“Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation”
7 p.m., Friday, March 20, 2009
FedEx Global Education Center Auditorium, UNC
The world of higher education – portrayed as an ivory tower far from the
harsh realities of the marketplace – is really more like Wal-Mart or a
large healthcare company, author and academic labor expert Marc Bousquet
While it may appear to the public that this corporate model is an
efficient use of taxpayers’ money, the reality is that it lessens the
quality of higher education, lengthens students’ time to graduation and
exacts a high toll on a new cadre of low-paid overworked teachers.
Bousquet will give the annual keynote address, “Higher Education and the
Low-Wage Nation,” sponsored by the North Carolina Conference of the
American Association of University Professors. It’s at 7 p.m., Friday,
March 20 at UNC-Chapel Hill’s FedEx Global Education Center. The talk,
co-hosted by UNC’s AAUP Chapter, is free and open to the public, with a
wine and hors d’oeuvres reception afterward.
The market-driven university system that has emerged in the past 30
years extracts more, pays less, and is creating new populations of
graduate students and contingent faculty who lead tenuous lives with no
job security, low pay, and little chance of advancement. Even those
tenured professors who remain in coveted positions with job security are
finding themselves acting as bosses of both contingent faculty and
student workers, rather than as educators.
Non-tenure-track positions of all types now account for 68 percent of
all faculty appointments in American higher education. These workers
earn less than $16,000 annually, often have no benefits, and teach as
many as eight classes per year.
“Cheap teaching is not a victimless crime,” Bousquet, an associate
professor at Santa Clara University, notes. Studies are increasingly
showing that working conditions for adjunct faculty, from lack of office
space to high teaching loads, affects everything from the quality of the
classroom experience to mentoring, and even how long it takes for
students to graduate.
Bousquet, who blogs for The Chronicle of Higher
Education http://chronicle.com/review/brainstorm/bousquet/ , is author
of How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation
(New York University Press, 2008). He is at work on a project on the
topic of undergraduate labor, as well as a book about participatory
culture in the United States, and was the founding editor of Workplace:
A Journal for Academic Labor.