Student Consumerism vs. Contingent Faculty

The neoliberal trend that has corporatized higher education and made of it a brave new world of contingent faculty labor has also given rise to an ethos of student consumerism that acts, on occasion, to persecute that precarious workforce. In the winter 2018 issue of New Labor Forum, Joshua Sperber takes a close look at the “Rate My Professor” website which functions in just this way, as a kind of online disciplinarian, intimidating and humiliating  an academic precariat whose intellectual labors are subject to the whims of the marketplace.

Unsurprisingly, these conditions have continued to spark nationwide campaigns among contingent faculty to raise wages, secure benefits, increase job security, and defend academic freedom. In an article for New Labor Forum and in a talk delivered at the Murphy Institute, Malini Cadambi Daniel assesses the prospects of this organizing to reconfigure campuses as neither ivory towers nor sweatshops.

We also draw your attention to the work of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at CUNY’s Hunter College. From April 15 – 17, 2018, the National Center will host a conference entitled Facing New Realities in Higher Education and the Professions, featuring David Weil and other prominent scholars.

Table of Contents

1. Making the Grade: Rating Professors- Joshua Sperber/ New Labor Forum
2. Contingent Faculty of the World Unite! Organizing to Resist the Corporatization of Higher Education-Malini Cadambi Daniel/ New Labor Forum
3. Lessons in Adjunct Organizing- Video of talk by Malini Cadambi Daniel/ The Murphy Institute
4. 45th Annual National Conference: Facing New Realities in Higher Education and the Professions, April 15-17, 2018-The National Center/ Hunter College, CUNY

Making the Grade: Rating Professors
By Joshua Sperber/ New Labor Forum
How student consumerism tyrannizes adjuncts.Created by Silicon Valley’s John Swapceinski during the 1999 dot-com boom, Rate My Professors (RMP) is the most popular professor ratings site today, having survived competitors such as PassCollege, ProfessorPerformance, Reviewum, and RatingsOnline and featuring far more reviews and monthly visits than current rivals including MyEdu (formerly Pick-A-Prof), Koofers, Uloop, and RateMyTeachers. With over 15 million reviews of 1.4 million professors, the site allows students to research prospective instructors and rate their current teachers on 1 to 5 scales measuring “overall quality” and “difficulty” with an accompanying happy face representing “Good Quality” (3.5-5), an emotionless face representing “Average Quality” (2.5-3.4),…

Read the full article here. 

Contingent Faculty of the World Unite! Organizing to Resist the Corporatization of Higher Education
By Malini Cadambi Daniel/ New Labor Forum  
Why the campus has become a hot shop.The once hallowed and secure work life of American university faculty has for the past quarter century been in turmoil. Being a professor was once a respected, stable profession, but is now increasingly characterized by low pay, minimal benefits, and no job security. An expectation of tenure—the permanent status that was once a hallmark of the profession—is replaced by the reality of contingency, which means that college instructors must reapply to teach courses every year, or even every semester….

Read the full article here. 

Lessons in Adjunct Organizing
Malini Cadambi Daniel/ The Murphy Institute “…The campaign has been national since 2013 and we have been doing a lot of private sector organizing, of both part-time and full-time faculty… It has been an amazing ride, I have to say. I have been working on the national campaign since it started in 2013 and since then we have organized 16,000 faculty, over 55 campuses….”

Watch the full video here. 

45th Annual National Conference: Facing New Realities in Higher Education and the Professions
By The National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions/ Hunter College, CUNY Keynote: David Weil, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University. Conference Plenary: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy for our times with William P. Jones, University of Minnesota; Derryn Moten Alabama State University, Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College, CUNY, with Moderator Ronald Mason, Jr., President, University of the District of Columbia. Sessions include:Unionization and collective bargaining for academic labor; Bargaining over health care in higher education; Bargaining a first contract…

Find out more here. 

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