New Faculty Majority President to Speak on Need for Academic Labor Reforms
Maria Maisto of the New Faculty Majority and the NFM Foundation will give a talk titled “Strategies for Combating the Casualization of Academic Labor” at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 29, in 107 Hall of Languages. The talk is the final event in this year’s Ray Smith Symposium and is co-sponsored by the Labor Studies Group and the Departments of English and Writing.
Maisto is a co-founder and current president and executive director of New Faculty Majority and the NFM Foundation, affiliated nonprofits that work to improve the quality of higher education by transforming the working conditions of the majority of its faculty. In those capacities, she has coordinated a national summit on contingent faculty employment; written and spoken in both academic and mainstream media on the topic of contingency; and initiated or participated in building and strengthening higher education and cross-sector coalitions dedicated to reforming the contingent employment system.
Maisto says that casualization is a synonym for the practice of making work temporary, precarious and low-wage—and that it is an apt description of the current state of academic labor in higher education, where the majority of the faculty work on contingent contracts. Her presentation will explore the challenges presented by the unique features of academic casualization and the current state of activism to address it, with particular attention to inside/outside strategies.
Matthew Huber, associate professor of geography in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School, says Maisto brings a keenly informed perspective to the subject. “As both a teacher and activist, Maria Maisto has experienced, struggled against and incisively analyzed the challenges facing contingent faculty in the United States today,” says Huber, co-coordinator of the event.
Symposium organizer Crystal Bartolovich says the topic is deeply relevant to faculty of all disciplines. “As the University Senate and other groups at Syracuse University weigh the different teaching needs of schools and colleges, attempting to maintain flexibility and quality while avoiding exploitation, Maisto’s visit is both timely and vital,” says Bartolovich. “Although well aware of the pressures facing universities today, she nonetheless resists accepting the erosion of tenure as a given and urges faculty to press for alternatives to the relentless casualizing of their labor.”
In 2012, Maisto co-authored a report on adjunct faculty working conditions titled “Who Is Professor ‘Staff,’ and How Can This Person Teach So Many Classes?” The following year she testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, leading to the Democratic staff’s report “The Just-In-Time Professor,” issued in January of 2014.
Maisto earned her undergraduate degree in foreign service with a concentration in humanities and her M.A. in English from Georgetown University. She currently has ABD (“all but dissertation”) status toward completing her Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Maryland at College Park. She has taught courses in composition, literature and film as an adjunct in Maryland and Ohio.
The talk is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow the presentation.