* ABOUT THIS PROJECT
In February and March of 2023, AUTOMAT hosted Office Hours, a programming series dedicated to highlighting issues contingent workers face in academia, particularly in the arts.
Over the course of the programming, participants discussed what it is to be students, educators, and workers in the university today. Together we looked into the troubling history and present trajectory of higher education in the United States, and we shared information about academic labor rights and resources for teaching and continued learning. We invite you to explore this digitized archive of paper ephemera and notes generated during our conversations together, including a syllabus of recommended texts and where to find them (some are free and are linked as PDFs).
AUTOMAT would like to thank all the educators and artists who generously shared their research along with their hopes and concerns for higher education and the roles we may have in it. The conversation does not end here, but extends beyond us, and is many-pointed and many-peopled. We are stronger together.
This programming was made possible with the support of the Penn Treaty Special Services District and our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas.
Organized for AUTOMAT by Addison Namnoum, Lydia Smith, Kate Testa, Jacqueline Yvonne Tull, and Mari Elaine Lamp.
* WHAT IS CONTINGENCY?
Contingent faculty in academia include research assistants, graduate teaching assistants, undergraduate teaching assistants, adjuncts, postdocs, lecturers, and broadly non-tenure track faculty. These are highly insecure positions with short contract lengths, limited upward mobility, poor or no access to benefits and working protections, and typically very low pay.
Contingency is on the rise
Contingent workers have come to grossly outnumber their full-time and tenure-track colleagues. According to the AAUP's 2023 report on tenure and contingency in the US, 68% of college and university faculty are now contingent. It's important to keep in mind that gig work figures are notoriously difficult to track: Some studies, including AFT's, put the percentage of contingent faculty closer to 75-80%.
Compare these numbers to AGB's 1969 report that 78% of US American faculty were tenured or tenure-track, and only 22% were off the tenure track. The ratio has completely flipped.
As tenured or full-time professors retire and universities increasingly face budget crises, administrations are eliminating these positions and are choosing to replace them with contingent positions. Tuition costs for students meanwhile continue to go up and up.
Who are your faculty?
The AAUP reports that a greater proportion of women and underrepresented minority faculty members are in contingent positions compared to white men.
The hiring of graduate student teachers is also increasing, up 44% from 2002.
Above: Foldable fortune teller zines by Kaitlin Pomerantz, 2023.
* EPHEMERA AND TEACHING RESOURCES
The following paper ephemera has been collected from the walls and work tables of the gallery. This includes teaching resources that participants shared, as well as their responses to written prompts and open discussion topics. In the teaching resources section, you can view art assignment ideas and suggestions for classroom activities & co-learning.
Responses to prompt: What are the realities of contingent labor, as you experience them?
* Working Conditions/Learning Conditions: A conversation on the contemporary university
panel with SHANNAN HAYES, DENNIS HOGAN, and ANDY HINES
* Feeling "Explited"
talk by KAITLIN POMERANTZ
* The Adjuncts Are In
open discussion led by AUTOMAT members KATE TESTA, TESS WEI, JAQUELINE YVONNE TULL, ADDISON NAMNOUM, and MARI ELAINE LAMP
* Organizing at the Art School
open discussion led by JOHN WOODIN, Adjunct Professor and Member of the UArts Faculty Union bargaining team; ZOE COHEN and EPHRAIM RUSSELL, Staff Organizers with United Academics of Philadelphia, AFT Local 9608; BRYNN HURLSTONE and OLIVIA FREDRICKS, MFA Candidates at Tyler School of Art and Architecture and Members of TUGSA, AFT Local 6290
* Assignment Ideas
* Activities / Misc Resources
Responses to prompt: What makes a good learning environment?
Concurrent Actions and Happenings
As of the 2023 Office Hours programming at AUTOMAT, the UArts Faculty Union remains locked in a multi-year struggle with university administration for a fair contract.
From January and March of 2023, Temple University's Graduate Student Association (TUGSA) went on strike for improved working conditions, increased pay, and fair parental leave. Tyler MFA Candidate Olivia Fredricks created this Risograph zine, A Little News sharing information about the strike and offering ways to support the striking student teachers and research assistants.
Also shown in the miniature newspaper are prints by Katie Garth which resurrect the mai 68 protests of France and the accompanying protest art created by the student artists of Atelier Populaire in support of striking workers. During the run of Office Hours, AUTOMAT featured Garth's prints inside the gallery. These were available for sale by Garth in exchange for donations to the TUGSA strike fund.
Responses to prompt: Share a piece of advice with us
Texts and further resources for continued learning. These materials were recommended and gathered by the organizing team at AUTOMAT, programming participants, and members of AUTOMAT's extended community of working artists and educators.
Want to see more AUTOMAT projects like this one? Let us know! Contact us via email at automatcollective(at)gmail(dot)com, or get in touch via Instagram.
AUTOMAT is an artist-run curatorial collective. We operate as a non-commercial gallery, which is a model that frees us to work on experimental programming, to partner with other community organizations, and to give a platform to emerging and underrepresented artists. You can support the work we do by making a donation here.