Why you *shouldn’t* get involved in governance

Joe Berry’s latest COCAL Updates email included a link to this May 2015 blog post from the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Vitae blog: Skip the Department Meeting.

I note that the reasons provided concern how involvement in shared governance serves the individual interests of the contingent faculty member. The author cites the lack of return on this effort for seeking permanent academic employment, and contributing to one’s own exploitation.

I note further that the author does not suggest the alternative that contingent faculty could be compensated for governance work — a topic of conversation at our first conference and one we’ll return to.

Tenure and shared governance book

I recommend reading Jennifer Ruth and Michael Bérubé’s new book, The Humanities, Higher Education and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments

Here’s an Inside Higher Ed story about the book.

Overall, the book intends to make arguments in favor of some form of instructional-intensive tenured positions. But along the way, Ruth especially seems disparaging about NTT faculty. In her view, those of us who have been in NTT appointments for some time are not good partners in decision-making, in particular about our own work and the possibility of changing hiring practices so that instructional-intensive tenured appointments would be based on similar vetting as current TT appointments.

A major, repeated premise of the arguments related to the significance of tenure and shared governance, and for her disparaging comments about NTT participation in shared governance, strikes me as highly questionable. They claim that the main reason tenure is valuable is that academic freedom permits disinterested involvement in collective decisions for the good of the institution and the profession, rather than for the good of individual faculty members.

In the third chapter, there is a key instance of this premise, as they argue against the inclusion of NTT faculty in shared governance.

Even if a given faculty member happens to be an exceptionally disinterested thinker, that won’t prevent others at the table from wondering whether the person’s vulnerability affected his reasoning. (p 112)

Two things make this so questionable. First, the presumption that vulnerability is the only source of doubt about the legitimacy of faculty contributions to governance. Replace the word “vulnerability” with the word “privilege,” and re-read it. Second, the notion that TT faculty are somehow not vulnerable, or that they can be disinterested, is unrealistic, to say the least–more like fantastical.

I won’t get into this here, but it’s not clear why disinterestedness is necessary or desirable for collective decision making or professional self-regulation. It is clear to me why disinterestedness is impossible.

Worse, this bizarre turn of reasoning comes on the heels of recounting that the main source of contingency is the crisis-exploitation rhetoric of “efficiency” by management, and the potentially catastrophic implications of the Garcetti decision–issues that affect all faculty, including tenured faculty.

Still, there are important arguments in the book, and for strategic reasons I recommend being familiar with the lousy arguments as well as the thoughtful ones.

Conference agenda now available

Final preparations are nearly complete for the CSU lecturers shared governance conference.

The agenda is now available for Saturday, April 18.

On our site you can now find documents related to the conference and our ongoing work on developing and enhancing the inclusion of non-tenure-track faculty at the California State University. We plan to continue to use this site to gather information to help work toward our goals of inclusion and recognition of non-tenure-track faculty as colleagues, as citizens of the university, and as researchers, scholars, artists, experts, and professionals.

Announcement of the Shared Governance Conference

Saturday, April 18, 2015, non-tenure-track faculty from across the California State University will meet at CSU-East Bay for a conference on shared governance. The attached announcement was sent to representatives of NTT faculty on each of the 23 campuses.

The faculty union, the California Faculty Association, is sponsoring this event, where we will focus on developing and expanding the roles of NTT faculty in all areas of shared governance, as well as recognition of lecturers as faculty in the full sense of the term, and members in the community of scholars along with our tenure-track colleagues.

Lecturer Gov Conference ver3