Blogs > Cliopatria > A Columbia Update ...

Apr 21, 2004 8:34 pm

A Columbia Update ...

Here is today's report on the strike of Columbia University's graduate student instructors in the Colmbia Spectator. Its report of a"tentative plan" for regular faculty members to assume responsibility for the classes taught by striking graduate students is apparently being implemented. Some reports indicate that those regular faculty members are being paid an"undisclosed sum" for this service; other reports say that the"undisclosed sum" is"loads of money to fill in ... for the final couple of weeks."

Recalling the times when I filled in without additional compensation for a colleague who was ill, the cynic in me says that, for all their political correctness, Columbia University faculty members can be had for a price as strike-breakers. If, in fact, graduate student instructors are"apprentices," as the University maintains, why would the University be willing to pay regular faculty additional money to do what they are contractually obliged to do, which is to teach? The University appears to be willing to pay a very heavy price to maintain an exploitative system and its faculty willing, for a price, to maintain a system with heavy benefits at the top. It is too early to know how many graduate student instructors have gone on strike. The strike has not yet disrupted classes to the extent of closing down the campus.

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Robert L. Campbell - 4/24/2004


I got behind on it, but I finished a long update on USM yesterday.

What some administrators seem to be driving toward is an institution that employs administrators, and uses grant-funded researchers to bring in revenue to support the administrators. Undergraduates will be tolerated only until other income streams are found, and year-to-year instructors will be hired to teach the undergrads, while that function remains necessary.


Ralph E. Luker - 4/22/2004

I'll be looking forward to reading what you have to say about USM tomorrow. Surely, we're talking about two different dimensions in the current crisis in higher education. At Columbia, there is the further marginalization and adjunctivization of low-end teaching personnel, even at our most pretigious institutions. At USM, the threat to tenure as we've known it in our more typical institutions. All of this going on even as tuition and fees continue to climb. It's hard to imagine that institutions of higher education will be reduced to administrators who contract labor to teach classes which they believe are in demand, but that is the end toward which some of these struggles seem to point.

Robert L. Campbell - 4/22/2004


There are certainly important issues at stake at Columbia--the current system of graduate education in the Humanities looks to be getting close to collapse.

But why do I get the feeling that the strike's being covered because Columbia is in the Times' back yard?

What would induce Times reporters and editors to get off their duffs and start covering the University of Southern Mississippi mess? Aren't the issues it raises pretty damned important, too?

Without the Fire Shelby Web site, most of the more recent stories about USM in the Mississippi press wouldn't have been written. (Lots has been brewing--I'll try to put together an update tomorrow.)


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