Thursday, March 22, 2018

“Stop the slow death of public education”—Becky Gardiner

“…People who choose to teach in universities do so because they believe that teaching and research are a public good, and worth doing in return for modest pay and a decent pension. So when the vice-chancellors, represented by Universities UK (UUK), announced their intention to switch from a ‘defined benefit’ scheme to a ‘defined contribution’ scheme, the betrayal was keenly felt…

“[L]ike most strikes, this one is about much more than money. My favourite banner on the picket line reads ‘Against the slow cancellation of the future,’ a phrase popularised by the late cultural theorist, Mark Fisher. In the grip of neoliberalism, we begin to believe that there is no alternative, Fisher told us.

“In universities, this slow draining of hope began with the introduction of tuition fees in 1998, and gathered pace when they were tripled in 2010. Successive governments, enthusiastically aided by overpaid senior management drawn from outside the university sector, have turned higher education into a utilitarian and consumer-driven activity that students buy in exchange for skills for the job market. The raid on pensions fits this pattern – it is an attempt to shift the risk of volatility in the market from the employer to the individual, to pave the way for further privatisation and rid universities of any remaining sense of responsibility for the long-term health and dignity of their workforces.

“The real reason for the widespread support for the strike is that these broader attacks on education as a public service affect the entire academic community – the full-time staff, the casualised staff, and, of course, the students.

“The problems we face – debt, increasing workloads, precarity, mental health issues – are not only shared, but systemic. Students understand that staff working conditions are their learning conditions; staff understand that students’ financial stress is an assault on their freedom to learn. On the picket lines, the conversation has not been about pensions, but how we can democratise universities, and restore them to their real purpose. Every member of the academic community knows education is potentially life-enhancing, liberating, world-changing. That is something worth fighting for.”

For the complete article, Why I’m a striking lecturer: I want to stop the slow death of public education by Becky Gardiner, click here. 

Becky Gardiner is a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and former comment editor of the Guardian

A Commentary on the Continuing Demoralization of University and College Part-Time or “Casualised” Faculty:

Consider that adjunct faculty work without job security, without the benefit of healthcare, and without an ethical living wage. Most universities’ priorities are their development of building projects and technology, renovation of infrastructure, management of revenues and investments and reducing operating costs, administrative/bureaucratic positions and salaries, and athletic programs and their resources…

There is no equity for adjunct instructors. Courses staffed with contingent adjunct faculty cost the same student tuition and provide the same credits staffed by tenured full-time faculty. Adjunct faculty grade compositions and tests, write recommendations and advise students, devise and develop classes, create lesson plans and course materials and improve curricula, among other unpaid responsibilities. 

There are no due process protections for adjunct faculty. There is no equal pay for equal work. There is no professional advancement. There is no equity in the lack of health insurance and retirement benefits available for adjunct faculty. There is little to no inclusion in the way higher education’s formal decision-making procedures and structures are made. Indeed, adjunct faculty are simply part-time contractors, “lecturers,” or non-essential “marginalized” hires who are disenfranchised from high-level governance and required to carry out most of the responsibilities of the full-time faculty (and sometimes at multiple institutions), but for less than one-fifth of the salary of the full-time faculty and without meaningful job security from one semester to another…

For my complete article, click here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Students' First Amendment Rights: Remembering Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

To: Dr. John Patzwald, Superintendent; Roger Johnson, Principal; David Briggs, English Department Chairman

From: Glen Brown, Lion Advisor

Subject: Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

Date: February 1, 1988

As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding Hazelwood School District v. Cathy Kuhlmeier, it seems that we may impose “reasonable” restrictions on students’ speech since the Lion is not “a public forum” to be used indiscriminately by the general public. It is a curricular activity in a laboratory setting as stated in its policy.

Second, we might infer that we should retain control over what constitutes “reasonable journalism” in the Lion. After all, the Lion is a supervised learning experience for practicing journalism students. This has always been the case.

Third, we might also infer that it is important that students are not exposed to material that may be “inappropriate for their level of maturity” and that the views of the writer in the Lion be not attributed to Lyons Township High School. The Lion actually publishes a disclaimer to this fact. Nonetheless, Lyons Township High School must maintain its high standards for student speech disseminated under its auspices. I believe we have upheld the highest ethics and values in this regard.

However, so vague and ambiguous is the terminology of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that we can see how “legitimate pedagogical concerns,” “conduct inconsistent with the shared values of a civilized order,” and “material too sensitive or inappropriate for student maturity” might be interpreted to camouflage discrimination and, indeed, give us the power to censor unpleasant or so-called unpopular viewpoints. I do not doubt our school’s integrity; however, I hope there are not people within our community who would like to suppress student beliefs for the “mere desire to avoid discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.”

It has never been the purpose of the Lion to teach students that they should not report “bad news, express unpopular views, or print that which might upset” the school board, administration, teachers and the community.

Mere school sponsorship should never justify suppression of student speech. Allowing student expression, though it might offer views contrary to those who wish to inculcate particular perspectives, should still be championed by the Lion as stated in its policy. Furthermore, it is stated in our Mission Statement that we “create an atmosphere of encouragement, trust and mutual respect… [One that] fosters… full intellectual growth of each student… [and one that allows for] development of critical thinking and problem solving…” Let's not forget it wasn’t long ago when “students [did] not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate” (Tinker v. Des Moines, February 1969). 

My concerns, in addition to the aforementioned, are whether my role as the advisor has now been redefined and the possibility of outside pressures from parents who will interpret the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in such a way as to justify their own prejudices and their demands to avoid controversy and, thus, suppress subsequent student articles in the Lion.