Are Universities indifferent to “the realities of work in contemporary America”?

There are uncomfortable critiques of the Democractic Party as having abandoned the working people of American,** and an article in the New York Times gives us reason to see universities as deeply complicit in practices of exploitation.

Another way to look at the article is to see it as linking the scandal of underpaid faculty labor to other practices in the university.  From another point of view, it is a shocking article about the disregard for the rights of students.

Colleges and universities have become cheerleaders and enablers of the unpaid internship boom, failing to inform young people of their rights or protect them from the miserly calculus of employers. In hundreds of interviews with interns over the past three years, I found dejected students resigned to working unpaid for summers, semesters and even entire academic years — and, increasingly, to paying for the privilege.

And the link to a more general phenomenon:

The uncritical internship fever on college campuses — not to mention the exploitation of graduate student instructors, adjunct faculty members and support staff — is symptomatic of a broader malaise. Far from being the liberal, pro-labor bastions of popular image, universities are often blind (sic) to the realities of work in contemporary America.***

The article makes the magnitude of the practices, along with their problematic legal status, very evident.  Internships are not supposed to be jobs without pay.  Students have the right to profit from their labor.  Sometimes they do by way of credits.  But that seems hardly the standard case.

I should think the least we can do is to make student organizations on campus aware of this problem.  What do you think?

And, how much is this just a US problem?


**  See Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class

***  I thank Shelley Tremain for making us aware of unpalatable uses of abelist terminology, such as this one.

4 thoughts on “Are Universities indifferent to “the realities of work in contemporary America”?

  1. this has come up in my thinking, but it’s the employment field which WILL not admit intellectual relations to its labor or set jobs in the continuance of Academic study.

  2. I am a part time temporary instructor. I figure that each student is paying about $450 per three hour class, and if I teach 30 students, that totals $13,500 income on the class for which I am paid $1,500.

    They sent me an AARP survey that told me the official classification for those in this kind of work, “The Contingent Academic Workforce.”

    I suppose full time faculty may consider themselves underpaid, but the university is making money hand over fist on me.

  3. My bad, I fear. I meant “underpaid faculty” to refer to adjuncts at least principally.

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