Academic Labor: An Appreciation

Categories: Instruction, Research, Research Ethics, Research Skills, Supervising and Teaching Research Skills and Roles


Let’s pause this Labor Day to acknowledge and recognize academic labor.

Labor Day was made a Federal holiday in the United States in 1894. Labor Day is observed on the same September Monday in Canada, and at other times of the year across the world. It was originally a celebration of the power of organized labor and collective bargaining, but is now more generally a day to acknowledge the efforts of all workers. Given that most academics are not in unions, we will take this broader, global, perspective.

Many of us view our careers in academic work as a calling that extends beyond the boundaries of a job description. We carry out academic activities because we are committed to our fields of study, our colleagues, and our students. Whether paid, pro bono, or voluntary, academic labor makes a significant contribution. Like many types of good work, academic labor can be invisible, or noted only in retrospect when former students look back at the factors that influenced them.

Today, let’s applaud efforts such as these:

  • Going the extra mile. Generous faculty members willing to give the extra office hour, phone call, or personal email make sure their students “get it.”
  • Helping students manage affective as well as cognitive growth. Insightful faculty members understand that transformative learning often means questioning deeply-held beliefs and values. Such faculty members realize that while intellectual growth entails disruption, it can be painful or disorienting. They help students manage affective change– which is usually not on the syllabus.
  • Boundary-crossing to build mutually-beneficial relationships. They create impact by building meaningful connections between academic disciplines, between researchers in the academy and citizen scientists, independent, or alt-ac scholars, and between scholars and practitioners.
  • Showing real commitment in uncertain positions. Contingent, adjunct, and other part-time faculty are excellent teachers, despite low wages, insecure positions, and a lack of benefits.
  • Taking time to contribute. Volunteers run associations that support meetings, conferences and other activities that foster new thinking, offer professional development, and help disseminate research.
  • Walking the talk on ethics in scholarship. Peer reviewers for journal articles, book manuscripts, or conference proposals put in countless hours to ensure publication integrity.
  • Making things happen. Staff members, graduate students, and interns makes wheels turn and keep the proverbial lights on.

Thanks everyone!

One thought on “Academic Labor: An Appreciation

  1. Quite interesting tips in the article, thanks.

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