Saturday, May 7, 2011

Town Hall Video

I don't know why I'm lavishing so much coverage on a fairly unimportant event, but our favorite "paranoid" commentator has spotted video of the Town Hall meeting on the Southern's web site.  The slide show and print remarks have yet to appear on the Chancellor's site. Some high (or low) points:
  • 17:25 The ostrich slide, which gets lots of laughs. The Chancellor thereafter quickly refutes some of the heresies of the unions.  
  • 25:00 My own splendid question and the Chancellor's response.
  • 43:09 Rachel Stocking's question about IBB and union busting.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Q & A with the Chancellor

I've got just enough energy left as the semester stumbles to a halt to give you a report on the two difficult questions at the Town Hall meeting this afternoon.

Fairly briefly on the one such question I didn't ask.  Rachel Stocking asked the Chancellor what she thought about Interest Based Bargaining (IBB), and why she'd hired a union-busting law firm to help her bargain in a rather different style. The Chancellor said they'd hired the outside lawyer because they were understaffed. This seems rather disingenuous to me, as the administration usually hires some outside labor lawyer during negotiations. (I don't, as it happens, find this as heinous as some do, though I suppose that will depend on just how heinous a lawyer they hire; but it's a bit like complaining that a politician has hired a political consultant.)  She said little enough about Interest Based Bargaining to lead one to conclude that she has no clear understanding of how IBB is supposed to work, but she covered herself a bit by admitting that she hadn't been trained in IBB.  Neither had any on the administration team, as it happens, as they chose not to get trained, citing the expense, when the FA suggested that each team get this training, with each side paying its own expenses.

Finances here (as elsewhere!) are clearly not the real story.  The real story is that the administration isn't really interested in getting a good contract signed with the unions. They are interested in preserving their own "flexibility" (a.k.a. power) to make decisions without being hampered by any silly old contract. So the less that's in the contract, and, in many cases, the more ambiguous or unclear the contract is, the better. This explains otherwise bizarre oddities like the administration's lack of interest in providing the contract with an index.

Chancellor to Unions: Get Your Heads Out of the Sand

[Note: I've rather amped up the rhetoric of this post after mulling it over. Pictures being worth 1000 words and all.]

Just got back from the Open Meeting today. The main takeaway was the following picture, which formed one of the Chancellor's slides.

This picture brilliantly encapsulates the Chancellor's attitude to those who don't agree with her: If you don't see things my way, your head is in the sand.

Good stuff from The Nation (thanks to Sabrina Hardenbergh)

The article is called "Faulty Towers: The Crisis in Higher Education" by William Deresiewicz.

Here is the heart of the case:

"But the answer now is not to raise professors’ salaries. Professors already make enough. The answer is to hire more professors: real ones, not academic lettuce-pickers.

Yet that’s the last thing schools are apt to do.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why We Teach, Part 4

This article originally appeared in the Carbondale Times, May 4-10, 2011, p. 5.

Apparently the way to get a response from our administration is to put something in the national press. After months of requests for an explanation of Article 19 in the administration’s imposed language, finally the Chancellor publicly answered the question about whether this Article undermines the institution of tenure at SIUC. It gives the administration the power to lay off anyone for any reason, and indeed no reason needs to be given. After two years, the laid off person is terminated. The Chancellor finally said the Article is not intended to undermine tenure, and that it doesn’t contradict Board policy. What she didn’t say is that this new Article does reduce the existence of tenure at SIUC to a Board policy, and of course the Board controls its own policy –that is, there is nothing to stop the Board from exercising its lay-off rights regardless of tenure if it decides to do so.

"We are Ohio"

Things are quiet on the local union-adminsitration front today, as far as I can tell, but if you are looking for a daily fix, the Chronicle has a quick audio slide show from an effort in Ohio to repeal the law taking away collective bargaining rights from public university faculty. Or, in an advance rather than an attempt at a counter-attack on the faculty union front, here's an Inside Higher Ed story on the move toward unionization at UIC.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Unionization and Shared Governance in Western Washington

The AAUP's Journal of Academic Freedom has just published a positive account of the role of unionization at the University of Western Washington. The main thesis is that unionization preserves shared governance (rather than undermining it, as is sometimes argued). The conclusion:
I don’t want to romanticize unionization. There are still a lot of genuine differences and disagreements with administrators, trustees, resolutely anti‐union faculty members, and statewide affiliates. And no matter what system you have, dumb people in key positions making dumb decisions can always make things bad.

But the state of shared governance on our campus right now is the best it has ever been in the fifteen years I have worked at Western. And the biggest reason for that is that our faculty now have the statewide strength and campus clout that comes with collective bargaining.

Monday, May 2, 2011

New Joint Union Web Site

The closest thing to news at tonight's general meeting for the IEA unions on campus was the announcement of new joint website for the IEA unions . This site should of course continue to be regarded as the ultimate absolute gold standard for everything you'll ever need to know about faculty issues at SIUC, but the joint union site will clue you in to issues effecting folks other than (tenured/tenure-track) faculty. Among the things it links to is a new set of "FAQs" addressing various areas of concern, ranging from the legalities of "Intent to Strike Notices" to the unions' positions and approach to bargaining, as contrasted with those of the administration.

Monday roundup

First a reminder: There is a general meeting of the FA, NTT-FA, ACsE, and GA United unions today at 4:45 in Lawson 141. All people represented by these unions are welcome to attend: this is an informational meeting, not a rally, and will feature a considerable amount of time for questions.

On to news items. First, a nice story in the DE on Furlough Friday. Ignore the deceptive headline, "Unions Protest Contracts": this was not an official "union" event, and the folks there weren't disputing contracts, as the imposed furloughs weren't part of a contract--an agreement between unions and administration. And there must have been good photo ops--too bad they couldn't spare a photographer.

A powerful letter in the DE by Richard Fedder, arguing that the "silent majority" are neither silent nor a majority. (Again with a misleading and in fact incomprehensible headline, I'm afraid.)

A lengthy Chronicle of Higher Education article takes on the question of "What Good do Faculty Unions Do?" Its conclusions are mixed: it is hard to identify salary gains (in large part due to difficulties in isolating effects of unionization from differences in the cost of living and other factors), but there is some evidence that faculty unions ensure faculty a larger role in shared governance and protect faculty interests in other ways. Quote after the break.