Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Details and the Big Picture

The FA has released the TA on the Contract and the Back to Work agreement.  Predictably, the conversation has turned to the micro-analysis of what we "got" out of striking.  Some are concerned that little headway was made on the primary issues of FE layoffs and furloughs, although that "little" seems to be measured against either unstated Platonic ideals or predetermined conclusions of the FA's perpetual failure.  A few comments, then, after the break about the big and little pictures.

Lurking underneath all of this discussion is an inevitable tension between the ideal and the (for lack of a better word) "realistic."  This dialectic resonates in the discourse and critiques of all parties, pro-, anti-, and netural-FA, alike.  For my part, I care about the material consequences of this contract; I recognize that the contract is, as it always would be, a compromise between disputing parties.  Actually, I shouldn't be so confident in that "always would be" -- our Administration seemed unwilling for nearly 500 days to entertain anything like a compromise until an actual strike took place.  But all of us who honored or worked on the picket line knew that our "victory" would be only partial, that we were fighting for some limitations on Administrative power-grabs, for something we could call fair, for something at least somewhat responsive to our interests and concerns.

So yes, there is language in this contract that should cause some concern to the bargaining unit at large -- issues, perhaps, to be addressed in the next contract negotiation.  But it could have been so much worse.  I have heard nothing in the discussion so far that offers better strategies than the strike to modify this contractual agreement.  The strike did not bring about a magical Utopia of academic freedom and faculty empowerment; nor was it a waste of time with no palpable effects; nor did it destroy the university entirely.  In the post-strike struggle over its meaning, none of these realities should be ignored.

I, for one, am also not interested in losing sight of the bigger picture in squabbles over (nonetheless important) details.  Overlooked on this blog was, I thought, a pretty important analysis of our labor struggles that appeared on  Several may reject the ideological bent of this site; those are some of the same folks, I suspect, who doubt that a faculty union is actually a labor union.  The article came out during the strike and so misses the final outcome, but I think it captures the bigger picture of what is going one here.  I found this section particularly apt:

The key issues in the strike flow from SIU Chancellor Rita Cheng and SIU President Glen Poshard's attempts to impose a "corporate education" model on the school. As one student and Navy veteran asked in an open letter, "Is SIUC just after my government benefits after all? Like [the for-profit] University of Phoenix?"

"What is at stake here," said striking professor Jyostna Kapur, "is the education of working class and middle class students. The administration wants to cheat our students of a good education by trying to make us work for more and more with less and less at a time when working class and middle class students are going into debt for this education."
I have long held that the bigger problem we face at SIU is a chronic problem with Administrative bloat that continues to turn the campus toward this "corporate education model."  Anthony Grafton at the New York Review of Books offers a particularly cogent review of what is wrong with higher education.  Some familiar friends are on his reading list, but his overall synthesis is measured and offers criticism for all involved.  Consider, though, this observation of the changing tenor of higher education:

Even in these supposedly tight times, finally, well-paid administrators and nonacademic professionals proliferate—as do the costly extracurricular activities that they provide, from bonding exercises for freshmen to intercollegiate sports. The message is clear: no one sees classroom learning as a primary pursuit.
Given the Administration's cavalier attitude about the number of classes affected by the strike or the credentials that "qualified" their occasional substitute instructors, I think it is clear that our current management has a very cynical view of what actually happens in classrooms.  

SIUC's labor negotiations and the strike this fall happened at a time of considerable debate and heated discussion about the health and purpose of higher education nationwide.  It occurred in a perfect storm of economic downturn, progressive uprising, and political pendulum swings re: collective bargaining. 

We know that something important just happened here, and its significance cannot be measured in contract clauses alone.  Nay-sayer's anonymous diatribes reinforce this significance by the force of their denial and the persistence of their postings.  That said, this is also no time for the FA or its supporters to rest, to feel that the work is done.  The compromises in the contract reveal the struggles still to be had. And the energy of the community suggests a strong desire among many campus and community groups to have a significant voice in the Chancellor's and President's vision for the future of this institution.  Even the FSN and its supporters have a role to play in offering serious and sensible alternatives to the FA such that we might either pursue these alternatives or better understand what the FA can and cannot do. 

Really, we all have a role to play in the future of this institution.  The only losers in any of this are the people who feel they don't have such a role to play, the folks who don't see themselves in the picture.


  1. Yes, the debate will rage on about what the FA won or lost in it's new contract.

    The real question, though, is were those "gains" worth a strike that probably cost more than just a smaller pay check for about 150 people.

    If all the "gains" were based on changes in language that did nothing more than leave the status quo in place, the FA should hang its head in shame and replace its leadership as a matter of saving face.

    To most clear-eyed observers that does indeed seem to be the case.

    It will take a while for blurry eyed union types to come clean on this point.

  2. I wonder how you equate what became a battle over minor technical changes in language with a "power grab" by the chancellor and attacks on tenure and academic freedom?

    Even young children are starting to laugh at the union rhetoric you so freely toss around.

  3. Jonny, what I am finding quite remarkable is your comment: "I have heard nothing in the discussion so far that offers better strategies than the strike to modify this contractual agreement."

    Numerous posters here offered a long list of alternative strategies for negotiation. The most-repeated suggestion was that the FA bargaining team abandon efforts to control the FE process. Examples of better language regarding FE procedures were offered from our peers and aspirational peers. Sure, it's great that we now have the AAUP language on FE in the new contract--but why on earth didn't the FA team offer something like this 400 days ago? Instead, quite late in the game, they made the enormous concession of reducing the requirement for four years of audited financial statements showing a deficit to three years!

    As another particularly compelling example, given your point about administrative bloat, people here pointed out that other institutions have language protecting the ratio of faculty to administrative positions. I completely agree that what we are seeing is a transition to a corporate model, and that this is a part of a wider national pattern. There is quite a bit of good analysis about the costs of these kind of changes--both to learning and to the fiscal soundness of universities. I believe many of us would have been very happy to see the FA make these arguments through an effective public education campaign that would have pointed to exactly the impacts you note on our students and our wider community. The FA team could also have begun by recognizing that we are, in fact, quite privileged--especially in the current economic downturn---and trying to build a communication strategy to explain the importance of tenure and academic freedom to the wider community. This suggestion was made here and elsewhere, to no avail.

    In this context, I find the argument that the FA bargaining team did the very best it could have, and that it had no other realistic options, to be particularly unpersuasive.

  4. "Numerous posters here offered a long list of alternative strategies for negotiation. The most-repeated suggestion was that the FA bargaining team abandon efforts to control the FE process."

    What always seems to get lost in this revisioning of history is the Administration's adamant refusal to engage in interest based bargaining. They set the tone and style of the negotiation -- and then proceeded to drag it out to their advantage for a year and a half. It is rather extreme rhetoric, indeed, to claim the FA's supposals sought to "control" the determination of FE. They did seek a meaningful contribution to the process of determining FE, and posts on this blog have also shown that the FA's supposals on this point were not without precedent. But before the strike the FA let go of even these efforts and had to work quite hard (including the use of a strike) to get the BOT to shift its definition of FE to something more sensible.

    You equate suggestions about how the FA should have negotiated particular terms and clauses with the option to strike or not, but do so without ever acknowledging the Administration's positions and tactics. You grant the problem of Administrative bloat and the growing corporate education paradigm, but cling to some mythical and yet unnamed other mode of negotiation. You presume that suggestions and armchair negotiation advice offered on this blog constitute meaningful contributions to how the FA should have negotiated. Your own positions on these points seem quite cozy and removed, a high tower from which to pass judgements.

    The only people who should be hanging their heads in shame are those who demand more of the FA but have offered nothing of their own labor to its work. You remain invited to get involved and make the FA better by helping it conform to your vision of what it ought to be and ought to do.

  5. Rumor control.

    This is off topic, but I don't know where else to put it. Not surprisingly during strikes rumors occur. Unfortunately I inadvertently initiated a rumor that turns out to have been false.

    I reported here that a member of the BOT team covered one of my classes. It turns out this is false. What I think happened is this: a student described the person who covered the class, including the office they worked in, I asked "was it so-and-so?" and the student said "yes". I wrote this person and they did not reply. I took this as further confirmation. I have now spoken with this person and they assured me they did not cover my class but that another person did. This person works in the same office and has similar features. Possibly the BOT team member did not reply to my email because of the general chaos at the time. I will certanly take this person at their word and apologize for starting the rumor.

    I stand by my opinion that the refusal of the BOT team to bargain for 3 1/2 days needlessly prolonged the strike and hope that the BOT or our elected officials will enquire as to why this was done.

  6. Jonny Gray says, "The only people who should be hanging their heads in shame are those who demand more of the FA but have offered nothing of their own labor to its work. You remain invited to get involved and make the FA better by helping it conform to your vision of what it ought to be and ought to do."

    I agree.

    But the critics -- mostly still under cover of childish anonymity here -- will not become involved, no matter how often they are sincerely entreated to do so, because they are ideologically allergic to what they see as the leftist leanings of the FA. To join, one by one, is to endure the discomfort of being a political minority. Sure, if they truly do believe they represent the majority of the T and TT faculty (I am neither), one would think it worth the trouble. But working from inside to change it looks like a lot of work and rubbing shoulders with these types is too much to bear. So, instead, you get unproductive sniping from the sidelines and silly, side-ring petitions that feel noble while remaining hollow. And finally, it's possible that the word union alone makes them queasy.

    I see political entrenchment among those who see themselves operating as discerning free agents out of and above the trenches.

  7. "The only people who should be hanging their heads in shame are those who demand more of the FA but have offered nothing of their own labor to its work. You remain invited to get involved and make the FA better by helping it conform to your vision of what it ought to be and ought to do."

    Why do you and your handlers constantly tell us that the only way to solve these problems is through union involvement?
    Clearly, your union blinders are preventing you from understanding that there may be other ways to advocate for the interests of tenured and tenure-track faculty.

    The fact that union membership in all the IEA represented bargaining units is a vast minority of those eligibile to join should tell you something. That and the fact that a significant number of dues paying members did not walk off the job. Oh yeah, a group of students did march around campus on your behalf, but the majority of them had NO IDEA what the issues were.

    The FA, and certainly yourself, are gonna be in a defensive mode for quite sometime. And don't try to tell us that "gains" you "won" will lead to an increase in membership.

  8. 1:18 PM asked: "Why do you and your handlers constantly tell us that the only way to solve these problems is through union involvement?"

    Why aren't you and your "handlers" using these "other means" to solve our problems? No one is stopping you. Go for it. You could be a hero!

  9. It seems to me that in all of this criticism of the FA, we are forgetting the original sin on the part of the Board of Trustees, namely that it employs an attorney who boasts openly about being anti-union. I quote from his website: " He has helped non-union employers to maintain union-free work environments...).

    If this is an admission, as I read it, that Jones was hired to make this envirnment "union-free," is it really so difficult to imagine that the FA actually stubbornness at the bargaining table and that it managed quite impressively under the circumstances?

    Of course, plenty of people out there will surely sympathize with D. Shane Jones's take. (I know, I know, we're "brainworkers" who supposedly don't need any protection). But do you really accept the FA to have, in effect, willed itself out of existence by rolling over passively at the bargaining table? If I read critics, the FA should have had no resolve, no creativity, no bargaining chips. It should simply have given in to the BOT in the name of "getting along" during a difficult time financially.

    I, for one, am not impressed with this argument.

  10. Sorry, two typos in my post: the FA "faced" stubbornness at table. And "expect"...not "accept"

  11. @ Erin:

    I'm sure that the founders of the FSN believed then (and I imagine, still do) that the majority of the faculty do not support the FA or being represented by it. I do not know if they are right, but they did -- as you say -- find it "worth the trouble" to try to find out, and the laws don't really allow for anything but a convoluted way to do this (e.g. the card campaign). It's hardly a "silly, side-ring" petition to try to test that theory -- and it certainly is not true (as you imply) that the only truly "noble" way to determine what the faculty want is to do it *through* the FA. How are their efforts "hollow"? The attempt may well fail, but it was worth the try and sets the stage for future efforts to determine what the faculty want as we move forward. It's all well and good to throw around poetic word combinations, but not so helpful if they are not appropriate to the situation.

    The T/TT faculty have not voted on their means of representation for a long, long time. I agree with arguments made previously that asking the FA to arrange such a vote is in some sense like asking the Chancellor to ask for her own no-confidence vote. However, such a vote cuts both ways -- if negative, then the FA should *not* be representing the faculty; if positive, then not only would the FA disprove all the critics who try to charaterize it as not-representative and fringe--but they would also have a powerful argument for fair share.

    Finally, the attempt to cast national-scale political aspersions on the non-FA faculty may make you feel better (by aiding in the construction of a self-consistent worldview), but it doesn't hold any water, in my experience anyway. I've talked with a lot of T/TT faculty who are not in the union over the years, and the number of people who gave the impression that they didn't like the FA union was because they were a bunch of "crazy leftists"--or even, that they didn't like unions at all--is precisely zero. Admittedly, some might not be big fans of certain personalies in the FA leadership or their thought-processes (hey, all politics is local I guess!) while others, like me, do not believe that a labor union is the best/most-appropriate form of representation for research faculty at PhD-granting universities (don't forget--SIUC's structure is quite rare). I'm not dead-set against it though. In any case, the towers of academia are hardly bastions of right-wing ideology (as I'm sure you are aware) and even not counting those in unions wouldn't move the "ideological-average" needle too far in the other direction. In short: I am not in the "1%", and I doubt too many of my non-FA colleagues are either.

  12. I agree bzzer's comments. Union is not suitable for SIU, in particular, in this poor economic time. One of FA's basic assumptions is that the Admin always have bad faith in deal with university fairs. This idea makes everything non-productive. As the state budget is getting worse, the student enrollment is becoming more crucial for keeping the university healthy. The recent strike, however, just commits an academic suicide. Some of our NTT fellows will lose their jobs if the enrollment drops (it is expected, no one is willing to send their kids to a troubled campus). New faculty hiring will be unlikely. You may blame the Admin. However, I fail to see the argument of FA. One of critics by FA is the academic freedom, but I couldn't find any filed complaints in the last decade. I am not saying that there is no problem there, but at least there is no evidence to support the concern.

    Another issue is that FA doesn't like merit increase in general. This is a quality-killed characteristics. Performance based on pay increase is crucial to keep the talents at SIU. But since it is impossible for FA to abandon those poor performance member to promote those productive faculty, the performance based criteria are hardly applied if the FA is the representation of the TT faculty members.

  13. Erin,

    As one of the founders of the FSN, I can tell you that I was and am very curious how faculty want to be represented. The FA vote was before I came, and I joined sometime after I arrived. I did resign for a variety of reasons. It has been interesting to me to meet so many faculty who are FA supporters and so many who are not.

    It has seemed odd to me to have my working environment determined by the negotiations of a minority of the faculty. I have always been comfortable emailing Randy Hughes and getting his responses.

    One thing that I am most concerned about is extremism. I want to work with people working toward solutions. I have found them in the FA, the FSN, the administration, and in faculty who are neither FA nor FSN. I want to be a part of that group of problem solvers. Imagine.

    Offering my Diet Dr. Pepper's worth of though for today,


  14. Ahhhh, also...I have to agree with Anon 3:05. The strike was very bad timing. The economy is so bad. Illinois is broke. Our enrollment is very likely to decrease, NTT faculty will be let go. I would have been glad to take furlough days to save NTT folk. Heaven knows our program and our students have needed and benefited from their hard work.

    But it is over and done.

    We need to be positive, recruit, and retain.

    Chipper as always, Kim

  15. Erin and Jonny, Very good posts. The "opposition" seems to forget that it was Cheng who delayed the process of fair bargaining and threatened tenure in her imposed contract as well as attempting to force faculty to teach distance education they felt unhappy with. Also, the strike is far from being ill-timed if you look at the situation in Ohio, Mississippi, and what is happening in Wisconsin. When corporate extremists go too far, they should expect opposition, something that Poshard and Cheng should now learn.

  16. Dear Kim,

    I am just thrilled you're willing to identify yourself in your posts. That's worth a lot of Dr. Pepper. Imagine if everyone held him or herself accountable... then there could be true civil discourse. A lot of people have been scandalized by many things lately, but for me, this cowardice is lamentable. I just finished teaching The Tempest and the line "Play the men." (or women) comes to mind.

    Anonymous 1.18 couldn't more perfectly illustrate the assertions of my post -- he hates unions like feline leukemia, so he'll conjure a shadow organization that looks and feels a lot like a union, but just doesn't smell like one.

    So yes, Beezer (possibly a real name, so I will respond) I stand by my post, especially since I couldn't write a more spot-on parody of the deluded sentiment I have been witnessing.


  17. If this is a corporation, then when can I start a shareholder lawsuit?

    Oh, wait, it is a creature of the State and that cannot be sued! It is wrapped up in the state constitution, representative democracy and all of that glorious stuff.

    Sorry, continue on . . .

  18. The big picture to me is that we stood up to an administration that sought the flexibility to fire tenured faculty with thirty days' notice. As much as I did not like the joint commission idea one bit, and complained about it under semi-anonymous aliases throughout the early bit of last month, I also understood the asymmetrical nature of bargaining that seemed to be occurring. That it took a strike for the administration suddenly to be reasonable on tenure guarantees with regard to FE is still extraordinary!

    No, I have read the contract and I am proud of my small efforts in striking two weeks ago to achieve it. Of course, there are things that are less than desirable about the contract, in the furlough area particularly. Was I going to support staying on strike a sixth and possibly an eight or ninth day to get that fixed? Absolutely not! We can revisit that issue in the next contract when the economic climate will likely be better than it is right now.

    Some things were also achieved in this contract that are harder to quantify. I have never met more interesting colleagues across the university than I did during my week on strike. Why should it take a strike for a fifth-year professor at this university to meet more than the handful of faculty outside of his department that he had met prior to two weeks ago?

    Lastly, I have to believe that the administration will seek more constructive avenues of engagement with the FA in the future, having seen the FA carry through a (relatively) successful strike even against the odds.

    Given the circumstances and the context, the contract before us is the very best I believe that could have been achieved. It took a strike to achieve the most meaningful portions of it. I intend to endorse it by voting yes later this month.

  19. Concerned from abroad.November 17, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    I am glad the strike is over and that people feel a sense of camaraderie having met other colleagues from across campus and specially with the student support. But I am perplexed by the talk of having gotten a "great" contract that I heard before this was made available to the public. The contract still does not address many issues that for decades have been of concern to me as a faculty member and that are usually left to be dealt with at the department level in a spoken manner: i.e. realistic maternity/ family/ disability leave policies; official policies when dealing with spousal hires rather than deals under the table; *real* merit; for example. I am even concerned that some of the language that is not being disputed might open the contract to lawsuits (you may take sabbatical but if you leave the university after it you have to return a percentage of what you were paid?) It looks like the same old contract from years past with additional loopholes for the administration to cut into the faculty. I understand that the FA was facing a stubborn (predictably so given its history) administration. But I worry SIU is being driven into the ground by the actions from all sides thinking they are doing what is best for the university.

  20. 6:27 AM: I can feel a very weak thinker.

  21. Concerned from abroad--The FA did try to get parental leave into the contract; the administration refused, and so we still have our little known and less understood mishmash under which some parents get treated well and others rather less well. I certainly agree that we also need a spousal hire policy, which could be a terribly effective means of recruiting and retaining faculty--the current ad hoc process often results in ill-will and the loss of excellent faculty members. These are tricky matters, but in my view are both cases where an administration obsession with retaining "flexibility" costs the university, in my view. Faculty who are particularly prized on high, or have particularly active and effective chairs and deans, get treated well, while the rest suffer.

    As to "real merit", it will depend what you mean by *real* (your emphasis!). The FA has traditionally let the admin take the lead here, with the administration pushing for merit pay and the FA pushing for other things (across the board raises to keep up with inflation, equity with peers, diminishing salary compression, etc.). But the FA has certainly signed off on merit pay in the past. I am frankly surprised that the administration didn't push for some of the raise money to go to merit--though the raises are so paltry that it is hardly worth going through the cumbersome merit pay process to redistribute these funds.

    The FA attempted to start this round of negotiations using the "interest based bargaining" approach, which is supposed to facilitate non-confrontational bargaining. The extent of the administration's interest in this process can be seen in their refusal to undergo some training sessions, for which they'd pay their share and we'd pay ours. (They did go along in 2006). The Chancellor admitted in her town hall meeting that she didn't understand this approach. Once one gets off on the wrong foot, it's hard to get back on the right one: when the unions couldn't get IBB going after months of trying, we resorted to picketing and other means of applying pressure, ultimately the strike in the FA's case. It would take a truly enlightened administration to bargain in a non-confrontational manner with demonstrators outside, and while I think that both bargaining teams remained professional and relatively level-headed throughout the process, I hope we can get off to a better & quicker start next time around.

    Finally: Kim Asner-Self, I'm very glad to see you here in propria persona, and chipper to boot.

  22. Concerned from abroad.November 17, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Thanks for clarifying some about what issues from what I mentioned the FA was trying to work into a contract. I guess that some of the faculty like myself feel out of the loop and only see the end result and miss what was discussed.
    I have hope for SIU. It is a great place.

  23. How about coming out of the world of fiction and into the real world of fundamental rights and political speech? Start with the Founders of our great nation: does the anonymous pseudonym "PUBLIUS" ring a bell? The Federalists Papers are older than the United States themselves.

    And how about the U.S. Supreme Court's oft-cited statement in the 1995 case of McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission:

    "Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society."

    I think it bears repeating: "Anonymity . . . exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular."

  24. Correction: Federalist Papers, which were actually published as The Federalist.

  25. To Kim Asner-Self!
    How very "sensible" all what you say sounds!
    So Kim, seeing that you are willing to cough up more furlough days (although the Chancellor won't "put her stuff in the coffer") why don't you give up the promotional raises that the FA got for you and other faculty? When I was promoted to Associate Professor-about 20 years ago--the promotional increase was around a meager 90 dollars a month for 9 months. so less than one thousand dollars! I wonder what your promotional raise was--seeing that you got here after the union was in place.

  26. Kim said:
    "I want to be a part of that group of problem solvers. Imagine."

    Way to go, Kim. Who knows--soon before you know it you will part of the administration! Then you can help solve all the problems of this university. Administrators for Sensible Negotiations!

  27. It's good to see Dave commending Kim Anser-Self for her post here. It's too bad that the FA can't reign in its more radical members. The last two posts are the exact reason that I will never give a dime of my money or lift a finger to support to the FA. At a time when most people are calling for openness and dialogue, some people just can't pass up the opportunity to level a personal attack. So sad.

  28. Anon: 8:13.

    Some members of FA love to make fun to those people who disagree with FA's approach. Their behaviors will destroy FA eventually. Their comments create more problems and certainly won't help in this healing process.

  29. Don't waste your time with FA' puppies. It is not worthy it.

  30. To Anonymous 8:13 & Anonymous 8:33:
    How do you propose the FA "reign in" its "puppies," with a muzzle and leash? FA members are people in a free country. The power of the FA to control its members amounts to telling them that what they are doing or saying is stupid and unhelpful.

    To Anonymous 7:57 & 8:02:
    What you are saying is stupid and unhelpful. If you disagree with Kim, try to persuade her rather than to insult her.

  31. Anonymous 8:13, I agree with your sentiment, though I don't see how the FA can reign in anyone--especially given the rather eloquent defense of anonymity above. If we judge either the FA or the administration by the nastiest wisecracks made on either side, we will misjudge both. As I've said before, if I were censoring comments for anything other than the most nasty sort of attack, I'd be censoring plenty from those who take themselves to be supporting the FA but are in fact undermining it, in my opinion, by cheap shots at others. I'm plenty ready to savage the FSN's positions, but that's distinct from savaging those who've supported the FSN. I take it as a very good sign that Kim is willing to post under her own name here, and hope that others will give her and any others critical of the FA the respect they deserve. This means assuming that they, like the rest of us, want what is best for SIUC, even if we disagree, strongly, about what is best for SIUC, or how best to achieve it.

  32. Unfortunately, Ms. Asner-Self is unable to put her money where her mouth is. As an opponent of the FA who has benefited from raises negotiated on her behalf, she is obligated to request that this money be withdrawn from her salary so that she can negotiate on her own. The same is true for FSN and other anti-union faculty who are really hypocrites if they do not follow this course. Unless they sign a document allowing the administration to deduct gains made on their behalf by the union, they they will get the respect they deserve.

  33. @ Anon 10:07

    We've already been over this--I/she/you can't actually *do* what you say (and since I expect you already know that, you are being disingenuous). The FA, whether we like it or not, is the sole representative for all contract-related things for all the faculty in the bargaining unit. Please see previous threads (re)hashing through that false argument... (and maybe try coming up with a new idea that is helpful, instead of an old one that isn't). I do not believe that she ever had the opportunity to vote on her representation (I know I didn't). Did you?

  34. Anonymous 10:07

    Well-said! I'm so tired of all this talk of, "Oh, I didn't get to vote on whether we should have a union or not--'cos I wasn't here when it happened!" or "I don't want a union which only represents a minority of the faculty representing me"..if people feel that way, then let them donate the raises that they got because of the FA for a good cause".
    Hey--a group of people got together aeons ago and made up all the rules for the Faculty Senate. I don't hear any objections to that! Even procedurally, the way the Faculty Senate conducts business is so outmoded-and stuffy! Hey-a group of people got together even earlier than that and wrote up the Board of Trustees policies--including the one on Financial Exigency! But I don't hear these FSN folks and these FA union bashers complaining about that!

  35. More faculty strikes happening nationwide. I'm at a national conference and just talked with colleagues at San Jose State University, and they say they followed our strike with great interest. The details of the issues are different, but the broad strokes are pretty familiar.

    Big picture, indeed.

  36. @ 11:25

    You're tired of hearing it, I'm tired of having to repeat it. Your analogies don't work or aren't relevant. First, the BOT example is actually more analogous to a BOD at a corporation. I'll assume that since you are speaking out in defense of the current FA structure, you don't exactly feel as though the BOT is particularly designed to speak for you (and you'd be right). The FS is a better try but the FS DOES represent ALL faculty (w/o charge, btw--and including our colleagues who happen to currently be chairs). All faculty (including me) vote for those in office and if the faculty chose to suspend its quaint (Robert's) rules--which do have their purpose--(or even to suspend all actions) it could do that. But the real point you are missing (in your fatigue) is that the "principle" I and (many) others are whining about is tied precisely to the *practical* thing that (I think most) everyone agrees (even most FAers) is wrong--or at least non-advantageous--about the union: that it is *not actually representative of the faculty.*

    It is hardly strange to question the existence of a teacher-union structure representing research faculty at a PhD-granting university--it is rare (most of our peers do not have it). I do not believe (and I may be wrong) that the faculty by and large actually want union representation. I hope you believe that the faculty DO want it (as it would be hard to justify it's current place if it didn't). A vote would determine who is right--and such votes should be regular, btw. But I'd go this far--if the FA (or other union structure) carries the day, then there should be fair share for that term too.

  37. I am not signing the FSN card because of the tactlessness of the entire campaign up to date. (I received 5 email messages from Dr. Eichholz while I was on strike and denied access to my faculty email account.) I also think the FS proposal is very ill-thought out.

    If they do succeed in getting 30%, I will vote to retain the FA as the union representing the bargaining unit. Indeed, on some level I hope they get the 30% because I suspect the FA will get a healthy support from a majority of faculty who regard a faculty union as necessary (perhaps as a necessary evil but necessary).

    I will grant your point though. In an ideal world perhaps a faculty union at a major research university such as this one would not be necessary. Such an ideal world, however, would also need to possess a Faculty Senate with actual binding power over the administration. Granted, as an assistant professor, my experience with shared governance is limited. On the other hand, at CUNY Graduate Center, where I did my Ph.D., I was the history department's student rep on Graduate Council for three years so I got to observe how at least my graduate school was governed. Decisions in the graduate school (which was a self-contained college separate from the various branches of the CUNY system) were not made by the President or the Provost unless there was clear consensus. There, it seemed, shared governance actually meant something. There it seemed, administrators actually displayed great deference to faculty. I do not remember a single close vote in the years I served on the council; controversial items were tabled and sent to committee to be worked on some more until some consensus was reached and considerable faculty imput was gathered.

    Imagine such a world here at SIUC, and I will imagine a world where we might not need our faculty union.

  38. "Imagine such a world here at SIUC, and I will imagine a world where we might not need our faculty union."

    The FA has been at war with every administration and pretty much every administrator since it was created. Its entire culture is one of perpetual conflict and antagonism. The recent strike shows only that the FA does not even care about collateral damage any more. It does not matter who else gets hurt provided that the FA gets its way (or tries to). So perhaps the better statement would be 'Imagine our university without our faculty union and I can imagine such a world (one with effective shared governance and one in which faculty and administrators work together collaboratively) at SIUC.'

  39. Some one once told me that SIU got the Union it deserved. His history of great antipathy and distrust between administration and faculty was an interesting lesson. My pondering though now focus on the state of our relationship now. What can we do to shift from an adversarial relationship between faculty and administration and among faculty? None of us can change the past, but we can work for a better future. That might take some organizational work among all of us. For example, I can't change nor do I particulary want to censor the anon's who find my posts to be a target for their anger. It doe not hurt me, it allows them to discharge some anger. The unfortunate part is the discharge may not be replaced by a sense of being heard.

    I think this blog has turned out to be a possible arena for discourse. For students, alums, all faculty, even administrators. There are enough thoughtful posts to allow for the angry ones. We can use this blog to talk with each other. We are all intelligent and offer many eyes with which to work. What would create a better working environment.

    1. This blog
    2. Getting involved in Committees outside one's comfort zone. Getting to know other professionals and how they think. Admire them their ways you want to incorporated and let the rest dribble off. Get to know these people over coffee, lunch, a beer. Where you have no real agenda.
    3. Invite someone to teach an hour of your class. For example...I am not a specialist in alcohol and drug counseling, why not invite my colleage across the quad in another building to come talk. I could repay him with a cuppa, or lunch.

    We are many people, what other ideas are out there?


  40. What can we do to shift from an adversarial relationship between administration and faculty? The answer is obvious: shared governance. But can you imagine Cheng doing that or Poshard with his Tammany Hall, smoke-filled rooms background? Since 1970, the administration has always treated faculty with contempt. Unless they change their attitude (which I doubt) faculty must fight them constantly to achieve the type of shared governance that Illinois State University has with an honest President who rose through the ranks and protects his faculty. This is merely the beginning of a long struggle.

  41. Kim Asner-Self said, "For example, I can't change nor do I particulary want to censor the anon's who find my posts to be a target for their anger. It doe not hurt me, it allows them to discharge some anger. The unfortunate part is the discharge may not be replaced by a sense of being heard."

    Kim: I think there is serious misunderstanding (on your part) of the intent and emotion behind my posting. There is no anger-period. I was merely stating a fact as i saw it. Anonymous 10:07 also made the same point concurring with what I stated. Also, it is interesting that the analogy to canines used in postings immediately following mine are not denounced by either you or this blog's manager.

  42. Anonymous (2:50 PM):

    Even though Kim Asner-Self's original statement was about removing the adversarial relationship between faculty and administration, her suggestions were examples of building collaboration among faculty.

    Even if you don't trust the administration and even if you fault them for SIU's problems, you can still work with other faculty on directly solving the problems that SIU faces. You don't have to go through the official channels, get administrators involved, or fight administrators to do so.

    For example, we can get together in "study groups" to read about teaching techniques to engage underprepared students and motivate them for the difficult work of meeting the standards that we set for them. We can do this without having to talk to or get permission from any administrators. Ideally, our efforts in the classroom would improve retention without forcing anyone to buy into the latest administrative initiative.

  43. "Yo" Erin Anthony (?):

    Are you actually comparing yourself to Madison, Hamilton, et al? Are you asserting that the function of anonymity in the 18th c. public sphere during this nation's founding has equivalence here on Deo Volente?

    It's you that needs to come out of the world of fiction.

    I can help with that. Next time you see me on campus -- because you have the advantage over me, from your craven cover of obscurity -- come over, shake my hand and introduce yourself.

  44. On an unrelated note, Mark Amos has been named as the first Dean of University College at SIUC. Will he get a raise? Will the people here complain about it as much as John Nicklow's raise?

  45. I do not think in these times Mark Amos or James Allen or John Niklow should be given raises! The administration always manages to find money for hefty raises for administrators. Probably all the money that goes towards their raises will come out of the money gained by cutting the pay of the faculty who went on strike.

  46. Paranoid,

    You're right, I actually didn't put anything down about how we could improve faculty-administration relationships. For the most part, administrators at SIU come from faculty. That is a start. Always good to find common ground. I do believe a majority of folks here want the best for our University. Common ground. We all do like to get acknowledged for our work, our sincerity, our good will. Why not approach John Nicklow, Jim Allen, Rita Cheng with the attitude that they care as deeply about SIU as we do, and in their way, they are doing things the best way they believe they can.

    When I was a new teacher, it seemed to me that my students did not study, come to class prepared, care about themselves or the subject area, anything. A seasoned teacher laughed when I complained and said "You are focussing on the five to ten percent of your students and letting them take up ninety percent of your time." That was in 1985. It was a simple observation, but it made me broaden my perspective. Good thing for me and my students. Perhaps newer administrators feel barraged by negativity....being told everything that isn't going well. Not going to be easy to be able to be a part of trust building when you are being yelled at or heavily criticised or not feeling heard. Heaven knows there are faculty who do not feel heard, either by the administration, or the FA, or each other.

    What if we each took the time to see administrators as people, individual faculty as people, and worked to keep ourselves from getting polarized. Right now, it is the only idea I have and it entails more internalized work than measurable "doing." Create space within our relationships to grow together.

    We have tried a more confrontative way since I've been here. What do we have to lose? Llet us focus on the now and the future. We know we can always go back to being confrontational.


  47. Kim--

    Jim Allen is a good man and totally approachable. I have always found him easy to work with. Even during this last struggle, he often expressed sympathy with our (FA) struggles. We sat together at the Chancellor's state of the university address.

    I also found Provost Nicklow easy to work with when he was overseeing the School of Engineering's residential learning program.

    So yes, it is much easier to work with people as people than reducing them to their offices. You make excellent points.

    Please then, recognize, my frustrations as an FA advocate as born from dissonance that comes from good relationships with individual administrators and yet astonishment at the wildly unproductive policies imposed from the top. What the Administration tried (and failed!) to do to us in this last contract is truly horrifying. I hope we can recover from it relatively quickly and get back to the shared labor of the university.

  48. Kim said: "Always good to find common ground. I do believe a majority of folks here want the best for our University. Common ground. We all do like to get acknowledged for our work, our sincerity, our good will. Why not approach John Nicklow, Jim Allen, Rita Cheng with the attitude that they care as deeply about SIU as we do, and in their way, they are doing things the best way they believe they can."

    Kim, the same could be said for the FSN, which you were one of the founders of. I am puzzled as to you and the other FSN folks did not approach the FA and its members in the same way--and try to find "common ground" instead of trying to throw them under bus? The FA wants what is good for the university and its primary stakeholders--the students. The FA and its members "care deeply" about SIUC. But the FSN people were not willing to grant us that, from the way they went about things when negotiations were underway recently.

  49. "The FA wants what is good for the university and its primary stakeholders--the students."

    You have a funny way of showing it! Walking out on students just does not smack of wanting what's best for them. But there is little point debating that issue further. Time, and the students, will be the final arbitrators of that question, so we will all just have to wait and see what happens with enrollment next semester and (especially) next year.

    I wonder, if enrollment falls dramatically as a result of the strike, as many are predicting, will the FA admit that the strike was ill considered and ill advised and accept responsibility, or will they simply blame "the administration" in general (or Cheng and Poshard specifically). Again, we will all have to wait and see.

    One thing, however, is already very very clear - There is a lot of anger on our campus, on all sides.

  50. In a complex economic & social context, any study that can prove falling enrollment "as a result of" a single factor would, indeed, be something of import, given it would have to control innumerable other factors, including tuition/fee hikes to make such a claim. so yes, 'we'll have to wait and see" many things.

  51. So I guess we already have our answer. The answer is No, The FA (or its supporters), are already preparing to divert responsibility for their actions onto "other factors"

  52. Hey all,
    Hope you don’t forget the holiday this week. One way my parents always worked to build some harmony at the universities were my Dad worked was to identify international students and faculty who weren’t going elsewhere for the holiday and invite them over. So my family here has tried to do the same when we’ve been in town. Can’t tell you how much fun it is and how great it is for everyone involved.
    Also when I blog here on Deo Volente, I’m going to blog for myself only. Although I am a founding member of the FSN, I do not have the right or the ability to represent it. For myself, though, I’ve reached out the Randy Hughes in his capacity as President and he has responded. I reached out to both Morteza Daneshoot and the Marvin Zeman when they were Presidents, but I think they must have been too busy at the time to respond to me. I was a member of the FA at one time. Now I am a member of the FSN. Yes, I would like to see the FA decertified and either another union, a local union, or no union exist. I want the conversation to occur among the faculty. I’m just musing here but, it seems as though things must have been pretty darn contentious back in the day. If people are treated correctly, there is no need for a union. I know some faculty worked for a long time to get a vote and get the union formed. The kind of dedication it takes to do that kind of work can be all-encompassing. It requires true believers. It can require total dedication to the cause. Revolutionaries, even!
    But that kind of single-minded passion does not always translate well into the kind of leadership needed now. Since I came in 1999, the sense of a zero-sum game has prevailed. Not just between some people representing the FA and the “administration,” but between some people in the FA and some not in the FA. Most of the time it seems to just simmer, but during the contract negotiations and the days leading up to during and after the strike, things boil. I’d like it if we faculty could learn to work better together and practice a “win-win” philosophy. How do we do it, though?
    We could start with our own departments. In my department, we do not agree on everything, heck we don’t even all like each other, but we work well together, respect one another, and treat each other with that respect and dignity. It takes work to do this. It takes learning how to handle hurt feelings, angry misunderstandings, perceived and real injustices, and separating out the big stuff and the little stuff. It takes going out to lunch, or taking a walk to the library for a cup of coffee. It takes asking about each other’s day. It takes being honest. It takes being willing to find something good in each person. But you gotta start small for this to really work. And you gotta be willing to take risks and fail A LOT until it feels like things are actually coming around. And then, maybe if each department were willing to do this, then the departments might try to interact positively together, and pretty soon we’d be seeing Colleges working together and the whole SIUC system could be a collaborative, highly productive, fun, attractive place to come to work and to learn! We could call it the “Kim Asner-Self Revolution” (Apologies to Arlo Guthrie) and because it was happening around Thanksgiving we could make it into a song.
    Okay, I got carried away. I am wont to do that. Disregard the part where I go all Arlo on you. But then, I am serious about changing our culture and would love to talk with anyone about it. I would like it if I knew with whom I spoke. The “anonymous” thing is hard to engage in, and I feel better blogging with people willing to step up.
    Think about it. I’m on a pro-FA blog as an out FSN person. And I’m reaching out. Can you meet me?

    Kim Asner-Self

  53. KIm: The problem is that you seem to like the sound of your own voice. Brevity is the soul of wit. And you can take off your counseling hat...we are not your clients! And talking of International students, there is an international coffee hour that takes place every friday in International Programs. It's hosted by members of the carbondale community. But perhaps you are not aware of it as I have yet to see you there. Happy thanksgiving.

  54. Kim:

    Regarding the zero-sum thinking, I don't predict much improvement there. The structures that the chancellor is putting in place with performance-based funding and position control are competitive structures that will pit departments against one another for resources.

    I wish you luck on the Faculty Senate to do what you can to keep the system from creating inter-departmental resentments and to make my prediction untrue.

    As for taking off the anonymous hat, I won't be ready for that until people like Anon. 6:47 learn to restrain themselves better.

  55. Paranoid,

    I tend to take coments like 6:47 with a whole salt shaker. The negative comments are so ingrained in our culture here that it is really hard to take offense. Beside, 6:47 probably knows me and might rightly be annoyed by my verbosity LOL.

    On another note, have you read lightsaber's comments on another place here.

    Alo, can someone tell me how to read the newest stuff without having to keep flipping back and around?

    Thanks in advance!

  56. Kim,

    You can catch the new comments with less jumping around by going to the page for the RSS feed of the blog comments ( It jumbles comments together across posts, but it makes unhealthily obsessive Deo volente comment reading easier.

    My question for Lightsaber was similar to yours. How do we get from Point A to Point B, especially when people from all sides, sometimes with good reason, don't have a lot of faith or trust in moving together?

  57. Kim

    You and I arrived at SIUC at the same time. The day I arrived in town, the BOT announced the firing of Chancellor Argersinger. It was a bracing moment to arrive. "What fresh hell is this?" I thought. My formative years here were marked by Chancellor Wendler. He had his struggles with the FA, too, but it ultimately wasn't the FA that brought him down. Both Argersinger and Wendler remain at SIUC, their careers in upper administration effectively ended. And the university continues to seek its principle leadership through "head hunting," which has repeatedly proved the "Peter Principle" all too accurate.

    I was very intrigued by Lightsaber's post, not the least for his/her acknowledgement of the function and implicitly necessary (at least here) purpose of a faculty union. The point is well made that a union is not sufficient shared governance, and I agree. But what the union has struggled over is some preservation (as much as it is able) of shared governance. I like and support a more robust faculty senate. I reject the false dilemma of having to choose between such a robust Senate and a healthy union (as implied in the recent FSN petition). We can and should have both.

    Your point about putting a name on a post is well made. I treat more seriously and give more credence to those posts made not behind a mask of anonymity. That said, I think the value of this blog is giving folks a place to vent, even if anonymously. "Better out than in," as the ogre Shrek would say. So, like you, I keep my salt shaker handy and try (but frequently fail) to remember that other bit of Internet fairy tale wisdom: do not feed the trolls.

    Another Thanksgiving tradition I encourage folks to remember: speak out loud that which you are thankful for. As you share a harvest feast with family and friends, remember that there is more to this community than strife and complaint.

    Happy Thanksgiving, all.

  58. Kim Asner Self states that she only got here in 1999--this was well after those (like myself) who joined siuc many many years before had to struggle in order to get the FA in place. I still don't get it why someone with such a relatively short history of being at siuc would be quick to try and throw the FA under the bus. Kim, it looks like you haven't tried hard enough--to learn to appreciate the good in people. Is it the idea of a faculty union that you are against or is it something more personal and specific to the FA leadership and its individual members? And i wish people would stop sermonizing about the lack of civility etc etc. We are not a homogenous group of people. We are different in every possible way including ways of speaking. Appearances can be deceptive--and insidious ideas and intents can be cloaked with honey coated words. In any case, there is a reason why this blog allows anonymity--so one can be truthful. There's enough deception going around in anycase!

  59. One quick correction (or perhaps clarification) to Paranoid's post: "The structures that the chancellor is putting in place with performance-based funding and position control are competitive structures"

    Re Performance based funding. That is not something that the Chancellor is putting in place. That is being put in place by the state legislature. The Chancellor and some others have been appointed to state-wide committees to try to influence what form it will take, but that is coming from outside the university and there are many forces trying to shape that initiative.

    Re position control: We have hashed that out here before and IMO the general consensus seemed to be that in the current fiscal climate, some degree of centralized position control is a good thing. It allows some strategic planning with respect to areas that are growing or shrinking. We should not replace what we had just because we had it before, we need to be much more savvy than that. You can argue whether it is being done well, but that is a different question.

  60. Socrates Finger:

    You are right; I've conflated performance based funding with strategic realignment. Strategic realignment is the administrative choice that is being made at the SIUC level and not being pushed from the state.

    Everything that I've heard from my acquaintances on Faculty Senate and on relevant committees make strategic realignment sound a lot like Performance Based Funding pushed down to the department level. Departments will get money and positions based on credit hour and degree generation. That's great for a department that can easily ramp up credit hours and degrees, but not so good for Kim Asner-Self's program, which relies on close supervision of students in hands-on work. Kim may be safe because of accrediting and licensing requirements, but I would be worried if I were in a similarly hands-on program that didn't have that kind of protection.

  61. Paranoid:

    Thank you very much for feeding my newest addiction! The conversations are illuminating for me and I am enjoying them very much. Also, your comments on my program are spot-on. Accreditation effectively saves us for now. There are other programs that have not got that protection. Other arguments have got to be made.

    Jonny Gray and Anon 12:21 regarding when we arrived at SIU. Gotta agree with you about first impressions, I'd met Dr. Argesinger and was dismayed by the decision to remove her from office. I'd been told the "old boy's club" did her in. Over time, I've seen things changing, not as fast as I'd like nor as fast as just about anyone seems to like.

    Anon 12:21, Sometimes it helps to look at a situation with newer eyes. And the newer views might offer ways out of the stuckness. I do not have your history or your knowledge of SIU, but like you, I care very much about the university. Conversations between us might be fruitful, you never know.

    Certainly, to respond to your musing, I do not like this union, and I do not like a very few members of the union. But I am now, and have been working to meet more members, talk and learn, and grow. i still believe that by asking to decertify this union, we offer all faculty the opportunity to reconsider how to best approach negotiations in these very difficult times. I doubt you would agree with me, but there are others who do. That's part of the democratic system. Good, bad, and ugly.

    Socrates Finger:

    What scares me about position control is who makes the decisions. I am afraid that programs like mine won't be heard when we put forth accreditation and licensure issues. Certainly, this has happened before and we were very, very, lucky that through an odd manner, we were given a shot at another chance.

    Then let's say someone like me, a counselor educator is on the committee....will I be able to value a program that does not have immediate practical applications? I like to think I could, and that I could hear the person on the committee who might represent the more esoteric program. What scares me is what if there isn't a balance on this committee? Who said something about the tyranny of the majority?

    Ah...once again, I have eshewed brevity. And likely had bad grammar and spelling. And illogical ways of commenting. But I am quite hopeful we can keep talking and hopefully reconsider who we are and how we want to push forward.

    It was a great thanksgiving too at the Self/Asner-Self house, and I hope everyone else had a good bit of down time.

    Cheers, Kim


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.