Ward Churchill’s claim that the 9/11 victims were “little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers” has been cited repeatedly and rightly as striking evidence of the anti-Americanism of the campus Left. But Churchill’s hateful diatribe also reveals something about the nature of the labor system that makes it possible for him to pen such a screed. Those “little Eichmanns” laboring in the Twin Towers, he charged, “formed the technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire.”
A “technocratic corps”? A labor elite serving the “empire”?
If we really want to understand the meaning of this charge, we should look at Professor Churchill’s own working conditions in his own ivory tower:
With only a master’s degree in communications from a now-defunct college that was liberal in its grading policies, he was promoted to department head over several faculty members with Ph.D.’s.
He was earning over $100,000 in salary and over $3,000 per speaking engagement.
He has generous health and retirement benefits.
He enjoys the typically light course load awarded to tenured faculty at flagship universities, with time not only to pen the original essay attacking American citizens but to expand it into a book titled On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. For this, like-minded colleagues rewarded him with his third honorable mention for a human rights award from the well-connected and well-funded Gustavus Myers Center in Boston.
Given the extraordinary working conditions of Professor Churchill, his complaints about a “system” that purportedly rewards an insular elite and exploits marginalized workers is a sore test of patience—especially for someone like me, whose circumstances make for an illuminating comparison.
I hold a Ph.D., but labor as an adjunct at a small public college in Georgia.
My salary stands at less than one-fifth of what Churchill makes, $2100 per class.
I have no benefits, perks, or job security.
The adjunct teacher forms a crucial base in the higher education system. To sustain the hours and privileges of the elite professors, we handle the influx of entering students by teaching the large, labor-intensive classes like freshman composition and surveys, without pension or medical benefits—or, one might add, academic freedom.
Where is Churchill’s anger over the exploitation in his own back yard? It is embedded in the rank hypocrisy of a high-ranking educator living off the grunt work of the low while castigating the sins of his country. Every time I hear of a university paying thousands of dollars for Churchill to give a two-hour talk, picking up his lodging, meals, and flights, I think of my less-than-minimum-wage job spent working on students’ grammar.
Added to Churchill’s bogus egalitarianism is the fact that he rules over his institutional turf as tyrannically as any Henry Ford. Campus Leftists make it a point to deny employment to those who do not share their convictions, even spelling out the criteria in job listings. They block the admission of graduate students who appear unlikely to toe the progressive line. They control the class offerings and devise new curricula. This is the kind of absolute power that makes for little Napoleons, not social reformers.
In truth, Ward Churchills form the bureaucratic corps at the very heart of America’s leftist academic empire. They are not accountable to the market, taxpayers, administrators, parents, or peers or students who disagree with their views. I know from experience that they have succeeded in turning English departments from departments of literary study to departments of partisan studies. In short, these radical professors have colonized the academy and imposed their own hegemonic worldviews, all the while enjoying their indulgences by exploiting a large class of education workers.They have formed their own academic pyramids sustained by adjuncts. At one time diligent and intelligent Ph.D.’s could hope to enjoy modestly comfortable lives of scholarship and teaching; today, we have two tiers. At the top are those like Churchill. At the bottom are the adjuncts. We share a common office called the “bullpen,” where we are not even guaranteed a place to sit at one of the salvage desks when we want to hold “conferences” with students. Like the homeless, we haul our offices with us into the classroom: textbooks, folders, papers. While we do the bulk of the work, professors like Churchill enjoy the colloquy of graduate seminars and meetings of like-minded radicals. They get books published, earn the awards, and enjoy the limelight. From their offices high up in their ivory towers they pen their screeds against “the technocratic corps,” but do not even see those who labor under them, loaded down with papers, hauling files, followed by students, and searching for a seat and desk.