A “Modest Proposal” Revisited: Adjuncts, First Year Composition, and MOOCs

I’m posting this at 37,000 or so feet, on my way back from Italy from an international conference on MOOCs sponsored by the University of Naples (more accurately, Federica WebLearning). Normally, I wouldn’t pay as much as I’m paying for wifi on a plane, but I wanted to stay awake as much as possible to get back on USA time by Tuesday morning and because I had some school/teaching work to do. Plus there’s a weird extra seat next to me because my row with three chairs has a row of four chairs right in front of it.

Anyway, I’ll be blogging about that in the next few days once I go through my notes and collect my thoughts about the conference and about Italy. In the meantime though, I wanted to post this. I was trying to place this as a “thought piece” in something like Inside Higher Ed and/or The Atlantic, which is why there is more “apparatus” explaining the field and the state of adjunct labor in fycomp than is typical of things I write about that here. But nobody else wanted it/wanted to pay me to publish it, so it will find a home here.

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Wanted at EMU: Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Writing: Writing Pedagogy/Curriculum Development

As the chair of the committee, I’m pleased to invite applications for a new faculty position here at Eastern Michigan. The ad is below and I’m happy to answer any questions anyone might have, but just a few things to mention not in the ad:

  • Here’s a direct link to the position on EMU’s academic HR site: http://goo.gl/9xYe0X
  • For all kinds of reasons, I think EMU is a great place to work. We have a long tradition of a strong faculty union, which I think has been quite successful in helping set the terms of work and negotiating good contracts. Our department gets along well with each other, and the colleagues I work most closely with in written communication are fantastic. We have a really interesting and diverse student body and a very well-established first year writing program, major, and MA.
  • I’m not going to lie, we do have winter here in Michigan. That said, I really like living in Southeast Michigan. The whole area is affordable, and there are nice neighborhoods within walking distance from campus (I live in one of them). As the home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is one of the great “college towns” in America in terms of libraries, restaurants, stores, bars, book stores, theaters, events, coffee shops, etc. We’re on the edge of Metro Detroit which has all of the trappings of any major metropolitan area.

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The Department of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University invites
applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor in writing with emphasis in writing pedagogy, curriculum design, and writing studies, beginning Fall 2016. We seek a colleague who will collaborate on the development of a series of intermediate writing courses, in addition to teaching first-year writing and teaching a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in the Written Communication Program.

Candidates will hold a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, Writing Studies, or a closely related field by August 2016. The ideal candidate will have scholarship, teaching experience, professional experience, and a research program reflecting a commitment to first-year writing, curriculum design, and writing pedagogy. The candidate will join an established, vibrant community of teacher/scholars, which includes nine tenure-track faculty in the EMU Written Communication Program.

All applications must be made online at: http://agency.governmentjobs.com/emichedu/default.cfm
Our review of applications will begin on October 15, 2015, and will continue until the position is filled. Application materials should include a letter of interest that specifies teaching and research agendas, a CV, a statement of teaching philosophy, and a writing sample. Please direct questions to the Search Committee Chair, Dr. Steven D. Krause, skrause@emich.edu, 612 Pray-Harrold Hall, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.

If contacted, you will be asked to present three letters of reference and official transcripts of your highest degree earned at the time of interview.

EMU enrolls approximately 23,000 students and offers an outstanding benefits package and a collegial work environment. EMU’s distinct mix of comprehensive academic resources, strong community initiatives, focus on Education First, and nationally-recognized undergraduate and graduate student research achievements set it apart. The EMU campus is located in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor community, five miles from downtown Ann Arbor and 35 miles west of Detroit, MI and Windsor, Ontario.

EMU News: When should concern turn to panic with the presidential search?

Loyal readers of EMUTalk.org will note that that site is no longer: the account has officially expired, though I still own the domain name and it is redirecting now to emutalkarchive.wordpress.com. It’s a free wordpress install that is a complete archive of the site, nine years worth of posts and comments.  And I suppose it could become a “real site” again, if need-be.

But as I always said, one of the main reasons why I hung it up at EMUTalk.org is I felt like it was all my voice and I already have a blog, one where I intend to keep posting the kinds of things I used to post on EMUTalk.org. Which brings me to my point, the EMU presidential search.

EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller sent around an email this morning with the subject line “EMU Presidential Search to be done in SECRET!” It sounds the alarm about the search process for a new president at EMU. You can read the whole thing after the jump, but here’s how she starts in her opening paragraph:

On Monday, September 14, 2015, Regent Crumm sent an email to the campus community announcing that the search for the new EMU President will be a closed one.  This means that the entire President search will be done in secret.  We will NEVER know who the candidates are – we will only know who gets the job in the end.

And then it kind of goes on from there.

But the added concern/panic factor is the EMU Board of Regents is using Parker Executive Search to find candidates, the same head hunter firm that the University of Iowa recently used in its hiring of a new president. And my alma mater has ended up hiring J. Bruce Harreld, a guy with no academic leadership experience, though he apparently knows a lot about fast food. In other words, the worry is we’re going to get stuck with a similar kind of business wonk, and not a particularly distinguished business wonk at that.

I’m of two minds about all this.

On the one hand, the EMU-AAUP has a way of leaping to conclusions, and I don’t think we should panic quite yet. Presidential searches are never “open” affairs. When EMU hired Susan Martin, there was a process where an executive head hunting firm vetted candidates and somehow we ended up with four BoR approved finalists (I can’t remember how they did that). Then the candidates all gave presentations and there was opportunity for faculty, staff, students, alumni, etc., to give input. But it was just input; at the end of the day, the Board of Regents hires the president.

As Moeller points out in her letter, the University of Michigan hired its current president completely in secret, which is the process I think they’ve always had. In other words, the board is saying we’re just following “standard practice.” Don’t get me wrong, I think the BoR should seek input from the campus community. But to me, Moeller’s argument against the way they did it at Michigan, that– “please note that EMU is not the University of Michigan”– isn’t persuasive.

As for Parker Executive Search: this is a company that does a lot of these kinds of searches, and the real problem with the sham hire the University of Iowa did for its president is the state of Iowa. It’s a long story, but all accounts suggest a political hack job that has a lot more to do with the (Republican) Governor and (Republican) chair of the state board of regents and their dislike of the University of Iowa and the Democratic voters in the county where the University is located. Plus there’s a complicated scheme in the works in the state to redistribute some of the money that U of Iowa brings in now to the other two state universities. In other words, the politics here in Michigan generally and at EMU in particular are very different.

On the other hand, this does have a whiff of something that could go bad fairly quickly.

I think one of the reasons why Susan Martin got off to a good start as president were the candidate forums brought the campus together and gave folks at least the impression that the board was listening to them. Skipping that process entirely could be bad for everyone, including both the Board of Regents, the search committee, and whoever it is they decide to hire. I mean, that’s why Iowa is getting such bad press right now; does EMU (and the Parker firm for that matter) really want to have similarly bad press?

So I guess I want to hear a little more from the powers that be about how the search is going to happen before I panic and/or send out emails WITH LOTS OF CAPITALS! But I think everyone agrees no one who cares about EMU ought to wait too long.
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