- October 29, 2012
- In technology
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Yesterday’s New York Times featured a story about the long-term plan by corporations to wring more efficiency out of their workers by limiting their shifts to part-time work. (The workers are miserable but corporate hires more workers — and doesn’t lengthen shifts — during the holidays and other peak times. Why, one might ask. ”“You don’t want to work your team members for eight-hour shifts,” [a corporate HR person] said. “By the time they get to the second half of their shift, they don’t have the same energy and enthusiasm.”
It’s easy to think that part-time worker woes are limited to the retail and hospitality set, the Target and Red Lobster laborers of the world. But then this article arrived this morning:
A proposal to phase out incentive pay for teaching online courses has become a sticking point in contract negotiations between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the system’s faculty union.
The system has provided professors with financial incentives to develop and teach online courses since 1999, shelling out about $5-million annually, said Kenneth D. Marshall, a spokesman for the 14-campus system. But system leaders have proposed cutting those incentives in negotiations for a new contract, and the professors’ dissatisfaction over that plan and other issues may lead them to strike.
At the risk of sounding like some kind of crazed Marxist, let me say this: while it’s more subtle than the software-based scheduling tactics used to cut payroll costs by large corporations, removing pay for developing online coursework amounts to essentially the same outcome: workers’ pay and benefits sliced thin, while management reaps the benefits. Calling them “incentives” is a misnomer, as though they were little carrots, elective and easily dismissed.
Let’s be honest here, though. Higher education teaching is quite different from doling out soft-serve yogurt. For one thing, the training is exponentially longer. : ) For another, one can argue that good teaching is at the basis of innovation, progress, generativity. Who invented soft-serve ice cream, after all? Who designed the machines that produce it? People with educations, that’s who.
Short-changing educators short-changes students. And that’s what you call ‘eating your seed corn,’ narrowing the pool of future creative thinkers and producers. This report from the American Association of University Professors politely objects to this practice:
”Although the needs of students, faculty, institutions-even those of the community-may justify the use of many part-time and adjunct faculty appointments, the terms and conditions of these appointments, in many cases, weaken our capacity to provide essential educational experiences and resources.”
That education has been subjected to market forces is understandable in the abstract, but heartbreaking in actuality.