ustxtxb_obs_1984_09_28_50_00019-00000_000.pdf

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IN THE 1960s, American universities filled with students who saw doctoral studies as the ticket to secure futures at hundreds of understaffed colleges, or at least as a good Vietnam draft deferment. By the late 1970s, this trend had clogged, for decades to come, the tenure slots of academia and produced an estimated excess of 40,000 Ph.D.’s in various disciplines. Any standing army of the unemployed of that size cries out for exploitation, and it didn’t take long for the nation’s citadels of enlightenment to figure out they were in a buyer’s market that would make the Korean textile industry jealous. The staffing patterns of universities began to change rapidly as administrators brought in temporary and part-time teachers at lower cost and less contractual obligation than for tenure-track hires. When enrollment boomed, temporaries could be added. When student levels dropped, temporaries were expendable. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about one-third of the nation’s 678,000 college teachers are now part-time or temporary, up from one-fourth in 1970. UT caught on to the trend in the late 1970s, as enrollment began to climb, peaking in 1981 at 48,145. Departments like English, math, foreign languages, history, government, and engineering had to staff extra courses. But the UT administration didn’t figure the enrollment boom would last and wanted to be, in President Peter Flawn’s words, “flexible.” Temporary faculty were hired, and in 1980 the rank of “lecturer” was formalized by the Regents as a oneyear, non-tenured, renewable appointment. In 1983-84, UT hired 309 lecturers. They were treated in different ways in different departments, but nowhere did they do so much for so few to so many at such a bargain rate as in the English Department. The Gathering Storm LECTURERS have been called “the field hands of academe.” Even if this is only partly true, it was obvious from the start that such creatures were just what the English literary bunch had been seeking. As far back as 1975, the scholars had interrupted their busy quarreling over each other’s pet theories to bemoan the growth of enrollment in required lower division courses. Since fewer and fewer people were ‘masochistic enough to endure the years of capricious grading, vassalship and cheap labor associated with graduate study in Institutional Literature, replacements for graduate assistants had to be found. Things were getting serious: two-and-one-half percent of the freshman comp courses were being forced upon the tenure-track professors in 1975. To this day, full professors at UT do not have to teach freshman composition. Other tenure-trackers can get by with one section per year and have teaching assistants to grade the papers. The lecturer problem is also a women’s problem. In October 1982, linguistics professor James Sledd, the white-haired, crusty radical whose lifelong opposition to department policies has made him a pariah among his peers \(“Nobody buys Sledd’s line that we’re morally bankasked for an update on the division of the composition work-load. He learned that of the 5,197 affected students, 50% were taught by lecturers, 42 % by graduate students, and 8% by tenuretrack \(including untenured assistant Maginot Line was holding. The Line extended around other terrain, too. Of the department’s 85member tenure-track faculty roster for 1983-84, there were 13 women \(including seven who had not received no blacks. At the lecturer and graduate assistant ranks, the percentage of women is about half, although blacks and Hispanics remain strikingly underrepresented. When Maxine Hairston, the only female professor, suggested the “lecturer problem” was also a women’s problem \(and a racial properly harrumphed by her Anglo brothers. In addition, the department had been graced in complicity with the administration by a plan, effective last year, to reduce the composition load by rearranging the nine hours of required English. Instead of two freshman writing students now must take only one composition course in the first year and another course during the sophomore and junior year. The ingenious aspect of this plan is that it factors in the projected 40-50% attrition rate of entering UT students. Delaying writing courses to the junior year will reduce the number of students . taking them and the number of lecturers teaching them. As Professor Sledd has pointed out, the plan also tends to reduce the exposure of entering minority students to writing courses, insuring that the current ethnic ratios of tenured faculty demographics will be maintained. All things considered, the literary scholars in the department had such a comprehensive grip on the action by last year that they were like Ulysses, with no worlds to conquer. Sure, lecturers had begun to request a little more gruel, asking to be told in May, as opposed to late August, if they were going to be hired again the next September. They also asked for better ways of reviewing their classroom performance, so that when they were ranked against each other for the annual hiring slots, they’d know on what basis they’d cut their friends’ throats. But, as every student of MacBeth recalls, ambition is a funny thing. The spring of 1984 brought in a new chair, William Sutherland, as well as a new majority on the EC. Some of them spoke of a “vision” for the department; they wanted to get the unsightly problem of lecturers and composition out of the way so they could creep back into their offices, the ones with the witty cartoons and posters on the opaque doorglass. Which is how they came on the plan to dump the dozen or so lecturer veterans and “gut” the freshman writing program. But as is the wont of hot young intellectuals, the new EC visionaries couldn’t leave well enough alone. Although lecturers had adapted fairly well to their peculiar conditions of employment, what they could not adapt to was no conditions of employment. And so they did what no aspiring academics ever want to do, they took a stand. The Insurrection of ’84 AIDED AND abetted by a few quislings from the regular faculty, including Hairston, Sledd, Neil Megaw, James Kinrieavy, , Robert Twombly, , Kate Frost and others, the lecturers pushed a four-week campaign of meetings, meetings, and meetings, not to make their lot any better but to keep it from getting worse. From the start, the lecturers and allies were accused of being “demagogues” \(the verb “demagoguing” is still apparently reserved for the and of creating a “political” issue. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19