Revolution Lullabye

December 16, 2010

Schell, Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers

Schell, Eileen E. Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1998.

Schell argues that there is a deliberate connection between the low status of women in the academy and in the workforce in general, the devaluing of the teaching of writing, and the part-time contingent status of those who teach college composition (who are overwhelmingly female.) She draws on feminist methodology and uses interviews, surveys, published narratives, and studies to try to represent the many perspectives of women who hold contingent faculty positions, to explain the social phenomenon of why so many women get tracked into contingent faculty positions, and to argue for collective feminist change, one that is grounded into modern economic, political, and historical realities. Schell argues that the thrust of change, which has been led and conducted in a “pragmatic professional context” through national organizations like AAUP, CCCC, and MLA, needs to be transformed to a strategy that specifically addresses the needs of women teaching in contingent faculty positions (81-82). In her final chapter, she identifies, through her research in the field’s literature and through her surveys, four of the popular solutions to the contingent labor problem and then explores their benefits and consequences: 1. the conversionist solution (converting part-time to full-time tenure-line positions); 2. the reformist solution (reforming the working conditions of non-tenure-line faculty); 3. the unionist/collectivist solution (organizing unions and building coalitions through professional organizations); and 4. the abolitionist solution (getting rid of the first-year course, which relies on exploitive contingent labor. Schell contends that change will only come from a deeper understanding of the forces that affect higher education – that the solutions batted about by those in the field and others outside will not work if the field’s higher education illiteracy – a responsibility to be aware academic citizens, literate in discourse and practices of higher education administration – is not addressed.

Notes and Quotes

teaching was one of the first acceptable professions for women – 19th century

naming: “Composition instructors are often described in gendered terms as handmaids, wives, mothers, and midwives, thus making women’s work as composition teachers a biological and social extension of unpaid, undervalued domestic labor” (62).

culled from her interviews of part-time instructors themes that many implied or talked about in reference to their contingent labor positions, teaching writing, and being a woman in a male-centered university system.

1995 Feminist Workshop at CCCC: “Women in the Academy: Can a Feminist Agenda Transform the Illusion of Equity into Reality” – to investigate the unique challenges of women juggling their professional and personal lives (82).

Other CCCC organizations that attended to women’s working lives and conditions: The Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession (1997) and the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (1990, a caucus): goals to network, encourage mentorship, research the professional status of women in the field. (83-84)

Draws on Hansen’s “Face to Face with Part-Timers” to again argue that one way that WPAs can work towards improving the professional status and working conditions of women part-timers is by offering professional development and encouraging these part-timers to pursue professional and research opportunities (87)

need to challege, redefine the motherly caretaker teacher role that puts women at a professional disadvantage in the academy

“imperfect solutions to imperfect problems”: Schell’s subtitle to Chapter 5 (90).

“Fundamentally, though, a lack of knowledge of current labor trends and higher education management and economic policies is a form of crippling illiteracy” (119).


December 9, 2010

Schell, What’s the Bottom Line

Schell, Eileen E. “What’s the Bottom Line? Literacy and Quality Education in the Twenty-First Century.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 324-340.

Schell, looking at the changing landscape of higher education that is increasingly corporate and reliant on part-time contingent faculty labor, argues that in order to provide quality writing instruction, the discipline needs to work toward four conditions – “compensation, contracts, conditions of work, and coalition building.” Schell argues that arguments about contingent labor need to be brought from the individual level (citing the problematic rhetorical shift that blames the people, not the institutions) to the systematic level, where employment policies and their effects can be critiqued and changed. She advocates moving from a “rhetoric of lack” to a “rhetoric of responsibility”: asking and working for what is required for part-time and NTT faculty to be successful in their work and also who is responsible for it: institutions, faculty, students.

Notes and Quotes

“How can we work around what I have come to call the ‘hidden economy’ of part-time work, the ways in which institutions often profit from the undercompensated emotional and material investments that non-tenure-track faculty make in their teaching?” (327) These investments “constitute a not-insignificant, hidden economy of part-time labor” (327) – these costs are hidden because part-time faculty compensate for that which they are not provided for (copying, office space, etc.)

This hidden economy has both a “gendered and classed nature” that cannot be ignored

“Why do institutions hire and then fail to provide part-time faculty with working conditions necessary for the provision of quality education? The bottom-line answer is simple: cost-savings” – but at what cost? (329)

Writing instruction is regarded as essential to a student’s undergraduate education, so why are those who teach not given the resources they need to teach it well?

There is a need to build coalitions and visible teaching communities – communities that nuture and sustain the development of both teachers and students (332)

need to connect quality education with quality teaching and working conditions.


1. compensation – wide range in salaries. Need to change the “piecework system” that persists (333).

2. contracts – get multi-year contracts that guarantee good salaries and benefits

3. conditions – value writing and teaching-intensive positions, work to get better working conditions

4. coalition-building – including unionization, collective bargaining initiatives

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)

December 2, 2010

Merrill, Farrell, et al, Symposium on the 1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards

Merrill, Robert, Thomas J. Farrell, et al. “Symposium on the ‘1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards.’”  College Composition and Communication 43.2 (1992): 154-175. Print.

These five articles form a symposium to discuss the publication of the 1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards, which was published in CCC in May 1992. I’m going to briefly summarize each one.

Robert Merrill, “Against the ‘Statement'”
Merrill, a full-time professor and chair, argues against the Statement because of the implications and consequences of its recommendations. Universities could never afford hiring tenure-track professors to cover all the sections of composition that they teach, and even if they did, tenure-track professors would no longer be able to offer upper-division courses because their loads would be filled up with composition. Tenure-track literature professors are not trained to teach composition or hired to teach composition. Merrill argues that lecturers and instructors do a better job of teaching composition than , tenure-track faculty, and he would support tenuring them if they continued teaching their loads of composition. Instead of trying to get rid of the two-tiered system, he argues for making “the two tiers fit closer together” by improving the working conditions of writing specialists in English departments (158).

Thomas J. Farrell, “The Wyoming Resolution, Higher Wizardry, and the Importance of Writing Instruction.”
Farrell, an associate professor, argues that teachers and professors of composition and rhetoric need to be aware of their own rhetoric and use it more effectively in order to improve the status of the teachers of writing at the academy. He points out what the Progress Report is missing – a condemnation of the expensive growth in non-teaching managerial administrators at the academy, an argument of the value of good writing instruction for students to be successful in the workplace, which depends on deliberative rhetoric, and the intellectual value of learning rhetoric in order to be adaptable to different audiences and purposes.

Eileen E. Schell, “Teaching Under Unusual Conditions: Graduate Teaching Assistants and the CCCC’s ‘Progress Report'”
Schell, a graduate student at the time of writing this, argues that the Progress Report does not “fully address the complexities of the GTA’s position” (165). The title of the graduate teaching assistant is a misnomer, Schell argues, as the GTA in composition is often a full-fledged teacher but treated as a less-than-professional. GTAs also have a double work burden: being graduate students and university teachers.

Valerie Balester, “Revising the ‘Statement’: On the Work of Writing Centers”
Balester, an assistant professor, argues that the Statement does not address the unique needs of instructors and non-tenure-track administrators who work in writing centers and contends that the Statement sees writing centers as centers of service instead of locations where writing theory and pedagogy is dynamicly enacted.

Chris M. Anson and Greta Gaard, “Acting on the ‘Statement’: The All-Campus Model of Reform”
Anson, an associate professor, and Gaard, an assistnat professor, argue that in order to carry out the reforms included in the Statement, the field should not rely on individual actions of teachers and administrators alone nor on the broader moves of CCCC (as argued by James Sledd) but instead pursue local changes within institutions by collaborating between administrators, faculty, and instructors. They use their campus-wide retreats and workshops at the University of Minnestota in 1989 and 1991 as an example of this kind of reform.

Notes and Quotes

December 1, 2010

Forum: Newsletter of the Non-Tenure-Track Special Interest Group, 1999

Forum: Newsletter of the Non-Tenure-Track Special Interest Group 03.1. Insert in College Composition and Communication 50.1 (1999): Print.  

Forum  publishes articles, essays, and reflections written by non-tenure-track faculty members and pieces written in support of improving the working conditions of these contingent faculty. There is a focus on organizing, unionizing, and collective bargaining.

This edition of Forum commented on the activities surrounding the Non-Tenure-Track SIG at CCCC in Atlanta (March 1999), which was one of the most well-attended NTT SIGs. After the SIG meeting, Eileen Schell (co-chair of the Task Force on Improving the Working Conditions of Part-time/Adjunct Faculty) helped lead a rally focused on NTT faculty with invited speakers like Ira Shor, Karen Thompson, Leo Parascondola, and Steve Robinson. Forum and the NTT SIG and the Task Force are all working on a Press Kit for contingent faculty groups to gather support across their campuses and communities.

Bobbi Kirby-Werner is still the editor of Forum

Teresa M. Purvis, “Creating Equity for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty: Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway?” – Purvis is a past editor of Forum and past chair of the Part-Time Faculty Forum at CCCC.
NTT faculty cannot rely on the actions of large professional organizations to improve their lot (MLA, CCCC): “The solution, if any is to be found, must originate with the institutions themselves and with the individuals who accept non-tenure-track appointments, whether full- or part-time” (A3). Discusses responsibility on the part of professional organizations, colleges and institutions (to their students), department and program administrators, full-time tenure-track faculty, and NTT faculty themselves.

Mike Evces, “Review of Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction by Eileen Schell”
Schell’s book argues that labor issues in teaching and administering composition (contingent labor) need to be taken up more widely and seriously by the field because to not do so is to be illiterate about higher education’s professional and institutional world. We, as a discipline, understand the importance of teaching our students to be literate in multiple ways – we, too, need to be literate about the constraints and structures of our own working environments. Schell’s book also shows how composition is a field that exploits women and looks at the shortcomings of feminist theory and pedagogy in composition. She argues for the adoption of collectivism, unionization as social feminist principles and gives concrete ideas for change: full-time positions, professionalizing working conditions, organizing unions, and restructuring the first-year composition requirement.

Patrick Kavanagh, “Creating a More Perfect Union: Cultivating Academic Citizenship in the Face of Higher Education Restructuring.”
The move to a corporate university involves restructuring the university to both improve productivity and cut costs. This has led to, in part, a move to rely more on part-time labor and graduate students to teach undergraduate students. Kavanagh argues that the best way to correct some of the workplace problems in the corporate university is collective bargaining. Shows that the problem is beyond composition – calls for an effort for writing teachers to join the ranks of other non-tenure-track faculty across the university through organizations like AAUP.

Thomas J. Ernster, “Restoring the Spirit in Academe.”
Ernster argues that the only way to start solving the labor problem in the academy (and in composition) is for tenured and tenure-track faculty and NTT faculty to join ranks as “co-participants.” The rise in PhDs in rhetoric and composition has squeezed out jobs for those with MAs.

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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