Labor, Creation, Production: Within and Beyond the University (I)
David Cooke (York University)
Response to Neoliberal Contractual Research
Contract research in NZ is a finely-tuned process in which the funding agency (the “purchaser”) strictly controls the research and the researcher. Purchasers routinely designate the research topic, direct the research process, can intervene in research procedures, own the products of the research, and can limit researchers’ subsequent publishing and presenting.
Serious ethical issues include(1) the ethical nature of the contracts signed, and (2) the oversight of research ethics procedures. The topic poses significant issues of equity, academic freedom and research funding.
This workshop proposes:
- a brief critical outline of contract research in NZ, including legal constraints
- an alternative model stressing public interest, the public good and academic safeguards
- contributions from participants on contract research in North America
- active responses and alternatives
Full general discussion is encouraged.
Bio: David Cooke, Senior Scholar, York University, previously Associate-Prof of English and Education at York. Worked in language education in China, Cuba, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and New Zealand. Now resident in NZ. Writes and presents on contractualism, workplace language and social justice. Member of the NZ Ethics Committee.
Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro (State University of New York New Paltz)
Lessons from Union Struggles at State University of New York New Paltz
Budget cuts since prior to 2008 to the State University of New York (SUNY) system, the largest in the US, have resulted in severely undermining an already semi-privatised state education institution, education workers’ livelihoods, and people’s access to the means of education. Though union representation is guaranteed in New York State, union struggles have been largely unsuccessful in overturning the onslaught. This seems due to several factors, among which are a repressive state apparatus, reformist top-down unions acting as Democratic Party transmission belts, complicit tenured faculty, isolation from student movements, top-heavy management, extreme inequality among university workers, expansion of contingent contracts, mass media propaganda, and craft-based union segmentation. This struggle over/for education institutions involves a multiple context-specific challenges, which impede organising and coordinating efforts within and between campuses. Relative to SUNY, a major issue is overcoming the problem of worker representation being an obstacle to workers’ struggles.
Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro works, presents, and writes on soil degradation and society-environment relations, as well as ecosocialism and working class struggles. He teaches geography, including courses on soils and gender and environment, at SUNY New Paltz. Among published work is a freely downloadable collection of critical geographies online and an edited volume on the European Union as an empire. He is editor for the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism and co-founder of Ecosocialist Horizons.
Anne-Marie Grondin, Scott Uzelman (Queen’s University)
A Small Victory in the Edufactory: Queen’s post-docs unionized
In July 2011, after months of legal wrangling, post-doctoral fellows working at Queen’s University were recognized as having voted in favour of unionization and representation by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). A former post-doc and member of the organizing team will recount the ins and outs, ups and downs, strikes and gutters, of organizing a unique group of university workers in one of Canada’s most conservative edufactories.
The Organization of the University: Social Struggles Within Neoliberalization (I)
Sarah E. Hoffman (Carleton University)
University Food and Collective Kitchens
Food is, of course, necessary to human survival. However, the type of food production, distribution, and consumption that exists in the modern world is not. The current food supply system fundamentally interferes with the ability of individuals to live according to their own conception of the good. This interference can be interpreted as capability deprivation as the current food supply system offers only one way to organize life with regard to food. The specific capabilities of health and safety and of free association will be used to articulate the ways in which the modern food supply system interferes with the individual’s capabilities. The production, distribution and supply of food should be of concern to all consumers because a distribution delay would quickly result in food shortages. While the modern food supply system presents itself as the only viable option (in terms of economics, environment, and industry) in which food can be produced for the current population, the population can resist capability deprivation through change that can be understood as either structural or personal in nature. The population can resist capability deprivation with regard to food by producing, procuring, and distributing food products outside of the modern food supply system. Resolving food relating capability deprivation will have consequences that extend beyond the food supply system. Collective kitchens exist in many universities across the country. They aim to provide alternative ways to organize one’s life with regard to food by providing ways to subvert and change food production, procurement, and consumption. Do the stated motivations, conceptions, and ideas of these organizations coincide with the abstract philosophical ideas presented? In what ways are the power struggles that exist between the university and collectives illustrative of the greater power struggles that exist between industrial agriculture and the consumer? What lessons can be learnt through the power struggles experienced by collective kitchens? Which lessons can be applied, and in what ways, to consumer power struggles to reduce food related capability deprivation?
Mark Wilson (University of Victoria)
Politicizing Administrative Rationalization: students, staff and instructors calling bullshit on the corporate university’s discursive defenses
This presentation aims to raise discussion about effective ways of politicizing and organizing against the corporate university, particularly on campuses such as my own (the University of Victoria), where administrative practices oriented towards corporatization and the centralization of authority are widely felt but NOT highly visible. In 2010, a collective of UVic staff, students and instructors set out to challenge this image through the Automated Project, beginning with a series of forums to build alliances between staff, students and instructors in identifying and addressing common problems that impact us all. The continued aim of this project is to build spaces for democratic discussion and decision-making among all those whose labour constitutes the university, producing a space that is increasingly hard to find on a campus that masks corporate managerial practices and centralization of power behind aspirations to excellence, measurability, accountability, and technological efficiency.
I’m based out of the University of Victoria (BC, Canada), and work on a number of community organizing projects: with Allies of Drug War Survivors, working alongside people who use drugs in struggles for quality harm reduction services; with the Automated Project, organizing against the neoliberal restructuring of the university; and with the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group, challenging police discrimination against people living in extreme poverty. My doctoral work focuses on the discursive construction of homelessness as a contemporary political problem, and the roles of academics and practitioners in the reproduction of this discourse.
Joeita Gupta (University of Toronto)
The Lawlessness of the Law Makers: An Investigation of Non-Academic Discipline at the University
Codes of Student Conduct which apply academic penalties for non-academic “offences” have been used to criminalize peaceful student sit-ins and smother collective bargaining by unionized workers at various Universities, on several occasions. This presentation examines the historical development and recent applications of non-academic disciplinary frameworks in the context of the neoliberal structuring of the University. Drawing primarily on research from the University of Toronto with occasional references to other similar policies at
different institutions, this presentation makes two interconnected arguments: that the genesis of non-academic discipline by the University administration is a way of managing student dissent, while stifling academic freedom and freedoms of expression at Universities which are witnessing privatization, corporatization, gentrification and implementation of market logic, at alarming rates and that these processes work in tandem- one would not and could not be possible without the other. Additionally, the presentation charts the use of non-academic discipline to specifically target racialized students, students with disabilities and others from marginalized communities. Simultaneously, the debate around the usefulness, efficacy and relevance of non-academic discipline at Universities and its seemingly valid justifications by both its avid proponents and concerned members of the University community, are inextricably tied to questions of equity and safety. This presentation unpacks how the competing discourses around the Code of Student conduct are amply exploited by the University administration, determined to use non-academic discipline as a political weapon to crush student and worker resistance. In its effects, non-academic disciplinary policies (which are commonplace on several North American University campuses) demarcate students as second-class members of the community, subject to different rules. The presentation is geared at finding some constructive solutions. It is not enough to say we should eliminate the Code of Student Conduct and similar disciplinary frameworks; it is critical to think of suitable alternatives. The presentation will examine some alternative models, chart recent student struggles to challenge draconian codes of student conduct on their campuses and briefly situate these struggles in a broader fight to reclaim the University as a site for struggle and debate.
Critiques of Knowledge Production on Campus
Jason Dolny (Carleton University)
Towards a New Ethos of Science: The Naturalization of Neoliberal Science
My current thesis research looks at how the construction of knowledge within the pharmaceutical industry is representative of a changing ethos of science by focusing on the practice of medical ghostwriting. Applying the theoretical concepts offered by Antonio Gramsci to this analysis I hope to be able to explore not only the emergence of a neoliberal mode of science but also how such a transformation is predicated on restructuring the role of academic researchers and institutions.
Jason Dolny is a master’s candidate in the Institute of Political Economy at Carleton University. His current thesis research focuses on the emergence and reactions to pharmaceutical ghostwriting in medical journal disclosure policies.
Heather Morrison (Simon Fraser University)
The Global Open Access Movement: Enclosure and Emancipation of Scholarly Knowledge
My work as a scholar and activist is on the global open access movement and its often successful struggles against the tendency toward enclosure and commodification of scholarly knowledge. The vision that I strive for is a global knowledge commons in which all of humankind’s knowledge is freely available to everyone, everywhere. An example of a recent struggle is the Research Works Act in the U.S. pushed by Elsevier and other publishers which would have undone the public access policy of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, now withdrawn thanks to the very successful Elsevier boycott initiated by mathematician Timothy Gowers. Currently in many countries advocates are working for policies requiring public access to publicly funded research, and for policies at universities.
Bio: Heather Morrison is a doctoral candidate at Simon Fraser University School of Communication, where her work focuses on scholarly communication and open access. She is also an adjunct faculty member at UBC’s School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies, and a practising professional librarian. Much of Heather’s work can be found from her blog,
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics
Mark Paschal (University of California Santa Cruz)
This is Not Our University
As US higher education formalized and standardized at the beginning of the 20th century, it did so around a notion of the ‘public good’ that operated against the interests of the militant working class. Liberal Progressive ideology, whose main theorists were the professionalizing academics and the disciplinary associations that came to exist in the late 19th century, relies on the cooperation of classes for higher productivity and a resulting social safety net. I will oppose this vision of higher education by looking at Workers’ Education efforts in the 1920s. For the workers’ education movement, the idea was to train a cadre of organizers and leaders for a broad based social and political revolution. It was education for the working class, not for social mobility. From here, I hope to engage in discussions on the organizing assumptions of North American student movements.
Bio: I am a ph.d student in History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. My project is a political-economy of US higher education in the 20th century. I sometimes write for Viewpoint Magazine