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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Class Solidarity On Campus, the Picket Line Begins to Form BY MICHAEL ERARD WILL TEACH FOR FOOD: Academic Labor in Crisis. By Cary Nelson. University of Minnesota Press. 1 n the fall of 1995, Teaching Assistants who were members of Yale University’s Graduate Employees and Students Organization called it “a grade strike”to protest Yale’s refusal to allow a union election. Allied with Yale’s clerical and technical workers’ unions, GESO wanted to negotiate for higher wages, health benefits, teacher training, and smaller teaching sections. Yale, strongly anti-union, threatened to fire approximately 250 striking TAs. Despite resolutions by several academic professional organizations \(the Modem Language Association voted to censure Yale, and the American Association of University Professors afuniversity filed disciplinary charges against GESO leaders. The strike was crushed. But something larger had happened. Long after the mud has dried on Yale \(with its anti-unionism, its $4 billion endowment, ident, Richard Levin, and select faculty members, what outside observers have made of the strike has become a manifestation of wider tensions over who does the work of university teaching and what they get in return. It can no longer be said that these conflicts are coming; they’re already here. As Andrew Ross, editor of the journal Social Text, writes in his essay in Will Teach for Food, “Few within academe are in the habit of making links between the corporatization of the modern university and corresponding shifts in its labor infrastructure. The Yale strikes have changed all of that, and now mark a turning point.” This book, edited by Cary Nelson, a professor at the University of Illinois at Ur is the same. In the modern university, a disproportionate amount of teaching is done by grad students. Graduate studentsan interesting name for people suspended between graduationsare burdened economically, as well as symbolically, with metaphors of apprenticeship left over from much flusher times. \(They’re also wilfully misunderstood by popular culture. Yale grad student Kathy Newman points out that graduate students are usually portrayed in movies and on television as “monsters, creeps, vampires, In such an environment, tenurethe last bulwark against teacher-as-disposable-unit is endangered too. But Will Teach for Food hardly laments the end of tenure; rather, several authors urge the tenured to take a role in innovating education and enhancing universities as intellectual communities. Without their democratic participation, their universities will lose sight of social and civic responsibilities and focus only on the reproduction of consumerist culture. This means collective bargaining for everyone. As the academic job market fizzles, writes editor Cary Nelson, “the overwhelming majority of graduate students, part-timers, and adjunct faculty will face either a worsening future or no future at all within the academy. It is time for them to secure a better present; that they can do only with collective bargaining.” Meanwhile, tenured faculty are endangered too. “Institutions of higher learning are by no means above exploitation or resistance, and the rules of the game are determined by the flow of capital,” writes Robin D.G. Kelley. “Thus unions are critical for defending university employees from corporate downsizinga lesson few full-time faculty want to acknowledge.” The labor problems are arguably rooted, in part, in what Aronowitz calls the subordination of the humanities to those disciplines which produce knowledge and training for the industrial and service economy. But Will bana-Champaign, results from the new connections. Using the grade strike as a thematic and historical center, the fifteen collected essays include analyses of the Yale situation as well as portrayals of the changing profile of higher education and its labor infrastructure. Academics from various fields, some of whom are GESO members, analyze the formation of an intellectual underclass: graduate students and part-timers who do the bulk of the educating of increasing numbers of undergrads. Simple demographics explain part of the crisis. In 1947, there were 2.3 million college students; in 1990, 12.5 million. Currently almost half of all youth enter college. Educating the new millions with tenured faculty entirely would break many institutions. The shift to expendable teachers, as sociologist Stanley Aronowitz demonstrates, accompanies the corporatization of the university, itself a consequence of increasing ties among industry, the government, and higher education since World War II. Furthermore, according to Nelson, “Bond-rating services express concern if colleges do not have a high enough percentage of parttime employees.” At present nationwide, part-timers do 45 percent of college and university teaching, making from $1,000 to $3,000 per course. The .facts have a gender spin, too: by 1993, 51 percent of part-time jobs were held by women. Grad students also contribute. At Yale, graduate teaching assistants, as a group, maintain 864 weekly “contact hours” with undergraduate students, whereas full-time faculty keep only 756.5. U.T.-Austin relies on graduate student labor as well: during the ’96-’97 school year, in the Division of Rhetoric and Composition \(where I am an “assistant instructor,” the U.T. term for taught 132 sections, and eleven faculty members taught twenty-nine. Such numbers need qualificationthey don’t reflect the fact that the faculty teach graduate courses, for instancebut the conclusion 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 18, 1997