I’m a little bit professional, and a little bit angry.
Posted by Amy LB on March 13, 2008
I read Kevin’s post on Tony Scott’s article [see “The Cart, the Horse, and the Road Not Taken“] with glee. See, I’d just spent an afternoon reading up on university labor issues for a revision of my dissertation. Yes, unlike so many graduate students, I’ve been lucky enough to land a tenure-track gig while I complete the Big D. Everything I read today, however, including Kevin’s post, reminded me of how few compositionists will find full-time work after completing the PhD. And the trend seems to be addressing this labor problem not with thoughtful analysis of the skewed market-driven system in academia, but with “reforms” that give in to the market-system as an inevitability.
I read a piece by Scott Jaschik In Inside Higher Ed wherein he describes the movement to replace part-time, temporary or graduate workers with full-time positions with “multiple-year, renewable contracts” that have “better pay and benefits.” To me “renewable” still = temporary. Still means they are not considered professionals. Better pay is nice, but why not just commit to and invest in making a tenured comp faculty? As Marc Bousquet says, “what a large sector of composition labor…really wants is not to be treated as colleagues, but instead to be colleagues.”
Jaschik interview Doug Hesse, who has overseen the creation of a program at the University of Denver that uses such “renewable” labor. Hesse defends this system, noting the increased pay and benefits, as well as the benefits to students who are now taught by trained compositionists. Yet, he does admit to wondering if he’s made a “Vichy regime” of his program.
You know what? He has. I’ll say it. And I respect the man. I attended a session peopled by Hesse and other instructors in his program at the Writing Research Across Borders conference in Santa Barbara just a couple of weeks ago just to hear him speak. They reported on some fantastic research and teaching they are doing in U of D. But, when I asked what repercussions his results have for the rest of the field, where such great work is severely limited by labor conditions, he side-stepped the question. I think more of us have to hop on the Bousquet-Bandwagon and realize that we can’t make someone “a little more professional” or “a little less temporary” any more than we can be a little more or less pregnant.