Monday, June 23, 2014

MLActivism: Infiltrate the MLA by Marc Bousquet

Recontextualized social media post by Marc Bousquet, with permission. For your further contextual needs, please see Occupy and Escalate: Graduate students should occupy not just buildings but also disciplinary and professional organizations.

In the discussion of the petition to restore the MLA's executive directorship to a faculty position, Doug Hesse articulates a position sometimes held by Michael Bérubé and many others: MLA is a scholarly organization and it is "broadening" the meaning of the constitutional charge to further the profession's "common interests" to include working conditions. I respect Doug and Michael, but that's simply not true.

At the moment of the organization's founding, the term "common interests" had a specific legal and social meaning. Additionally, employment matters of one kind or another have been an issue for the membership throughout its history. Adjunctification in particular has been a much-discussed issue for fifty years. The conversion of the ED position to a permanent staff line in the 1980s was intended by leadership and membership alike to professionalize lobbying and public relations on employment issues. There have been two EDs since then, both of whom have largely ducked this responsibility. Both of them have manipulated governance processes to make expressions of membership will and governance from below more difficult.

All of the suggestions currently being forwarded by Margaret Yeoman Hanzimanolis and Miranda Merklein and others—increased efforts to PR, lobbying, witnessing, accreditation, etc.—have all been previously passed 1995-2000 through governance channels by leadership and membership in the form of motions binding on the staff. For some, like Jeff Rice and occasionally the otherwise indefatigable optimist Seth Kahn, this suggests the other idea floated by the comfortable, including Feal and other staffers: "But what can MLA really do?" or, in Jeff and Seth's version, "Clearly MLA staff won't do anything meaningful even if you waste your effort in attempting to bind them through governance, so don't waste your time."

Myself, I agree with Feal's own time-wasting tweet to Margaret: "If you really want me to listen, then take over the Executive Council." I've argued that position for two decades, and—if we'd pressed forward, instead of attending to our various careers, including mine—we'd have won. Now it's harder, since the staff encouraged elected leadership to respond to our efforts in highly repressive ways, like nominating their own advisees to Council positions we won for grad students (Showalter) and changing the constitution to reserve Council seats for life members (the gerontocracy). But it's still doable, by creating a slate for 2nd vice president and EC three years in a row. A much better use of time than falling for the "working behind the scenes" trap. Just f++king govern, and you won't have to curtsy to Feal or the comfortable.

Marc Bousquet teaches at Emory University and serves on the AAUP Council. He is the author of How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Professor

I grade to teach and serve my grading cold.
I speak my mind where they cannot hear.
I work by going where I'm told to go.

We learn by groveling. Students file in rows.
My rolling office tears from wheel to wheel.
I grade to teach and serve my grading cold.

Of colleagues beside me, who's paid their dues?
Bless government assistance. Qualify
And work by going where you're told to go.

Chairs cut our classes but do not say why.
The lowly adjunct drives from school to school.
I grade to teach and serve my grading cold.

Great #Badmin has another plan in store
For you and me, so sign your contracts now,
And, Doctor, keep going where you're told to go.

This caffeine keeps me ticking. To rest? No.
What falls apart is always. My "career."
I grade to teach and serve my grading cold.
I work by going where I'm told to go.

(* A humble nod to "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke)
More poetry and creative things by M.M. can be found here.