Le projet

I need a really good image of a great ship putting out to sea and I do not see the right one, so you will have to imagine it. I am embarking on a large solidarity project. As I am about to call for one in print, I have to model it. It involves wresting the universities back from the vandals trying to sack them now, and who have almost succeeded.

I am now able to articulate another of the reasons I am so opposed to certain brands of academic advice. In a situation where real jobs are scarcer by the day, people train students to get one of those jobs, one of a certain subset of those jobs. Then they give advice to fit those jobs, which is inappropriate or even irrelevant to most jobs, and then they excoriate those for whom such advice fails — when the problem is the market, and perfection is no protection.

There is everything right about sharing professional secrets but those who think that is all that is needed, say things like “there are always jobs for good people,” and categorize as clearly not good those who fall through the cracks, are woefully and I would say irresponsibly out of touch.

In fan mail today I had: “I am pleased to know someone who had the courage to expose those who do not understand Rabi’s objection to Eisenhower.” I have even more courage than that. In this solidarity project we are not focused on ways of surviving the academic jungle and there is no discussion of who is walking the professor walk well enough.

In this project there is solidarity across ranks and positions, for the university, against its sacking by the corporations which will be its end if we do not change our attitude now. Step one for everybody in this, my no-credit MOOC, is to stop getting on the cases of graduate students, adjuncts, and post-academics who speak up about the situation. Step two is to stop saying you are going to retire and let the next generation sort this out.

Step three is to stop saying you wish you could do something, but that it will be more important for the world if you get out one last book before you die. Step four, for some adjuncts, is to stop saying research is not important and only makes people unhappy. Step five is to stop saying you are too frightened to speak up or too busy to do anything. Step six is to close ranks and look at the actual enemy. Step seven is to meditate and consolidate the new gestalt you will take on as you follow the syllabus I lay out here.

That is your project for summer vacation. A friend writes:

I would like to survey faculty at UCSD to draw attention to the cooperation that ladder-rank faculty give to the corporatizaton of their home institutions. We should be forging firm bonds with the fastest-growing category in our midst instead of setting ourselves apart from and above them. We are all aware that our fate is tied to the fate of adjuncts and that our separate futures would be far more pleasant if we stand firm with them now. But I think we know that we will not. Better to burnish our progressive self-image by baying at the moon (on this and other list servs) even as we help campus administrators slip the dagger between our collective ribs.

Truth is that ladder-rank faculty are growing old and we are not prepared to pick this important fight with our administrations or UCOP. We are edging towards retirement, counting our beans in our pension funds, and just holding on until we escape amidst encircling doom. Safe in retirement, many of us will tut-tut and speak of the halcyon days when ladder rank faculty were little gods with real rights. 

I am much more apprised of the unflattering assessment that adjuncts/non-tenure track/contingent faculty have of ladder-rank faculty because several of them sit on the Steering Committee of the CA-AAUP. I have become acutely aware of, and grown very ashamed of, the way ladder-ranks treat the nameless Other. As Stuart Hall summarized an analogous arrogance back in the ’80s, it’s “The West versus the rest”.

Read the whole thing.


8 thoughts on “Le projet

  1. Precisely. And note: our MOOC takes so much bandwidth that here, the videos keep stopping!

  2. With you on Step 4, for everyone. Also, If you haven’t seen this yet, Josh Honn’s important commentary on what sometimes feels like librarians’ complicity with MOOCs: http://joshhonn.com/?p=2292 (would write more on that but am suffering from intense insomnia and in my fatigue haven’t gone much beyond sputtering “This!” and pointing to Honn’s piece).

    1. That is a brilliant piece. And he is really right about the alleged inevitability, and the co-optation of language. I think enough people see through this that it can be stopped… I hope.

      1. The co-optation of language and the corporatespeak, along with serious technodeterminism/technoutopianism, were both very, very present in my library school program (which called itself a “school of information”), which I found very frustrating and also quite corrosive pedagogically– critique or disagreement got you painted as “change-averse,” a Luddite, and/or old. (I had a PhD and had taught, so was older and not a digital native, all that).

        I really want to fight this stuff for all the good reasons, labor reasons, pedagogical reasons, but also because I want education to be a place where critical thinking, nuance, and analysis can continue to thrive… so that we don’t all have to talk/listen/read in flattened, two-dimensional language.

        (Sorry for length. I’m hoping to formulate something more intelligent for my own blog.)

  3. Length is great, and points are key. Where is your blog, I keep forgetting which it is? I think you should join Spanish Professor and me under real names on Facebook, I am gathering Friends who want to work on this and my recently finished article is on this. There’s a pre-vision of same linked to the Louisiana AAUP website but the actual text is longer. We need to place these ideas in all journals, and place op/eds in all newspapers.

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