SIUC faculty have the legal right to petition for a decertification vote, and on this blog I have several times volunteered that decertification is a legal and principled position to advance. I congratulate Professor Eichholz for having the courage to put his name behind this effort, and for openly endorsing the position that is the logical conclusion, or implicit premise, behind many of the anonymous comments made on this blog. I also believe, of course, that decertification would amount to a nearly complete surrender of faculty rights and the loss of any meaningful shared governance on this campus.
While the email several times speaks of "replacing or decertifying" the FA, the email makes not the slightest effort to suggest what the FA should be replaced with. The AAUP? AFT? Teamsters? Of course not: the FA would be replaced with nothing. There would be no union on campus. What they are calling for is a straight decertification vote, as the close of the email makes clear enough:
What can you do? First, you can reply to this email! Opinions both supporting and opposing this effort are welcome. Second, when you are notified that signatures are being collected, you can sign the petition calling for a formal vote of the faculty, and finally, when asked to do so you can vote to decertify the FA as the exclusive representative of the faculty at SIU.Voting to decertify the FA would mean the end of negotiation with the administration. It would mean the end of any contracts between faculty and administration--beyond whatever contract each of us signed as individuals when we were hired, or subsequently. The administration could continue to impose furlough days whenever it sees fit. It could redefine tenure policy as it sees fit. It could eliminate academic programs as it sees fit. It could then fire tenured faculty in keeping with its new tenure and program elimination policies. It could demand that faculty teach distance learning courses, whether they want to or not, and pay them whatever it wants to pay them. It could amend or ignore departmental operating papers as it wishes. And it could establish and amend its own grievance process to allow it to efficiently dispose of any complaints about university policies.
There would of course be some checks on administrative power. Federal and state law would of course apply, though we should not be too sanguine about the protections such laws offer to things like tenure (not to mention the law's delay). Obviously abusive moves would meet with public resistance. Decisions which dilute academic quality would eventually come to the attention of the wider academic community. There would presumably still be a faculty senate, though its advisory powers would increasingly resemble those of the senate under the Roman empire.
Pardon the classical allusion--or, rather, do not pardon it: what we are fighting for here bears a resemblance to what the enemies of Julius Caesar, and defenders of the Roman Republic, were fighting for:
Those noble Romans lost. We don't have to. But back from my classical reverie: Decertification would be a dream come true for the administration. It would be a nightmare for any faculty members who continue to believe that university faculty ought to have a meaningful say in how this university is run. That's why this new group will have great difficulty getting 30% of the faculty to sign a petition in favor of holding a vote. And that's why, even should they manage to get 30% to sign, they'd get little more than 30% for a decertification vote.
Here's the full email from "Faculty for Sensible Negotiations".
Dear fellow faculty members,
As you are aware, our university is at a crisis that threatens our reputation and possibly our future as a scholarly institution. While we may not agree with the administration’s stance on some matters, we believe that the Faculty Association (FA) and its parent organization the Illinois Education Association (IEA) share responsibility for bringing us to this point. We are currently working under an “agreement” that was imposed because of what we believe were unrealistic and unreasonable FA demands on many issues. The IEA/FA and its supporters have consistently resorted to tactics that have created an openly hostile atmosphere on campus, including vilification of individual members of the administration and faculty members who do not share their positions. This situation is an anathema to both the academic mission of the university and to a productive relationship between the faculty and the university’s leadership that is essential to the future success of our university. Even when we disagree, we must all work together or together we will surely fail.
Whether or not an agreement between the administration and the FA is reached in the near future, we feel that the culture of confrontation that typifies the manner in which the FA operates is no longer tolerable on campus. The actions of the FA, with a membership of less than 40% of the faculty, reflect on the entire faculty body. As members of that body, we no longer feel comfortable allowing our colleagues, the student body, the administration, and the local community to believe the FA represents our position. Several meetings between concerned faculty from various colleges across campus have already taken place throughout the summer to research and understand what our rights are in this situation. As a result, planning is in progress to petition to decertify or replace the FA. To be clear, no one associated with the administration has participated in this process in any way. This is a grass-roots action by concerned faculty members, all of whom are currently represented by the IEA/FA.
We do not take this process lightly. Even though the FA is a minority organization within the faculty, under the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act (IELRA), the 1996 vote that emplaced the FA grants it perpetual authority to represent the faculty regardless of the level of support it maintains among the faculty. Since many current faculty members were not associated with the university at the time the FA was emplaced and since many who participated in that vote have since left the university, we feel the situation is both undemocratic and unjust. The only manner in which the exclusive representation of the FA can be challenged is a decertification or replacement action. While we would prefer to allow those faculty members who might wish to continue to be represented by the FA to do so, we insist that the rights of those faculty members who do not wish to be represented by the FA must also be respected. Under the IELRA as currently enacted the only way in which that can be achieved is via decertification or replacement of the FA.
This will be a two-step process. Initially signatures will be collected to determine whether there is sufficient support for decertification or replacement among represented faculty. If at least 30% of the faculty indicates that they support such action, then a formal vote of the faculty will be conducted. At that time, if a majority of represented faculty vote to do so, the FA would then be decertified or replaced.
What can you do? First, you can reply to this email! Opinions both supporting and opposing this effort are welcome. Second, when you are notified that signatures are being collected, you can sign the petition calling for a formal vote of the faculty, and finally, when asked to do so you can vote to decertify the FA as the exclusive representative of the faculty at SIU. Additional information will follow in the near future.
The Faculty for Sensible Negotiations