Friday, August 12, 2011

Chronicle Forum on the Future of Faculty Unions

Jon Bean has brought my attention to an interesting July 24 Chronicle discussion of the future of faculty unions. Unsurprisingly, I disagree with his characterization of the debate as entirely one-sided--from the pro-union side. While three of the six participants in the forum are indeed union activists, two others are administrators. At any rate, it is worth a read.


  1. Dave,

    Whatever their current title, is there any criticism? The part-time union person does criticize other unions but it doesn't get much further than that point. I'll let readers decide if there are any anti-union voices presented. They do exist and better to have them heard and addressed in a forum than to pack the court, so to speak.

    This is part of a larger problem: campuses used to have many sponsored debates. Now they have "discussions." I recall after the 2003 Michigan decisions, law school dean Peter Alexander asked me to present my views on what the decisions meant for higher education. He told me that, in his view, the other three panelists were probably opposed to my viewpoint. But it was not a "debate," he assured me, as if that would be a bad thing! It was a "discussion." Blech. He invited two law professors from afar along with Dr./Father Brown. I laughed and said "so you think this is 3-1. I don't mind being the lone wolf but at some point, these things just aren't fair, Peter. I'll participate if you pony up for 2 speakers of my choosing." To his credit, he did invite two law professors "on my side" (although the point was to discuss what would likely happen from these decisions, not simply voice personal opinions on racial preferences). So it was 3-3 but still a "discussion" (no debates allowed) and they published the transcript in an issue of the SIU Law Journal (it is online). As it turned out, the African American law professor from Howard University wasn't what they expected: his students drove to class in BMWs and were, he said, probably more advantaged than poor rural kids in southern Illinois. Then he went on to sing the praises of Clarence Thomas's opinions in those two cases, Gratz and Griggs. LOL

    When I attended college 1980-1984, I attended many debates (Michael Harrington versus Michael Novak on capitalism, and much more). When I returned in the 1990s, debates were gone, baby, gone. When I had Phyllis Schlafly and the former president of NOW (Karen DeCrow) come and re-debate the ERA, the house was packed at the law school. It was lively and what we ought to have on campus. Ms. DeCrow said: "I used to debate Phyllis hundreds of times in the 1970s and early 1980s. Now I am invited and paid a nice lecture fee but it is all so boring for the students." She really enjoyed being back on stage debating. But we can still turn to Youtube for debates or to (C-Span on steroids!).

    End of rant. ; - )

  2. I thought the administrators were fairly critical, just blandly so. They are/were administrators, after all. It's not often administrators do bold things like characterize their opponents as ostriches.

    Well, at least the debate on this site is getting more even, with multiple critical voices (though it is hard to count anonymouses). This isn't to say that all those disagreeing with My Wise Views agree with each other, of course. There is, after all, only one truth, the view I propound, but many versions of falsehood.

    Whether the greater diversity is producing more light or just more heat is hard to say; the real trick is hitting the mean between bland discussion and Cable TV shout fests: a debate from which we might hope to learn something, as competent opponents aim to grapple with each other's views, rather than to just smooth over differences among insiders (your view of the Chronicle thing, I take it--which was perhaps what Ken Anderson hand in mind way back when he called for "discretion") or shout down the infidels and pump up the faithful.

    Deans, of course, will likely err on the bland side. Bloggers--and certainly those who anonymously comment on blogs--will tend to err on the other side.


I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.