19 June 2015

Not Enough and Too Many Degrees of Separation

from The Shade Room (Facebook page)
Wednesday night bible study: that's the part that gets me.  Parts of this story have become all too familiar: black people being killed for all kinds of stupid reasons saturated with racism, white men shooting strangers.  Not comfortable, not okay, not normal--just, it's a thing that happens, that shouldn't, that does.

But Wednesday night bible study?  There was always a lot of church during the summer weeks I spent with my grandparents in rural Indiana. White church. And even if I was often spared the midweek observance, Wednesday night bible study was a fixture on the extended family landscape and daily narratives, an anchor for family stories, a point at which friendships were solidified, plans made, gossip shared. Wednesday night bible study meant that my mother's Episcopalian (she converted in grad school) and then Presbyterian weeks had a gap in them that she filled with choir practice or committee involvement.

14 June 2015

The Silence of the Brands

First, a few words about the current state of play:

The AAUP voted yesterday to censure the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  It feels anticlimactic, much like final BOT approval of a tenure and promotion decision: everyone knew it was coming, but now it's officially official.  And as with that final stamp of approval on the tenure decision, everybody is at a bit of a loss.  The big surges of emotion at various stages earlier in the process have left little in the reservoir for this moment.  Any sense of vindication is cancelled out by a profound sense of "now what?"

Tenure brings with it less ambient anxiety but more service and higher expectations.  Censure brings with it...well, what really?  Life goes on as it as for the past year, except that our local crisis over academic freedom has been overshadowed by threatened catastrophic budget cuts and the demise of tenure in Wisconsin.

07 June 2015

Addendum on the Dream of Teaching-Intensive Tenure

Over at Bardiac, there's a fine round-up of the blogospheric response to Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth's proposal for a teaching-intensive tenure-track. (http://bardiac.blogspot.com/2015/06/metablogging-conversation-about.html?m=1) Yes, it quotes the Good Enough Professor, which makes this post meta-meta-blogging.

If anecdotal data like mine suggests a general trend towards creating some middle ground between tenure and rank exploitation, that seems like a good thing.  Non-exploitative working conditions are better than exploitative ones.  There's a bigger problem, though.  Without provisions for academic freedom, shared governance, and  grievance procedures these improvements will hasten the decline of higher education.  Instructors who, however well-paid and professionally validated, are beholden to the administrators who hire them and not the faculty peers qualified to evaluate their teaching and research, will not sustain the mission of higher education as many of us understand it.

05 June 2015

These Deck Chairs Aren't Going to Rearrange Themselves

As commenters have been pointing out, the teaching-intensive tenure track is already a thing: at any number of non-R1 institutions, tenure is already based on teaching.  But as Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth emphasize, it is also the norm at many institutions for the heavy-lifting of a department's teaching workload to be performed by contingent employees who lack livable salaries, job security, benefits, a voice in their departments, procedures for evaluation and promotion, and institutional recognition.  And then of course there are a lot of institutions making unwieldy and incoherent compromises between those two extremes.  Issues of department service and governance are particularly vexed: the self evident truth that "shared governance" ought to give those fulfilling an institution's mission a voice is at odds with the hierarchical boundaries that define academic life.