Towards Labor Justice: Documenting Implicit and Explicit Labor Expectations of Community College Faculty
In this project, Dr. Leslie Gonzales and her research team comprised of graduate students Stephanie Aguilar-Smith and Benjamin Espinoza, want to know (1) What are the explicit and implicit labor expectations of community college faculty? and (2) How do sa
In this project, Dr. Leslie Gonzales and her research team comprised of graduate students Stephanie Aguilar-Smith and Benjamin Espinoza, want to know:
What are the explicit and implicit labor expectations of community college faculty?
How do said labor expectations signal emotional labor?
To define emotional labor, Gonzales relies on the theoretical argument that she advanced with co-author David Ayers in a forthcoming publication. In this paper, Gonzales and Ayers argued that community colleges, which are acutely under- and unevenly funded, have externalized costs by extracting extra and emotional labor from their faculty. This labor, according to Gonzales and Ayers, does not necessarily tap into faculty members’ academic expertise or even their instructional charge, but from their emotional resources, including their sense of vocation. Said otherwise, Gonzales and Ayers theorized that extra and emotional labor has come to be expected of community college faculty.
This work is significant for three reasons. First, this work is important because very few studies have focused exclusively on community college faculty, their work, and their labor expectations. Second and relatedly, the field of higher education does not have a working body of scholarship or theories that reflect the concerns and context of the community college sector or this segment of the academic labor market (see Levin & colleagues, 2014; Townsend & Wilson, 2006 for exceptions). Third and finally, this work is significant because we are striving to frame emotional labor as a labor justice issue and one that renders particularly disparate effects on already marginalized and often minoritized sectors of the academic labor market, particularly contingent community college faculty.
Extant research reveals that community college students and leaders depend on community college faculty to play multifaceted roles. Indeed, students describe their faculty not only as instructors but as counselors, mentors, and advocates, and students' most consistent point of contact on campus (Fugate & Amey, 2000; Packard, Tuladhar, & Lee, 2013; Tovar, 2015; Townsend & Wilson, 2006; Wood & Turner, 2010). At the same time, community college faculty are largely employed on a contingent basis and the majority are subject to just-in-time hiring policies and lack reliable access to infrastructure that supports the accomplishment of their work. On the other side of the massive body of contingent faculty is a small (and shrinking) tenure-line or permanent stream faculty, which is pressed to handle growing administrative, accreditation, and other pressures attached to the audit culture that characterizes contemporary higher education. Taking into account this difference in faculty labor appointments, Dr. Gonzales noted the importance of studying, or exploring how labor expectations are articulated for these distinct subgroups.
The study is guided by critical advocacy research (CAR, hereafter). Broadly, CAR is a qualitative approach for studying organizations concerned and it is, first and foremost, concerned with equity and justice, rather than efficiency and functionalism, which drives much organizational thinking. According to Gonzales, CAR can accommodate various research designs that are often used for organizational research (e.g., case study, institutional ethnography).
Gonzales and her team have planned a collective case study spanning two years and two phases. “The selection of cases is a multi-layered process,” which according to Gonzales, is guided by an understanding that regional political cultures impact higher education administration and funding (Heck, Lam, and Thomas, 2014). Thus, the team first divided the U.S. into five distinct regions to account for regional political culture. Then, within each region, the team selected one state. And, because the research project rests on the assumption that higher education funding conditions are linked to the kinds of expectations placed on community college faculty, they selected the state whose public higher education institutions were experiencing heightened financial difficulty. To inform state selection, the team focused on downward trends in funding and/or where funding per student has persistently been low or declining; Gonzales admits that these are imperfect measures since states allot resources in differential ways (Dowd & Sheih, 2013) and dollars in one state may have different purchasing power in other states. After selecting states, the team selected a community college system that then reported the greatest imbalance between student-faculty ratios.
In terms of data collection, the team will gather organizational artifacts and conduct semi-structured interviews to explore the full scope of the labor of community college faculty. They hope that their work can inform the revision of policies and practices that shape labor conditions and expectations for community college faculty while also supporting labor justice efforts. (751)
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