I think it’s about time for me to actually write about what’s going at CSU-Pueblo rather than just make juxtapositions using other people’s material. First of all, thank you everyone for all the concern that you’ve expressed here in the comments and in e-mails to me. I too am concerned, but much more for others than for myself. Our president has stated publicly now that tenured faculty won’t be touched by the job cuts and I am fortunate enough to be a tenured full professor.
I don’t want to bore y’all with every last financial detail, but I do have a story that has some general relevance for people like me all over academia. We got a new Provost last summer. In his introductory all-faculty meeting he joked, and I paraphrase, “In what other job can you get away with working only three days a week?” I’m pretty sure that many of my colleagues will never forgive him for that remark.
There’s a lot of assumptions freighted in that comment: 1) The only real work we do is teaching. 2) Teaching only involves the time when we stand up in front of a classroom and 3) Anything else we faculty do to help keep the university run smoothly isn’t valued at all. So when I hear that the CSU-System wants to cut up to fifty of my colleagues, I think not only “How awful that is for them!,” I think “Who the heck is going to do all the other things those people did to keep this school running besides teach?” From what I understand, adjuncts will not count towards those fifty bodies if the administration has its way. It has to be either full-time, non-tenure track people or tenure track people with less than three years on campus.*
It’s hard enough already to find somebody to join another committee. It’s hard enough already for any committee with more than three people on it to find a time to meet because everybody is scheduled to the max with professional or family commitments. Yet, I read in the Chieftain that:
“[President Di Mare] said part of the review process will be examining unpopular courses and ensuring that professors who make it through the layoffs are working a full course load.”
What is a full course load? Theoretically, mine is a 4-4. However, I get one course off each semester for research (and longtime readers know that I’m very productive in that department). The worst thing that could happen to me is that I teach more.
Yes, if this happens my research production will slow. But here’s the thing: Research isn’t the only thing that would give if my theoretical 4-4 became a reality. For example, how I teach would change. I probably wouldn’t change books quite so much because I wouldn’t want to read more new ones. The amount of reading about history and teaching would go way down. Finding me for a meeting would become even harder. I’m not going to link to my cv here so you’re just going to trust me on this: I’m working at my max already. They’re not going to be able to make me work any harder.
Of course, there are plenty of people out there who would kill to experience the professional conditions which I’m deploring, namely adjuncts and nearly-finished grad students. That is, in fact, exactly my broader point here.
As long as we turn a blind eye to people who work even harder for far less money than we do, administrators will long to replace tenure line people with new Ph.D.s who’ll work practically for free. This giant pool of reserve labor is like an axe waiting to descend upon all of our necks. It doesn’t even have to actually descend in order to make us work harder than we should. Just the fact that somebody willing to do the only part of our jobs that most administrators care about for less money will continue to significantly contribute to the rapid decline of tenure-track autonomy for the foreseeable future whether we like it or not.
My friend Kate is ailing. Sensitive person that she is, she’s not only concerned for her own well-being but for everybody’s well-being in academia:
What do we do about the way in which overwork is the price that is now demanded for participating at all? What do we do about the thousands of higher education workers consigned to underwork that prevents them from making their irreplaceably good contribution to the mission of universities or the communities that they care about? Do we really believe that our colleagues in the precarity are there because they deserve it? Do we really think sustainable and healthy workplaces will result from us giving up all of our evenings and weekends just to keep up with the standards set by the most driven, or those with the fewest external ties or interests?
Speaking for myself, I want to see my family but I also want other people to see their families too. More importantly, helping other people get back their irreplaceable time will help me keep more of my own. It’s all interconnected, you see.
That’s why I fight. And, thankfully, here at CSU-Pueblo plenty of people are already fighting together.
* Yes, they say that this can include staff or administrators, but I’ll believe that when I see it.