"It's 2015. Where are all the black college faculty?" by Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Nov. 12 (Tania)
"Colleges and universities talk up a blue streak about their commitment to diversity, in their student bodies and faculty. But when it comes to actually hiring black faculty at most schools, the commitment doesn’t match the rhetoric..." Link to the full article>>
History 485 Democracy Notes
This Week in Higher Ed
Looking Towards the Future! Democracy and Justice in Higher Education
Facilitators: Helen and Lillian
To what extent should civic skills and social responsibility be a purpose for higher education?
What is the relationship between the push for multiculturalism/diversity and the educational goals of the university?
DO YOU SEE THE OPERATIONS OF DEMOCRACY IN THIS CLASS OR IN OTHER CLASSES?
IF YOU WERE THE OMNIPOTENT ENTITY THAT IS HIGHER ED, HOW WOULD YOU ESTABLISH A DEMOCRATIC CLASSROOM? PURPOSE, GOALS, ADMISSION
Thanks to Cuervo for sending this along:
The article begins:An information and intelligence shift has emerged in America's national security state over the last two decades, and that change has been reflected in the country's educational institutions as they have become increasingly tied to the military, intelligence, and law enforcement worlds. This is why VICE News has analyzed and ranked the 100 most militarized universities in America.
Initially, we hesitated to use the term militarized to describe these schools. The term was not meant to simply evoke robust campus police forces or ROTC drills held on a campus quad. It was also a measure of university labs funded by US intelligence agencies, administrators with strong ties to those same agencies, and, most importantly, the educational backgrounds of the approximately 1.4 million people who hold Top Secret clearance in the United States.
But ultimately, we came to believe that no term sums up all of those elements better than militarized. Today's national security state includes a growing cadre of technicians and security professionals who sit at computers and manage vast amounts of data; they far outnumber conventional soldiers and spies. And as the skills demanded from these digital warriors have evolved, higher education has evolved with them.
Novelist Marilynne Robinson warns Stanford audience against utilitarian trends in higher education (Stanford University Report, Nov. 3, 2015)
In the 2015 Presidential Lecture in the Arts and Humanities, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson argued that if the American higher education system continues to shift priorities towards training instead of educating, students will be ill-equipped to participate as citizens of a democratic society.
By Corrie Goldman
The Humanities at Stanford
Marilynne Robinson is best known for her award-winning fiction. But her expertise is by no means limited to the fictional realm, as became clear when she addressed a Stanford audience last week.
All four of her novels have won major literary awards. Her second novel, Gilead, won a Pulitzer in 2005. Her stories are known for their luminous prose and poignant portrayals of ordinary experiences.
But she has also published numerous essays that offer a forcefully argued ethical vision for modern society. From insights on religion in America, environmentalism, and gun control, Robinson harnesses her exceptional command of the written word to challenge conventional wisdom.
In the 2015 annual Presidential Lecture in the Arts and Humanities, which Robinson delivered at Stanford on Oct. 29, she turned her attention to the evolving culture of higher education.
Robinson, who has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including her current position at the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, identified a troubling trend in higher education today.
The original rationale behind an American liberal arts education – to play a vital role in democratizing privilege – "is under attack, or is being forgotten," Robinson said. Now, universities by and large do not attempt to "prepare people for citizenship and democracy." Instead, they educate them to be members of a "docile, most skilled, working class."
As Robinson put it, "We have persuaded ourselves that the role of the middle ranks of our population is to be of use to the economy, more precisely to the future economy – of which we know nothing for certain."
Administered by the Stanford Humanities Center, the Presidential Lecture series is sponsored by the Office of the President to "bring the most distinguished scholars, artists and critics of our time to the Stanford University campus."
In opening remarks, Caroline Winterer, the director of the Stanford Humanities Center, introduced Robinson as "one of the most powerful moral voices in the modern literary pantheon." Winterer noted that Robinson's emphasis on education dovetails with Stanford's own Year of Learning initiative, which is fostering a wide-ranging exploration of the future of teaching and learning.
During her visit to Stanford, Robinson was interviewed for an episode of the radio program, "Entitled Opinions." Stanford professor of French and Italian Robert Harrison hosts the literary talk show. The episode with Robinson will air on KZSU at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4. To listen live, tune in to 90.1 FM. The show will also be available for streaming on the KZSU website or as a podcast on iTunes.
Education as self-discovery
The title of Robinson's talk, "The American Scholar Now," took inspiration from "The American Scholar," the title of an oration delivered by Ralph Waldo Emerson that urged Americans to free themselves from European models of learning.
Offering a "variety of fields of study and great freedom to choose among them," Robinson said, American education "has served as a mighty paradigm for the kind of self-discovery Americans have historically valued."
Our vast educational culture is "unlike anything else in the world" and "emerged from the glorious sense of the possible, and explored and enhanced the possible through the spread of learning. If it seems to be failing now, this is true because we have forgotten what it is for," she said.
With so much emphasis on a utilitarian education today, Robinson said, "Emerson might be surprised to find us in such a state after generations of great freedom."
Robinson attributes the current lack of support for seemingly non-utilitarian education to broad changes in political and economic ideals, a shift best characterized by the replacement of "the citizen" with "the taxpayer."
"While the citizen can entertain aspirations for the society as a whole and take pride in its achievements, the taxpayer, as presently imagined, simply does not want to pay taxes," Robinson said, noting that this conflict of interest has left many great public universities "like beached vessels of unknown origin … ripe for looting insofar as what they hold would find a market."
But, Robinson added, "a human community with a history and with a habit of aspirations toward democracy, requiring a capacity in its public for meaningful decisions about its life and direction, exists apart from these [economic] forces and is at odds with them."
Humanities as social goodEnlarging upon Robinson's support for a liberal arts education, Winterer asked her what she would do if she were the president of a university.
Robinson replied, "The first thing I would do is try to make the university conscious of what it is." What universities do is a "great and continuous gift to the culture" and "there's nothing elitist or non-utilitarian about what they are and what they do."
What universities need, she said, "is morale, a sense of confidence" about the fact that they "have faculty that teach people to love and be fascinated by what the teachers themselves love and are fascinated by" and that this "very humane and very ancient impulse" is "what civilization is about."
One audience member asked Robinson if she were calling for a new faith that could counter the pervasive "money is the sacred" credo.
Robinson replied with a decidedly humanist message, saying that the basis of everything that matters to her is the fact that "people are extraordinary." To "water the desert a little bit and then see what they become," Robinson said, is the "whole project of American education."
A student asked Robinson what the humanities can do for social good.
"Everything," she replied. The humanities, Robinson continued, "make people think about humankind and learn compassion for one another and learn awe relative to what human beings are."
By KATE TAYLOR NOV. 4, 2015
Several dozen City University of New York faculty members were arrested on Wednesday when they blocked the entrance to the Midtown Manhattan building housing the administration’s offices as part of a demand for salary increases.
Several hundred faculty and professional staff members participated in the protest outside 205 East 42nd Street, which houses the central administration offices, said Barbara Bowen, the president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, the union representing the faculty and professional staff. They carried signs saying “CUNY Needs a Raise,” “Stop the War on CUNY” and “No More Excuses, Chancellor Milliken” — a reference to James B. Milliken.
Those who were arrested had locked arms and sat down in front of the building in a planned act of civil disobedience, refusing to move until either they received an “acceptable offer” or were arrested, Dr. Bowen said.
The exact number of people arrested and charged was not immediately available from the police on Wednesday evening.
CUNY’s roughly 25,000 faculty and professional staff members have been without a contract since 2010 and have had no salary increases in that time. On Wednesday, before the protest, the university made an offer for a six-year contract, beginning in 2010, which would include salary increases totaling 6 percent. The university described the contract in a news release as reflective of its “current fiscal condition and its ability to fund a new contract.”
But Dr. Bowen said the increases would not keep up with inflation and therefore represented a salary cut. “We feel that education at CUNY is endangered,” said Dr. Bowen, a professor of English at Queens College and CUNY’s Graduate Center. She said that salaries at CUNY were not competitive with other public universities in the region.
“CUNY’s secret has always been that it has attracted the first rank of faculty and staff,” she said.
“What has happened in this contract period and now with Chancellor Milliken’s failed offer is that that will not be possible anymore,” she added. “We think it’s depriving our students of what they need. We think it’s an attack on our students.”
Forty-five percent of CUNY’s $3.2 billion budget comes from the state and 10 percent from the city. The other 45 percent is financed by tuition. Its 275,000 degree-seeking students are mostly minorities, and most come from low-income backgrounds.
Michael Arena, director of communications at CUNY, said the university’s “dedicated faculty are deserving of a fair and equitable contract,” adding, “We will continue to work towards a successful resolution of contract negotiations.”
Elizabeth A. Harris and Ashley Southall contributed reporting.
Moshe Z. Marvit for In These Times (Oct. 28, 2015)
This week, the adjunct professors at Duquesne University’s English Department received some unexpected news: there would be no classes for them. As a result, all but one of them will not be returning after they file this semester’s grades in six weeks. The one adjunct remaining will have one class, and he was only allowed to keep his class because he is involved with a freshman program called “learning communities.”
The adjunct faculty at the College of Liberal Arts at Duquesne University have been seeking recognition of their union since they voted for the United Steelworkers in the summer of 2012. (Full disclosure: I am an adjunct at the Duquesne University School of Law, which is not part of the bargaining unit.) After initially signing an election stipulation and agreeing to abide by the outcomes of the NLRB election, Duquesne University quickly and inexplicably changed tacks.
The University fired its attorney and retained the Memphis-based union-busting attorney, Arnold Perl, and filed a motion with the Labor Board to withdraw its election stipulation. It raised a new argument that it has stuck to for the last three years: that as a Catholic university it is not under the NLRB’s jurisdiction. The Board denied Duquesne’s request to withdraw its election stipulation, held an election and the adjunct faculty voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the Steelworkers.
In December 2014, the NLRB articulated a new standard to apply to claims of religious exemptions by universities and remanded the issue on February 12, 2015 to the Pittsburgh region for an April hearing scheduled in light of the new standard. According to emails obtained by In These Times, around this time, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts met with department chairs to discuss budget reductions, and stated that these reductions would “need to come largely from labor.” He then quickly made clear that it would primarily be coming from adjunct labor.
The English Department Chair Greg Barnhisel wrote to the faculty that the “Provost’s office stressed in the strongest possible terms that [the budget cuts] should come as much as possible from a reduction in the budget for adjunct instructors, whose course stipends next year will increase to $4,000.” (Neither Barnhisel nor the President’s Office responded to a request for comment.) Barnhisel also forwarded the faculty a message from the Dean assuring them that only adjuncts would suffer under the budget cuts, stating “at this point, we will not seek reductions in other areas, such as salary increases, support for faculty travel, grant writing support and departmental budgets.”
In April, an NLRB hearing was held in Pittsburgh; in June, the Regional Director issued a decision that Duquesne was not exempt from NLRB jurisdiction and that it must bargain with the adjuncts. Duquesne still refused, and appealed the decision to the full Board. In this appeal, it took a relatively rare approach of including in its legal filing to the Board a threat to fire the adjuncts that testified against the university because of what they told the Board.
Clint Benjamin, one of the adjuncts who was threatened in Duquesne’s appeal to the Board, and was included in the English Department layoffs, explained that “there is no doubt in mind that these firings were due to my and others’ vocal union support. Duquesne has been trying to do ‘end arounds’ and manufacture crises since they got wind of our efforts." Benjamin now has to deal with the reality that starting in January he will be losing half his income, and that it’s likely too late to search for other employment to fill the gap.
This week, after a complicated reorganization of courses to full-time tenured professors, full-time non-tenure track professors and graduate students, the English Department decided that it had no need for 10 of the 11 adjunct faculty and summarily dismissed them. (The 11th adjunct was allowed to retain one course because he is involved with the “learning communities” program.) Though the budget cuts were spread across all departments in the College of Liberal Arts, no one I spoke to knew of similar layoffs in other departments.
According to USW attorney Dan Kovalik, “the English Department has been ground zero for the union campaign. The most active people have come out of English.” Every adjunct in the English Department signed a union card, and all of the adjuncts that have been publicly identified as union organizers taught in the English Department. All the adjuncts and full-time faculty I interviewed said that although they were not privy to how the administration made decisions, they believed there was anti-union animus involved. Some felt that this was a classic "runaway shop," wherein the employer shifts work away from workers in the bargaining unit to erode the union.
Indeed, on Tuesday, Jerry Stinnett, the new Director of First-Year Writing in the English Department sent an email to the faculty trying to mollify “speculation” and “rumor” concerning the reasons for the layoffs. Stinnett explained that there was no “directive given to me ‘not to re-hire the adjunct faculty,’” but that adjuncts were simply at the bottom of the list, and there turned out to be no courses for them. Professors who have taught in the English Department at Duquesne for up to two decades said that although the ranks of adjuncts has always waxed and waned, they could not recall anything like the present situation.
Duquesne’s shift away from employing and exploiting adjuncts is complicated. The primary argument that adjuncts and their supporters have been using is that the current practice of low-paid contingent faculty is unsustainable and damaging to the academy. Indeed, the push for union representation is in large part driven by a demand for better pay and benefits, predictable schedules, a modicum of job security and a career ladder—all things that full-time faculty receive. If Duquesne is indeed moving in this direction, then in the long run, it may be a net positive.
However, Duquesne’s approach of surprise mass layoffs (possibly for the illegal reason of trying to halt the union) puts into focus why adjuncts need a union. The adjunct faculty in the English Department have received little information about the layoffs, don’t know if they will receive any severance pay and now have to search for alternate employment after most spring schedules have been finalized. Such major decisions would be mandatory subjects of union bargaining, and a union could have likely saved some of the jobs or negotiated some form of severance.
“There’s going to be a great human cost to the adjuncts losing their jobs in the spring,” Kovalik explained, “and Duquesne can’t just walk away from these people and think they dispensed with their moral duties.”
Notes from Past and Future of Higher Education, 10/28/15