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How The University Works » health care for all faculty http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress Mon, 21 Nov 2011 00:40:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.19 Police Violence Escalates, Day Five on Wall Street http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/296 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/296#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2011 16:54:39 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/296 Chanting “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” the protesters occupying Wall Street are digging in for a fifth day and circulating graphic images and video of escalating police violence and harassment.

There are several reports of hospitalizations due to brutal arrest tactics, such as this one showing a protestor tossed headfirst to the pavement from atop a pile of equipment. Police were using the pretext of protesters’ having covered their media gear with a tarp to claim they’d illegally erected a tent on city sidewalks.

Never mind that it wasn’t a tent, wasn’t on a sidewalk, and that every media professional in New York covers their gear when it rains without the police uttering a word, much less arresting them.

Other images clearly show the police causing injury by dragging protesters through the street, using intentionally painful holds, grinding faces into the sidewalk, etc. Apparently the media team for the Anonymous hackers organization were targeted for this special treatment.

For at least 48 hours, Yahoo blocked communications involving the occupation, and police are barricading streets & blocking shipments of water and food to the protesters.

The NYC chapter of CodePink has joined the protest, and promptly got arrested for “defacing” the NYC sidewalks with chalk.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, which has covered the story from the beginning, just published an op-ed, Why the Wall Street Occupation Makes Sense. She makes the right point about the mainstream media blackout: “If 2,000 Tea Party activists descended on Wall Street, you would probably have an equal number of reporters there covering them.”

previous coverage
occupy and escalate
big brother on campus
california is burning
will occupation become a movement?
grad students spearhead wisconsin capitol occupation
the occupation will be televised
the occupation cookbook
xposted: chronicle of higher education

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What Are You Doing for the Next Two Months? http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/294 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/294#comments Tue, 13 Sep 2011 20:20:09 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/294

On Saturday September 17th, movement organizers hope to funnel 20,000 protestors into Manhattan’s financial district, set up kitchens and tents, and occupy Wall Street for the next several months. Proclaiming we are the 99 percent, many of the 7,500 persons who have indicated an intention to participate are the highly educated working poor, under-employed with graduate degrees, or even fully-employed but unable to meet their education bills like this woman (see her blog and related stories),who writes, “I have a masters degree & a full-time job in my field—and I have started selling my body to pay off my debt.”After a Sept 1 test run resulted in nine arrests, Adbusters and Alexa O’Brien of US Day of Rage expect a vigorous police response, including intelligence gathering via the same social media tools that the organizers are employing, undercover participation in the event, provocation, and civil rights violations.

The Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild will provide a corps of trained observers in lime green hats and advises participants to ink legal contact information on wrists or ankles.

Want to participate? There will be co-ordinated actions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Austin, and a related mass demonstration October 6 in Washington DC. You can follow on Twitter and support the effort by sending donations to the food committee.

If successful, it will be the boldest project of the occupation movement on U.S. soil since the grad-student-led occupation of the Wisconsin capitol and the 2010 campus takeover and general strike in Puerto Rico.

h/t: Paul Farrell
xposted: Chronicle of Higher Education

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Every Day is Labor Day http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/292 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/292#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2011 18:34:28 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/292 Do yourself a favor and give five minutes of any of your 250 or so labor days this year to El Empleo (“Employment”), an extraordinary award-winning 2008 animation by Argentine illustrators Santiago Grasso and Patricio Gabriel Plaza.

You won’t need any help interpreting the film’s conceit, which makes visible the complex web of relationships in capitalist production: of workers to consumers, employers, and each other; between wage workers and those who transport, educate, and feed them, etc.

Enjoying that computer? A young Chinese woman poisoned herself and her future children while assembling it. Proud of your college degree? A male administrator got rich while degrading nontenurable women faculty to produce it, and a whole bunch of other folks who didn’t have your advantages have been labeled “failures” to legitimate your success.

Further study: Marx’s concept of reification, the way that human relations are mystified in market society, so that “a definite social relation between men…assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things.”

h/t Ali Zaidi
x-posted: Chronicle of Higher Education

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Don’t Follow Leaders: Why Faculty Like Me Support Unions http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/283 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/283#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 19:14:39 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/283 Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
–Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

On March 22, a prominent group of education bloggers agreed to provide statements loosely organized on the theme of “why faculty like me support unions.” Unexpectedly Stanley Fish, a career-long opponent of faculty unionism, joined them. “I recently flipped,” he confessed,”and what flipped me, pure and simple, was Wisconsin.” In particular, it turns out, it was reading new Brainstorm colleague Naomi Schaefer’s Riley’s assault on faculty bargaining rights in that newspaper you find under your door in cheap motel rooms:

What Riley fears is that if colleges and universities were unionized, teachers with far out, discomforting ideas couldn’t be fired. It’s hard to imagine a better argument for unions (and also for tenure)…. Riley makes no bones about it. Letting the unions get a foothold “could . . . make the environment more left leaning.” The message is clear: keep those unions out so that we can more easily get rid of the lefties.

There are layers of irony in Fish’s conversion on the road to Damascus, but it’s hard to argue with his reasoning: one of the lessons of Wisconsin is that academic unionism is one of the few effective bulwarks against ideological cleansing.

Framed as a dialogue between Walter Benn Michaels and himself, the piece is particularly worth reading for Michaels’ withering replies to Riley’s psychic channeling of Ayn Rand. After circulating the usual unfounded canard of faculty laziness, Riley quotes the chief executive of SUNY Buffalo comparing unionization to “belonging to a herd.” In reply, Michaels observes that his own department is amidst a union card drive and ranked in the top 20 nationally:

It’s the hard-working ones who want the union most. Why? Because we think that the people who actually do the teaching and the research should have more of a say in how the teaching and the research gets done. [S]ince when does having a voice in what happens in your own workplace count as belonging to the herd? The president of Buffalo, despite the fact that Buffalo is itself unionized, apparently thinks that rugged individualism consists in shutting up and doing what management tells you to do.

As you’d expect from someone who describes his view as the product of a “flip,” Fish’s contributions to the dialogue lack nuance and context: it’s hard to imagine that Fish has suddenly discovered that most faculty are a lunch bucket crowd, some of whom qualified for food stamps on the wages he paid them while whacking down a monster salary as dean.

In Fish world, faculty unions used to wear a black hat; now they wear a white one, and his realization came about because of what he saw on tv: a dastardly governor twirling his mustaches and tieing a virginal faculty to the railroad tracks. Only the white-hatted union can save the innocent now!

The reality, as anyone who has actually spent any time in the academic labor movement can tell you, is very different: faculty unions have many flaws–and nearly all of them are the flaws of the membership themselves.

The lessons of Wisconsin and Ohio, at least in part, underscore just how seriously faculty and their unions have blundered–how we as a profession have been selfish, foolish, mean-spirited and short-sighted. All the ways, in short, that we haven’t been any better than Stanley Fish but rather, quite a bit like him, or at least striving to be like him, cheerfully shooting hoops and piloting his Jag down the freeway while the academy burned.

Our Unions Are Not Heroic (Because We Aren’t)

So why do I support faculty unions despite their many imperfections? You could say that I’m a critical supporter of American unions generally: they reflect our virtues–too often expressed at the eleventh hour–as well as our flaws. Our unions are often the final barrier against unsafe roads and hospitals, ersatz education and filth in our food. Unions represent all of us, not just those who pay dues into them. A democratic society cannot exist without vigorous democracy in the workplace.

On the other hand, union memberships have failed to live up to their own ideals for most of my adult life–thirty years now. Faced with the difficult challenges of a politically reactionary era–such as hostile regulation, outsourcing, forced volunteerism, and perma-temping–union memberships in every walk of American life have taken the path of least resistance, securing the benefits of older workers and selling out the young.

The members of education unions have been no exception. Faculty represented by the big education unions have turned a blind eye to the hyper-exploitation of student labor, the conversion of jobs to part-time and volunteer positions, the outsourcing of staff and the hostile regulation environment governing collective bargaining in private schools.

But blaming “unions” for the failings of their membership is like blaming the hammer for smashing your thumb. It’s not the hammer’s fault if it’s idle while you’re sitting in front of your television instead of helping mend your neighbor’s fence.

I support unionism the way a carpenter supports tool use. Unions can be misused or neglected by their members, but they’re indispensable to the job of democratizing and diversifying our workplaces, maintaining professional integrity and autonomy, and sustaining high standards in teaching and research.

The current crises in Wisconsin and Ohio have many lessons for faculty in higher education and their unions. I’ll just put forward five for now:

1. Tenure must unite the faculty, not divide it. The single most corrosive faculty myth to emerge since 1970 is the ludicrous notion that tenure is a merit badge for faculty with research-intensive appointments. The biggest reason higher education unions are powerless is that we’ve allowed administrations to cast the overwhelming majority of faculty on teaching-intensive appointments out of the tenure system: “Oh, they’re not real professors, they teach in a less prestigious university/just undergraduates/in the lower division/community colleges.”

Compare this pathetic, near-total collapse of professional identity, much less of solidarity, to the response of police and fire unions in Wisconsin, who defied the governor to support other public employees not even in their own professions–even when he exempted their unions from the axe.

2. Maximize the movement, not the revenue. Organizing graduate students and nontenurable educators would have made perfect sense in terms of sustaining a labor movement in education. But education union staff operating unapologetically under “revenue maximizing” principles have been slow to invest in the movement’s future, scoffing at the paltry “return on investment” of organizing folks already so poorly paid. (Which explains the inroads made by UAW, AFSCME, and SEIU among the nontenurable.)

Ditto for private schools affected by Yeshiva: the big unions have made a few challenges to this decision–all in all, a weak and sleazy piece of judicial activism that only passed 5-4 because of swing voter Stevens, who apparently hadn’t yet had enough of what he later called “on the job training.”

Today, Ohio public-campus faculty are facing Senate Bill 5, a bitter plateful of the fruit of the major unions’ failure to confront Yeshiva. Having shrugged off the decision when it applied only to private campuses, the unions are in a far weaker position to contest the application of its principles to public faculty in any U.S. state–ginning up already not just in Ohio and Wisconsin, but Alaska, Florida, and beyond.

Things could have been very different. Addressing the hostile regulation environment of private campuses is similar to the situation of organizing in right-to-work states: it would have required much more effort and involved much smaller economic returns, but it would have paid off in solidarity, sustaining a broad-based union culture in the academy, which in turn could have led to a legislative solution… which would have prevented the present specter, of a domino effect, with “monkey see, monkey do” application in one state legislature after another.

3. “It’s a great job if you can afford it” and “I don’t do it for the money” are racist, sexist sentiments. I’ve written about this many times before. Even in Wisconsin and Ohio, the police unions are more diverse than the faculty unions–because the extreme wage discount unfairly segments the academic workforce by race, class and gender. Only a small number of persons, disproportionately white, can afford the extreme economic irrationality of most forms of higher education teaching appointments. Defending irrational compensation schemes on the grounds that persons who start out on third base economically are “doing what they love” is really defending a system that denies everyone else a fair shot at doing something they love. The struggle to make academic compensation fair is a struggle to enormously enlarge the academic talent pool: way too many black and brown intellectuals are working at the DMV, fighting wars, and walking a beat instead of teaching at the state university. Too many teaching positions are filled by persons who can afford to work for the status compensation of saying “I work at the U.,” rather than the most qualified.

Every time someone with wealth, parental or spousal backing, and/or high household income brays about how they’d do the job for free, they put another brick in the wall in front of those who don’t have those advantages.

4. There is no democracy without active, embodied participation. Emma Goldman shocked the feminists of her day by saying that they shouldn’t prioritize winning the vote, that voting can provide the satisfying feeling of political participation without the substance. The struggle in Wisconsin has made clear to faculty that our politics can never be just teaching and writing, but has to be made real with boots on the ground and bodies in the street. If every professor’s coffee-shop oration and blog comment were instead a knock on the door in the effort to recall the power-grabbing state senators, the battle would already be won.

5. Leadership comes from below. It’s hardly accidental that Walter Benn Michaels’ grad students unionized a decade before he did. The cutting edge of education unionism always has been, and remains, the working-class intellectualism of ordinary schoolteachers and parents. In the far less accomplished sector of higher ed, the best thinking can often be found among graduate students and nontenurable faculty, who represent nearly eighty percent of the teaching force.

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Beyond Yeshiva: NLRB Tackles Both Church and State http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/280 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/280#comments Wed, 19 Jan 2011 18:02:23 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/280 You don’t know the name Elbert F. Tellem, but you will. Just last week, as the acting Director of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) District 2, Tellem issued a potentially historic decision green-lighting contingent-faculty unionization at Catholic-affiliated Manhattan College. In the process, he threaded his way through some of the most dishonest law in the country, throwing the NLRB’s support behind the human rights of faculty serving contingently at many religiously-affiliated institutions.

This is the front lines of academic labor struggle, pitting the moral force of the NLRB against a conservative, reactionary Federal court that refuses to enforce its rulings and the arrogant hypocrisy of wealthy, influential religiously-affiliated administrations.

Legal Fictions: Great Falls

The terrain of this struggle is far beyond the Yeshiva decision, which applies only to the minority of tenurable faculty (on the basis of the specious claim that they are managerial employees). Since ¾ of today’s faculty are graduate students or lecturers on casual appointment, they can hardly be described as managerial, and can’t be denied bargaining rights by way of Yeshiva.

Instead, today, private institutions with a religious affiliation rely on the claim that employees at “religious institutions” should be sweepingly excluded from National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protections. (As if being forced to bargain collectively with groundskeepers, secretaries and writing instructors might interfere with their “religious liberty,” an argument that could be made with the same merit about obeying traffic laws.)

While the NLRB has consistently distinguished between institutions with a substantial religious character and those with a religious affiliation, a 2002 D.C. Circuit Court opinion involving the University of Great Falls, a small Montana institution, radically undermined the Board’s authority, substituting a very loose religious-exemption test for the NLRB’s stricter standard.

Under Great Falls, courts may compel the NLRB to accept at face value the claims to a religious exemption of any institution that “presents itself to the public” as a religious institution.

Denying NLRB the power to distinguish between real and false claims to the exemption is a transparent assault on long-established employee rights and protections. Under the Great Falls ruling, essentially, any employer that claims the exemption may have it.

And unlike Yeshiva, the ruling applies comprehensively–to part-time faculty, students, and non-teaching staff.

This sweeping and radical new barrier to organizing came into being in much the same way that Yeshiva did, with the determination of a conservative activist Circuit Court judge. Backed by Jesse Helms and appointed by Ronald Reagan to fill the seat vacated by Antonin Scalia’s elevation to the Supreme Court, and at this writing the chief justice of the D.C. Circuit, David Sentelle has been described by The New York Times as “one of the federal judiciary’s most extreme conservatives.”*

Sentelle’s vote was instrumental in overturning the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter. He replaced the moderate Robert Fiske with the right-wing ideologue Kenneth Starr as independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation. A long-term Republican party operative, even four years after his appointment to the federal bench, Sentelle was still publishing right-wing screeds against “leftist heretics” who he claimed sought to establish “a collectivist, egalitarian, materialistic, race-conscious, hyper-secular, and socially permissive state.”

Sentelle’s transparently activist opinion in Great Falls gutted the NLRB’s authority so far beyond reason that several attempts have been mounted as a test of the ruling.

The best of these before Manhattan College came forward in March 2009, during the first year of the Obama administration. Fully supported by the NLRB’s ruling that the school’s ties to the Presbyterian Church were too insubstantial to justify a religious exemption, the UAW-affiliated faculty of Carroll College, like the faculty of Yeshiva, simply came to Federal court seeking enforcement of the Board’s ruling in its case.

But who did the NLRB and the faculty union find waiting for them? A fellow named Thomas Griffith, who arrived at the D.C. Circuit Court directly from a five-year stint as general counsel and assistant to the president of Brigham Young University.

Unsurprisingly for the recent former general counsel of a religiously-affiliated university, Griffith’s 2009 opinion in the Carroll case bluntly applies the 2002 ruling advanced by his sitting chief: “Under Great Falls, Carroll is exempt from the NLRB’s jurisdiction. We thus need not address Carroll’s argument that its faculty members are managerial employees who fall outside the protection of the NLRA. We grant Carroll’s petition for review, vacate the decision and order of the NLRB, and deny the Board’s cross-petition for enforcement.”

*New York Times, August 17, 1994. Qtd in Joe Conason and Gene Lyons. The Hunting of the President. Macmillan, 2000, p131 (cited p 387).

Tellem’s Stand: Against the DC Circuit Court

With his decision in the Manhattan College case, Tellem is clear about the nature of the struggle: “The D.C. Circuit has refused to enforce Board cases asserting jurisdiction based on the Board’s test. Instead, the D.C. Circuit has set forth” its own test, which the NLRB “has not adopted.”

By highlighting the Circuit Court’s activist intervention and NLRB’s resistance–in a decision that will likely be contested in that same Circuit Court, with David Sentelle still sitting as its chief–Tellem is placing the court on notice that the NLRB will continue to affirm its constitutional right to jurisdiction.

Waiting for Tellem?

It’s not clear how the Manhattan College struggle will turn out.

What is clear is that decisions made by Tellem and the NLRB don’t make faculty self-organization possible.

It’s the other way around: Faculty self-organization makes it possible for Tellem to make decisions like this one. The Manhattan College faculty serving contingently have been fighting this battle for well over a decade and will keep fighting it.

When we face shabby rulings like Great Falls, does it make sense for us to assume that the decision proceeded from ultimately reasonable arguments advanced by truth-seekers? Are they arguments put forward in an adversarial system but refereed with a reasonable degree of impartiality and with the prospect of eventual accountability in higher courts?

Of course not. We need to see clearly that these are specious, intellectually dishonest arguments by activist reactionaries abusing the power of the bench to deny fundamental human rights.

We need to see clearly that these rulings are the product of a flawed, inherently political process that is likely to disadvantage both truth and justice for decades to come. Few observers would say, for instance, that the current Supreme Court is the place to test David Sentelle’s opinion in Great Falls.

But if the Supreme Court can’t help us, what should we do? If the United Auto Workers and American Federation of Teachers aren’t willing to spend any more of their resources fighting a reactionary judiciary, what should we do?

Ultimately what Yeshiva (1980), Great Falls (2002) and Carroll (2009) teach us is simple: what matters more than the law is the movement. The individuals who used (or abused) their power in these decisions were part of a social reaction to liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s, including workplace democracy, feminism, and civil rights.

They aren’t lone wolves; they’re conservative activists bound in a net of common culture, values, and mutual support. They didn’t have law, precedent, or reason on their side; they simply imposed their reactionary will and made new law out of the power represented by their movement.

It would be tremendously foolish if we permitted any of these rulings to constrain us.

We can build a movement with the students, nurses, young lawyers, schoolteachers, and countless others affected by exploitative and super-exploitative patterns of employment.

We can overcome this dense lattice of hostile law. We can and must imitate the 1960s movement of public employees whose self-organization was illegal and yet also an unstoppable force for writing new law reflecting truth, justice, fairness, and democracy.

From the perspective of our individual campuses: Is Yeshiva relevant? Are Great Falls and Carroll?

Not to a movement, no—no more so than any of the thousands of municipal statutes once theoretically constraining the movement of schoolteachers and sanitation workers. The tightest straps on those schoolteachers and sanitation workers were never the law; they were emotional and intellectual and habitual—habits of deference to, and trust in, authority.

They burst free. We can too.

Partly adapted from a recent contribution to Expositions

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What Contingent Faculty Really Want? http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/248 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/248#comments Mon, 22 Mar 2010 18:19:16 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/248 A new survey conducted for AFT adds confusion to the already muddled debate about the majority of faculty serving outside the tenure system. Ultimately the union is interested in a particular problem–organizing–for which in many states part-time status represents a legal boundary for the construction of bargaining units.

This legalistic definition of the group, and the “who’s the market for our services” orientation makes perfect sense for AFT. But it’s not a particularly good standpoint for analysis.

The problem is that the study focusses on part-time faculty to the exclusion of all the other major categories of non-track faculty, including full-time nontenurable, graduate students, post-docs, staff, etc.

This narrow focus skews the perception of what faculty serving nontenurably “want.” We already know, for instance, that nearly 100% of those in full-time nontenurable positions prefer full-time work. Likewise we know that most disciplines most graduate employees and postdocs want full-time tenurable positions.

As a result, the survey’s suggestion that “only” half of all part-time faculty would prefer full-time work misses the mark. What this really means is something more like seventy-five percent of all faculty (those teaching perhaps ninety percent of all classes) prefer full-time work.

The story being reported out of the survey is the part that isn’t news: The roughly 1/4 of all faculty who are moonlighting and teaching a course or two for love are happy with a psychic wage. (“I teach at the u,” over golf or mah-jong, delivers status compensation with both friends and professional associates in one’s primary profession.)

Asking this question of these people is a a little bit like surveying folks in a burger joint and “discovering” that they eat meat. Of course those who are teaching avocationally are mostly satisfied with working part-time.

When read critically, the survey means something very different: It has discovered that roughly half of the people in the burger joint are actually vegetarians! And even quite a few of the meat eaters think the fare could be improved.

That’s the interesting result–that half of all part-timers are trying to get something that isn’t on the menu. And most of the scholarship suggests that we’d all be a lot healthier if what they wanted (full academic citizenship) was available to them.

In short, at least half of all part-timers are more like all other teachers than the other part-timers with an avocational relationship to the job.

While useful for a union that needs to understand the complex “market” for part-time representation, this survey could have been a  lot more helpful by clearly separating the avocational faculty from those who espouse college teaching as a profession.

Better surveys

We need to ask tougher questions of this kind of data. Here are just three for starters:

Q. Is there anything wrong with converting college teaching to lightly paid volunteerism?

A. In addition to consequences for students, it would seem to contribute to the race, class and gender segmentation of the workforce, as I’ve previously remarked in posts on Obama, on a better AFT report, and in my credo (We Work) for minnesota review.  Police departments are often far more ethnically diverse than English departments, despite decades of elaborate affirmative hiring efforts.

Women are commonly disproportionately shunted into part-time and nontenurable positions. It’s hardly an accident that since 1970, when women began to stream into higher education teaching, that tenure began to be steadily reconceived as a privilege for research-intensive faculty.

When teaching-intensive positions were held overwhelmingly by men, they were mostly tenurable. Now that they are held disproportionately by women in many fields, most teaching-intensive positions are not tenurable.

This line of analysis ultimately pushes uncomfortable questions: not who is teaching, but who should be teaching?

Q. How many classes are the satisfied faculty teaching vs. the unsatisfied?

A. It would appear that the unsatisfied teach more classes than the satisfied, often at multiple institutions. The conditions with which they are dissatisfied have a larger impact.

Q. What unites the dissatisfaction of the dissatisfied part-timers with other faculty, grad students, and post-docs?

A. The demand for more security, better pay, due process, a fair return on educational attainment, more equitable participation in professional decision-making, et cetera.

In between the satisfied fraction of the tenured and the satisfied fraction of the moonlighers are the majority of all faculty–teaching the highest proportion of students, including the most at-risk students–with profound, frequently shared dissatisfactions about conditions that most analysis shows has an impact on student retention and success.


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Higher Ed Inspires Labor “Videos of the Year” http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/247 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/247#comments Tue, 16 Mar 2010 19:20:57 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/247


Eric Lee’s Labour Start clearinghouse for global labor news has just announced nominees for its first-ever award, Labor Video of the Year. Two of the five finalists are inspired by working conditions in higher ed. I think both are among the three likeliest to win.

My top choice is the clever, often hilarious series of 30-second spots produced for the three-month strike by the union representing 50% of the teaching faculty at Canada’s York University, CUPE 3903.

Eventually ended by an extraordinary legislative intervention, this legal job action was strongly supported by undergraduates and tenure-stream faculty, who joined the picket lines of contingent faculty and grad students at this leading research institution.

Featuring extremely high production values and great writing, the videos use just a few frames to effectively communicate the hypocrisy of the administration, and the explotation of contingent faculty and graduate students.

A close runner-up is The Janitor, tracking the daily experiences of campus custodial staff–many of whom are also current or former students.

In my view the strongest competition to both entries is provided by a snarky Australian effort, What Have the Unions Ever Done For Us? (Answer: duh, pretty much everything you take for granted in terms of the workplace, from sick leave to the eight-hour day.)

If you’re interested, LS offers a comprehensive bibliography of labor video. You can view and vote on all of the videos in this year’s competition yourself.

Other Left-Labor News

Don’t miss this year’s amazing line-up at Left Forum this weekend in NYC, including plenty of discussion of California events, and featured remarks by Piven, Jackson, Ollman, and Chomsky, among hundreds of others.

AAUP members, please be sure to vote in this year’s officer elections. Cary Nelson is up for re-election, and for the first time non-geographical at-large candidates are up for election to the national Council, representing a lot of new blood for the organization. (I was, ahem, on the nominating commitee, so I know.)

California update

As I wrote in advance of the national day of action on March 4, those events were just the second act. The real question is what will happen when the West Coast schools begin their third quarter in early April. At UC Irvine, the possibilities are foreshadowed by a call for an M4 sequel, or a wave of occupations and other bold direct actions (like the blockade of freeway 1-880) on Tuesday, May 4, the 40th anniversary of the Kent State killings. I’ll write more about these events as the time nears.

By the way, if you are among the modest handful disappointed by my having to cancel out of the UC-Irvine Humanities Center colloquium last month, I’ll be up the road at UCLA on Monday afternoon, May 3, doing a tag-team event with Chris Newfield for Robert Brenner’s Center for Social Theory and Comparative History. The topic, unsurprisingly: “The Future of Public Higher Education in California.”

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Learning to Remember: After March 4 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/245 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/245#comments Wed, 03 Mar 2010 00:24:03 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/245

I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand
for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.
I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and
makes me work and give up what I have. And I

It began with a handful of direct actions and refusals–bold occupations, sit-ins, a one-day strike and walkout, and a manifesto that fired the imaginations of students planetwide.

Today it is a mass movement, with marches and pickets across the country scheduled for Thursday’s National Day of Action. The hope and the stories will keep coming all weekend. If you jump a bus for Sacramento, you might get a seat next to Etienne Balibar. If you try to enter the UC Santa Cruz campus–the epicenter of the movement–thousands of students and workers will be picketing every gate. Over a hundred major actions are scheduled.

But Tuesday morning, March 8 will begin the next news cycle. Where will the movement be then?

It might look a little bit like this video. Give it ten seconds. I’m pretty sure you’ll watch it to the end.

While there seems to be endless conversation about the violence of smashing windows and the damage to the movement done by spontaneous action, there is a notable absence of discussion about the violence of class division in American society and its relationship with higher education.

Is the movement so fragile that a smashed window destroys it–yet broken bodies don’t bring it to boiling point? We are told that the streets must be policed in order to be safe–that no one will join us–that people who would have supported the cause are now frightened to participate. Yet what we see is laughter, dancing and a freedom that is not possible to describe in the language of everyday capitalism. How, we must ask, is a movement that collapses under the weight of overturned trash cans going to withstand the presence of millions of people challenging their relationship to the economy?

As I listened to this young voice, I could not help but think: “This is Carl Sandburg with a video camera.”


I AM the people–the mob–the crowd–the mass.

Do you know that all the great work of the world is
done through me?

I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the
world’s food and clothes.

I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons
come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And
then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.

I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand
for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.
I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and
makes me work and give up what I have. And I

Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red
drops for history to remember. Then–I forget.

When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the
People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer
forget who robbed me last year, who played me for
a fool–then there will be no speaker in all the world
say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a
sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob–the crowd–the mass–will arrive then.

Flyers and posters
Pamphlets and powerpoints
Planning on getting arrested? (ACLU pdf)
California occupation movement blog
New York occupation movement blog
United States Student Association

Notes on the European occupations (pdf)
Most important conference of the decade
on the occupation movement: Minneapolis, April 8-11

related posts
California is Burning
Occupation Movement Sweeps California
Berkeley Standoff via Microblog
Students Occupy UC President’s Office
UC Davis Occupiers Force Negotiations
Occupy the AHA!
Occupy and Escalate (AAUP)
Inside the Barricades (AAUP)

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We’re All Oakland AAUP http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/211 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/211#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2009 14:14:45 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/211

I’m acquainted with Joel Russel, chemistry prof and president of the AAUP chapter at Michigan’s Oakland University. Courteous, soft-spoken and gentle to the point of self-effacement, he’s naturally conflict-avoidant and careful with his speech.

But yesterday’s scheduled start of classes found him walking a picket line with most of his colleagues and several hundred supportive students, determined to hold the administration of his institution accountable to students and the public.

Administrative Opportunism:
“Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste”

Oakland’s administration, Russell contends, is engaging in a version of the sleazy managerial opportunism sweeping the country–using claims of fiscal crisis as a form of extortion, to seize even more control of the institution’s mission, raise tuition and fees and further impoverish the faculty.

(Only about a quarter of all faculty today are even eligible for tenure*; in many traditional humanities and science disciplines, even this minority earn wages similar to those of bartenders and waitstaff–a fact that has real consequences for the class, race, and gender segmentation of the academic workforce.)

As Russell told the Chron, “The Michigan economic crisis is real. Oakland’s is not.”

Citing several reports of the institution’s excellent financial health, the chapter’s website includes the AAUP chapter’s opposition to steep rises in tuition during the summer of 2009 and previously. Meeting with the trustees’ finance committee, Russell documented ten million dollars in faculty givebacks (on pension contributions) and annual tuition increases averaging almost ten percent.

“Our employees have made the sacrifices and our students have paid steep tuition increases while the university has chosen to build its reserve accounts,” Russell said.

“The time has come to consider spending some of the extra tuition dollars you have collected in the past rather than asking students to help you build even higher reserves.”

What is really going on, the AAUP chapter contends, is an unfair labor practice–the administration is not bargaining in good faith, counting on the claims of “crisis” to give them carte blanche at the bargaining table and before an administrative law judge, who will rule on whether the chapter membership can continue to withold its services legally. (If the judge agrees that management is violating its obligation to bargain in good faith, the job action can legally proceed.)

Normally at this point in a bargaining cycle there are one or two issues remaining to be resolved, but according to AAUP (pdf), few major issues have been resolved and there has been little pretense at actual bargaining by the administration.

In addition to opposing unfair tuition hikes, the chapter is seeking fairness in health care and pension contributions, support for faculty research, and to restrain the growth of nontenurable appointment.

The chapter has pledged to stand behind all faculty, pledging unqualified solidarity with those working nontenurably, “The AAUP will not tolerate punishment of any faculty member for participation in a job related action. You will be protected as if you were a full professor.”

Where is the money going?

Russell notes that while faculty and deans averaged 2.5 to 3.3% wage increases in 2008, the president accepted a 40% raise to a $350,000 base (despite having collected additional compensation of as much as $220,000 above the base in previous years), created three new vice presidents at salaries in the $170,000 range, and gave existing veeps raises of five to fourteen percent.

Similar claims of opportunism and manufacturing a fake crisis to extort concessions have been made by faculty at the University of California. They have just voted no confidence in the system’s chancellor and are planning a walkout already endorsed by national AAUP (join).

Further reading: Who Benefits From the Tuition Gold Rush?
Undergraduates and Faculty are Super-Exploited Together (pdf)
Why Higher Ed is Like Health Care (pdf)

*As I’ve previously written, there are holes in the data on permatemping that campuses a mile wide: there are no criteria about what it means when ampuses report instructors “without faculty status,” no standards for the reporting of grad students working as faculty, and no remedy for the increasing percentage of persons reported as staff but also teaching courses as an adjunct.  This has resulted in major distortions of the true tenure-track faculty ratio at many schools–including my own–and most recently the University of Nebraska, which contrived to report itself at 100% full-time faculty when as Craig Smith points out, the truth is they had more like 1500 full-time, 400 part time, and over 1800 grad students. Even this more honest data covers up the number of full-timers who were tenured, the number of the the tenured who were released from teaching into administration, etc etc.

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“Private” vs “For-Profit” in the Health-Care Debate http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/209 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/209#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2009 15:35:17 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/209 I just came across Mike Stanfill’s cartoon from last week, which captures a truth about the way the coding of the words “public” and “private” function in our debates about our laughing-stock-of-the-developed-world system of “health care.”

(You know, health care for those who can pay and aren’t sick, health care as a reason to stay in a lousy job with more unpaid overtime and less vacation than the Japanese, health care for the last ten days of your life, but not the first thirty years, etc, etc. The whole pile of crap–which appears irrational until you see how efficiently it operates in its actual purpose, which isn’t “health” but to provide second homes, compliant spouses, and boats for a bunch of jerks you were right to despise in college.)

One way the insurance parasites are beating Obama is in allowing their side to be described as the “private option.”

Part of what’s going on here is the oft-observed prejudice against the public, a phenomenon those of us in higher ed know pretty well.

But another dimension is the way that “private” remains unexamined. In higher ed, private can mean Swarthmore and Georgetown, but it can also mean DeVry.

That is–in higher education, we distinguish between public and private, but we draw a bright-line distinction between them and for-profit education.

Maybe I haven’t followed the debate closely enough, but I haven’t observed any major Democratic player trying to control the terms of the debate in a similar way–by labelling the insurers advocates of “health care for profit.”

It wouldn’t be that difficult–the other side has opened the door by describing publicly-funded health care as “socialism.” (If only!)

The Nation’s First Black CEO

There’s more to say here–part of the problem is that Obama’s been weak on health care since declaring his candidacy– though who knew he’d be worse on education? If Obama’s idea of an education secretary is Arne (“squeeze ’em”)Duncan, who’s he going to appoint to oversee his public health care plan? Jack Welch? Leona Helmsley? Why not Dick Cheney?

(Hey, I know you think I’m exaggerating about Obama and quality-managing higher ed back into the stone age of correspondence schools, but I’m not. Please feel free to describe to me the significant policy differences between Obama-Duncan and the pro-business “reformers” of higher education at intellectual sinkholes like the “John William Pope Center” who’ve set a couple of their cheezy PR flacks on me this year. )

A big part of the problem is that Obama’s theory of the presidency is that he’s a good manager, hired by the people to clean up Bush’s bad management and restore what he views as the better quality-management of the public sphere represented by Clinton-Gore. (Albeit with more charisma than the latter, and minus the messy personal life of the former.)

Getting back to Clinton-Gore didn’t sound like much of an ambition to me during the campaign, and it still doesn’t–and if Obama’s Wal-mart views of higher education are any measure of his idea of a public health care plan, I can understand why some people are worried.

A public option that’s run by people who want it to be private and are operating under the delusion that they’re great managers–you know, like Arne Duncan, who privatized and militarized the Chicago public schools–might not be much better than the straight-up privates.

Seriously–would you want your health care managed by this guy?

As the cases of Chuck Manning, Mark Yudof, and countless others clearly prove: there is no evidence that bureaucrats are better managers than private executives. The efficiencies of public works don’t come from superior public management, period.

Instead they come from not having to pay the bill collectors, lawyers, lobbyists, advertising agencies, PR flacks, bill-collecting programmers, executive bonuses and, above all, the shareholders.

Unless Obama gets over being a great manager in his own mind, and dumps would-be privatizers and executives-of-everything like Duncan–unless, like Ted Kennedy, like FDR, he stands up to the moment, overcomes his own failings and previously-articulated bad ideas–unless he outlines a compelling case founded on an actual theory of the public good, he’ll end up as what he presently most fears: an historical curiousity, the “first Black president.”

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