Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Willfullness of the "At Will" Academy

My contract at SFAI is an "at will" contract -- which allows me the freedom to leave my commitment to a term's teaching without providing any reason for doing so but more importantly allows administration the freedom to let me go at any time without providing any reason for doing so either. The "at will" contract is an arrant absurdity, obviously utterly ill-suited to the demands of teaching a course over time. While administration celebrates the two-way flexibility and freedom of such contracts, nobody is fooled that the contract functions as anything but a non-contract giving administration absolute and arbitrary power over adjuncts who are little likely to relinquish their teaching situation unless they win the lottery.

I can see the sense of very short term teaching contracts for visitors with extraordinary abilities or profiles who are actually visiting the Bay Area, say, but those of us who teach three years or more at SFAI have demonstrated our value and commitment to the institution in ways that deserve the recognition of multi-year contracts (at any rate for those who want them). There are reasons some adjuncts would want shorter-term contracts, there are reasons plenty of adjuncts might prefer a path of professionalization that is not the tenure-track, and there are reasons why an institution like SFAI would benefit from hiring qualified teachers in all of these circumstances. Providing more contract options that reflect the actual diversity of adjunct stakeholders and situations would benefit everybody.

SFAI's present one-size-fits-all model of over-abundant over-reliance on an utterly precarious adjunct workforce without any security, standing, or stake represents the systematic marginalization of teaching as a concern of a teaching institution to the short-term cost calculations of administrators indifferent to or alienated from the requirements of the real teaching practice without which none of these administrators would actually have a job at the school in the first place. It is a profound derangement of the mission of any school to force the majority of its teachers into a single insistent insecurity.

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