Revolution Lullabye

August 14, 2012

Lamos, Credentialing College Writing Teachers

Lamos, Steve. “Credentialing College Writing Teachers: WPAs and Labor Reform.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 45-72. Print.

Lamos argues for a national credentialing system for college writing teachers as a way both to define and value the specific knowledges and skills of college writing teachers and to create “occupational closure” to help improve the labor conditions of non-tenure-track writing instructors (47). Lamos argues that writing program administrators, as “middle managers,” should lead the case for a national credentialing system, one that models (in part) the system already in place for K-12 educators. He contends that credentialing writing instructors is beneficial to the research-centered university, which has traditionally marginalized the work of teaching, because it addresses the current pressures the reseach-centered univeristy faces, including accountability to undergraduate teaching, competition for undergraduate tuition dollars, and the need for local community engagement. Lamos sees credentialing as complementary to unionization – it can strengthen collective bargaining. Lamos draws on Adler-Kassner’s concept of “story-changing” as a tool for WPAs to use to advocate for writing teacher credentialing. He calls for a CWPA task force to look into the ways a national credentialing system might be put into place and also encourages WPAs to try developing localized systems of peer-review and education in the meantime.

Notable Notes

need to define what writing teachers should know, how to assess that, and how to develop hiring and re-credentialing systems

writing teacher education should include coursework, practical experience (better than current TA training at many institutions), on-going mentoring, assessment and evaluation, and professional development

assessment could be a combination of K-12-like credentialing tests and teacher portfolios

need for both a national and a local plan

the economics of labor: credentialling can make college writing teachers more scarce, thus helping WPAs make the argument for better working conditions

credentialing already is there for teachers, OTs, PTs, nurses, etc….many professions have credentialing systems

credentialing can open up the opportunity for more graduate programs that are not solely focused on producing PhDs and give MAs a certification that is marketable.

what is lost when we make a credential?

assessment based in peer-review: writing teachers should participate in cross-institutional peer review




December 9, 2010

Thompson, Faculty at the Crossroads

Thompson, Karen. “Faculty at the Crossroads: Making the Part-Time Problem a Full-Time Focus.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 185-195.

Thompson describes some of the solutions she thinks would help solve the adjunct labor problem, drawing on the lessons learned in the UPS Teamsters strike: along with pro rata  compensation, she argues that adjunct faculty need to identify each other and become visible inside and outside the university, that full-time faculty need to join with adjunct faculty to argue for better working conditions, and that the problem needs to be explained to parents, taxpayers, and legislators so they can be in alliance with faculty (coalition building). Thompson contends that full-time faculty need to begin to acknowledge how universities are increasingly run through cost-driven management instead of in the best interests of faculty and students. She argues that it’s not only the overproduction of PhDs (a buyer’s market for universities) that is creating the adjunct labor problem: it is an erosion of tenure and full-time faculty lines, as universities are increasingly relying on part-time adjunct labor to teach their courses, as evidenced by the high demand for last-minute adjunct jobs.

Notes and Quotes

compares higher ed labor situation to UPS strike

“Economic problems need economic solutions.” (187).

part-timers who accept their situation: “Where do they get the idea this is an apprenticeship or the Peace Corps?” (189).

leading to the problem: increased administrative costs, which can happen with increasing reliance on low-pay adjunct wages.

full-time faculty need to use their seniority and power to work for adjuncts.

“visibility, unity, and persistence” (194) – the keys to success.

December 7, 2010

Schell and Stock, Moving a Mountain

Schell, Eileen E. and Patricia L. Stock. Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education. Urbana: NCTE, 2000.

This collection studies the role of contingent faculty in composition instruction, investigating local and disciplinary perspectives from a variety of stakeholders: administrators, faculty, part-time instructors, and policymakers. It includes a bibliography of scholarship on contingent labor both in composition specifically and in higher education more generally.

Introduction: Schell and Stock, “Working Contingent Faculty in[to] Higher Education.” 1-44

Schell and Stock, seeing the complextiy of the issue of contingent faculty labor, hope that this book will spark conversations among compositionists and others in higher education about the increasing use of contingent faculty to teach the vast majority of lower-division courses at American colleges and universities. Their hope is that these conversations will lead into changes in policies and practices surrounding contingent labor, which they believe is important for both the faculty and the students that they teach. Their introduction to the collection includes an extensive literature review of scholarship on contingent labor beyond composition, from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The collection is a response to the call in the CCCC Statement on Professional Standards for research and case studies on contingent labor conditions and solutions that could serve as guidelines to others in the field and in higher education. Their introduction explains the three sections of the book: 1. a series of personal and institutional case studies about contingent faculty and their working conditions and place in writing programs; 2. chapters that explain the move by contingent faculty toward collective bargaining and coalition building; and 3. a section that argues that it is often the non-tenure-track, contingent faculty that lead the way for innovative teaching practices in higher education (technology, service learning, distance education.)

Notes and Quotes

Increasing student enrollment between 1970 and 1985 (huge rise in underserved and minority populations) led to universities increasingly relying on part-time, contingent faculty to staff lower-division required courses. Why did this work? Also an increase in the number of master’s degree and PhD candidates who were looking for jobs, so universities had plenty of qualified candidates to fill non-tenure-track jobs, which were cheaper (no benefits, no tenure, no long-term contracts.)

Ernst Benjamin, Secretary of the AAUP, wrote in his 1997 paper that non-tenure-track faculty (not including graduate TAs) account for over half the teaching faculty in American colleges and universities (4-5).

The labor problem is an ethical problem. What are responsible and ethical solutions? Are you waiting for a Rosa Parks?

“The growing reliance on contingent employment is not unrelated to what many predict will be the erosion of the tenure and faculty governance system of higher education, the virtual absence of tenure-line faculty in lower-division teaching, and the transformation of a system of higher education that is generally regarded as the finest in the world into one which the long-term benefits of quality education will have been sacrificed for short-term economic gains” (6). 

composition is a good field to start this discussion – there have been contingent faculty working in composition for decades, it offers the most widely offered first-year required course, and the field has been working to improve the working conditions of its contingent faculty.

scholarship on contingent faculty isn’t just from composition; draws on higher education, social science, policy, economics, education, demography, sociology.

part-time faculty are a diverse bunch: those who have full-time careers and teach like consultants, those who want part-time positions, those who are trying to piece together several part-time positions and wait for a tenure-track job to open up, those without the PhD credentials who are still trying to scrap by a living, etc. Women are more often tracked into part-time positions.

scholarship draws a lot on personal narrative, statistics, broad institutional surveys and studies.

Wyoming Resolution: drafted in 1986 by full-time and contingent faculty at the summer Wyoming Conference in English Studies

contingent faculty tied into rising corporatization of the university

moves, rhetoric of unionization and coalition-building in the 1990s, questioning of the purpose of university faculty (where Boyer’s work comes out of)

November 30, 2010

Forum: Newsletter of the Non-Tenure-Track Special Interest Group Fall 1998

Forum: Newsletter of the Non-Tenure-Track Special Interest Group 01.2. Insert in College Composition and Communication 50.1 (1998): Print.  

The Forum, first published in CCC as a special insert in early 1998, before the CCCC in Chicago, is a newsletter dedicated to representing the voices and concerns of non-tenure-track writing faculty members. The notes and quotes below address some of the reflections and articles in the newsletter.

Notes and Quotes

“The tide has finally begun to turn, I think, toward greater awareness and more productive action in support of the profession’s non-tenure-track ranks, so it’s no wonder we’re feeling a bit more hopefuland revitalized than in times past” (Roberta Kirby-Werner, editor of Forum, A1).

Cynthia Selfe, CCCC Chair, noted in the 1998 CCCC Chair’s Report that the publication of Forum as a special insert in CCC for the first time before the conference was one of the most significant things of the year for the field (A1)

At the 1998 CCCC, CCCC resolved to support the printing and distribution of Forum and to compensate the editor (first editor is Kirby-Werner of the Syracuse Writing Program)

Susan Griffin, “Speaking from the Middle”: speaks about the shift that happened at CCCC this year. Instead of just sessions about the poor working conditions for non-tenure-track facutly, there were sessions about what to do: build coalitions, collective bargaining. She talks about her position in the middle – not tenured, but full-time with multiple year contracts, no time for publishing but some support for conferences, representation with a union but no say in faculty governance. She argues that this kind of position comes at a cost for the university and the students – it denies her academic freedom, equal standing in the academy, and the power to uphold academic integrity standards.

 “My own non-tenured position – which had always seeemd so marginal, so different, such a deviation from the traditional academic path – is after all average. In fact, for thsoe who teach writing courses in higher ed, it’s typical” (A4). 

Scott Hendrix, “Talking to Janitors, Working with Students: What’s Next for (Contingent) Academics?” Hendrix argues that non-tenure-track writing faculty should expand their networks for coaltion-buidling beyond other adjunct teachers at the university and include “other contingent academic workers, as well as our undergraduate students, other campus and community groups, and organized labor,” using janitors as an example. (A6). He argues that unionized labor will make workplaces more democratic, and argues for more activism by both full-time and part-time faculty to improve the academic workplace. He explains the outcomes of the CCCC collective bargaining, coalition-building, and organizing strategies workshop: goals for educating 1. contingent faculty; 2. full-time faculty; and 3. the public and the press about university working conditions. He gives examples about how the graduate TA union at his institution started to build this kind of cross-university and cross-community coalition.

We are teachers of language, of rhetoric. Now we need to use what we know for this new purpose – social action, public rhetoric.

Sample “Who pays?” ad to give the press to explain how poor working conditions for adjuncts affect everyone.

“Our starting point, though, should be the same – to make academic work (teaching and learning) less continent, more visible and more valued, both financially and professionally” (A6).

Susan Crowley: “While we are doing all of that [organizing a system in CCCC to address contingent labor issues], I ask you to remember who it is that puts the bread on our table: the absent multitudes whose labor we exploit, whose labor allows us to enjoy positions as WPAs, researchers, and scholars. Those folks are the heart of composition instruction in America. They always have been. It is time we remembered that, and it is time that we put them at the center of our organizational efforts” (A14).

Francis Fletcher, Jamey Nye, and Steve O’Donnell “The Adjunct Faculty Manifesto” – drawing on Marx and Freire. Class system at the academy, oppression, deflecting responsibility, exclusion, fragmentation

June 11, 2009

Schell and Stock, Moving a Mountain

Schell, Eileen E. and Pamela Lambert Stock. Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education. Urbana: NCTE, 2001.

Schell and Stock have two main purposes for this collection of essays about contingent labor in composition: 1. to inform others in the field, especially WPAs, about the issues of contingent labor in composition teaching in the context of the changing 21st century university structure; and 2. to show the strategies some in the field are using to try to change the working conditions of contingent faculty (unionization, collective bargaining) with the hopes that these local changes can be the beginning of national policies. The collection consists of case studies from which guidelines can be extracted for working with contingent, non-tenure track faculty, including hiring practices, orientation, contracts, salaries and benefits, evalations, and professional development. Their collection concludes with essays that explain how non-tenure track faculty, who have become a staple labor force for the university, are instrumental to the 21st century university institutions want to become because of their willingness to take risks with new technology, to teach distance education online, and to engage in the scholarship of teaching.

Notable Notes

Schell’s essay – the 4 Cs: compensation, contracts, conditions, and coalition building. Turn to a “rhetoric of responsibility” between faculty, institutions, and students.

unions legitimize labor

advocate a proactive approach to the ethical problem of contingent labor

review of literature about contingent labor in the introduction, spans the 1980s (focus on social science and on the quality of teaching) through the 1990s (disciplinary attention and on working conditions, Wyoming Resolution)

lots of qualified people to fill non-tenure track contingent roles because of the explosion in MAs and PhDs

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