NCAA releases guidelines (not rules) recommending limits on football practices that allow contact, provision of independent medical care for players, and consistent treatment of brain-related injuries.
In the Ivory Tower, labor organizing is no easy task. Teaching assistants, who have recently unionized at New York University and the University of Connecticut, don’t have factory floors where collective bonds can be readily formed. We’re scattered throughout classrooms spread over vast campuses, each grading for different professors and advisers, with different and often incommensurable working conditions. We don’t stand before an assembly line with parts of metal and plastic – we work face-to-face with students, who are sometimes apathetic and bemused by our decision to prolong our schooling, but sometimes enthusiastic and insightful enough to remind us why we thought a life of teaching and research could be worthwhile.
When I started graduate school at the University of California at Santa Cruz, I proudly signed a union card the first day of orientation. The unprecedented contractagreement reached this year between the University of California and my union, United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents graduate teaching assistants at all UC campuses, reflects our strategy for dealing with these challenges.
Since teaching assistants are also students, we have to insist on our work being taken seriously as work, not just a step on the way to a future career. In order to win higher wages, our union wrote a report (“Towards Mediocrity: Administrative Mismanagement and the Decline of UC Education”) demonstrating that the viability of the university depends on whether it provides livable conditions for its student-workers. Over half of our most qualified applicants currently choose to attend other institutions, which offer better compensation. We were only able to settle our contract when the UC – after a long, drawn-out struggle – agreed to close a third of this gap between pay at our university and other institutions.
What’s more, many graduate students are supporting families, and enticing as the prospect of a future tenure-track income may be, it doesn’t put dinner on the table tonight. So our new contract also includes increased child-care subsidies, as well as expanded parental leaves and guaranteed access to workplace lactation stations.
We think that we were able to win these demands because we responded to the specificity of our workplace, and expanded the boundaries of union activity. In this contract campaign, expanding the boundaries meant raising three issues alongside wages, and refusing to allow management to dismiss them: class sizes, opportunities for undocumented students, and rights for transgender students.
For teaching assistants, working conditions are a question of quality of education for undergraduates. Class sizes are perhaps the clearest point at which these two interests intersect: every additional paper we have to grade means less time to sit with students in our offices and less time grading the papers of other students. Every extra seat filled in our discussion sections means a reduced opportunity for quieter students to speak up – and they’re usually the ones who will benefit the most from asking questions. The impact that class size has on our workload is mirrored by its impact on the ability of the institution to serve its constituents. Unless educators like us play a role in determining what class size is appropriate, students will be left to flounder instead of thrive.
We’ve also tried to show that universities are one of the places where civil rights issues can be seen as labor issues. One of our most pressing concerns is the availability of funding for students who are undocumented immigrants. About 500 graduate students at the UC are undocumented, and face incredible challenges to completing their degrees. Without the opportunity to work as teaching assistants, undocumented students lead precarious lives, and they’re unable to gain the teaching experience they need to build their careers.
Another issue has been discrimination in the most personal of settings. Once upon a time, when women began to enter male-dominated academic departments, it wasn’t uncommon for them to discover that there were no bathrooms for them in their buildings. We realized that while our society is coming to recognize that transgender people need the safety of gender-neutral bathrooms – indeed, Governor Jerry Brown signed a California law dictating that public schools should provide these facilities last summer – this issue needs to be addressed in labor contracts, since it bears directly on conditions for trans workers.
The contract we’ve agreed on breaks new ground on each of these issues. After months of insisting that TA-to-student ratios were not a “mandatory subject of bargaining,” the UC has agreed to form joint labor-management workload committees in which class sizes can be discussed. The UC has also agreed to form an "instructional opportunities" committee, which will be directed toward providing equal academic and professional opportunities for undocumented students. Finally, we’ve successfully bargained for language in our contract that guarantees access to gender-neutral bathrooms as a “right,” setting a precedent for us to directly address other anti-discrimination demands in the future.
As graduate students, undergraduates, adjuncts, and others grapple with increasingly precarious conditions, unions will become a major force in shaping the future of the university. This is not always clearly understood; successfully waging our contract campaign required us, at times, to go on strike against unfair labor practices that interfered with our ability to bargain. Armed with the UC precedent, frustrated graduate students across the country can think creatively about how to meet their needs as educators. Instead of arguing about ballooning class sizes at interminable department meetings, they might take their demands to the picket line.
Asad Haider is Ph.D. student in history of consciousness at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and a member of the Executive Board of UAW 2865.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is currently facing legal challenges from several directions: the former University of California basketball player Ed O'Bannon's class action regarding players' likenesses, the high-profile lawyer Jeffrey Kessler's lawsuit about athlete compensation, and concussion lawsuits from athletes in several sports.
When college athletes sue the NCAA, they often win the initial round of litigation, the study concluded, but the NCAA eventually wins more than 70 percent of the time on appeal.
"The first round of litigation is essentially a coin flip, but the win-probability for the student-athletes quickly plummets in subsequent rounds of appeals," said Michael LeRoy, a professor of labor and employment relations and the study's author.
The findings could also point to the future of a case the NCAA is not yet directly involved in, LeRoy said. Northwestern University is currently appealing a National Labor Relations Board regional director's ruling that football players there are university employees. The law supports Northwestern's and the NCAA's theoretical model of amateurism, LeRoy said. The NCAA filed an amicus brief last week supporting Northwestern.
"Even though schools profit off the sweat of college football players, a federal appeals court is unlikely to view this commercial reality as legal justification to alter the NCAA's amateurism model," LeRoy said.
Republican lawmakers and the National Collegiate Athletic Association file amicus briefs urging National Labor Relations Board to reverse a regional director's decision allowing football players to unionize.
Like our fellow Americans, we planned to spend the July 4 holiday weekend with our families and friends. Instead, on the late afternoon of Independence Day, we found our email inboxes near to bursting with reports that the president of the University of Texas at Austin, Bill Powers, had received an ultimatum -- resign, or be fired this week -- from the chancellor of the University of Texas System, Francisco Cigarroa. The timing of this alarming news regarding our president, and the short timeline, seem very odd. Chancellor Cigarroa had announced earlier this year that he will be stepping down to return to his prior career in academic medicine. In addition, many faculty feel it cannot be a coincidence that this announcement came during a national holiday in the summer session when the population of the university community is at its lowest.
While relationships are often strained among UT Austin, its parent organization UT System, and the Board of Regents that provides oversight of multiple campuses and health science centers across the state, we were completely blindsided by this "July 4 Coup." We first learned about events through the media, and we are still waiting to learn the basis for the chancellor's decision. In this age of ever-increasing rules and mandates from the Board of Regents to improve transparency and accountability, we call upon Chancellor Cigarroa to explain his actions, to allow the faculty and other stakeholders at UT-Austin to have a voice, and to listen to what we have to say.
Certainly, any decision to terminate Bill Powers's presidency is independent of his exceptional competence as a leader and visionary in higher education. President Powers has demonstrated an irrefutable ability to successfully lead a university of over 50,000 students and faculty members in good times and bad. Indeed, as chair of the Association of American Universities, he is a "president among presidents" in higher education.
As the 2013, 2014, and 2015 chairs elected to lead UT Austin's Faculty Council, we have worked closely with Bill Powers since he took the helm in 2006. From Hillary Hart, current chair: "In my years on the UT-Austin Faculty Council, and 27 years as a faculty member at the university, I have never seen a president so devoted to students and faculty and so open to innovative ways to deliver high-quality higher education. It seems extremely shortsighted to eject Bill Powers before he can finish the initiatives he has championed in partnership with the very UT System that is now threatening his presidency: programs to increase the four-year graduation rate, to empower faculty to develop innovative courses -- efforts that embody UT Austin's motto of ‘what starts here changes the world.’ ”
These are volatile times for higher education in Texas, and the country needs to pay close attention to events as they unfold. A similar, albeit not identical, situation happened at the University of Virginia in June 2012, when President Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign by that university’s Board of Visitors. Events at Virginia turned into a public relations nightmare, with several prominent faculty members talking about leaving, a loss of donations from alumni (until Sullivan was reinstated), and scorn from the entire country. Interestingly and importantly, it was ultimately the backlash from the faculty that seems to have made the greatest difference in U.Va.'s reappointing Sullivan as president. Among the similarities between the U.Va. and the UT situation, it is interesting that faculty at U.Va. learned of Sullivan's forced resignation on a hot summer Sunday.
Like our counterparts at U.Va., UT Austin faculty members, while famed for independent-minded behavior, are fiercely protective and proud of our university and the president who leads us. Although we have not been heard -- yet -- our voices will be loud, unambiguous, and unanimous in moving forward.
The forced resignation or firing of President Powers, if it happens, will irreparably damage UT Austin's reputation across the state and country, and around the world. His firing would destabilize an exceptionally productive and internationally respected institute of higher learning and research, resulting in a loss of productivity and ultimately, a decline in the quality of education for our students. We cannot believe this is a desirable outcome to leaders at UT System.
A case in point is the new Dell Medical School under development on the Austin campus. The university is in the critical early stages of establishing roots in the medical community, hiring a top-notch faculty, and attracting the country's best students. This will prove exceedingly difficult to achieve in an environment that may, to external appearances, appear hostile. We believe that Chancellor Cigarroa, a talented transplantation surgeon, will understand the consequences of a missed opportunity to build a highly innovative new medical school at the UT System's flagship university.
The July 4 Coup seems to us unmerited, unjustified, and unacceptable.
Andrea C. Gore, Hillary Hart and William Beckner
Andrea C. Gore, who will be chair of the UT Faculty Council in 2015-16, is Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin.
Hillary Hart, chair of the council during 2013-14, is distinguished senior lecturer in civil, architectural and environmental engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.
William Beckner, the 2014-15 chair of the council, is the Paul V. Montgomery Memorial Centennial Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin.
Cheyney University on Thursday announced that Michelle R. Howard-Vital was retiring as president, and that an acting president will start on Monday. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the announcement followed discussions between Howard-Vital and Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, although system officials did not confirm that. Cheyney, a historically black college, has struggled with deficits and stagnant enrollment. In recent years, enrollment has been around 1,200, down from 3,000 in the 1970s.
The Thunderbird School of Global Management has signed a letter of intent to become a part of Arizona State University, the university announced Thursday. Thunderbird is a freestanding, well-respected private business school, but it has struggled financially in recent years and has been looking to become part of a larger institution. In April, amid criticism from some alumni and objections from its accreditor, Thunderbird and the for-profit higher education company Laureate announced that they were ending talks about an affiliation. Some of the criticism of the proposed deal focused on Laureate's for-profit status.
Thunderbird would remain an independent unit of Arizona State (which has a business school) under the plan being discussed. Current Thunderbird students would be able to finish their current degree programs. The Arizona State statement said changes would also take place at Thunderbird. "As part of the work underway under the letter of intent, Thunderbird and ASU will work to restructure the form that the faculty and staff operations would take as a unit of ASU. Personnel reductions are likely to result, with the goal of making the new Thunderbird school self-sustaining within ASU so that no current or new state appropriations or existing tuition will be required. The nature and scale of the reductions are still being studied," the statement said. When the merger is complete, tuition rates (in-state and out of state) would be set by Arizona Board of Regents rules.
Will Counts, executive director of the Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association, which led opposition to the Laureate plan, issued this statement: "The Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association was surprised at the recent announcement and that the alumni had to first find out about the merger through the media rather than from our alma mater. We have a great deal of respect for ASU, their recent success and wish to remain optimistic. Before we comment on the merits of the ASU-Thunderbird integration we are going to have to see more details about the structure of this transaction. Based on the articles presented thus far, it is even more important to have an independent alumni association going forward."
An investigation of Doug Wojcik, the men's basketball coach at the College of Charleston, found that he engaged in bullying behavior, berating players with obscenities and physical threats, The Post and Courier reported. The college has said it is studying the report amid calls for Wojcik's dismissal.
The coach gave this statement to the newspaper: "I'm sincerely remorseful and apologize to those I've hurt. I've already started making amends and working on correcting my actions. The college and I are grateful these concerns were brought to our attention, and every effort will be made to improve relations between myself and members of the men's basketball program."
Several hundred incoming Georgia Tech students made history this spring as the first cohort in the institution’s online master’s program in computer science. While today it is hardly noteworthy that a prestigious university like Georgia Tech is offering a graduate degree online, the university’s decision to price it more than 80 percent less than the on-campus option is truly groundbreaking. At $6,600, the online program is one-sixth the cost of the on-campus one, a fact that higher education leaders should be examining closely.
These days, two out of three students attending on-campus programs receive some form of generous subsidy or discount, while their online counterparts, generally ineligible for such assistance, foot the full sticker price even though they do not benefit from all the amenities of the revered campus life, do not take up parking spaces, inflict wear and tear on facilities, or take up as much instructor time. Instead of embracing these online learners who produce considerable incremental revenue for institutions, colleges and universities are penalizing them, which has troubling implications not only for students’ bank accounts, but also for universities’ own vaunted views of fairness. By introducing e-tuition, which is appropriately lower than the on-campus price tag, universities could easily capitalize on the scale, brand extension, and new revenue synonymous with online learning while maintaining far more equitable pricing for online students.
Although a rapidly increasing number of universities see online programs as a means of expanding their footprint and a way to capitalize on the principles of scale — adding more students without adding more on-the-ground resources to serve them — the pricing dilemma has not been fairly addressed.
Several of these universities have seen their online enrollments increase the total student body by more than 30 percent, with the new revenue generated by online programs allowing some of them to offer faculty raises as other campuses in their systems have tightened budgets.
Though there is some cost associated with launching online degree programs, it pales in comparison to the benefits they can bring as students from all over the world converge through the cloud. Program enrollment of a few hundred can scale by five- or tenfold at a very low incremental cost to the university, while, at the same time, on-campus enrollment increases due to universitywide brand-building driven by intense online marketing effort associated with a successful online rollout.
While higher education is struggling with leaner budgets, the growing wave of digital students creates a meaningful financial opportunity for institutions, especially when online programs are priced at fair e-tuition rates that drive scale. Online learning allows institutions to expand into new markets, extend their brand and prestige beyond regional borders, while at the same time allowing them to tap into legions of new students, building their global alumni base and seeding future fund-raising efforts.
The benefits of online learning are many, and so too are the beneficiaries. E-tuition is both a boon to students and a potential windfall for higher education.
Randy Best is the chairman and CEO of Academic Partnerships (AP). AP strongly encourages its partner universities to offer e-tuition rates to students enrolled in online degree programs.