This syllabus was created in the spirit of Candice Benbow’s “Lemonade Syllabus” and other collections of references and resources that provide context for current events. In that way, it can be used by individuals who want to learn more about the topic of academic labor in composition. It has also been designed to be adapted–whole or in part–to the classroom.
As with all syllabi, the labor syllabus is partial and dynamic. While I have worked to make the materials intersectional in terms of looking at labor at cross-axes with race, class, gender, region, sexuality, and other identities, there is much room for improvement.
If you see glaring mistakes or areas where you feel more attention is clearly needed, please email Casie Fedukovich.
Introduction to Labor Issues in Composition
Department of English/Writing Studies, Generic University
Scope of the class
Upper-division undergraduate to graduate. Because of the value of multiple perspectives, ideally team-taught and supported by representative faculty with current experience teaching first-year writing, including non-tenure track, tenure track, and tenured faculty and graduate teaching assistants.
This course provides an introduction to labor issues in academia, focusing specifically on the discipline of composition (variously titled first-year writing or first-year composition). We will explore broad contexts and histories that have influenced current labor trends before moving into specific inquiries into labor problems in composition, including exploring a field of scholarship recently termed “contingency studies.” We will examine multiple perspectives, including those in academia, such as Writing Program Administrators (WPAs), faculty, and graduate students, and those outside academia, such as government agencies and reports in popular media.
- To understand both histories and the current issues in academia labor.
- To inquire into the complex relationships among global labor markets, local governments, institutions, departments, and faculty.
- To explore trends in academic labor and responses to those trends.
- To apply course readings and discussions to an exploration of a specific topic in labor and to propose a study that looks into that problem.
In this seminar, we will explore a range of issues related to the academic labor market, especially as it is realized through the discipline of composition. We will frame the idea of labor broadly to include perspectives from a number of stakeholders, from bureaucrats conducting research into post-secondary education to graduate students teaching first-year writing. We will consider a range of questions, focusing on the following: What is academic labor? Who does it? What trends can we describe in issues such as hiring and work load? In what ways do we see labor issues intersecting with teaching and learning? How is labor commodified and formalized? What responses to labor challenges have arisen? What might come next in responses to these labor challenges? Further, I invite each of you to continue to generate these kinds of questions on your own as we move through the semester.
You will also be asked to develop your own unique focus on a topic related to academic labor. Our “pathfinding project” will ask you to research and write a focused exploratory literature review and a research proposal.
Labor and Literacy Narrative: This personal narrative will serve two functions: 1) it will introduce you to me and 2) it will prompt you to think critically about how your own labor history(ies) interact with your relationship to literacy and your perceptions of academic labor.
Writing Program Profile: You will make contact with a Writing Program Administrator (WPA) at another institution for the purposes of learning more about how one program responds to local labor needs and challenges. We will generate a list of questions together in class.
Exploratory Literature Review: As the title suggests, you will work with me to focus your ideas into an area of inquiry and complete an exploratory literature review into that topic. The review will be exploratory because, as is the nature of research, you should be surprised by some of your findings and may need to recalibrate your focus along the way. The purpose of the ELR is to map the scholarly territory into one topic in labor studies in composition, using as many sources as you feel are necessary to identify a synthetic “gap” in research.
Research Proposal: This proposal responds to the gap you’ve identified in your literature review. You will propose a study that explores some element of a topic that you feel has been left out or understudied.
Pathfinding Essay: The pathfinding essay addresses why you are interested in the focused topic you chose, how you came to the topic, what your sources have taught you about the history of labor in composition (or broadly in academia), and most importantly, what you will do next (more reading, research, taking additional courses, attending conferences, contacting allies at other institutions, teaching, writing, direct action/activism, etc.).
Your labor and literacy narrative, literature review, research proposal, and pathfinding essay work together to constitute your “Pathfinding Project.” During our final exam period, you will present to the class your path through labor studies in composition.
Unit 1: Charting the Course
Guiding questions: What is academic labor? Why is it a problem? What is labor? How does the system of academia reinforce its labor practices?
- Martin, Randy. “Academic Labor: An Introduction.” Social Text 51 (1997): 1-8.
- Peckham, Irvin, and Brad Hammer. “The State of Contingency: A Report from the CCCC Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct, or Contingent Labor.” FORUM: Newsletter for Issues about Part-Time and Contingent Faculty 14.2 (Spring 2011).
- Johnson, Benjamin, Patrick Kavanagh, and Kevin Mattson. Eds. Steal This University: The Rise of the Corporate University and the Academic Labor Movement. Routledge: 2003.
- Street, Maisto, Merves, and Rhoades. Who is Professor Staff, and How can this Person Teach So Many Classes?" The Center for the Future of Higher Education. August 2012.
- Explore COCAL site.
- Explore CAW (Coalition on the Academic Workforce) site.
- Read CSAL site.
- Explore NFM (New Faculty Majority) site.
Unit 2: Mapping the Territory
Guiding Questions: What (global, local) systems affect academic labor?
- Selection from Bousquet, Marc. How the University Works.
- Selection from Nelson, Cary. Will Teach for Food: Academic Labor in Crisis. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
- Herman, Deborah, and Julie M. Schmid. Cogs in the Classroom Factory: The Changing Identity of Academic Labor. Praeger, 2003.
- Scott, Tony, and Nancy Welch. “Introduction: Composition in the Age of Austerity.” (2016). [Critical Vocabulary Building]
- Ruben, Brent, Laurie Lewis, Louise Sandmeyer. With Travis Russ, Stacy Smulowitz, and Kate Immordino. Assessing the Impact of the Spellings Commission: The Message, the Messenger, and the Dynamics of Change in Higher Education. Washington, DC: National Association of Colleges and University Business Officers, 2008.
- Abendroth, Mark, and Brad J. Porfilio. “Introduction” to Understanding Neoliberal Rule in K12 Schools and “Introduction” to Understanding Neoliberal Rule in Higher Education.
- Olssen, Mark, and Michael A. Peters. “Neoliberalism, Higher Education, and the Knowledge Economy: From the Free Market to Knowledge Capitalism.” Journal of Education Policy 20.3 (2005).
- ADE Ad Hoc Committee on Staffing. “Education in the Balance: A Report on the Academic Workforce in English.” Modern Language Association. MLA, 10 Dec. 2008.
- Gere, Anne Ruggles. “Initial Report on Survey of CCCC Members.” Squire Office of Policy Research, National Council of Teachers of English, 2009.
- Explore Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor.
Unit 3: Narrowing the Scope
Guiding Questions: What conversations are prevalent in labor studies in composition? What factors influence labor in composition?
- The Wyoming Resolution (Trimbur, John, and Barbara Cambridge. The Wyoming Conference Resolution: A Beginning)
- The Indianapolis Resolution (Lynch-Biniek, Amy. The Indianapolis Resolution: Time for Change. Hosted on Composing Myself. Click through the first and second links.)
- CCCC Position Statement, Working Conditions for Non-Tenure-Track Writing Faculty; (April 2016)
- MLA Statement on the Use of Part-Time and Full-Time Adjunct Faculty Members
- Selection from Sharon Crowley, Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays.
- Hairston, Maxine. “On Not Being a Composition Slave.” Training the New Teacher of College Composition. Ed. Charles W. Bridges. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1986. 117-24.
- Berlin, James. “English Studies, Work, and Politics in the New Economy.” Composition in the Twenty-First Century: Crisis and Change. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Donald A. Daiker, and Edward M. White. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1996. 215-25.
- Doe, Sue, and Mike Palmquist. “Contingent Faculty: Introduction.” College English 73.4 (2011): 353-55.
Terms of Work
Brief history of Composition paradigms: CTR, Process Theories, Social Epistemic/Social Constructionism.
- Hairston, Maxine. “Breaking Our Bonds and Reaffirming Our Connections.” College Composition and Communication 36.3 (1985): 272-282. JSTOR. Web. 3 Aug. 2013.
- Selection from Bruce Horner, Terms of Work in Composition.
- Selection from Strickland, Donna. The Managerial Unconscious. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2011. Print.
- Knapp, Laura G., Janice E. Kelly-Reid, and Scott A. Ginder. “Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2009, and Salaries of Full-Time Instructional Staff, 2009–10.” National Center for Education Statistics: Dept. of Educ., Nov. 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2012
- Osborn, Eliana. “Faculty Working Conditions Are Student Learning Conditions.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Explore FORUM.
- Explore CompPile.
Zooming In: Research into Contingency
- Coulter, Lauren Sewell. “Lean, Mean Grading Machines? A Bourdieuian Reading of Novice Instructors in a Portfolio-Based Writing Program.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 23.3 (Spring 2000): 33-50.
- O’Grady, Helen. “Trafficking in Freeway Flyers: (Re)Viewing Literacy, Working Conditions, and Quality Instruction.” Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education. Ed. Patricia Lambert Stock and Eileen E. Schell. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2000. 132-158.
- Fels, Dawn, Clint Gardner, Maggie M. Herb, and Lillana M. Nayden. “Toward and Investigation into the Working Conditions of Non-Tenure Line, Contingent Writing Center Workers.” Forum 20.1 (2016): A10-A16.
- Wardle, Elizabeth. “Intractable Writing Program Problems, Kairos, and Writing About Writing.” Composition Forum 27 (Spring 2013).
- Wright, Allison Laubach. “The Rhetoric of Excellence and the Erasure of Graduate Labor.” In Contingency, Exploitation, and Solidarity.
- Penrose, Ann M. “Professional Identity in a Contingent-Labor Profession: Expertise, Autonomy, Community in Composition Teaching.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 35.2 (2012): 108-126.
- Additional selections from Kahn, Seth, William Lalicker, and Amy Lynch-Biniek, eds. Contingency, Exploitation, and Solidarity: Labor and Action in English Composition. Perspectives on Writing. Fort Collins, CO: The WAC Clearinghouse and University Press of Colorado.
- Horning, Alice. “The Definitive Article on Class Size.” Writing Program Administration 31.1/2 (2007).
- Haswell, Richard. “Class sizes for Writing Courses—Regular, Advanced, Honors, and Basic for 310 Institutions.” Self-Reported data collected through the Writing Program Administrators List-Serv, 1998-2015. Last updated Oct. 2015.
- Reidner, Rachel. “Where are the Women?: Rhetoric of Gendered Labor in University Communities.” Literacy in Composition Studies 3.1 (2015).
Resolutions and Responses
- Reread Wyoming and Indy Resolutions
- Reread all versions of the Principles for the Post-Secondary Teaching of Writing
- Wyche-Smith, Susan, and Shirley K. Rose. “One Hundred Ways to Make the Wyoming Resolution a Reality: A Guide to Personal and Political Action.” College Composition and Communication 41.3 (1990): 318-324. JSTOR. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.
- McDonald, James, and Eileen Schell. “The Spirit and Influence of the Wyoming Resolution: Looking Back to Look Forward.” College English 73.4 (2011). 360-378.
- Cox, Annica, Timothy R. Dougherty, Seth Kahn, Michelle LaFrance, and Amy Lynch-Biniek. “The Indianapolis Resolution: Responding to Twenty-First Century Exigencies/Political Economies of Composition Labor.” College Composition and Communication 68.1 (2016): 38-67.
- Horning, Alice. “Contingent Labor and the Impact on Teaching: Thoughts about the Indianapolis Resolution.” Literacy in Composition Studies 4.1 (2016).
- Selections from McClure, Randall, Susan McLeod, and Margot Soven, eds. Labored: The State(ment) and Future of Work in Composition. Parlor Press, 2017.
Unit 4: Pushing the Boundaries, Redrawing the Map
Guiding Questions: What is the nature of “resistance” in academic labor? How has scholarship responded?
- Adler-Kassner, Linda. “The Companies We Keep or The Companies We Would Like to Keep: Strategies and Tactics for Challenging Times.” Writing Program Administrators 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 119-130. Print.
- Cardozo, Karen. “Academic Labor: Who Cares?” Critical Sociology 43.3 (2017): 405-28.
- Pason, Amy. “Four Myths About Academic Labor.” International Journal of Communication 5 (2011): 1786-94.
- Kahle, Trish and Michael Billeaux. “Resisting the Corporate University.” Jacobin (28 Sept. 2015).
- Schell, Eileen, Tony Scott, and Jeff Simmons. “Thinking Collectively about Academic Labor.” This Rhetorical Life podcast hosted at Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society 2.3 (2014).
- Fedukovich, Casie. “WPA as Tempered Radical: Lessons from Occupy Wall Street.” WPA: Writing Program Administrators 37.1 (2013): 112-33.
- Giroux, Henry. “Should Part-Time Faculty Join the Occupy Movement on College Campuses?” Adjunct Nation. 22 Dec. 2011.
- Fruscione, Joseph. “What Parents Need to Know about College Faculty.” PBS Newshour (14 August 2014), and accompanying video. [Scroll down to the bottom for the video, Paul Solman’s report on “adjunctivitis,” featuring Fruscione.]
- Flaherty, Colleen. “Adjunct Leaders Consider Strategies to Force Change.” Inside Higher Ed.
- Kanna, Vani, Joe, Schicke, and Sue Doe. “Performing Horizontal Activism: Expanding Academic Labor Advocacy Throughout and Beyond a Three-Step Process." Literacy in Composition Studies 3.1 (2015).
Capstone Unit: Charting Your Own Path
Guiding Questions: What can be done? What is your role? Where do you see your influence?