I Never Said That!

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I just finished meeting with Ryan Sexton, our web page programmer. He and I are working out the best way to display our new Podcast Interview Series. Ryan suggested that we offer a podcast player to visitors who may not have one. It’s just saves a step in the process of listening to the Podcast Interviews. I saw the one he designed today, and it’s easy to use. Magazine subscribers will have exclusive access to the Podcast Interviews for seven days, then the interviews will be available to everyone who’s an AdjunctNation.com Family member.

Yesterday I interviewed author Marc Bousquet. We talked about his book How the University Works for almost an hour. I’ll trim down the interview, and it will be posted later in the Spring. Something happened in the course of that interview that has happened to me only a handful of times in the almost 20 years I have been interviewing people for Adjunct Advocate. I asked a question about something Bousquet had written, and he replied that he never wrote it. When I read him the lines I’d highlighted in his book, he was clearly taken aback.

The text came from page 47: “That is, in re-creating jobs out of piece-work done by the contingent workforce, we address with one stroke the problems experienced by everyone else: tenure-stream faculty benefit because eliminating cheap teaching raises the price of experienced teaching and reinstalls the value of research in pedagogy; undergraduates benefit by receiving experienced, secure faculty (who “do knowledge” rather than “provide information”) in the first two years, when they are most vulnerable.” I asked him to comment on the notion that “secure faculty” i.e. full-time faculty “do knowledge,” while nontenure-track faculty “provide information.”

The note I made in my copy of the book was that the author was “struggling to find a difference between full-time and part-time faculty.” I believe there are plenty of non-secure faculty who “do knowledge,” and plenty of secure faculty for whom teaching is little more than providing information. I was curious to know what he thought. Unfortunately, claiming never to have written or said something is rarely the right answer, even if it’s the truth. I have had the unpleasant experience of having been misquoted by journalists enough times to realize that when the misquotes come up later (journalists invariable use each other’s work), I simply focus on the substance of the question, and not whether I said it or not. The strategy usually works pretty well.

There were plenty of places in Bousquet’s book where I found myself muttering aloud as I read, and jotting in the margins. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion! He writes that students are likely to be taught by someone who started a “degree but never finished it…and who does not plan to be “working at your institution three years from now.” Further, he writes that a “substantial majority” of contingent faculty are women, and that the majority of administrators are male. The facts are these (some come from the 2006 Education Digest put out by the Department of Education):

  • The average part-time faculty member stays at her/his college seven years.
  • No study has ever concluded that the average part-time faculty member holds an A.B.D. (the majority of part-timers hold M.A.s and not Ph.D.s).
  • Slightly more men than women teach part-time.
  • There are slightly more females than males who work in the 186,505 executive/administrative and managerial jobs within higher education.My next interview is with Julie Ivey. She is the co-president of the Palomar College faculty union. She is one of just a handful of women who lead faculty unions in the United States, and she shares her position with a full-time faculty colleague. It’s an interesting arrangement, as the union local is unified. Look for my interview with her later in the Spring, as well.

    Finally, I am sending writer Terri Hughes-Lazzall in search of campaign donation records. I’ll tell you a bit more about the assignment as the story develops. Until then, thanks for stopping by and thanks to those who have left their comments!! I am always glad to hear what readers have to say.

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