National Conference on Contingent Academic Labor

by Mary Ellen Goodwin
December 8, 2000

Anyone under the assumption that the myriad issues facing part-time faculty is limited to California community colleges had better think again. As the nation's colleges and universities continue to increase their dependency on part-time faculty labor at an alarming rate, voices from around the country are rising up in protest, demanding equitable treatment as well as fundamental academic labor reform. In January, these demands will sound loudly in San Jose as part-time faculty activists converge at San Josť City College in an attempt to bring national attention to what arguably could be the single most serious problem confronting higher education today.

The California Part-Time Faculty Association (CPFA) is hosting COCAL IV: A National Conference on Contingent Academic Labor as part of its ongoing commitment to educate the public about part-time faculty concerns. This grassroots effort, scheduled for January 12-14, 2001, will hardly be an angry protest, however. While one of the main objectives is to expand the level of awareness of the threat to higher education created by the massive dependency on contingent labor, participants also hope to forge new alliances and establish a coalition among higher education organizations in order to create the foundation necessary to support work being done at local, state, and national levels to achieve progressive and lasting changes. By integrating the first two goals, organizers hope to set the stage for a National Equity Week, based on the highly successful A2K Part-Time Faculty Equity Week held on community college campuses across California last spring.

The conference officially opens Friday evening with a reception and banquet at Lou's Village in San Jose. The highlight of the evening will be an authors' roundtable at which several writers will discuss their recent works addressing the issues of part-time academic labor. The panel includes Cary Nelson, Academic Keywords, Eileen Schell and Patricia Lambert Stock, Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education, and Michael Dubson, Ghosts in the Classroom.

Saturday's agenda consists of an ambitious combination of plenary panels and interactive breakout sessions focused on organizing, coalition building, and collective bargaining as well as litigation and legislation. Keynote speakers include Senator John Vasconcellos, Assemblyman Scott Wildman, Linda Collins, President of the State Academic Senate, and Jane Buck, President of the AAUP.

On Sunday the plans for National Equity Week will be initiated. The focus of the workshops will be on developing a Bill of Worker's Rights for Academic Labor and on exploring possible state initiatives such as Equal Pay for Equal work.

Thus far, faculty from ten states and several Canadian provinces have registered to take part in what will be a first-of-its-kind organizing effort on behalf of part-time faculty. The conference has also received the support of over thirty local, state, and national organizations, including the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC), the Modern Language Association (MLA), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the National Education Association (NEA).

To view the full conference agenda, visit the CPFA website at If you would like further information, or if you would like to help out in some way, please contact one of the following:

Mary Ellen Goodwin
COCAL Conference Chair
Director of Administration, CPFA,
(408) 378-7888,

Chris Storer
Executive Council Chair, CPFA;
(650) 949-228,

Martin M. Goldstein
Public Relations Director, CPFA;
(310) 452-3777,

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