Business meetings of disciplinary societies have been the site of debates (sometimes heated) over proposals to back the academic boycott of Israel. At least as of now, that's not the case for the American Historical Association. A petition was circulated that would have called on the AHA to support the academic boycott of Israel. But a letter from James Grossman, the association's executive director, in one of its publications states that a petition was submitted for consideration at the annual meeting early next year, but that the petition was rejected for not having enough members signing it and because the resolution as written went beyond matters " 'of concern to the association, to the profession of history, or to the academic profession.' " (The latter quotes are from association rules about matters that can be decided at the membership meeting.)
Via email, Grossman said that because the petition submitted was rejected, there is no agenda item related to the Israel boycott. But Grossman noted that association rules also outline procedures for resolutions to emerge from the floor at the meeting itself.
Union advocates applauded two decisions by the National Labor Relations Board last week, one of which protects the right of employees using work email for union communications. The other decision revises rules for union elections and could shorten the union election process. In the first case, that of Purple Communications and Communications Workers of America, the board ruled that employees communicating with each other on work computers – but not on work time – are free to discuss union activity. The decision did not address communication with non-employees, however.
Aaron Nisenson, chief counsel for the American Association of University Professors, said via email that the decision as it pertains to higher education has particular relevance to faculty members, who frequently communicate via email. “The ability to use email to communicate is essential to faculty, particularly contingent faculty, who are often dispersed and may not be able to speak directly to each other regularly,” he added.
Referring to the second decision, in which the NLRB issued a final rule to modernize representation-case procedures, Nisenson said: “Given the speed at which elections will be conducted under the revised election rules, the ability to communicate via email is extremely important to ensuring that faculty members are fully informed.” The new rule, which takes effect in April, provides for electronic filing and transmission of election petitions, requires that contact information for all eligible voters be included in voter lists – which is especially important for contingent faculty members – and attempts to streamline others aspects of the election process.
“Previously, the results of elections could be tied up for years in pointless litigation, delaying the results of a democratic process, a situation that would be intolerable in any other context,” Nisenson said.
William Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, housed at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said both decisions were “good for advocates and union members,” although he said that tenure-track faculty members at private institutions are generally unprotected from the email decision under current case law emanating from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1980 decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva University. According to that decisions, tenure-line faculty members at private institutions have managerial responsibilities and therefore are limited in their ability to form unions.
Deborah O'Connor, a senior lecturer at Florida State University, has resigned after using a slur in a Facebook post, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. O'Connor said she was urged to resign but not forced to do so. She made the comment on the Facebook page of a consultant who has praised the Justice Department for investigating a police shooting of a 12-year-old black boy. The newspaper account of the comments, some of which are left out: "Take your Northern [anti-gay slur] elitism and shove it up your [expletive]. I teach at a university, you [expletive]. What do you do? You are an intellectual fraud, just like your Messiah. Obama has single-handedly turned our once great society into a Ghetto Culture, rivaling that of Europe."
She said of the incident: "I've learned my lesson about Facebook; let's just leave it at that. I decided to resign because I didn't think it was feasible to drag myself and Florida State through this kind of mud."