Sunday, April 11, 2010

text of a speech I didn't give at the CFA Assembly

The 72nd CFA Assembly was held in Los Angeles this weekend, so yes, it was our second trip down to LA in 9 days. We just drove back up through Kern County dust and windstorms (which badly scratched the passenger side door of Eddie Jetta by nearly impaling us with a tumbleweed), and hard rain through Madera, Merced, and Stanislaus counties. It was harrowing, and now I've got to try to calm myself, and get some work done for my long class day tomorrow.

Luckily, last night I hardly slept. I was up half the night thinking about what a hellish academic year this has been for us and for our families and students. In particular it's been hell on lecturers.

I spoke last night to a lecturer activist whose campus is contemplating cutting 80% of the remaining lecturers for next academic year. It brought back so much of the strife we've dealt with at Santa Claus the last couple years, and my own personal worries about the end of my job here, and of the end of my academic career - a real possibility still, but more remote for me.

It got me thinking about the relative risks, rewards, and stress levels of faculty activists who are on the tenure track versus those of us on the tenuous track. This isn't to say the tenure-line faculty have been anything less than superb in their support -- for the most part. But they haven't so immediately faced loss of employment, loss of their colleagues, and the guilt and unfair blame we feel.

At the Assembly we discussed the CSU Chancellor's latest scheme to invent a problem and impose a draconian solution that helps to blame faculty - this "deliverology" nonsense they've bought from Michael Barber. CFA brought in a Barber critic named John Seddon to speak about how deliverology has worked in the UK (a key example: their public health service is now much worse and the cost management controls imposed by deliverology have resulted in increased costs).

So, there lie in bed, thinking that after all we've done to try to help preserve as many jobs of our fellow lecturers as we can, along comes a new plan that will necessarily result (is planned to result) in even greater loss of faculty work. And I got up and wrote a few words to say at the Assembly. I wouldn't have read it, but I would have used it to speak from - so I'd be more loose and spontaneous, which I like. Anyway, since I didn't say it, here's the text I wrote:

Good morning fellow faculty activists. I wanted to say something this morning about what has been, for me at least, the elephant in the room this whole weekend. Could I have all the lecturer activists please stand for a moment?
[Presumably, they'd stand. They're about 33% of the Assembly.]

I've spoken to many of my fellow lecturer activists at the Assembly this weekend, and not a single one expressed any confidence at all of returning to work, and to our struggle, next academic year. This is important to me because all of the troubles and stress we've dealt with has been compounded for lecturers who know their jobs are even more precarious now than a year ago, despite our fighting back. I hope to see all of you next fall. Thanks, you can sit down again now if you like.

We know why our situation is as precarious as ever next year: deliverology. I don't know about anyone else here, but I think the original version of this story by Franz Kafka is much better written. It also has a happier ending.

Because all of us are exhausted, and all of us can't afford to stop fighting, and all of us are facing the potential futility of our fight, I wanted, finally, to offer something I've been telling myself all year, for what it's worth. No matter the outcome for ourselves and for our colleagues, we haven't failed. We haven't failed ourselves, we haven't failed our colleagues or students, and we haven't failed our universities. And no matter the outcome, we should have hope. I don't have hope because I think the outcome will be good - I don't, in fact. I have hope because we're here now, and because we have fought, in solidarity and in love, and no matter what happens, we still won that solidarity and that love.

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