The NYT had a salutary article the other day on a subject practically no one knows a thing about—except for the relatively small number of those directly concerned—, which is the plight of professors who teach in American study abroad centers in Paris—of their precarious conditions of employment, lack of benefits, and low salaries (and which one would presume is the case with American study abroad centers elsewhere as well). The increasing use of expendable, low paid, no benefit adjuncts in American universities is a well-known scandal—and that the article mentions—but is generalized in the study abroad centers of those same universities—and with lower pay to boot—, even though welfare states like France are supposed to offer working people a higher level of job protection and benefits. Not surprisingly, most of the professors interviewed for the NYT article did not wish to be identified by name, out of fear of losing their jobs. An administrator at one of the larger Paris programs declined to comment for the article. Of course he declined. What was he supposed to say? The responses of those who did comment on the record recounted a certain amount of bulldust. Two of the offending institutions mentioned in the article I know personally (their administrators and administrating faculty—almost all Americans—situate themselves on the political left almost to a man or a woman but when it comes to their actions as administrators and the values that guide them in their relationships with those whom they have the authority to hire and fire, they would be right at home on Wall Street or in any corporate boardroom). And then there are some particularly egregious offenders—real bad apples—the article didn’t mention. The situation is not all somber, it should be said, as there are study abroad programs that do indeed show commitment to their teaching staff (and their loyalty is duly reciprocated), but, malheureusement, these are in the minority.
UPDATE: AJE has a relevant article (April 11) on “Academia’s indentured servants.”