…fostering the open exchange of ideas and information on higher education, academic labor, contingent faculty and other precarious knowledge workers... facilitating connections among local, national and international casual faculty and other marginalized workers…
…oops, thought I had but forgot to blog the resurrected newsletter…my bad. Either no one noticed or considered it worth mentioning. Although non-members are not supposed to get the newsletter until after members, I doubt the gap was intended to be quite this substantial. All I can do is apologize, try to do better next time and ask the editor to notify me when/if NFM News can be released for blog publication. as you will note below, current newsletters are also published on the New Faculty Majority website. Now to 'adjust' the post date back…
Volume 3: Issue 8: New Faculty Majority E-Newsletter
After an extended absence and in response to member requests, we have decided to revive the NFM Newsletter. Although we have a thriving social media presence (visit http://thenewfacultymajority.blogspot.com) and a higher mainstream media profile than ever before, we would like to strengthen even more our direct communication with you. To this end, we have also launched discussion boards that are available to members for discussion of topics of your choice. These discussion boards can be run as invitation-only, closed groups to ensure privacy of communication.
This edition of the newsletter follows up on our recent New Year's message summarizing our 2012 accomplishments and looking forward to 2013. As you can see, the focus of 2012 was on communicating our message to as many different audiences as possible; this was the overwhelming suggestion that came out of the January 2012 summit.
We have declared 2013 the Year of the Student at NFM to help us get focused on enlisting students in the struggle to improve the intellectual and ethical quality of higher education by reforming the working conditions of the majority of the faculty. We were inspired by and grateful to the students at American University for their support of their adjunct professors' unionization efforts last year. (See video). A related effort has been outreach to parents; as you may have read, a prominent parent blogger highlighted adjunct faculty exploitation a few months ago after our own Vanessa Vaile informed her of our work. For an articulation of how activism against exploitation is consistent with effort to improve the academic quality of higher education, see my talk at the MLA.
You also should have gotten a request from us for news of yours that we can share with the NFM community. We would like to feature member news in each edition of the newsletter from now on. Learning about the amazing accomplishments of, and in support of, faculty on contingent appointments bolsters our campaign to replace the term "contingent" with the more accurate adjective "extraordinary."
To paraphrase our friends at Momsrising.org, we are a bootstrap, low overhead, adjunct-run organization. We depend on volunteers but would like to help create much-needed, viable "alt-ac" jobs in advocacy for high quality, non-exploitative higher education. We continue to work hard to get organizational infrastructure in place so we can increase and facilitate member participation in NFM. Having to split into two organizations (NFM Foundation is our affiliated 501c3) has doubled the administrative work and lengthened the time it is taking to get up and running at the level we would like to be. If you have particular expertise in web site management, database management, fundraising, and/or nonprofit management, and can volunteer some time, please contact us! One of the most important tasks in front of us is a major review and revision of our bylaws. Members are encouraged to participate in this process by logging in to our discussion board to let us know what you think about the structure and direction of NFM. The proposed bylaws revision will be put to the membership for review.
Please continue encouraging people to join NFM. Remember, you don't have to be a faculty member to be an NFM member! We are particularly interested in building our student membership this year, since we know that students are as invested in the conditions of teaching and learning and are our most natural and powerful allies. Again, if you have specific skills in organizing, fundraising, web site management, and/or research, there is plenty of work to share -- contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's to a great 2013!
All the best, Maria
Executive Director, NFM Foundation
Friday, March 8, 2013 12 noon (EST): NFM/F Webinar: "Alert the Press: Media 101 for Contingent Faculty Activists and Allies" with Audrey Williams June of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which will take place at NOON eastern time. To register, just click here.
NFM Activism at the MLA
A number of NFM members and other advocates have strengthened the Modern Language Association's already leading role on behalf of the majority of the faculty over the last year. 2012-13 MLA president Michael Berube and executive director Rosemary Feal, new NFM members in 2012, kept contingency on the front burner throughout the year.
In an unprecedented collaboration, the radical caucus, the executive committee for the part-time faculty discussion group, and the committee on contingent labor in the profession collaborated to introduce a motion directing the organization to work even harder on behalf of the most vulnerable of their colleagues -- which passed decisively on January 5, 115-1. Oh -- and Michael's reflections on our January 2012 summit inspired member Josh Boldt to start The Adjunct Project -- and the rest, as they say, is history!
Momentum Builds on Policy Issues Requiring Scrutiny of Contingent Faculty Working Conditions
As NFM president Maria Maisto noted in her featured presentation at the MLA convention in Boston, "we should be attentive to language by getting involved in debates that specifically involve language, especially definition Error on of contingent faculty work and work hours. This may be shaping up as one of the most promising avenues of reform on the horizon. Most of these definitional issues are coming up around labor and employment issues and human resources."
Interest in Extraordinary Faculty from Non-Higher Ed Media Outlets
TakePart.com (Participant Media); PBS NewsHour; Wall Street Journal; CBS; and Fox News
Participant Media is the company that helped produce "An Inconvenient Truth" and other films that focus attention on important social issues. NFM was contacted in conjunction with an upcoming documentary on food stamps; producers were looking for faculty who had used food stamps as temporary aid before going on to "success" in the profession. We explained that adjuncts rarely advance beyond eligibility for food stamps because of the structural inequities in the system. We did recommend that they contact two faculty members who are "successes" in our book: Michael Bérubé, who spoke in the Chronicle of Higher Ed story of being on food stamps while in graduate school and who has used his success and positions of leadership to advocate on behalf of extraordinary faculty; and Matt Williams, who left academic employment altogether after availing of assistance while working as an adjunct. Matt is Vice President of NFM and continues to advocate actively on behalf of adjuncts as a private citizen and concerned parent.
Watch your PBS stations for an upcoming piece in PBS NewsHour on faculty. We put producers in touch with several faculty including NFM Members Joe Fruscione and Claire Goldstene. Understandably, many of the faculty we contacted were reluctant to be interviewed on the record or on camera. We hope that PBS will get the story right!
NFM's Maria Maisto and Matt Williams spent several hours over the last several months in contact with journalists at the Wall Street Journal writing about adjuncts and the Affordable Care Act. A story in the Wall Street Journal featured Ohio faculty member Rob Balla and quoted NFM (though only in the online version).
NFM and NFM Foundation are seeking member comment on the value of creating a hotline to assist non-tenure-track faculty when they find themselves in immediate need of psychological or mental health support. There may be situations when a person would benefit from talking to a professional who understands the nature of contingent faculty life, and the immense variability of the situations we find ourselves in, sometimes unexpectedly. For example, negotiating for continued employment with a chairperson whose comments insinuate that you are less qualified, or whose comments are disrespectful may have the effect of isolating you from colleagues, as well as from the institution.
Two NFM members are conducting longitudinal research on how adjunct faculty cope with such stress, and will be consulted on steps that NFM might take in providing a connection to mental health resources in situations that could be injurious to self-concept and professional esteem. Please feel free to comment (and you are welcome to do so anonymously) on the NFM member forum discussion group.
Metro Organizing with SEIU
NFM is partnering with SEIU Local 500 on developing its Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Coalition on Academic Labor SEIU has successfully organized part-time faculty unions at George Washington University, American University, and Montgomery College, and is now working to organize adjuncts at Georgetown University.
On December 1, SEIU hosted the fourth annual academic labor forum, Caste and Classes: Contingent Academic Labor Confronting Inequalities in Higher Education. NFM President Maria Maisto, Research Director Esther Merves presented on panel discussions, along with NFM Foundation board members Gary Rhoades and Pablo Eisenberg. The conference was also attended by NFM Foundation President Anne Wiegard, and board members Sue Doe and Natalie Johnson.
This past winter, Maria Maisto and Esther Merves met with Senator Sherrod Brown's education staff person. In a separate trip, we met with staff at Representative John Tierney's office, and were joined by John Curtis, Director of Research and Policy of AAUP. Our goal was to share the findings from the Coalition on the Academic Workforce's study of part-time faculty. After the meeting with the staff person in Sherrod Brown's office, NFM informational packets were distributed to the offices of:
We also left material with House Education and Labor Committee. Are you interested in working with NFM on legislative outreach? Let us know by sending an email email@example.com.
An Interview with a Student of an Adjunct
#Learnabtadjuncts 1: Interview with Ms. Ashley Pratt, Archaeological Field and Laboratory Technician. Conducted by Esther Merves, NFMF Research Director
November 12, 2012
#Learnabtadjuncts is the hashtag we are using to help educate students and others about adjunct faculty working conditions. If you are on Twitter and come across resources that will help students to learn about the working conditions of the majority of their faculty, share it!
Question: You are a recent (2012) college graduate and already have a job in your field (archaeology) - amazing! How did this happen - and what role did your college mentor play?
Answer:After graduating from Lycoming College, I tried to obtain a job in my field (archaeology), which is not the easiest field to obtain a job in. I applied to all of the Cultural Resource Management (CRM) companies in MD/DC/VA, but had no luck. When my professor, Robin Van Auken, said that she knew the project manager, Lyle Torp, of the CRM company The Ottery Group, I was ecstatic to say the least. Robin arranged an interview for me, and I now have a position as a field and lab technician. Knowing this made me realize all the more how positive, supportive, and nurturing Robin is and that I'm really privileged to have her in my life.
Question:How did you learn that your college professor was a part-time professor? Were you aware of any differences in the way she was regarded by her fellow professors? How did students view this professor?
Answer:At Lycoming College, the archaeology program is combined with the Religion department, and not the Anthropology department. I felt unsatisfied and knew I needed to find a strong anchor in archaeology since archaeology is a sub-discipline of anthropology, not religion. Ironically, my "saving grace" was Robin, who taught an experimental American archaeology class my freshman year. Robin introduced me to the many specializations archaeology provided and encouraged me to pursue my own interests, even if that meant going outside the defined curriculum. She helped me develop my own major titled "North American Archaeology" in which I substituted American history for Biblical history and added several anthropology classes, including an independent study with Robin about American Indians. I wondered why she wasn't head of the archaeology program because she was an experienced archaeologist unlike the other faculty in the program. She was an adjunct professor with a Masters degree, and the religion professors (in this combined department) were tenured professors with Doctorate degrees - that was the difference. Students quickly discovered that Robin is a rich resource if they're serious about pursuing archaeology.
Question: In your opinion, are undergraduate students aware of the meaning of such terms as "tenure" or "adjunct" in relation to their professor's jobs? What is your understanding of these terms?
Answer:In cases like this, students become aware of the differences between tenure and adjunct professors. It's apparent which professors have tenure because many of them have occupied their position for a long time and generally don't change their curriculum, whereas the adjunct professors keep their curriculum interesting and often are on edge to keep their positions. One of my favorite religion professors is adjunct and supplements his income as a social worker, which is both stressful and trying on this time. Another one of my favorite philosophy professors was considered for tenure this year, so he asked students for recommendations; we all knew this was very important to ensure this position, and thankfully he did get tenure. I thought archaeology was a political field, but education is just as political! It's sad to see adjunct professors let go because they don't get tenure, and it's even sadder when the college disregards the students' wishes. I can only hope that colleges will come to think more about placing more teachers on the tenure track and raise standards of education instead of worrying about fattening the institutions' wallet.
The NFM Members Forum - what is it?
The NFM Members Forum is a section of the NFM website devoted to discussions among dues-paying members. Why dues-paying? Because it takes costs money to have a customized database, and ours allows for members to post comments on sensitive subjects anonymously if they wish, and we also have the capability to create closed discussion groups for those in a particular geographical area or who otherwise would not want the entire community to see their posts (which would not be anonymous). We have many discussion topics on which members are encouraged to post comments, add queries, and recruit participants for relevant research. Please take a look at this feature.
The NFM Members Forum is not the only reason why dues are needed for a national educational and advocacy organization! Your dues are not "fees" for services; they enable NFM collectively to maintain a strong presence in the national debate over the future of higher education.
NFM Foundation Board Welcomes Tiffany Dena Loftin, President, US Student Association
Tiffany Dena Loftin, President of the United States Student Association begins her term with the NFM Foundation Board on December 1. She will continue a partnership that we started last year when both organizations approved the idea of having a permanent NFMF board position reserved for USSA. Last year, Tiffany's predecessor, Victor Sanchez, spoke at the NFMF Summit. Tiffany is excited to keep the momentum rolling. Former NFMF Research Director Esther Merves met with Tiffany last November to discuss NFMF and USSA's work in areas such as student debt and shared governance. Her bio, presented below, gives you a glimpse of why we are thrilled to work with her, the team at USSA, and all the USSA chapter members. Please check out their website at www.usstudents.org.
Tiffany Dena Loftin was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, California. She grew up in a single parent household and is the first and last of her siblings to complete a higher education. Her involvement began early on as she took up leadership roles in the African Black Student Alliance (ABSA) as well as within the campus student government-the Student Union Assembly--as an intern. She went on to serve two terms as Vice Chair of Internal Affairs for the Student Union Assembly and then as Chair her senior year. Through her organizing years she strengthened shared governance and fought against tuition increases, organizing within and outside of her campus community to build power for students across California. An influential speaker and a charismatic organizer, Tiffany has been a strong advocate for an accessible and affordable education, serving as the 2010-2011 Chair of the National People Student of Color Student Coalition on USSA's Board of Directors. In 2011 Tiffany was elected Vice President of the United States Student Association, and has continued her commitment to strengthening the student movement through leadership development and direct action organizing. Most recently, she was elected as President of USSA, where she will continue to open and strengthen resources and capacity for students to use their voice and build institutionalized student power.
Campaign for Future of Higher Ed Releases Proposals for Funding Higher Education
The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, of which we are a part, has called for a nationwide discussion of new ideas to solve the funding crisis in America's public higher education systems.
The authors of three CFHE working papers have presented their ideas in three papers that suggest (1) reallocating current governmental expenditures for higher education and eliminating regressive tax breaks in order to provide free higher education to all; (2) vastly improving funding for higher education through a miniscule tax on financial transactions, and/or (3)"re-setting" higher education funding to more adequate past levels by making very small adjustments in the median income tax return.
We urge you to review these proposals, all of which rebut institutional claims that there is "no money" available to compensate all faculty equitably, and to help circulate them in communities inside and outside colleges and universities in order to generate discussion of practical solutions to the higher education funding crisis.