[Marxism] blog post: us versus them: laboring in the academic factory

michael yates mikedjyates at msn.com
Tue Oct 2 19:08:46 MDT 2012


Full at http://cheapmotelsandahotplate.org/2012/10/02/us-versus-them-laboring-in-the-academic-factory/

 [Note: This was first published in Monthly Review in January 2000. It was based upon a talk I gave to teachers at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York. Noted scholar of education, Henry Giroux, told me that he had recently re-read this and thought it prescient. So, here is an abridged and edited version for anyone interested in what we might call "the school wars." An added paragraph at the end provides some updates.]
 
Tales from Academe at the End of the Century
 
Consider:
 
1. Administrators at York University in Toronto solicited corporations to place their logos on online courses conducted by the University, for $10,000 per course.
 
2. City University of New York canceled most of its remedial classes. The University of Pittsburgh eliminated special programs for underprepared (and typically poor and black) students while beginning an honor’s college.
 
3. Several universities have cut lucrative deals with credit card companies, allowing them campus monopolies as credit purveyors. At one campus, the credit card company pays for student radio and television shows.
 
4. The so-called “University” of Phoenix, a private, for-profit virtual college, now has ninety-eight campuses in thirty-one states and enrollment of more than 55,000 students. “It has aggressively applied business strategies such as convenience, customer service, mass production, and corporate partnerships on its march across the country.” Phoenix has heavy-duty corporate customers, including Kodak, IBM, and GE and will be aggressively competing for the millions of adult students preparing for the multiple job changes former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says we will all be making over the course of our working lives.
 
5. The California State University system was preparing to “hand control of its inter-campus computer and telecommunications system to a private consortia managed by Microsoft and its hardware allies, GTE, Hughes, and Fujitsu.” This privatization of public education was fueled by the same forces that have led to the privatization of all sorts of public services, from garbage collection to prisons to college food services and campus police.
 
6. Historian David Noble tells us that “Educom, the academic-corporate consortium, has recently established their Learning Infrastructure Initiative, which includes the detailed study of what professors do, breaking the faculty job down in classic Tayloristic fashion into discrete tasks, and determining what parts can be automated or outsourced. Educom believes that course design, lectures, and even evaluation can all be standardized, mechanized, and consigned to outside vendors. ‘Today you’re looking at a highly personal human-mediated environment,’ Educom president Robert Heterich observed. ‘The potential to remove human mediation in some areas and replace it with automation—smart, computer-based, network-based systems—is tremendous. It’s gotta happen.’”
 
7. In Manhattan’s $229 per night (a special rate!) Millennium Broadway Hotel, a conference was held with the title, “Market-Driven Higher Education.” The blurb for this conference reads, “It’s Not Just Business, It’s Your Future: Is Higher Education for Sale? You bet it is. And everyone—corporations, non-profits, government agencies—wants a piece of it. How do you take advantage of market-driven education?” At this conference one could hear such luminaries as Benno Schmidt (former president of Yale and advisor to CCNY for Rudolph Giuliani) expound on such topics as “What the Market Wants,” and “The University Toolbox” (to discuss “creating for-profit subsidiaries, finding start-up capital, structuring deals, solving intellectual property problems, and more.”) Remarkably, the organizers of the conference tell attendees that you will “learn new ways of doing business, explore innovative deals and joint ventures, discover what funding sources want for their investment dollars, cope with resistance on the home front, and still retain your core values.” (Emphasis added)
 
8. In Silicon Valley; in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; and around the country, high-tech industries and their nearby universities are becoming more and more integrated, as faculty and administrators spin off businesses from publicly funded research and businesses brazenly use the universities as launch pads for new products and technologies.
 
9. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), non-tenure track faculty now account for about half and part-time teachers 38% of all appointments in U.S. higher education. In community colleges the part-time ratio is 52%. The AAUP further reports that, “Some community colleges depend on poorly paid, non-tenure track faculty members to remain in existence. Many of these institutions have no tenure system and appoint only a few full-time faculty members to organize and supervise a large department of part-time faculty.” 		 	   		  



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