In this episode, we will pick up where we left off with Elif Birced and discuss how government becomes a source of insecurity for academic labour. Elif will also talk about the possibilities of solidarity against the precarization of academia.
Back in the 10th episode, Elif revealed different ways in which neoliberal restructuring of Turkey’s economy has led to the establishment of foundation universities and precarization of work conditions in social sciences.
Today, Elif will zoom in on the government’s direct involvement in politically contributing to the precarious working conditions in Turkey. She mentions three methods that the government uses in order to control universities and facilitate precarization. The first one is the state apparatus called the Council of Higher Education which has authority over procedures of hiring and promoting academics, conducting disciplinary proceedings and so on. The second method is putting pressure on foundation universities via its boards of trustees. Since the members of the board of trustees have business ties with the government, they are inclined to hinder or censor academic researches that challenge and criticize the government. The final one is the economic deterrents such as taxation on the businesses of the board of trustees’ members. The state has always been a power agent in the rise of bourgeoisie class since the foundation of the republic. Thus, governments can utilize this historical legacy of control over the bourgeoisie class via different economic deterrents.
In the second part of the episode, Elif will help us find reasons to be cautiously hopeful for solidarity against precarization of academia! During her fieldwork, she observed three crucial incentives for solidarity. The first is a court decision that constitutes a precedent for precarious graduate student assistants to sue the foundation universities if their payment and fringe benefits are significantly less than their counterparts in the state universities. The second is the existence of prior labour movement in their universities. Finally, Elif will show how the Gezi Park Movement helped graduate student assistants to question their working conditions and how it inspired them to initiate collective actions against precarization.
However, Elif will also mention barriers against solidarity. The first one is sexist behaviours within solidarity networks. With a striking example of asking women to “use their sexuality when negotiating with male members of the university administration”, Elif explains how sexist behaviours within solidarity networks have alienated women from participating in those networks. The second one is different class positions of faculty members and graduate student assistants. Intra and intergroup hierarchies within a university, as Elif will elaborate, prevents the construction of solidarity networks that bring faculty members and graduate student assistants together.