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How The University Works » nlrb http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress Mon, 21 Nov 2011 00:40:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.19 To The People of The World: The Occupation Urges You To Assert Your Power http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/299 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/299#comments Fri, 30 Sep 2011 19:37:14 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/299 The day’s breaking occupation news is the New York City General Assembly’s statement, together with mass events developing in 66 cities over the next few days. How cool is it that the statement is bigger news than rumors of Radiohead joining them for an impromptu concert? Heck, it’s pushed the Amazon tablet and the Prez’s policy failures out of the headlines. Which reminds me to send the day’s Obama-gram:

Hello, Mr. President? Meet me at camera 2. History just sent you a Hail Mary pass. Hint: FDR was a failure too, until he grabbed the chance history gave him. This would be the chance to fire Arne Duncan, stop wanking around with LinkedIn, and spend a few trillion on the people, like you promised.

Want to help? First and best–show up at an event near you. Ninety-five percent of the population is within an hour of an occupation event in the next seven days. Bring the kids. Second best, all of the occupations need money, food, and warm clothes. A campaign to raise $12,000 to start a digital occupation media outlet (the Occupy Wall Street Journal) oversubscribed overnight–with 8 days to go, they already have 150% of their target, or $18,000–but they need money everywhere else.

xposted: chronicle of higher education

previous coverage
mass arrests on wall street
protests spread to both coasts

police violence escalates: day five
wall street occupation day three
what are you doing for the next two months?
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

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It’s the Inequality, Stupid http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/293 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/293#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2011 20:03:55 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/293 So I’m supposed to be finishing my entry, “Labor,” for the second edition of Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler’s widely adopted Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Yay, I’m in the volume, but also totally depressing.

I mean, it’s a class war out there and labor’s lost every battle since I started shaving. And by “labor,” I don’t mean some cartoon of a hard hat, broom pushing, or stoop labor. I mean the folks reading this column. Pretty much everybody, actually: If you work in order to live, or scrub the toilet/feed the appetites of a wage worker, you’re labor.

Then today I find out that Wilma Liebman, one of the few people in the academy or anywhere, to give a hoot about academic labor, is ending her long service to the National Labor Relations Board because an army of trolls in wingtips has been coming after her, as she puts it, “with a baseball bat.” One way to go with this is to dump some more on Obama, who always backs up the ballplaying buddy that represents his worst appointment, but consistently left dangling the principled, thoughtful woman that was by far his best.

Of course it isn’t just the president; it’s us, as the always-scathing Bill Maher points out in his brilliant assault on the magical thinking represented by our love affair with “reality” television shows in which “one of our richest 1% drops in on the wage slaves for a week and finds out that living on $185 a week in America really blows, and so then they anecdotally solve the wealth gap problem by showering everyone with cash.”

Sad, but true: It takes a comedian to tell the gut-wrenching truth about the dominance of the top 1% since Reagan’s inauguration:

Say 100 Americans get together and order a 100 slice pizza, the pizza arrives, they open the box, and the first guy takes 80 slices. And if someone suggests “Why don’t you just take 79 slices?” [He says] THAT’S SOCIALISM!

It’s just a “stupid idea,” Maher says, to believe that the rich would “share with us if only they got to walk a mile in our cheap plastic shoes.” Instead, he says, we’ve got to wrench the baseball bats out of their hands and use it on them:

We have this fantasy that our interests and the interests of the super rich are the same, like somehow the rich will eventually get so full that they’ll explode, and the candy will rain down on the rest of us, like they’re some sort of pinata of benevolence. But here’s the thing about a pinata, it doesn’t open on it’s own, you have to beat it with a stick.

Liebman and the apostles of greed who have driven her into retirement understand correctly that the National Labor Relations Act is one such stick. She said that her role as chair of the NLRB was to “further the policy of this statute, which is to further the practice of collective bargaining, obviously collective bargaining freely chosen.”

There’s convincing analysis that unionization substantially reduces inequality. And the many evils of skyrocketing inequality are addressed by Slate’s Timothy Noah and Michael Moore (includes a critical assessment that mostly supports him) and many others. Joseph Stiglitz points out that the quality of life and self-interest of the rich is harmed by the savage inequalities we see today. Even billionaires like Warren Buffett admit it’s time to stop coddling the super-rich.

“If you increase workers’ purchasing power, that can create a stronger, more sustainable economy,” Liebman told The New York Times. “Some say collective bargaining is antithetical to the economy. I don’t buy that at all. This was a statute that worked. It created the middle class. It created good jobs.”

Goodbye, Wilma. Most of us have no idea what it costs to stand up for workplace dignity in this brave new banana republic. Thanks for paying that price with dignity, passion, and intelligence.

xposted: Chronicle of Higher Education

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For AAUP, Beginning of An Era http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/288 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/288#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2011 14:56:30 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/288 Nearly three years after his hitch began, Gary Rhoades leaves the AAUP much stronger than he found it. He forged strong relationships between the national elected leadership and the big collective bargaining chapters. He was an especially successful ambassador to AFT and NEA. He made a series of small but important spending reforms. He led several critical organizing drives.

As general secretary, the organization’s top staff position, Rhoades had a darned difficult job during a once-in-a-half-century crisis and organizational re-definition.

On his watch, AAUP’s own staff unionized (with the full support of the elected leadership). Rhoades successfully managed the transition into the period covered by that first contract.

The organization completed a complex three-way partition that clarified the relationships between its three roles as a foundation, professional association, and labor union. Perhaps most critical of all, AAUP replaced a disastrous membership accounting operation that routinely lost track of pretty much anyone who didn’t write in and demand that someone collect their dues.

Democracy Is Messy
Of course, Gary didn’t do any of these things alone. Most of them were projects under way by staff and elected leaders when he arrived, but any one of these challenges could have torpedoed a term in office for even the most brilliant administrator.

The best parallel for this kind of job is a deanship, but most deans I know couldn’t come within a hundred miles of handling it. Deans rely on blunt vertical power to get things done.

The AAUP is a grassroots democratic organization. The elected leadership is packed with smart folks richly endowed with ego. The staff are generally the same—most of them academics with a wise and catlike aversion to being led. And the representatives of the big collective bargaining chapters are rarely shy about their positions. Of course those are just the internal challenges—when everything is working well.

Add restructuring and the fact that perma-temping has driven the profession to the brink of collapse, and it quickly becomes clear that in the past three years the job needed some combination of Cesar Chavez, a tax attorney, and Karl Rove.

Forget about managing without ruffling feathers—I don’t know anyone who could have managed the job, period. It takes the skill set that most presidents and CEO’s hire publicists to pretend they have, when really they’re just thugs in suits.

So Gary’s job required him to rely on many others from the paid staff and elected leadership. This large cast of characters doesn’t always work as a dream team. They sometimes disagree quite sharply, but they always overcome ego and make the partnership work.

Most critical to this ongoing team effort is the leadership of Cary Nelson. As often as Gary took up some of the presidential duties of ambassadorship during times of unprecedented crisis for the profession, Cary stepped in to pick up slack in the home office during the organizational maze of restructuring. It wasn’t always what either expected from their jobs, or what they wanted as individuals. But it got AAUP through the roughest patch in its history since the early 1970s.

Now What?
This week, AAUP’s governing council will vote on a measure that assigns some responsibilities to Martin Snyder, the next most senior staffer and himself a former university president, and some to Cary Nelson.

That will work really well while the organization debates whether to restructure the general-secretary position, which some feel has grown too challenging for one person to fill.

Personally I don’t think so. Sure, in the past three to six years I think it was an impossible job for a squadron of talented people. Without a lot of people throwing their careers and family time into the breach, AAUP might not have survived.

The job needs some clarification and support. But Martin Snyder can do most of it easily, and while Martin Snyders aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, I’m confident AAUP will find one to launch the organization out of repair mode.

The Next Decade
AAUP’s next general secretary and president will have opportunities beyond those that Gary Rhoades and Cary Nelson have had—to look beyond survival toward a renewed, activist agenda. (This is in no way to diminish all of the fierce activism Cary in particular has managed while piloting the mothership into safe harbor over the past six years!)

Looking to the future, though, what should AAUP ask from its next leaders?

I can think of five things, just for starters. OK, I can think of 50, but I’ll keep it to five.

1. Organize the majority faculty. AAUP can do a lot more to support the voices of the nearly 80 percent of faculty outside the tenure stream. Overlooked in the breathless coverage of the single-term tenures of the last two occupants of the general-secretary job is the fact that AAUP is hiring into several organizing positions, including the director of organizing and services. That represents a major opportunity for AAUP to move in the right direction.

2. Organize religious and for-profit campuses. There’s been some talk of targeting faculty at the for-profits, but let’s not forget that a Democratic president means a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that actually does its job. Meaning that thugs in clerical garb are finally getting spanked for their rampant hypocrisy (“social justice everywhere except on our campus!”). Heads up: I’ll be starting a series on hypocrisy on campuses affiliated with religious orders.

3. Continue restructuring. As a professional association, AAUP is burdened with an early-20th-century structure of face-to-face chapters and state conferences. The structure presumes behaviors, values, and communications practices not really in evidence in the contemporary professoriate. I’ve got nothing against having a campus chapter—I’m working to build ours right now—or against a state conference, for that matter. But the organization has to be lighter on its feet, less reliant on the health of local chapters, and have a greater ability to dart in quickly on urgent matters. With the help of social media and a more realistic attitude toward the faculty animal, AAUP needs to acknowledge that many members are more willing and able to send checks than attend a lot of meetings. We aren’t all eating two meals a day at the faculty club: we need to have membership models that accommodate our changing relationship to campus life.

4. Fully digitize communication and membership. It will not surprise some readers that I’m on the board at Academe, and have been asked to be a candidate for editor several times. Every time I say, “Not unless we can stop printing and mailing the damn thing!” No kidding: the amount of money saved would pay for four full-time organizers, or three full-time organizers and a brilliant content-management system, with, you know, social-media functions and stuff. As for membership, we’ve made huge strides. But we have farther to go: Maddeningly, while planning our fall organizing drive, I got sent a paper membership form to use. Why? Because we still can’t collect California conference dues and/or chapter dues electronically. Seriously, who really thinks you can maintain an organization that doesn’t permit fully clickable payment of membership? Again, I personally love our new staffer in charge of fixing this. She has the most thankless job in the organization, and no money to do what she knows needs to be done. But: argh!

5. Capture every graduate student as a free member. I’ve been in AAUP leadership for six or eight years, and one of the reasons I’m glad to be cycling out this year is that I’m tired of ranting about this every year. It’s not rocket science: Just give every new grad student a free membership. (“But our membership program doesn’t work!” “We can’t afford to send Academe to them all!” Again: argh, so stop printing Academe and spend the money on organizers and good membership software.) Why do it? Well, three full generations of scholars have cycled in since 1970 with the majority of them not seeing AAUP functioning on their campus or in connection with their kind of appointment since their own careers began. Most faculty don’t bother to join until they or a friend get into trouble, and then, after they pop in the first check of their lives, they imagine AAUP will send in a flight of black helicopters filled with employment lawyers to save their jobs. We need to acknowledge that the professoriate has not only been deprofessionalized (as Gary Rhoades made his career by observing), but that whole generations have stopped even trying to struggle against administrative dominance. Giving every grad student a free membership is giving them a chance to rebuild something that most of their “mentors” have cheerfully cannibalized.

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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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Grad Employees Spearhead Wisconsin Occupation http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/282 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/282#comments Tue, 01 Mar 2011 17:28:40 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/282 A guest post by Michael Verderame

This Sunday a fellow member of the University of Illinois Graduate Employees Organization, Zach Poppel, and I traveled to Madison to support the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol. We went there in support not just of public workers in Wisconsin, but of the very idea of collective bargaining. Many of us also were there because we know graduate employees in Wisconsin, and know how higher education in Wisconsin will be decimated by these proposals. The University of Wisconsin would find it much harder to retain faculty if its professors have to surrender their hard-fought gains in collective bargaining (currently faculty on the Eau Claire and Superior campuses are unionized, and the LaCrosse campus recently voted for unionization as well). Similar proposals for gutting unions are being pursued elsewhere–Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky. Moreover, in an underreported proposal, Governor Walker is seeking to separate the Madison campus from the rest of the UW system, essentially privatizing the campus by raising tuition to private university levels.

We saw this as everyone’s fight. We had both been energized by the previous day’s experiences—Zach had organized the Springfield rally, which had several dozen GEO participants, and I had gone to Madison with several dozen other GEO members. In Urbana we had a simultaneous rally that drew about 150 people. From our union alone, over 100 people have traveled to Madison since the protests began. Zach and I both wanted to build on that energy.

By the time of the departure, we knew that it was uncertain whether we would be able to get into the building, and therefore we were ready to support our colleagues inside who may have faced potential arrest. GEO staffer Amy Livingston and History steward Anna Kurhajec had arrived last night, and Officer-at-Large Leighton Christiansen came with another labor group this morning.

By the time we parked, walked to the capitol, and got into the line for entrance, it was about 3:20, and the police had promised to close the doors promptly at 4:00. The line was moving slowly (police were allowing one person in for every two that left), but we knew that Leighton was inside. Sometime around 3:45 we resigned ourselves to the fact that we probably wouldn’t get in, though we stayed in line. Shortly before 4:00, we got word that Amy and Anna had been among the last people to make it in after waiting about two hours. When the doors closed at 4:00, the outside crowd chanted “Let Us In” for 15 more minutes.

You all can see what happened on the inside on TV feeds and on Youtube videos. On the outside, we saw an energetic protest that still had the spirit of Saturday’s rally. Despite the bitter cold, people were in good spirits. We kept hearing conflicting reports about the status of the people inside. Earlier in the day we had heard promises that there would be no arrests; later on it seemed like arrests were a likelihood. While still waiting in line, I had scrawled the GEO’s Kerry Pimblott’s telephone number on my arm with a permanent marker in case of arrest—a surreal experience for someone who’s never even had a speeding ticket. I had to explain what was going on to my parents, who couldn’t understand why I would “jeopardize” my future career as a scholar and educator. But to me, what we were doing in Madison was essential to secure the career I want to build, to protect the conditions for teaching and learning.

Once the doors were closed, of course we were worried about our people inside. We received a blessing from GEO headquarters to leave if we wanted, that other people could come up to bail them out, but Zach and I were both firmly resolved that we wanted to bail them out. It would get them out much faster than if someone new had to drive up from Champaign. And to be honest, I think both of us felt disappointed that we weren’t able to be in the Capitol, and we wanted to be there to help the people who were. The plan was for us to be their first phone call if they were arrested. There were ACLU representatives available to bail people out, but they would be responsible for all the protesters. The difference between us bailing them out and the ACLU bailing them out could have meant a difference of several hours or more in jail time for Amy and Anna. (The labor group Leighton had gone up with was prepared to post his bail if necessary).

The crowd was lively and many were in constant contact with people inside. At one point we formed a human chain around the building. Protesters made a commitment to stay until either everyone was out of the building (one way or another) or until the police had announced there woule be no arrests. Driveways, entrances, and exits were blocked. Some of the people inside chose to leave voluntarily upon police requests, and were cheered by the crowd outside as they left the building. Others (several hundred) stayed inside, understanding that they were risking their own liberty to do so.
As the temperatures dropped, people climbed up to the second floor to get a sight of the people inside. We also held a candlelight vigil. Chants and drumming continued. Of course, as basically an unplanned event, it was a much smaller crowd than the massive Saturday rally, but it still maintained tremendous energy. For me, the most thrilling part was hearing the car horns of supporters driving the streets around the capitol. Throughout the day there had been constant supportive car honks. At some point, though, they fell into a regular pattern: a call-and-response chorus version of the favorite union chant, “This is what democracy looks like,” which was surprisingly well-coordinated. This kept up for well more than an hour, as each successive wave of commuters picked up on the game and kept it going. This will be one of my favorite memories.

Though none of us could get in the building, we were heartened to see food and supplies go in, as well as additional press. By 7:00 we had received word that everyone inside had been guaranteed they would be able to spend the night peacefully and would not be arrested. Leighton, Amy, and Anna are still inside as I write, along with hundreds of other protesters.

Once the outside protest dispersed and we knew Leighton, Amy, and Anna would not need bail, we headed home. Stopping to warm up at a local bar, we overheard the news that Sen. Dale Schulz had switched his vote on the bill. We now need only two additional senators to kill Scott Walker’s budget bill and allow the Wisconsin 14 to come home. When this was announced in the bar, there were cheers throughout. Talking to our people inside, I was glad that they also had learned about Sen. Schultz’s switch and there was cheering inside.

One thing you notice in Madison is that just about every local business has a window sign supporting public sector union rights. Many of the people I saw both days had signs proclaiming that they were “private sector workers,” “small business owners,” “non-union members,” and “taxpayers”—the groups Walker claims to represent—who were coming out to support their union brothers’ and sisters’ rights.

Right now, Walker is thoroughly despised in Madison. Over both days I was there I saw one right-wing counter-protestor, against approximately 120,000-150,000 of us. What I did see was a massive group of people (and their dogs), diverse in their race, ethnicity, age, economic background, sexual identity, religion, and even in their professed politics (it was surprising how many “conservatives” believe in union rights). All of them have had enough of Gov. Walker, after he’s been in office less than two months. An incredible proliferation of clever signs lambastes Walker and his multi-billionaire benefactors, the Koch brothers—punning and the double entendre are very alive in the Badger state.

But there is a serious tone as well. People here profess their disgust for Walker’s willingness, caught on tape, to plant agents provocateur in the crowd to try to cause violence and discredit the movement. What kind of governor, the Madison Chief of Police asked, would consider risking the safety of law enforcement officers and protesters, including their children, for his political gain? http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/116828353.html. And Walker ultimately backed down from the idea only because he decided it would hurt him politically.

It was also a crowd that connected the dots to larger social issues, and demonstrated precisely the kind of critical self-awareness that Left intellectuals often claim to be unable to find in the American working and middle classes. These were not people marching, as the Right charges, just to protect their own benefits. The people marching understood the connections between war spending, corporate welfare, and tax cuts on the one hand, and cuts in education, health care, and social programs on the other. They understood the absurdity of a governor who claims to have to crush unions in order to plug a $140 million deficit, right after he signed $140 million in corporate giveaways and tax breaks. They understand that the divisions between skilled and unskilled, middle and working class, union and nonunion, and private and public sector, are meant to divide working people against one another. Many of their signs emphasized the value of education, and a number took shots at Governor Walker over his own lack of a college degree. Their signs made reference to both the good (LaFollette, Feingold) and bad (McCarthy) elements of Wisconsin political tradition. These were people who believe in the public good and the public sphere, and are trying in every way they can to recreate it.

However much he likes to talk about the silent majority who supports him, I have seen almost no evidence that anyone likes or supports Walker, let alone a majority. He literally cannot be seated in a restaurant in Madison. Walker went to one of Madison’s premier fine-dining restaurants, and the owners refused to serve him. Of course, his support is higher in more rural areas than in liberal enclaves like Madison and Milwaukee, but even outside the cities he is opposed by solid majorities. Statewide, his approval rating is below 50%, an astonishing number for a governor who only won his first term in November. The polls I’ve seen have shown supermajorities (over 60%) of both Wisconsin citizens and the American public as a whole against Walker’s proposals. And that’s after a steady drumbeat in both the right-wing and mainstream media, claiming that public workers’ wages and benefits are responsible for our economic situation. On the bus I took Saturday were people from Green Bay, Stoughton, and Beloit. The caricature of the protesters as mostly urban liberals would have been absurd to anyone who spent even five minutes among the crowd.

My overall impression, like the Saturday protest the day before, was of incredible peace and harmony. (Fox News, the only national media outlet that has maintained consistent coverage, has claimed to see “hate” and “vitriol” in the eyes of the protesters, and that our goal is to shut down and harass the media. Nothing I saw in any way comports with that absurd characterization.) I have never seen this many people assembled (for any reason—not just a political rally) without any unpleasantness or violence. People speak plainly and from the heart, in their posters and in their words, about how this bill will affect their lives, how it will take away things they’ve won, not only through their individual effort but through generations of workers who have sacrificed to build their unions.

The symbolism of reclaiming the Capitol for the people against the special interests and Gov. Walker’s attack on democratic union rights was very powerful. Wisconsin’s State Capitol is a beautiful, neo-classical white marble structure, the kind of architecture that was built, at the time of the U.S.’s founding, as a kind of living expression of the idea of the public good. From the outside, you can see signs in the windows of Democratic Assemblymen/women and Senators’ offices, cheering on the protesters. Sometimes these legislators or their aides would open up their windows and wave. From the inside, the spectacular Rotunda has taken on a new kind of beauty with the thousands of signs, fliers, and banners that have transformed it into a true site of civic engagement.

I was able to get in on Saturday, along with many other GEO members, and the reborn Capitol must to be seen to be believed. The cameras don’t do it justice. On Saturday a massive, loud yet somehow completely orderly crowd alternated between cheering and drumming passionately on the one hand, and on the other, listening carefully and attentively to a stream of dozens open-mic speakers who talked poignantly about how the bill would affect their lives. I had the chance to briefly speak to the thousands of people in the crowd and found it simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. The most rousing speech I heard was a passionate and eloquent appeal by a Wisconsin preschool teacher who wondered, “Why should I have to beg this man to build the life I’ve earned?” Periodically parades would march through the center of the crowd—I saw a firefighters’ parade, and a massive parade by the Chicago Teachers’ Union, a union with new, radicalized leadership and a strong commitment to progressive labor and educational policies.

The energy is tremendous. But they will need to keep it up in the next few days and weeks, in order to win over more Republican Senators and finally kill the bill. I hope to make it back up to Madison (my third trip this week) to spend a night with the brave workers of Wisconsin (spearheaded, I should say, by the unbelievable UW grad local, the Teaching Assistants’ Association). Others will as well. I will say, for those who haven’t yet been to Madison, it is an experience you will never forget.

Two weeks ago I remember telling someone that “Wisconsin is coming to all of America next.” At the time, this sounded ominous and threatening. Now, it has become transformed into something hopeful. I’d like to think that the energy, passion, selflessness, and civic engagement that Wisconsin has shown the world can become a model for all of us. Wisconsin is coming to all of America next, but not in the way Scott Walker intended.

Does anyone know how to get permanent marker writing off your skin?

Michael Verderame is a Ph.D. candidate in the English department of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where he studies nineteenth-century British literature with a focus on literature and the environment. He is a member and activist in the Graduate Employees Organization, an AFT-affiliated union representing over 2000 teaching and graduate assistants at UIUC.

xposted: http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/
related posts:

Monday afternoon update: We heard that the windows of the Capitol are being welded shut in an effort to force the protesters out. Law enforcement is not allowing new people in. There are claims that new protesters will not be allowed in unless protesters inside comply with certain (unspecified) law enforcement requests, although it’s unclear what those requests are. About 100 of the protesters remain. According to reports, Walker has shifted operational control from the Madison Police, who strongly support the protesters, to the State Troopers’ Office, whose superintendent is a political appointee of Governor Walker’s (and also, amazingly, the father of both the state Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader). A disappointed Democratic Assemblywoman Kelda Helen Roys tweeted that seven corporate lobbysists were let in even as protesters are being excluded. The ACLU has filed a suit to force the state to readmit protesters. We’ve also learned that over the night a number of people, including Anna and Amy, left overnight based on the promise they would be allowed back in at 8 a.m.) Anna and Amy are currently trying to get back in.

Nonetheless, spirits are high throughout the country. My own union, the Graduate Employees Organization, an affiliate of the AFT/IFT has been holding a 24-7 vigil ever since the protests began to support the public workers in Madison. We have hosted rallies, film screenings, lectures, teach-ins, and concerts. Members are spending every night in the basement of the YMCA, with sleeping bags and pillows. We have also hosted three local rallies in support of the 39 heroic Indiana Democratic legislators, who are staying in Urbana, just like the Wisconsin 14, in protest of anti-union and anti-education legislation. One of them came to the University to speak to undergraduate and graduate students about the issues in Indiana, and received rousing applause.

It is difficult, but we are winning. One Republican senator has already switched; as we keep the pressure up, I believe more will follow. And the lessons of Wisconsin will carry over into the rest of the country as this fight continues.

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The Real Boudreaux http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/210 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/210#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2009 23:28:37 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/210 The professional opinion of the chair of the George Mason University economics department is mistaken for the punchline to a Cajun joke.

Last Thursday, 350,000 faculty members–most of them without any hope of entering the dried-up tenure stream–received a militant blast email from the AAUP:

The AAUP serves notice that we are working to end “at-whim” employment for contingent faculty.  At its June 2009 annual meeting the AAUP put Nicholls State University and North Idaho College on censure for terminating the services of contingent faculty members who had been teaching in good standing for many years: one had taught as a full-time contingent faculty member for twelve years; the other had taught for thirteen consecutive semesters as a part-time faculty member.  The North Idaho College case was the first in which the AAUP has censured an administration for violating Regulation 13 of the Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (“Part-time Faculty Appointments”), which draws on some procedural safeguards embedded in tenure to extend stronger due process rights for contingent faculty in part-time positions. (join AAUP)

This drew a quick response from that reputable academic outlet, the PhiBetaCons blog (The “Right” Take on Higher Ed) at National Review Online, authored by the chairman of the George Mason University economics department, Don Boudreaux.

(Usually I’d say chair or chairperson, but this really is as close to an all-male celebration of “competitions” rigged in favor of the richest as you’ll find anywhere in the academy.)*

Boudreaux’s intellectual argument, such as it is, is a classic if-then castle in the air: if AAUP succeeds in making it more difficult to fire faculty (you know, like having a cause other than we want to get back at your husband, as in the North Idaho case), then it will be more expensive to hire faculty on contingent terms.

If that is true, Boudreaux continues, fewer such faculty will be hired. Therefore, he triumphantly concludes, without any actual research,”it’s doubtful that your efforts will help the very persons whose well-being you claim to champion!”

Wow. You can just see this genius dusting off his hands after dispensing with Cary Nelson and Gary Rhoades in 144 characters or less.

He’s so intellectually deft that he can dispose of the AAUP, all of academic unionism, and three-quarters of the faculty in higher education in an argument that will fit on his Twitter page!

But wait, there’s more. Flushed with pleasure at his first unassailable gem, Boudreaux can’t resist another go:

Because adjuncts compete with full-time faculty, making adjuncts more costly to hire will raise the salaries of full-time faculty and prompt colleges to hire greater numbers of full-time faculty. Each of these consequences benefits us full-timers, both by fattening our wallets and improving our access to other full-time scholars in our fields. But our windfall will be paid for by unemployed part-time faculty — and by students and taxpayers who’ll have to foot the bill for the resulting higher cost of supplying classroom instruction.

So, Boudreaux says, if you look at the situation intelligently–as they do in the endangered-conservative preservation tank in which he swims frustratedly, all day long, at GMU–you see that raising wages or otherwise raising costs of employment (you know, by giving benefits or protecting the workplace rights of professionals) is actually bad for workers!

Yes, Socrates, I’m convinced. The first 144 characters didn’t do it, but that absolutely brilliant postscript was an original and unanswerable broadsword to my intellectual vitals.

(And if I weren’t completely finished off, I certainly would have been by reading this selection from your Ideas on Liberty (“Dear Mom and Dad, Thank You For Being Blue-Collar Folks Who Taught Me Civility to My Betters and Not Resentment of Wealth.”)

This sort of thing–why, son, y’all know I pay your people ev’ry penny I kin afford; you’re hurtin’ yourself with all this agitation, and it pains me to see you tho’ away your bright future–doesn’t generally merit a response.

Nonetheless the folks over at ADJ-L (join) discussed it, most not knowing GMU’s reputation as a center for the paid lackeys of the speculator class.

“He doesn’t sound like an economist,” writes the usually mild mannered Thane Doss. “He sounds like the people I went to high school with who didn’t go on to college and nowadays think Glenn Beck represents sound logical reasoning:

If adjuncts cost more, the university will hire fewer because they can’t afford more, and then they’ll pay the tenure line professors more money out of the money they don’t have because they have to pay adjuncts more???? This is the same line of reasoning G. W. Bush used to use when he’d just explain that if he needed more money, he spend the same money a few more times again! If any of your kids want to study economics, DON’T send them to Non-Sequitur University,
err, George Mason University.

And Vanessa Vaile, who apparently hails from Cajun country, thought that she understood the piece correctly as a conservative gag (you know, the “Onion” for Yalies who sold their souls to Goldman Sachs), writing, “I get it; it’s a Boudreaux joke!” going on to explain the Cajun tradition of telling country stories about the hapless Boudreaux (sometimes Thiboudeaux):

Anyone you know who’s lived or worked in Cajun south Louisiana can tell you about Boudreaux jokes, tell you a few too.  Boudreaux is the classic doofus, who gets it backwards, says dumb things that make you roll on the floor laughing.

For my money, Vaile’s explanation captures this Boudreaux perfectly.

*After I posted a link to the GMU Econ website (to prove to the disbelieving readership that Boudreaux was, in fact, a paid economist and not a joke, or at least not a Cajun folk hero) the Chron’s own Steve Street followed the link to the department photo and had this to say: “Notice how many in this economics dept look well- or even overfed. All guys, too, but two not pictured, and all but two not pictured are white. At first I thought the shot was overexposed!”

FURTHER READING: Regulars know I’ve responded to the well-known labor economist and Princeton president William G. Bowen, whose well-intended but wildly erroneous work on related issues distressed tens of thousands of graduate students in the 1990s.  The argument is summarized on pages 15-27 in this free pdf from NYU Press.

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Vindication for Grad Employees at the NLRB http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/186 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/186#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2009 19:29:09 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/186 “Democracy in the workplace is still basic to a democratic society, and collective bargaining is still basic to a fair economy,” says Wilma Liebman.

Last week’s appointment of Wilma Liebman to chair the NLRB is extremely welcome news to graduate employees and other academic workers.

The author of a scathing dissent to the Bush mob’s truculent Brown decision, Liebman adds serious credibility to hopeful interpretations of the Cabinet-level nomination of Hilda Solis.

Obama will not fix academic labor’s problems from above, but he will ensure that labor has the chance to exercise workplace rights. (Though the choice to practice workplace democracy, as those with experience will attest, is just the beginning of a long and arduous road!)

Liebman’s acceptance of the position is particularly heartening:

Democracy in the workplace is still basic to a democratic society, and collective bargaining is still basic to a fair economy. The statute we administer is the foundation of America’s commitment to human rights recognized around the world.

You can view my interviews with NYU and Chicago grad employees on this YouTuibe playlist. Graduate employee unionization in the U.S. is more advanced at public institutions, and organizing at private schools stalled for a while in the aftermath of the reversal of the NYU decision in the Brown case, but there has been a resurgence of militancy among grad employees at private institutions.

GSU and GSOC-UAW are at very different stages of the organizing process. The interview with members of Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago is a snapshot of an emerging union drive at a private institution. They reflect on the benefits of organizing, whether unionism is an end in itself, and on the nature, purpose, and extent of democracy in higher education.

The activists from GSOC-UAW at NYU are at an entirely different point in their experience. They reflect on a successful organizing drive and first contract, setbacks with the NLRB, a failed strike, the strategy of continuous organizing, the administration’s response, and other topics. Their struggle represents some of the greatest successes and also some of the greatest setbacks in graduate employee labor organizing so far, and as such is especially worthy of detailed study.

The folks of GSOC argue that politics, politicians, and legislation follow activism and self-organization. As they point out in the clip above (part 3 of 4) the TRACBRA legislation that would ensure bargaining rights for teaching and research assistants — that’s a gesture, a drop in the bucket. It’s important, but nowhere near as important as self-organization.

See part 1 of the GSOC-UAW video: A Union Cannot Stand Alone.
See part 2 of the GSOC-UAW video: A Culture of Continuous Organizing.
See part 3 of the GSOC-UAW video: Politics, Organizing and the NLRB
See part 4 of the GSOC-UAW video: Shame on You, NYU.

Also see the book edited by some of the folks interviewed here, The University Against Itself with Andrew Ross, and a special issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, edited by Christopher Carter, Beyond the Picket Line: Academic Organizing After the Long NYU Strike.

Carter has written an especially good assessment of the core point made by the GSOC folks in this video–the crucial role of campus alliances, in his just-released Rhetoric and Resistance in the Corporate Academy (Hampton, 2008). Chapter 4, “The Student as Organic Intellectual,” tracks the importance of undergraduate USAS activists in GSOC’s successful first round of bargaining.

Graduate Students United (at U. Chicago):
Part 1: Why Grad Employees Unionize
Part 2: Ballad of the Dissertators
Part 3: Pushback
Part 4: Unions and Academic Democracy

Learn more:

17th Annual Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions Conference
Hosted by GESO in New Haven, CT. July 31-August 3 2008

8th International Conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor
Hosted by COCAL-California, San Diego State University. August 8-10, 2008

4th Annual Canadian Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions Conference
Hosted by GTA-Union at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario. August 7-9, 2008.

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Hello To All That http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/183 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/183#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2009 03:28:31 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/183 “We’re in the business of education,” Arne Duncan says.

The market worshipers have marched out of the building; hurray! Wait–who’s that tall basketball-playing fellow getting ready to sit in the Education seat?

As superintendent of the Chicago public schools, Arne Duncan has given us a fair preview of his vision. It’s “a business-minded, market-driven model for education,” concludes Andy Kroll for the Nation Institute’s tomdispatch.com. “His style of management is distinctly top-down, corporate, and privatizing. It views teachers as expendable, unions as unnecessary, and students as customers.” Input from community leaders, faculty, and parents’ organizations “regularly fell on deaf ears.”

As Kroll points out, privatizing Chicago’s schools was the centerpiece of Duncan’s vigorously-resisted “Renaissance 2010″ proposals, pushing to close existing institutions and replace them with charter and “entrepreneurial” schools run by for-profit education-management organizations (EMOs).

Even in the runaway financial climate of the early millenium, the EMO sector radically outperformed most other industries in terms of fiscal return on investment. Not content to pay management for test scores, Duncan has just rolled out a program to pay students for grades–dropping a Jackson on students for every C and fifty bucks for every A.

While Duncan brags about raising test scores, critics point out these come at the expense of a stripped-down curriculum targeting the test rather than actual learning (and, not incidentally, in the context of lowered statewide testing standards, like paying bonuses for hitting the bulls-eye more often after moving the target closer).

Obama gives us a look at his own priorities for education when he praises Duncan’s “results” as skills development–giving children “what they need to compete with any worker in the world for any job.” Yay, John Dewey would be proud. Citizenship? Music? Wellness? You gotta be kidding. That would be in a co-operative world and what we have here is as much competition as possible– in the same old “quality” formula. Take money from the testing “losers” and give it to the testing “winners.”

What goes well with endless competition in every corner of your existence? Discipline.

Harsh discipline, in fact. The job that many of the 91% non-white “customers” of the Chicago Public Schools are being trained for is service in the U.S. military.

A big part of Arne Duncan’s “success” as chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools was in whacking down big grants from the Department of Defense to create the most militarized public school system in the country: five military academies and over fifty junior ROTC programs, most of them feeding primarily lower-income and minority youth into the nation’s war machine.

I came across Kroll’s piece courtesy of John Hess on ADJ-L. On the same forum faculty activist Joe Berry, after reading the piece, observed, “As a Chicago resident from 99-2007, all of this is true. His appointment, if not a disaster, is a bad omen at the least.”

Faculty Self-Help

Over at the New York Times, Stanley Fish gave former student Frank Donoghue’s “The Last Professors” a nice mention. It’s a bit surprising, though, that Fish claims to have needed _The Last Professors_ to inform him about the perma-temping of the academy.

As a former dean at a public institution using an extremely high percentage of adjunct and graduate student employees to “deliver instruction,” Fish oversaw budgets dictating the hiring of plenty of cheap teachers.

Indeed, Fish heard many detailed critiques of the academic labor system from unionizing graduate employees and from at least one brilliant, accomplished faculty activist of my acquaintance.

His response? “Save the world on your own time.” If you’ve read Fish’s attack on “ideology”in education (something evidently only other people have), you know his charming mantra to faculty: “just do your job.”

Except for professionals, “doing one’s job” implies responsibilities to the profession, to other professionals, and the public. That is, as most faculty and other professionals agree, “saving the world” is part of the job description.

What Fish seems to have missed about Donoghue’s book is that he repeatedly, consistently, uncompromisingly holds the tenure-stream faculty responsible for falling down on the job as professionals in their silent acquiescence to the super-exploitation of faculty serving contingently and graduate students.

If Donoghue is right in his indictment, it suggests that Fish is the one who hasn’t been “doing his job” with respect to safeguarding the profession for future students and future colleagues.

Fish’s response to Donoghue’s claim that a whole profession is on the verge of extinction? “I have timed it just right,” Fish says of his career–“Just lucky, I guess.” Wow, what an eloquent and considered reflection on an individual’s relationship to, and responsibility for, the profession. Thanks, Stanley. Glad you enjoyed your ride.

As I wrote back in April 2008, the caveat I have with respect to Donoghue’s book regards the general probem of using “vanishing” tropes. As many have observed, the “vanishing Indian” didn’t actually disappear, but moved to degraded circumstances with a limited purchase on the public sphere. We might say the same for the faculty.

Since future higher education won’t be “professorless,” but filled with faculty — research professors of retail marketing, distinguished chairs in business ethics, but $1000-per-course lecturers in Homer — there will remain opportunities for resistance, for political action, especially by way of activist unions of the faculty serving contingently, including those faculty who serve contingently as graduate employees.

And–if you’re still parsing Obama’s cabinet choices–that’s the likely meaning of his far more welcome appointment of Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor. A leading proponent of the Employee Free Choice Act, and the only member of Congress to serve on the board of American Rights at Work, her appointment virtually guarantees that it will be much easier for workers–including higher education workers–to exercise their rights to workplace association and collective bargaining.

My reading of the cabinet choices is this: we aren’t going to get any higher-education full-employment act or other great “change” in the academic labor system from above during this administration. But we can organize to make change ourselves. Of course, by “ourselves” I mean the majority of faculty–the teachers serving contingently who have appeared while the traditional professoriate “vanishes.”

Sure, it would be nice if Obama fixed our problems from above. I personally made much more satisfactory recommendations for Education Secretary than Arne Duncan.*

But as I recall, the chant was “yes we can.”


*Just in case Arne Duncan leaves the cabinet, here are my recommendations for his replacement. I can’t, however vouch for their utility on the White House basketball team.

Jonathan Kozol. A Rhoades scholar who was fired from the Boston Public Schools for teaching a Langston Hughes poem, Kozol has for decades described the way that class war from above maintains savagely unequal public schools–what he’s recently called the “restoration of apartheid” in the U.S.

Angela Davis. Of course Bill Ayers was the obvious choice, but Davis is herself a veteran of the presidential trail–having shared the Communist party ticket with Gus Hall. These days she identifies as a democratic socialist–so she should fit right in, according to the McCain camp.

Barbara Ehrenreich. She was my top pick for secretary of labor, her or Stanley Aronowitz, but since Solis filled that job nicely, Ehrenreich will do splendidly in Education. Look for strict limits on youth labor and socialization of college tuition, a la Adolph Reed’s “Free Higher Education” proposal.

Zeke M. Vanderhoek. Not a household name, but he gets my vote. Obama, sadly, loves charter schools, and Vanderhoek started the one charter school I like–a Harlem school where the starting wage for teachers is $125,000. The principal’s wage? Just $90,000. You want to reduce costs in higher education–there’s all the budget planning you need.

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An Extra Half-million in Every Pot http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/173 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/173#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2008 01:42:08 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/173

you gotta watch this Batgirl video!
Look, there’s no way to confront how the gated-community crowd has stunk up the economy without core legislation addressing higher education, health care, gender equality and workplace association as human rights. While the five million top consumers were out getting boob jobs, BMWs and blood diamonds, the rest of us were grading their kids’ papers, scrubbing their toilets and doing their nails. (The chance to “choose” paper-grading instead of other things has a lot to do with the racial division of wealth.)

Here are five key pieces of legislation for The One to jump on–like, yesterday– if he wants future historians to give him the “FDR meets Lincoln” treatment he craves. As I’ve previously written, Obama doesn’t have the luxury of hedging his bets, robbing Peter to pay Paul the way Clinton did. He has to go all in and actually accomplish things.

First, he’s got to work for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. The Reagan-Bush mob has used the law and regulatory power dishonestly, as a bludgeon to deprive U.S. workers, including faculty and staff, of internationally-acknowledged rights to organize. 60 million Americans would join unions tomorrow–if there were real protections for human rights in the workplace.

Second, he’s got to stop fooling around with the tissue-paper health care “proposals” he had stuck to his shoes throughout the campaign. He needs to get behind something like Rep. John Conyers’ HR 676 Medicare for All single-payer plan. Watch the news in early January for the 20 (yep, 20) major labor organizations launching the “Labor for Single Payer” campaign.

Third, women on average lose half a million dollars over the course of a lifetime due to the gender wage gap–and that’s just comparing full-time to full-time. Add in the ways that “part-time” employees are ripped off–especially in higher ed–and it’s a boatload more. So it’s time to strengthen the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which passed the House last year, to include 100% equal pay for equal work for part-time employees and then get it past the Senate.

Fourth, as long as we’re on the MomsRising.org agenda, Obama had best pass unemployment modernization–and also strengthen that bill to include provisions specific to faculty serving contingently.

Fifth, back when higher education provided real opportunity and not free job training for corporations, it was free or nearly so. Every state that actually spends money on higher education has slashed that spending over that past four decades: time to put real Federal billions on the table as matching funds with one string for the states accepting it–make public higher education free, period. Cost: $25-40 billion federal, similar in the states–an amount that Adolph Reed presciently said in our interview over a year ago, “that Congress passes out as a tip in corporate welfare.”

Redistribute the wealth? You betcha. Special thanks to Maria Maisto of adj-l for links provided in this piece.

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Tennessee Takes “Turkey at the Top” Award http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/169 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/169#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2008 22:48:18 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/169 Turkey at the top is always intensely competitive. This year’s contenders included first runner-up Robert Felner, the U of Louisville dean indicted for conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion in what the feds allege are repeated acts of embezzlement of grant monies amounting to over $2 million. Not content with these escapades, Felner racked up 31 grievances and complaints in his 5 years at the “U of L” but was consistently backed against the faculty by upper administration, especially Provost Shirley Willihnganz and President James Ramsey, who spent extravagantly on lawyers and consultants to prop up his administration despite what numerous accounts (including this one and others that I’ve privately confirmed) termed an “onslaught” of complaints from faculty, staff and students alleging “unsavory behavior, ranging from sexual harassment to workplace intimidation.” This pair continued the authoritarian regime of wall-to-wall administrative solidarity and secrecy established by their high-living predecessors, former provost Carol Garrison and former president John Shumaker–later found sharing lavish hotel rooms and limousines at public expense, while jetting to trysts in the University of Tennessee’s private plane.

But every year only one can win. This year’s award goes to the chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, Charlie Manning, for his new business model for higher ed in his Appalachian state. Over the past couple of decades, the great state of Tennessee has burned millions of education dollars on executive compensation, sports facilities, and miles of orange carpet–while leading the country in squeezing its faculty.

Of course the “new” business model isn’t new at all–it’s just Chuck Manning refusing to let a good crisis go to waste. It’s the same tired Toyota-management theory from the 80s, with wide-eyed managers and credulous politicians swapping bromides (crisis=danger + opportunity) of doubtful validity, linguistic or otherwise.

In the big picture of capital, Chuck Manning is just a low-level squeezer–the higher-ed equivalent of a regional manager for PepsiCo. The first half of the “opportunity” for higher-level squeezers and shareholders has already been realized, in the stabilization of finance-industry holdings and incomes. Chuck’s job is to realize the other half of the opportunity–squeezing a few more nickels and dimes out of his already-on-food-stamps faculty, and further watering down the thin gruel he passes off as “higher education.”

In the business curriculum, squeezing nickels and dimes until your workers are living on food stamps, loans, or gifts from relatives is called “long term productivity enhancement.” Manning’s ideas for good squeezing include:

+ Requiring students to take a certain number of online courses en route to their bachelor’s and associate’s degrees.

+ Turning online learning into an entirely automated experience “with no direct support from a faculty member except oversight of testing and grading,” and providing financial incentives for students to voluntarily accept teacherless education-as-testing.

+ Use even more adjuncts and convert the remaining tenure-stream faculty into their direct supervisors, “formalizing” that arrangement. (Can you hear me screaming “I told you so”?)

+Use “advanced students” to teach “beginning students” and build that requirement into curriculum and financial aid packages. (Again, I’m screaming. You should be screaming too.)

+Increase faculty workload, initiating a “students-taught” metric to supersede courseload, and “revise” summer compensation.

+Austerity for the poor–cutting athletics at community colleges, eg–but rewards for privatization and revenue-producing programs, etc etc.

Reading all this life-in-wartime austerity of fake correspondence learning, students as teachers, faculty as supervisors, and a standing army of temps, you’d think there was actual fat to be trimmed (other than in the administration).

But the reality is that if you’re really experienced and qualified, teaching 10 courses a year for Chuck Manning nets you about 15 grand without benefits, or less than you’d make at Wal-mart. That’s quite a bit less than half the $33, 960 that the extremely useful Living Wage Calculator says is necessary to support one adult and one child in Knox County.

This has been going on for quite some time, as the hero of our Faculty on Food Stamps video series, Andy Smith can tell you. Since starring in the series, Andy has learned another hard lesson about Chuck Manning: asking politely for a raise gets you a) strung along with months and years of “we’re considering that” and b) turned down flat when they run out of string.

When higher ed administration has left you jaded–when blood from a stone doesn’t thrill you any more–call Charlie Manning, this year’s Turkey at the Top. He’ll squeeze you a faculty smoothie and slip you a side of diploma mill, and do it with a smile.

PS–Next, I’ll tell you what I think Tennessee faculty and students ought to do, just IMHO, of course.

PPS–Oh, and Obama watchers? This kind of quality-management nickel-and-diming employees literally to death is the hallmark of the Clinton economy and Clinton-Gore approach to the public good. The next few weeks will tell if Obama thinks labor will fall for the quality scam again (doubtful), while he sells out our dreams, cozying up to folks like Manning and Michelle Rhee. You want to know what higher education will look like if Clinton-Gore principles are put to work? Just look at Charlie Manning’s work in Gore’s home state.

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