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View Diary: Dignity in the Workplace (Part 2) (16 comments)

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  •  I have friends who were denied tenure, in what (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, Robert Fuller

    seemed like isolated cases of individual injustice. But your view of the entire tenure system as imbalanced and obstructive to talent and ambition makes more sense:

    Those who are marginalized–adjuncts and teaching assistants–are hamstrung in fighting this injustice by their own reluctance to take on the real culprit, the tenure system itself. The forlorn hope of joining in the spoils of rankism–in this case, the privileges of tenure–often functions to keep downtrodden individuals from teaming up to oppose the institutionalized rankism that keeps them down as a group.
    It is so hard to break rankist systems. Tenure is an extreme case - though it's pretty analogous to our stodgy capitalist system, which hands all the spoils to the 1%, and underpays the bottom 80% of society.

    It seems that humans who have just a little - who are one or two ranks above rock bottom - tend to cling to that rung desperately, and turn fiercely against anyone who suggests the broken ladder is the problem. I'm not sure how much of this is from their insecurity and denial of the real situation, and how much is from the powers that be brainwashing them to believe in the corrupt status quo.

    Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
    What did you dream?
    It's alright we told you what to dream.                         - Pink Floyd

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 03:10:22 PM PST

    •  Your comment reminds me (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, Robert Fuller, Chi

      I had a young friend who was a genius...well, he still is.

      His doctorate committee had a member on it who was thoroughly against his choice of a thesis.

      My friend continued to write it and it was wonderful.  The anti-thesis dude admitted he had been wrong...but what if my friend had dropped the thesis or even been too discouraged to write it?

      It boggles my mind to think how often this may have happened and how many bland, blah theses have been produced for the sake of safety.

      Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 03:32:38 PM PST

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      •  I am satisfied: he was right, and won in the end (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk, jbsoul, Robert Fuller

        The hardest part of rankism is how it grinds away at our spirit, steals vital hope, makes us all smaller. Even the winners on top are smaller in their hearts, from sitting on the humanity of others.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 03:53:34 PM PST

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    •  adjuncts (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Brecht

      NPR ran a story yesterday on adjuncts. They're now 2/3 of the professoriate. Tenure slots, which cost universities more, are gradually being replaced by adjuncts who work for less pay and no benefits. This injustice is festering and within a few years should bring a tectonic shift to Academia.

      •  It worries me to think (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller, Brecht, poco

        how many talented teachers must take other jobs in order to live and so we lose them.

        Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

        by cfk on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 03:47:38 PM PST

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      •  Our colleges are rankist on several levels (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller, cfk

        These days, Harvard (and other name colleges - but Harvard is as egoistic as they come) hires bright young sparks for a few years, and works them to the bone, with no hope of tenure. All they get for keeps is "Harvard" on their CV.

        When they're looking for professors to give tenure to, Harvard just poaches the best candidates from all the "lesser" colleges.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 04:01:22 PM PST

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    •  Really, Brecht, I think that pitting (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht

      the tenured or those on tenure track against the adjuncts is a wrong way to go. I am not saying that all tenured or tt faculty are warriors in the labor fight or don't abuse their ranks. Or that all denial of tenure decisions are fair. They manifestly are not.

      But the real problem, as always, is with the administrators who make these decisions. Faculty don't. Faculty don't control the purse strings. In fact the rate of decline of tenured and tt jobs in academia and the stupendous rise in adjunct jobs is not because tenured faculty are clinging to their privileges--in fact more often it is because admins refuse to give the final say so even when departments unanimously agree on granting tenure.

      And why is tenure important? It is the only way to make sure that unpopular opinions have the requisite protection, that people don't get fired for capricious reasons or for viewpoints opposing the bottom line. Academia can't function if that protection is withdrawn. You know, industry provides grants for research and if that research is contrary to what the pill pushers or supporters of lax regulations want, the money is taken away. If tenure doesn't protect these researchers, and they get fired for publishing their results because that means that that particular company is not giving more grants to that particular university (which is the only thing that Presidents and trustees are interested in) then who will engage in any research that harms the bottom line?

      This will be a huge loss for the public at large. That is the only reason that universities are categorized as non-profit--it is because their research is supposed to help society at large. If you take tenure away, you might as well categorize academia as for profit, tax them accordingly and have a bunch of yes men and yes women populating their ranks. That will be great for educating future citizens and for all research that supports the 00.1%.

      The last sentence is my sorry attempt at snark.

      It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

      by poco on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 03:45:59 PM PST

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      •  I'll have to return, when I have time to mull this (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        poco

        over from more angles.

        I was looking at it more in terms of, I've seen a lot of professors just sitting on their seniority, collecting heftier paychecks and doing progressively less work as they get older. Blocking the way of greener shoots.

        Certainly the academic freedom (like judges appointed for life being less susceptible to outside pressure) is a strong good. Noam Chomsky earned his perch, and made great use of the resources he found there.

        You may have much more experience and thought on this issue than I do.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 07:15:44 PM PST

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        •  Not all of us can be Noam Chomsky, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brecht

          much to our regret. And yes, seniority means an increase in our salaries (though a miniscule one for those of us who are in the humanities.) I am not sure about the progressively less work, it is only in the Ivy Leagues and the like, that a star gets to dictate his/her own terms. But then a star brings other advantages to the university which cannot be quantified..

          Are there any senior profs in mid-level private and public universities, who coast on no research and rely on old lectures? Absolutely--but and here's the kicker--they are normally the most beloved by the students; very few students love the profs who are trying to expand the canon or bring issues of feminism, or race or class into the classroom. And as state legislatures everywhere cut funding to public universities, and admins respond to that by cutting unpopular classes (dealing with race, class, and misogyny), what are we to do?

          As I said, pitting adjuncts against tenured or tt faculty is absolutely the wrong way to go. It is a classical move by the Presidents and the admins to escape from their own responsibility and shift the focus away from the state legislatures upon whom they rely for their funding, in order to decimate any independent voices in academia.  

          It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

          by poco on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 07:37:34 PM PST

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          •  You have seen more and thought more on this issue (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            poco

            than I have - and you have much more to say about it than I do. You aren't often so voluble. So I can see this is a subject close to your heart, and thought it would be respectful to return to this discussion, as I said I would.

            But the real problem, as always, is with the administrators who make these decisions. Faculty don't. Faculty don't control the purse strings.
            Without experience inside academia, I can't spot the spanners in the works. But from outside the machine, it looks to me like the underlying problem is that our culture points in a small direction: We should aim for excellence, but we worship mammon.

            As long as dollars, and the hunger to own more of them, are the prime determinant of value in America, it is hard for us to grow towards something larger and more fully human. It's particularly sad to see the tyranny of the bottom line in academia, which purports to be a meritocracy - and easily could be.

            "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

            by Brecht on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:50:02 PM PST

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      •  My father in law (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        poco

        was a tenured professor who had to fight all his way to that status. The administrators of his department were always riding him for not publishing more works. Despite this, he was regarded as the best professor in the school, and famed throughout the state. If one went to the university where he taught, it was thought the person was uneducated if my father-in-law's humanities courses weren't completed. He was beloved and nearly worshiped by the students, despite his difficult courses in which he loaded students down with a long book list to read. He was a school icon.

        He was awarded teacher of the year by the state. When he died, the students demanded he be memorialized with a new building bearing his name, and they got their way with a petition signed by thousands.

        But all the while, he had to endure the constant humiliation from his "superiors" whom I met, and they were pompous asses with little to offer.

        This is an example where the students, his peers, and the community, fathomed his talents and value, but his overlords in the school bureaucracy did not.

        "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

        by ZhenRen on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 02:46:11 PM PST

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