Tuesday, March 29, 2011

DE op-ed piece on collective bargaining

There's an excellent op-ed piece on collective bargaining in Monday's DE by history faculty Natasha Zaretsky, Rachel Stocking, and Gray Whaley, who also have gathered support from 40 other faculty in 20 departments (I'm one of them). It will be interesting to see if the administration responds, as Glen Poshard responded very rapidly back in November to an essay in the Southern Illinoisian by Robbie Lieberman, chair of history.  Robbie's piece can be found here; Poshard's response is here.  
All of these pieces make it clear that the issues at stake in the bargaining process--which seems to be about to completely break down as I type this--are rather large.  Putting it a bit bluntly, the debate is always, ultimately, about power rather than being solely about money.  Administrators want the power to decide things without worrying about consulting faculty (much less securing their approval).  Faculty think they should be in charge of setting the main outlines of university policy, leaving administrators in the subordinate role of doing whatever service work is necessary to keep the place running smoothly.  Of course there is room for middle ground here, but it is tough to see much give in the administration's approach this time around.  What many faculty really resent about the furlough business, for example, isn't the loss of salary dollars (though of course we would rather have that 2% than not), but the fact that administrators think they have the right to impose a 2% cut by fiat, despite our argument that the university budget, thanks to prior cuts, is in sound fiscal shape, and our concerns that the administration may not be properly allocating our resources. It's not the pay cut; it's not having any role in deciding how the university matches funding with academic priorities.   

It does strike me as a bit ironic that it is our desire to be treated as professionals with the right and responsibility to help guide this place, merely than mere workers who will obediently follow the administration's lead, that has led many of us to be so supportive of our union.  By treating faculty like mere employees the administration pushes people into the union.  If administrators are determined to act like bosses we must resort to the tools of workers. 

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