The Moore College of Art and Design has been trying to crush its faculty for two decades. Since 1990, when it employed mostly tenure-stream faculty, it has been converted into an academic Wal-mart, with 31 full-timers on contracts and 70 adjuncts, draconian violations of shared governance and academic freedom norms, including a code prohibiting artists (!) from “doing anything that might negatively reflect on the college,” and, AFT alleges, a history of interfering with the union’s elections and bargaining.

When Steve Sherman, a popular faculty member of 20 years’ standing with glowing evaluations took the helm of the Moore Federation of Teachers in 2005, he opposed the vocationalization of the curriculum and, according to the AFT Free Exchange blog, became “a fierce advocate for the rights of adjunct faculty to receive pay and benefits commensurate with their full-time colleagues, and a champion of the faculty’s role in college governance.”

This is a particularly arrogant administration, as Scott Jaschik reports:

For example, in 2006, the college imposed a new “code of ethics” that the union believed infringed on academic freedom and amounted to a non-negotiated change in its contract. Among other things, the code barred employees from doing anything that might negatively reflect on the college. Since many art professors are themselves artists, and since artists regularly create works that offend all kinds of people, the union said that this effectively would limit their artistic expression. A federal administrative judge ruled for the union and found that imposing the code without negotiation amounted to an unfair labor practice.

Emboldened by actually having the law on his side, not to mention the AFT, Sherman fought the gangsters at every step, including a last-ditch effort to block a department merger.

In turn, they went after him hard, according to the AFT, who believed that the administration had already interefered with the union’s bargaining team and election process, leading to the union securing third-party oversight of officer elections.

Suddenly Sherman was acting “unprofessionally” at every turn, in every aspect of his working life–in his communications regarding governance, in his relations with students, etc.

After a couple of trumped-up “final warnings,” they fired him without any due process.

An arbitrator found that “Sherman was clearly “pugnacious” and used some “inflammatory” language,” but said, “I find no evidence that Mr. Sherman acted in any other fashion that would justify a disciplinary ‘final warning,’ including no evidence that he acted ‘unprofessionally':

the policing of diction that is short of slander or ethnically pejorative, or the penalizing of a demeanor that is short of threatening or assaultive, constitutes a censorship that is incompatible with the robust free-speech environment of a collegiate institution.

Better get used to this sort of thing, kids. The administration’s actions–what I’ve been calling “gangsterism”–were just great “quality management,” streamlining the institution to make it “market-responsive” and “mission-focussed,” and trimming the deadwood represented by any opposition to administration’s notion of “mission.”

But when you get tired of it, you know where to go.






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