Posts Tagged ‘academy’


An arts degree costs $120,000 but the typical artist only makes $25,000 a year.

That’s one of the many facts about the situation and composition of artists in New York City generated by the collective BFAMFAPhD (which includes my friend Susan Jahoda) [ht: ja].

Here are some others:

  • Only 15 percent of the people in New York with an art degree actually make a living as artists. The rest? 16 percent work in sales and other office occupations, 15 percent work in various professional fields, 11 percent are educators, 10 percent are managers, 10 percent work in service jobs, 9 percent have not worked in the last five years, 5 percent are working in business and finance, 3 percent work in various blue collar occupations, 3 percent now work in science, technology, or engineering, and 2 percent now work in medicine. (See this chart.)
  • As it turns out, while the poverty rate in New York City is 20.8 percent (and the national rate is 14.9 percent), 10.1 percent of people with an art degree live at or below the official poverty line. (See this chart.)
  • New York City’s population is 33 percent white non-Hispanic, but 74 percent of people in the city with arts degrees are white non-Hispanic and 74 percent of people who make a living as artists are white non-Hispanic.
  • New York City’s population is 23 percent black non-Hispanic, but only 6 percent of people in the city with arts degrees are black non-Hispanic, and only 7 percent of people who make a living as artists are black non-Hispanic.
  • New York City’s population is 29 percent Hispanic (of any race), but only 8 percent of people in the city with arts degrees are Hispanic, and only 10 percent of people who make a living as artists are hispanic.
  • New York City’s population is 13 percent Asian non-Hispanic, but only 10 percent of people in the city with arts degrees are Asian non-Hispanic, and 8 percent of people who make a living as artists are Asian non-Hispanic.
  • Of the people who identified their primary occupation as artist in the 2010-2012 American Community Survey in New York City, 55 percent were male, even though only 42 percent of people with art degrees are men.

The portrait that emerges is an artist (or someone with an art degree) who, demographically (in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender), does not represent the larger New York City population and who mostly has to earn a living doing something other than creating art.

As A. O. Scott recently observed,

Nobody would argue against the idea that art has a social value, and yet almost nobody will assert that society therefore has an obligation to protect that value by acknowledging, and compensating, the labor of the people who produce it.


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The solution?

Posted: 30 June 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,


Many of us who teach for a living have to contend with students sitting in class who are browsing on computers and sending text messages on their smartphones.

Some of my colleagues have gone so far as to declare technology-free classrooms. Me, I allow computers (to read class-related texts and take notes) but I draw the line at the phones (and I have students who are surprised when I call them on that).

Is sniping the solution [ht: mfa]?


David Perry is right, at least in part: faculty members resist the idea of considering themselves to be workers, even though the new corporate university—with the dramatic growth of contingent faculty and the role academic administrators are taking on as the faculty’s bosses—is increasingly treating professors as mere workers.

We need to recognize that what’s happening to our universities is happening across the North American labor market (and beyond), and that we’re not special. Other highly-trained, specialized industries have turned to contingency work. Higher ed is no different. In fact, we could learn from the industries that increasingly argue that one must treat contingent workers as full members of the community.

Why not embrace the pressures that are falling on the university? Be proud of being laborers, identify with your fellow workers, and organize across the tenure-adjunct divide. Ultimately, it’s the only thing that’s going to improve the situation.

But Perry misses out on another dimension of the university: faculty governance. Because the new corporate university is not only reducing faculty members to the status of workers; it’s also undermining the idea of faculty governance.

So, if we’re going to encourage faculty members—both tenure-track and contingent—to see themselves as workers, we can also encourage them to look beyond their status as workers who are excluded from the process of making the important decisions in the university. To slightly revise Perry’s conclusion, then: be proud of being laborers, identify with your fellow workers, organize across the tenure-adjunct divide, and reclaim the faculty’s role in governing the university. Ultimately, THAT is the only thing that’s going to improve the situation.


After months of protests, New York University’s Student Labor Action Movement [ht: ke] persuaded the University to cut its merchandise licensing deal with JanSport “until and unless” the manufacturer signs onto the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

The JanSport victory caps a months-long pressure campaign to persuade the administration to incorporate the Bangladesh accord in its Labor Code of Conduct for licensees; VF remained an outlier by refusing to sign on. But NYU student Iraj Eshghi noted that it took a while to grab the administration’s attention, because “they essentially did their best to ignore us. We spent most of the semester trying to get meetings with the administration. We sent them letters, we sent them emails, they responded saying that JanSport doesn’t produce in Bangladesh.” They kept up the pressure on the main target, the parent company VF, and after they staged a sit-in, the administrators finally sat down with the protesters. Then, recalls Eshghi, they discovered the students were the last to be consulted after discussions within the administration and with outside labor activists.

Noting that “essentially they were going to ask us last,” Eshghi says the process reflected, in his view, a generally dismissive attitude toward students. “This was probably the biggest struggle within this campaign… seeing that NYU doesn’t consider us a large decision making force within the campus.”


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This past Saturday, on the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow coal miners’ massacre, students and many others joined the Washington University sit-in against Peabody Energy [ht: db].

As Jeff Biggers explains,

In an emerging public relations nightmare for Washington University officials, the sit-in against Peabody Energy ties entered a historic third week, as students continued to press demands after a faltering statement released yesterday by Chancellor Mark Wrighton.

“We want to make it clear that we are not satisfied with this statement,” the Wash U Students Against Peabody countered. “We plan to continue to pressure Chancellor Wrighton and Provost Thorp until they end Washington University’s relationship with Peabody.”

Let’s face it: With growing national media attention, growing outrage over Peabody violations, and growing plans for nationwide rallies against Peabody at its shareholders meeting on May 8, the moment of truth for the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees about Peabody’s toxic relationship with Washington University has arrived.

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Sometimes, good people who are doing good work get at least some of the recognition they deserve.

That’s why I was pleased to learn that Dwight Billings recently received the Cratis D. Williams/James S. Brown Service Award, the highest honor for service awarded by the Appalachian Studies Association.

In addition to all the accomplishments cited in the article, Billings has also worked with Kate Black to provide a guided tour of some of the significant materials—including the coal miners’ strike of 1931-32—in the Appalachian Collection at the University of Kentucky.

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In the case of the University of Southern Maine, it is an exhibition of courage and steadfastness—and ultimately delight—on the part of both faculty and students who were able to force the administration to rescind the faculty layoffs and to reconsider the other proposed budget cuts that would have destroyed the “people’s university.”