Warning! For the past four years I have not been invited to vote on tenure, fourth year review, or hiring. I am not the only one and I had decided not to take it personally. When I am on these committees they tend to vote my way, not because I have the power to force anyone to do anything but because I am articulate and sensible. Since the dean, assistant dean, and chair decided that I and some others were dangerous for these reasons, they created a small, select committee to make these decisions–or so I thought. I am against that for reasons having to do with institutional governance and faculty power but since I thought it was personal, I decided to ignore it and not take it personally.
Now, however, the dean of the graduate school has resigned to go back to his department and apparently it is in part because the administration does not let him make academic decisions on academic grounds. Someone asked whether, in this situation, it were even worth even having a dean of the graduate school, and the general answer appears to be no. Nonacademic administrators are insisting on doing the job anyway, so one might as well let them, I am told.
Do you see what this means? Faculty losing power in hiring, retention, tenure, promotion; academic deans losing power in academic decision-making. “Be mature” and “don’t let it get to you” are the standard advice in this kind of situation but are bad advice now. I have to start asking other people what kinds of powers they used to have, but no longer do, and also what kinds of secretarial work they used not to have to do, and are now doing.
Also: does your university keep sending you surveys to do now? Do you think the work we put in doing the surveys is giving us voice, or is just diverting state money to the surveyors?
Next point, on complicity. It is politically correct to be supportive of adjuncts but I have some real doubts about parts of this. First of all, the truest support would be real jobs, not just invitations to lunch and the usual ways we are exhorted to be supportive. And:
a) Many of them are not willing to move, and in some cases they are not willing to finish their dissertations. That is to say, they would like real jobs and they resent people who have these, but at the same time they are not willing to do the things that the people who have them have done.
b) Every adjunct you support and cement in as an individual is occupying a job that could have been tenure-track.
c) I once actually got an adjunct’s job upgraded to Assistant Professor. Her husband, who held an endowed chair in another department, called me up asking me to cease and desist. He did not think she would be competitive in a national search, he said, and he wanted her to have the position, so as a favor to him could we just keep her downgraded? He actually wanted our department to give up a tenure line. The university was supporting him very well, even giving him extra perks, and this was what he wanted to do to it.
Discuss. What is the best thing to do for and with adjuncts, given that they are on the one hand exploited, and apparently most faculty are really mean to them and see them as untouchables, yet at the same time they are in at least some situations the loyal foot-soldiers of the neoliberal paradigm? What to do?