The idea behind this series is that there is value in creating a space within which to have a deep conversation about the present and potential future of higher education in the United States. This conversation should encourage contributions from individuals from both outside and inside academia, who espouse a variety of disciplinary, political, and theoretical perspectives, and who inhabit a range of locations within academic hierarchies. In other words, it is my strong belief that we can’t arrive at creative solutions to the problems in higher education unless we collaborate to do so, and unless we are open to the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas differ from our own.
I decided that a series of posts that is dedicated to this kind of conversation would be interesting (and maybe even useful?) when I saw the thoughtful, careful, and provocative discussion that resulted from this post, in which I discussed the casualization of the academic labor market with the use of adjuncts. It seemed a shame to me that the conversation would not continue, particularly given the many directions that the comments to it suggested. So. The idea is this. For the next six weeks – with a wrap-up following in the 7th week – with a new post going up on each Tuesday, I will host a forum to continue that conversation. Each week will feature a different topic that relates to challenges in higher education, with the idea being that there is no one simple fix for these challenges, but rather that we must look at these challenges from many different angles.
The schedule and topics will be as follows:
8/31 The Role of Graduate Students in the 21st Century Academy (training/teaching graduate students as well as graduate students’ contribution to the academic labor market)
10/5 Tenure and Its Discontents (Is tenure really the problem? Is there an alternative to tenure that preserves academic freedom, not only in research but also in the classroom? Would eliminating tenure cost less than keeping it?)
10/12 It’s the Money, Stupid: Funding Higher Education in the 21st Century
Guidelines for Participating in the Conversation
Look, I’m not a huge fan of being overly aggressive in moderating comment threads, so I’m going to assume that everybody who comments can maintain a basic level of civility and respect. However, I suppose I should say here that if I judge that somebody is being a real asshole, I’ll just delete those comments. “Real asshole” for me means calling people names, refusing to engage with others’ ideas, and, well, acting like an asshole. That so rarely happens at my shop that I hate even suggesting that it could, but who knows who’s going to show up to this particular party? Better to warn people at the outset that I’m not going to put up with assholery.
With that out of the way, I would ask that commenters do the following:
1. Identify your perspective: Please indicate whether you are an undergrad, grad student, p-t or f-t adjunct, t-t or tenured faculty member, staff, administrator, someone who left academia, a member of the general public or some combination of those. Also identify, if you are in an academic context or have been in one, the type of institution (SLAC, Research, Comprehensive, etc.) and your field (you can do this generally – i.e., humanities – or more precisely – i.e., English Literature – as you see fit.) And I suppose any other information that you might think would be helpful so that people can see where you’re coming from.
2. Try not to go on and on (a rule which I know I break all the time) so that a true conversation develops. Maybe keep your first comment to 100 words or fewer?
3. I don’t care if you post multiple comments (I mean, in a conversation people do talk back and forth to one another) but if you post multiple comments you should be engaging with what other commenters have to say, not just standing on your own soapbox. If you want to stand on your own soapbox, get your own blog. If you want a conversation, you’re welcome here!
4. Please stay on topic. While it’s true that there are overlapping issues in the topics that we’ll cover over the next 6 weeks, we can’t have a productive conversation unless we try to keep ourselves focused. There will be time and space to bring it all together once the first 6 weeks are done. So, I’m going to ask that we take it as a given, for example, that the adjunctification of higher ed is a Bad Thing. While issues about that might come up, I don’t want to read comment threads that turn into people repeating themselves and beating horses that are only tangentially related to that week’s topic. Are you with me, people? Thanks.
If you have more to say on a given week’s topic than the comments really allow, and if you have a blog, please do your own post and alert me to it so that I can make a compendium of companion posts for each week.