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How the University Works

How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation

Marc Bousquet
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 281
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  • Book Info
    How the University Works
    Book Description:

    As much as we think we know about the modern university, very little has been said about what it's like to work there. Instead of the high-wage, high-profit world of knowledge work, most campus employeesincluding the vast majority of facultyreally work in the low-wage, low-profit sphere of the service economy. Tenure-track positions are at an all-time low, with adjuncts and graduate students teaching the majority of courses. This super-exploited corps of disposable workers commonly earn fewer than $16,000 annually, without benefits, teaching as many as eight classes per year. Even undergraduates are being exploited as a low-cost, disposable workforce. Marc Bousquet, a major figure in the academic labor movement, exposes the seamy underbelly of higher educationa world where faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates work long hours for fast-food wages. Assessing the costs of higher education's corporatization on faculty and students at every level, How the University Works is urgent reading for anyone interested in the fate of the university.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8992-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Foreword: Resistance Is Not Futile
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Cary Nelson

    Marc Bousquet is the Virgil of postmodern academic labor, leading a professoriate in denial through the Dantesque wastes of a system whose sins daily grow more numerous. For this reader at least, chapter 4 was the nadir, the ninth circle of academic hell. There you will meet Susan Erdmann, a teacher who meets her college students at a UPS hub after midnight, struggling to speak to them above the din of machinery. And you will meet the students themselves, students routinely exploited as cheap labor by higher education and its cooperating industries. This is a “partnership” between UPS and the...

  5. 1 Introduction: Your Problem Is My Problem
    (pp. 1-54)

    Over the past forty years, the administration of higher education has changed considerably. Campus administrations have steadily diverged from the ideals of faculty governance, collegiality, and professional self-determination. Instead they have embraced the values and practices of corporate management. Consequently, the new realities of managed education strongly correspond to the better-understood realities of managed health care. For example, both education and health have been increasingly marketized—transformed into sites of unprecedented capital accumulation by way of the commodification of activities and relationships. Public assets and activities intended for the public good have been transferred into private hands. Workers in both...

  6. 2 The Informal Economy of the “Information University”
    (pp. 55-89)

    There are interesting differences in the social reception of managed health care and the managed university. Most strikingly, the HMO is the object of widespread concern, whereas “student satisfaction” with management-dominated higher education has never been higher, at least according to corporate-university surveys. According to these sources, students in all institution categories are overwhelmingly satisfied with the learning dimensions of their college experience, in many cases reserving their complaints for the quality of food and availability of parking.¹

    Of equal interest is the widespread belief that information technology is driving the transformation in higher education. Much of even the most...

  7. 3 The Faculty Organize, But Management Enjoys Solidarity
    (pp. 90-124)

    Charles Eliot’sUniversity Administrationportrait of faculty life radiates a confident paternalism that remains viable in many ways today. Despite sporadic press coverage of the term faculty and graduate employees who do 75 percent of the teaching in higher education, the public image of the professoriate remains that of Stanley Aronowitz’s “last good job in America”: tweedy eggheads effortlessly interpellated in a system of rational, meritocratic reward, administered on a generous scale by a trusteeship of honorable men. Indeed, for faculty in certain overwhelmingly male-dominated disciplines, Eliot’s picture is accurate enough. In engineering or business at a research institution, the...

  8. 4 Students Are Already Workers
    (pp. 125-156)

    The alarm sounds at 2:00 AM. Together with half a dozen of her colleagues, the workday has begun for Prof. Susan Erdmann, a tenure-track assistant professor of English at Jefferson Community College in Louisville, Kentucky. She rises carefully to avoid waking her infant son and husband, who commutes forty miles each way to his own tenure-track community college job in the neighboring rural county. She makes coffee, showers, dresses for work. With their combined income of around $60,000 and substantial education debt, they have a thirty-year mortgage on a tiny home of about 1,000 square feet: galley kitchen, dining alcove,...

  9. 5 Composition as Management Science
    (pp. 157-185)

    The first epigraph is drawn from the winner of the 2001 Braddock award for best essay published in a leading journal in the academic discipline of rhetoric and composition.

    Rhet-comp is an emerging field with an especially vexed relationship to the disciplinary history and practices of other fields in English studies, especially what David Downing characterizes as the “disciplinary division of labor.” As with any other academic field, its intellectual interests are wide ranging. These encompass classical rhetoric, cultural studies, rhetorical and communications theory, sociolinguistics, pedagogy, new media studies, organizational communications, and research into the composing process of countless genres...

  10. 6 The Rhetoric of “Job Market” and the Reality of the Academic Labor System
    (pp. 186-210)

    Given the dramatic and startling nature of its conclusions (that faculty jobs would soon appear like manna in the desert), and its origin in an unusual collaboration between a sitting university president (William Bowen) and an undergraduate student (Julie Ann Sosa, then the editor of the Princeton student newspaper), it’s more than a little surprising that almost no one seems to have questioned the Bowen study before a 1994 blurb in theChronicle of Higher Education—with the interesting exception of Lynne Cheney, who wrote an editorial for theNew York Timesassailing the assumptions that guided the Bowen study....

  11. Appendix A: Yeshiva University 444 U.S. 672 (1980), “Justice Brennan, Dissenting”
    (pp. 211-223)
  12. Appendix B: Brown University 1-RC-21368 (2004), “Members Liebman and Walsh, Dissenting”
    (pp. 224-242)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 243-254)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 255-274)
  15. Index
    (pp. 275-280)
  16. About the Authors
    (pp. 281-281)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 282-282)