Jan 22·edited Jan 22Liked by Jenn McClearen

Jenn--Excellent analysis of a festering problem in academia.

Your piece helps to put some additional light on the transition well underway in higher education in what is a race to the bottom of pay for faculty. At one university where I worked, the president made a comment in an all staff meeting that faculty are "just another commodity" that can be bought and sold as needed. Prior to that position, he was in private equity and had not heard about the 13th Amendment in the U.S. regarding slavery. His sentiments were actually not so far off from how many colleges and universities view faculty, despite the common platitudes about faculty being "our greatest asset."

We are likely to see a severe shortage of faculty over the next few years. This is in part driven by a labor force "demographic cliff" of aging out workforce. That is happening when there is already an enrollment demographic cliff that will, over time, produce fewer graduate students willing to take the pay cut to be in academia. I have argued in a piece now over a year ago that we are coming to the end of the current adjunct game. https://www.ex4edu.report/p/end-of-adjuncts?r=iqw7f&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

Also, Farah's wish to be tenured is now likely to be dashed in many U.S. States that have or are preparing to abolish tenure. Nebraska is just the latest. States like Colorado--a more progressive place--already have poison pills from prior legislatures allowing the unlimited hiring of contingent faculty. Not to mention Florida, Texas, New Hampshire, etc.

Perhaps some hope? Well, yes! In December last year, I visited Mondragon University in Oñati in the heart of the Basque Country, Spain. The faculty there are organized into cooperatives and are one of the ownership groups of the university. The enthusiasm for their work, the university, and students was far beyond what I have observed in the dozens of higher education institutions I have visited.

Expand full comment

Excellent points. One note for radical consideration (if that is even allowed in academic discussion any longer): capitalism should be about the fair exchange of value. Seems to me that universities are doing the opposite through exploitation based on this post. So, I agree, academics should talk about value and money. Thanks again for the thoughts!

Expand full comment