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AAUP Completes Dream Team

cross-posted from howtheuniversityworks.com

Gary Rhoades, who transformed our understanding of the professoriate with the publication of Managed Professionals and Academic Capitalism in the New Economy, will join Cary Nelson at the helm of the AAUP in January. As director of the Institute for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, he is already a leading international authority on the complex of issues most pressing for AAUP: the assault on faculty culture by administration via the forced introduction of academic-capitalist values and practices; deprofessionalization and casualization; and the complex global-economic relations between state, market, and campus actors.

Taking on the General Secretary’s position, Rhoades will disrupt his existence at the peak of his career (with two more major books in progress) and relocate to Washington. There he’ll oversee tthe historical reorganization of the association into three interlocking organizations—the umbrella professional association, a labor union, and a foundation.

There really couldn’t be a better person for this job; what’s amazing—unless you know him—is that he was willing to do it. And the pairing with Nelson is brilliant, an irresistible one-two punch, two of the greatest thinkers about higher education since Dewey (who helmed both AFT and AAUP) working together.

Of critical importance are his priorities.

His career-long first commitment is to the issues of the new majority faculty, the 80 percent or more who serve as graduate students and off the tenure track.

He is equally dedicated to the issues of family, dual academic careers and work-life balance—toward making higher education a good place to work again. And he has superb relationships with AFT and NEA and may succeed in forging agreements for joint organizing with both organizations.

Watch this space for a video interview with him.

This is a good moment to join AAUP. I know many of you think AAUP works like the Justice League, with a fleet of black helicopters fueled up in Washington and a squad of tenured superheroes monitoring academic freedom on red telephones, ready to fly out to college burgs and confront administrations on your behalf.

That would be nice, I agree.

How it really works is that we have a tiny budget and staff, smaller than many discipinary associations and most of the causes you might think about supporting. AAUP is organized around grassroots, campus-level faculty democracy—a principle and practice that has eroded everywhere and nearly disappeared at a terrifying number of institutions.

Only a tiny fraction of the faculty are members, a few tens of thousands, and we get many thousands of calls annually for help from folks who aren’t members and who don’t have active chapters on their campus.

We do what we can. It’s amazing how much we do accomplish.

But if you want AAUP to work for you—and it can—ultimately there’s no escaping the fact that you need to participate. That means more than joining, though joining is a start. It means forming a local chapter and keeping it active.

It means asking your colleagues whether they’re members, and asking your chapter officers when the next meeting is being held—and making time for it.

Gary Rhoades and Cary Nelson probably won’t be donning spandex unitards anytime soon, but they can help you to be your own Justice League.

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