Recently there was a job ad on HigherEdJobs.com for adjunct instructors online for Rutgers' Online Liberal Studies master's degree program. They were looking for literature folk who could develop and teach interdisciplinary courses focused on literature specifically. At first, I thought it was a great idea. But then I started looking around.
AAUP's page on the issue.
Now, if you read my latest article in the "What can't you do with an English Major?" issue of The Journal of South Texas English Studies you probably know that I'm already in a spot where I teach for an institution that does not have English majors in the traditional sense (we do offer certification for ENG teachers in the state of Michigan). I will not have the option of teaching graduate students literature in my current job. After 20 years of teaching undergrads who are not majoring in my discipline, I felt butterflies at first when I saw the offering. I could apply to it without it being a conflict of interest at my full-time job (we have forms for that, and since the douses are graduate level in a field we don't offer graduate courses in, teaching these would actually make me even "better" as a faculty member at my current institution).
The butterflies lasted a short time. I read and reread the job ad. They wanted a full syllabus, a completed module for the course, and the ad states that they want the course basically ready to drop in E-College the moment you apply.
Reading the articles that AAUP collected above, I realized that there are some very real reasons why the faculty are upset. Specifically, there are huge issues with academic freedom and with intellectual property. The contract (at least the early versions of it) for development and teaching indicates that:
1. Those who develop a course will get a first run of the course. After that, any adjunct can be given the course to teach. All tidy and packaged in E-College (owned now by Pearson). This is where the intellectual property issue comes in.
2. If Pearson finds material that is "unsuited" or "inappropriate" for children, that can be cut from the course. So, say I developed a course on separatist lesbian utopias in American women's literature. Some reviewer finds that objectionable, so the course gets censored. This is where the academic freedom issue comes in.
3. Not only is the call for applications a pretty clear "propose some great stuff and give us a syllabus we can give to our course design department" but it also creates a situation where new remote adjuncts are likely to be seen as "scabs."
Ultimately, I decided those three reasons are enough for me not to apply. My focus these days is on writing, anyway, and I'm constantly finding ways to get more satisfaction from the undergraduate literature courses I teach. I'm transitioning to a spot over the next few years that is different. So, to yoke myself up to be a scab and producer of course templates just doesn't sound attractive.
The title of this post, though, goes further. When I started college years ago, we had a new president at UCA. The faculty voted no confidence in him, yet he was still there when I left with my MA in hand six years later. The Rutgers situation reminds me of this and how faculty really have no power. I'm reminded of the tenured professor (John Lammers) who was led off campus from Irby Hall and how his class was finished out by someone else. Just because he voiced his opposition to administrative issues. Isn't that something that we value? Open dialogue? Apparently not. (I'm also amazed at how many connections I have to Auburn University--I didn't realize until I looked up the AAUP page on Lammers that he was an Auburn Alum. That's a whole different post, I suspect--my connections to AU. War Eagle and all that).
Academia has changed. It's not just my current position in my current institution, which is a career-focused institution. It's a larger shift. Add to that shift that was going on in the late 1980s and 1990s the "Pearsonification" of education at both the lower levels (Common Core) and at the post-secondary level, and you have a pretty complex stew brewing.