with modest seniority makes. Contingent faculty are what I call “dirty white collar.” Outrageous loan debt, lack of promotions, and job instability have created class-consciousness and solidarity among these faculty.
Many are shocked by the idea that college faculty are no longer middle class, that there are homeless professors. Parents want to know where the money goes if not to faculty, as direct instructional expenses are usually just 30 percent of the typical institution’s budget. And schools cannot blame contingent faculty for tuition hikes (not that they can plausibly do so with tenure-line faculty either). Now is the time to organize.

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