Monday, September 19, 2011

The coalition holds

Now all four campus unions have approved strike authorization votes for the end of this month.  The DE has a story on the FA, NTT-FA, and ACsEs; and Kristi on her blog announces the decision by GAs.

None of these votes was easy to take. I'm sure there was healthy debate within each local. But the unions are moving forward, together--though I'm sure also that all are united in hoping that strike authorization votes don't have to lead to actual strikes.


  1. Dave,

    Would you mind being a bit less glib with your StrikeOMeter talk? Many of us were here in 2003 when the FA marched around campus singing childish and derogatory songs about the administration. Regardless of the outcome, this is a very serious situation facing everyone associated with the University, and such behavior does nothing to further dialogue or bring the situation any closer to resolution.

  2. You may have a point. There's a fine line between trying to keep one's sanity via humor and being glib. I'll edit the post.

  3. Dave,

    Today in my first class, I spent a good 15-20 minutes discussing the possibility of a strikes. Granted, this was my 300-level course in British history, where I have mainly history and political science majors. But the students really get the issues once you explain them to them. After class, I had a further 15 minute discussion with a student, who is eager to become more involved and was asking how students could become so like attending the next BOT meeting.

    While I still have some doubts about the practicality and wisdom of striking, I cannot in good conscience cross a picket line, and thus will not regardless of how I end up voting on the 28th. At the same time, I feel a strong moral obligation to my students. I was tormented all weekend long, as I am sure many other people were, by these two moral principles being (potentially) in conflict with one another. But our students "get" it. And that leaves me inspired, and leaves me hopeful that reasonable people on both sides will come to an agreement mutually satisfactory to both sides.

    Joe Sramek, aka Anonymous 11:34, aka Joe from this weekend

  4. I should further add that this was the first time in over 10 years of teaching that I have raised a political concern, such as this, in my classroom. I generally feel uncomfortable about doing this; teach-ins are generally not my style. But I felt the students deserved to know that I cannot in good conscience cross a picket line, even if I have reservations about the strike vote.

  5. Hi there, Joe, In terms of students, I really understand the anguish. We love our students, which is part of what makes this such a serious crisis for so many of us. But I draw a distinction between our student's short and long term interests. In the short term, a strike will no doubt be disruptive for our students (although how disruptive depends on the Administration's choices). But their long-term interests are served by a strike in the two following ways: first, we are striking for the integrity of a research university whose reputation and standing will be sullied by the Administration's imposed terms. That will hurt our students, who are counting on the integrity of their degrees once they get out and enter a very competitive labor market. And that brings me to my second point: our students will not be students for most of their adult lives. Rather, they will be workers who deserve to enter into a labor force where collective bargaining rights are protected. I see what we are doing as a fight to protect their futures, even if it means some short term disruption. I am taking a longer view, in other words. And I know you get it, because you are a historian. :-)))

  6. Thanks, Natasha. I am a lot closer to resolution of this issue than I was even this morning - now let's hope that the administration chooses to meet the union half way instead of imposing terms and conditions of employment unilaterally. That would be a reasonable thing to do.

  7. Joe: remember, you won't be alone. We are in this together.

  8. It's so warm and fuzzy in here.

  9. Anonymous 5:00: It's a concept called "solidarity." Perhaps you have heard of it? :-)))

  10. Or, it could be "security blanket" :-)

  11. Quick question. Who actually is on the administration bargaining team? I ask only so that, at this point, I can attach names/face to the people involved.

  12. Joe, you came out of the closet (used your name!). Bravo! : -)

    About "warm and fuzzy" solidarity -- the History Department is made up of FA members. Other departments (including one right on our floor) have NO members. And then there are the STEM fields. Will be interesting to see how this cuts. I often wonder at CoLA proportion of FA. You noticed CoLA was not on the Provost's list of "thriving," successful colleges.

    "Solidarity": The only positive connotation I can come up with is the anti-communist movement in Poland. LOL

  13. The only FA-strong dept in COS is Math, which used to be in CoLA and apparently brought the FA culture/affiliation with it. (Lots of folks in COS wish it was still there).

  14. Got a message from the IEA organizer that they are still trying to find an answer on zero interest loans. How much? Limitations? Coverage? A lot of us CAN'T go on strike if there are no strike fund loans. Medical issues plus feeding a family are an issue. An answer on zero interest loans (with specifics) would be very helpful. Even Dave said we'd have an answer by today. Any word, Dave?

    Also, I noticed that THREE of the six bullet points in the 9/2 FA report brought up Distance Learning:

    I wish people would stop dredging up that bogeyman. It just ain't true -- unit's have control (even under imposed terms), property is owned by independent faculty, and (as Randy Auxier conceded) there will be plenty of volunteers. PLUS I've had an inside look at how the transition from Blackboard to D2L is going, along with lack of tech support, central support, etc. I'm holding off on a lengthy blog about Distance Learning (I believe it has its place but the administration hasn't handled it well and is VERY late to the game, which they will admit too). As for "outsourcing," I have no idea what that means. Since other institutions can beat us on price, what advantage would there be to "outsourcing?" At any rate, the issue hasn't come up and units still have control. As someone who knows a lot about this issue (and is also critical of administration implementation), it is REAL annoying to hear people talk about us being "turned into an Internet university." Stick with the other issues.

  15. Fair enough, Jon. But if it's distance ed is a Bogeyman, why won't the admin put something it writing to the effect that you can't be made to distance ed. Isn't the fear of putting things in writing the very reason people are nervous or suspicious? Granted, you don't put everything but the kitchen sink in a contract. But if people are worried, why not write it down???? Why provoke the faculty, whom you should actually care about?

  16. sorry. I meant to say: why don't they put something in writing such that you can't be made to TEACH distance ed? These real concerns.

  17. It is definitely arguable whether the FA even has jurisdiction on the distance ed issue.
    Quoting from the Faculty Operating paper: (1.B.1.a)

    "The Faculty Senate

    a. is the body empowered to act as agent for the university faculty with delegated power to formulate broad policies in regard to the educational functions of the university;"

    The FA and the Senate have a long standing memorandum of understanding (it dates back to the formation of the FA) that indicates that it (the FA) will not interfere with the functions of the senate (i.e. as defined in the operating paper) and the Senate will not interfere with the FA's preeminence WRT salaries and related issues. Distance Ed belongs to the Senate.

  18. To anonymous 6:06: Your comments about people in COS wishing Math would go back to COLA is totally distressing and, frankly, surprising. Once upon a time, scientists (Einstein, to wit) engaged in politics and put themselves on the line as social activists. I dare say, many scientists still do. The fact that an entire college at SIUC (by your suggestion) is just plain uninterested, outright anti-union, or totally self-interested is a sobering thought. You may not agree with all the issues, but to just write off the campus union--which is at least trying to do the right thing, scientists included--as the stuff of "liberal arts" or what have you is pathetic. I challenge a faculty member in the COS (besides a mathemetician) to complicate this static and insulting image of your colleagues as passive observers to very important issues that affect the whole university.

  19. Jonathan, All the administration has to under under the imposed contract is fire the majority of the faculty and change this place into an internet university. The College of Santa Fe became a for-profit university and fired the vast majority of its faculty, most of whom were tenured. Don't think "it can't happen here" to quote Sinclair Lewis.

  20. Dave,

    I really don't know WHAT language would please some people. Here the thing: the administration's own language (imposed terms) leave it up to UNITS (departments) to decide on who should teach what and how. This is what people demanded from Distance Ed for years: give us the credit and control (in fact, the units always had oversight but lacked credit hours). Now the administration is REALLY pushing to give power over distance ed to units as well as credits. It's there in their imposed terms too.

    To put a blanket statement: "No faculty member shall be forced to teach online..." may conflict with a department or college decision to create a program or courses thought vital to that unit. Would it cover new hires (we were all hired to teach certain courses -- did that violate our "academic freedom"?). At a certain point, all this "put it in writing" talk is useless and distracting. Do you REALLY think this is a problem? I do not. Besides, I don't see how you write it up without conflicting with what so many wanted earlier: grassroots, unit control. The FA can't have it both ways.

    Ditto on Faculty Senate and OPs to boot. A contract can cover a lot of things but don't departments and colleges also want "flexibility," not just central admin.?

    Disclosure: although I have taught ILP courses for 17 years, I am quitting after spring. The whole thing is now an administrative mess. Once the administrative mess is cleared up, I will teach an interactive military history course in the summer but just that one course. So I'm not shilling "distance ed for distance ed's sake."

  21. Egads, I just posted another long retort about Distance Ed. Short summary: people at the unit level wanted unit control AND credit hours. They got both (even in the imposed terms). Can the FA take "yes" for an answer?

    Departments wanted decentralization -- and they got it, not just in the imposed terms but in the broad implementation of the Big Distance Ed transition (which is such a mess I am giving up my ILPs after 17 years and _may_ teach an online interactive military history course in summers once they clean up the mess).

    What language would please people? How do you write "Professors shall not be required to teach online courses" into a contract and NOT contradict the earlier demand for departmental control? What is a department or college decides to create a program or required courses that have some online component? Do we want a contract to tell departments and colleges they cannot do that? We were all hired to teach x, y, z courses. Shall we tie the hands of the lowest level (departments, colleges) after years of demanding the decentralization of distance education?

    (BTW, decentralization is not going well. IMHO, we could use with more central support and coordination, not less).

  22. The FA is happy to let units decide, so long as "units" mean "faculty" and not "chairs" (or at least "faculty and chairs"). That is, the faculty should have the tie-breaking vote on departmental operating papers should there be conflict between faculty and administrators (the FA has proposed that a 2/3 majority would overrule an administrative veto--or proposal, I assume).

    Re the Faculty Senate: I for one am all for giving it more power--so long as it isn't merely advisory. We'd have to go look at the original Magna Carta between the FA and FS to check the details, but I do know that the FA has the authority to negotiate "terms and conditions of employment", and certain administrative decisions about distance ed touch upon that, I think. For example, the administration tells me I get to put together a Greek civ class (video, web, whatever) for the internet--and then that it can be supervised by a GA in perpetuity. So then I get to prepare another such course and another--and, hey, I can run the whole classics program myself (with a couple of GAs). That's efficiency for you--also the University of Phoenix. Trust me, in considering the fate of my program should either of my colleagues go elsewhere, I've had to consider volunteering to do something like this. Pressure to do so could lead many of us to lower our standards in an attempt to keep our programs alive (or at least "undead," which is how I like to view the classical languages in any event).

    I frankly don't care that much which faculty body gets to decide that this isn't kosher (my departmental faculty, the FA, or even the FS), so long as some faculty body gets to decide it. Decide it, not just give advice, which seems the usual limit of the FS's purview, and all the administration usually wants of shared governance.


    Is this 600-student campus the one mentioned above as turning into for-profit school? It was a Catholic School taken over by Laureate Corp. (formerly Sylvan). SIUC is in trouble but if this is the school it is hard to compare a school with 600 students with us. As I recall, Antioch in Ohio went the same way after it folded.

    In general, for-profit schools have taken a hit. Look at their stocks and enrollments. Down, down, down.

  24. Dave,

    Departments have operating papers. They can use them or not. I have all of CoLA Operating Papers from a year ago on my computer. The revision or creation of new OP's is a matter separate from Distance Ed. OP's ought to have some Curriculum committee and procedures. Example: History has a committee to oversee all courses.

    But this debate is going around and around. Truth is SIUC is where the rest of the academic world was 10 years ago. Our offerings were limited to ILP courses that are now being phased out. The last 2006-2010 contract had protections for faculty teaching such courses, after those courses had undergone departmental approval, just like other courses (do your courses go under review each and every semester you teach them? Is that put up for a vote?).

    At any rate, I suspect many of those flogging this *dead horse* are in CoLA or just uninformed. The way things are going STEM colleges will have degree and certificate programs online and CoLA will have . . . next to nothing. Fine. They each made their own decisions, and if you don't think there is faculty decision making at that level, take a look at the diverse response to distance ed on campus. Nobody put a gun to the head of COS, CASA, McMA or COE to create degree programs.

    PS: Hope we hear about the loans before the strike vote...

  25. The loan info is now up. I don't pretend to be an expert in distance ed, but I do know that many of the faculty concerns about distance ed originate in the college you mention, where distance ed is more of a going concern.

    OPs needn't address distance ed, so, yes, they are separate, but the FA's position is that we need to address faculty concerns about distance ed somewhere. This can be done in the contract, or in operating papers, or perhaps there's some other way to ensure faculty oversight.

    The FA is harping in the distinction that is roughly between telling you what to teach (which department chairs can do, within reason) and telling you how to teach it (which chairs can't do). A goodly number of faculty don't want to give chairs the power to tell them their course has to be taught at a distance.

    I tend to agree with you that this needn't be a huge issue. I don't think it's in anyone's interest to force recalcitrant faculty to teach using pedagogy or technology they don't understand, don't approve of, or both. A good deal of progress has been made on DL, I think, during negotiations. My understanding is that it's just a case of the administration not being willing to commit to not doing what it says it has no intention of doing: forcing faculty to do DL.

  26. Math moved to COS before the FA formed. Physics has an FA presence and CS did at one time. The other fields are more lab based and faculty are more apt to think of themselves as managers. But even among them there is a great deal of anguish over the messed up administration of SIUC. They might never join the FA but we might reach out to them in some ways - like a petition to the BOT to bargain in good faith or in support of the demands of the GA's. Being anti-union is not the same as being pro-administration.


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