Thursday, January 08, 2009

life being what it is

I'm listening to a Kaki King song called "Life Being What It Is." It's really good. She's a fantastic guitar player, and I wish I could play as well as she does.

But I borrow the title for reasons having nothing to do with my appreciation for Kaki King, or the super-duper-cool percussion-n-harmonic solo on this number, which is excellent.

No, indeed. The title just speaks to the situation.

There's a guy named Keith Hoeller who teaches philosophy for a living, much like I do, up in Washington. He also spends a lot of time reading everything, apparently, published about the plight of contingent faculty in the US. For weeks, he's been sending links to the "adjunct" faculty listserv that connect to stories about universities around the country planning to cut faculty, salaries, or both, and it's just kind of overwhelming.

University of Urbana and Skidmore College were tonight's pair. Urbana is planning to ask faculty to voluntarily give back 6 percent of their salaries, and cutting non-faculty staff salaries (10 percent for salaries over $75,000). Urbana and Skidmore are both planning to cut or consider cutting temporary faculty, beginning this spring semester.

Every day, there are more reports. Part-time or full-time, non-tenurable college and university faculty everywhere in the US are losing their jobs, day by day. The press coverage of this is spotty, local, and in no way connects the various dots. Not only is there almost no concern about the impact of the layoffs on either the faculty or the students affected, there's no big picture being painted of what this means, or says, about either the economy or our public values.

It's sad to me, because I've spent my entire career as a contingent academic, and the better part of a decade as an advocate for contingent faculty. All those faculty are simply disappearing. They'll be taking unemployment, looking for other ways to make a living - and sometimes having advanced degrees is a hindrance to employment, I know from my own experience.

But above that, it's eerie. I am wondering how many of my close friends and colleagues will just be gone next year, or next month, or in two weeks when the CFA Lecturers' Council meets in Sacramento.

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