Update December 2011: Comments on the Program for Change have been thought-provoking and helpful. Among the most helpful comments has been the need to think through how to raise or allocate the necessary funds for all the stages especially those beyond the no-cost/low-cost stages of the Program. How can we collaborate with community members to scrutinize current allocations and decide democratically on alternative allocations? How can we collaborate with community members to encourage re-investment in higher education? These are among the questions that will be considered at the NFM Foundation‘s National Summit on contingency, “Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Confronting the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education” on January 28, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Dear NFM Members:
Long time contingent faculty activists Jack Longmate and Frank Cosco, who also happen to serve on NFM’s Board of Directors and Advisory Board, respectively, have drafted a “strategic plan” for contingent faculty activism based in large part on Frank’s experiences in Vancouver, BC at Vancouver Community College (recently profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education as a place “where adjuncts go to prosper”). The Program is being proposed for official endorsement by NFM pending feedback and input from you, our members, and will be presented at the Coalition on Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL) conference in Quebec City this weekend.
We invite you read the document, and we also encourage you to provide feedback to its authors using the comment form and the linked response form. This will allow us to continue the conversation about how best to provide support for adjunct and contingent faculty efforts to reform higher education’s exploitative academic hiring practices. We ask that you let the authors know about anything that you find particularly helpful — or unhelpful or unclear — about the plan so that they can continue to work to improve it and to make it a resource that is truly by and for adjunct and contingent faculty.
The draft Program for Change outlines a series of very concrete goals and benchmarks that may be useful to contingent activists in their work. We are interested in exploring how it might be adaptable to local contexts or whether it might be a launching point for the development of goals and benchmarks more specific to particular contexts but still keyed to our seven goals of equity in compensation, job security, academic freedom, faculty governance, professional advancement, benefits and unemployment insurance. In other words, it is a first step in making concrete the vision that we have of re-imagining the system of contingent academic employment that has overtaken and threatened to overwhelm higher education. The twenty-year framework has been proposed out of recognition that in some places the problem of contingency may take yet another generation to overcome, but the drafters also acknowledge that nothing prevents the accomplishment of particular goals significantly more quickly than is suggested by the timeline.
We are unveiling Jack and Frank’s draft Program for Change this week in order to either initiate or focus the conversation on equity and on the concrete steps contingent activists can take to move forward on achieving it. It represents the beginning of our efforts to convene a national conversation that is specifically focused on improving higher education by addressing the problem of contingency.
Our goal as an organization has always been to offer many resources and, more importantly, to make sure that the problem of contingency is acknowledged and its resolution worked on wherever it appears and without unfair repercussions to the adjunct and contingent faculty who have already made enormous sacrifices and donated millions of dollars worth of time and expertise to higher education. We thank you in advance for your attention to the document and to your involvement in its development.
Please note that in addition to presenting this program, our session at COCAL will be describing our origins and also reporting on our Unemployment Compensation Initiative and our efforts to secure health insurance for our members. We hope to record and podcast the session and will let you know as soon as possible whether that will be available. Please do let us know if you will be attending the COCAL conference, as the Board members in attendance would like to convene an informal meet-and-greet if at all possible.
Many thanks for your attention.