Where does the problem of contingency show itself most clearly? How have we arrived at this strange moment?
For me, this veil started to lift between 2007-2009 when open positions in a department normally filled within two or three academic years were neglected. Programs identifying five full time faculty to best teach, advise, and curriculum design were still viewed on the ground as the best practice. Then, we get to the state level or in a private college Provost level attempts to shore up the college investments and protect the administrators **before** the market crashes of 2006-2008. You and I were indeed correct to pursue the publish or perish model; we were also people who taught our students while looking the other way as we noticed increasing demands (from the students, their needs — not the needs of the admins or their ever present desire to push three job descriptions onto one worker).
Then, in NH, department after department were unable to fulfill their missions; the accreditation folk wanted five faculty but the system said three then two then one. Adjunct positions increased; the immediate demands of an increased population of worker were met (we’re starving so we need food; we have no jobs, we need to work). But, the management failures started to show themselves: why were programs disappearing when students increased demand? Why were learning centers being cut, when students increased demand? Why were whole colleges closing in regions that had vocational, professional, and academic needs?
BECOME THE TEACHER YOU ARE
It was a perfect storm in NH. But, rather than motivate the work force (professors), we were told to just accept there was no money to pay for full time positions. Yet, 35% increase in administration were obvious because budgets are public in NH. When challenged, the Board of Trustees and CCSNH administrators said they needed to hire the best talent to meet the demands of a changing market.
Question: why are we even talking about markets? That used to be the job of the financial division of the college or university. Departments would identify their missions and visions, align them with the college mission, increase course loads for junior faculty in areas that were “trending” and everyone seemed to work through the problem of “changing markets” like pros. Something shifted in the 00s (or became more obvious) when the MBAs and other financial experts started to make curriculum decisions grounded purely in numbers. (Sure, if a program doesn’t enroll any students for three or more years, granted — that program may need to go. But, since when does a Classics department have to meet the market demands of global casino capitalism?)
Or is there something more nefarious going on here? Think about it: put the most stressed workers in situations where their silence is mandatory; then charge them with educating, training, supporting future workers who will also find themselves in contingent situations wehre their silence (and consent) is mandatory. Worse than divide and conquer, this strategy is one of pure power and control; in the perfect fascism, we police ourselves and each other. We no longer need the administrator; we no longer need the police because we are now controlled by the cop in the head.
Education confronts the cop in the head, offering chances to liberate everyone from the dogmatic world view or the “seven year plans” that do not even remotely help create student leaders. Leadership and excellence is earned; it is hard fought, in other words. We need to teach them to be like the people we admire most — the fighters. The ones who said “no” when everyone was whispering a lethargic “okay.” People like Sartre who wrote that “freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you” and Foucault who said in ARCHAEOLOGY that we should leave it up to the police to check and see that our papers are in order. The only people who do not want education to flourish in America are the Kafka-like bureaucrats in higher education and government and their corporate lackey cousins: the very people who would last five minutes in any one of our classrooms because they would feel uncomfortable being asked “why is that the case?” or “How do you justify that position?”
This has been and always will be about dumbing down the students and faculty, creating ways to guarantee voluntary slave labor, and protecting the 1% of the 1% from the vocal demands (and soon, direct action desires) of people like me and countless thousands who now understand what we were told to ignore.
We say “no” to the lie.
Because we’re activists?
Because we’re teachers.