Non-tenure-track instructors at the University of Chicago have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to vote on whether to form a collective bargaining unit affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Thursday. SEIU adjunct union drives also are under way at the University of Washington, the University of Southern California and Duke University. A spokesman for Chicago said the university had no immediate comment.
Bernie Sanders has been drawing large crowds of college students to his campaign events. On Wednesday, he officially announced a group of faculty supporters, including many prominent figures of the academic left. Higher Ed for Bernie will be organizing a series of campus events. An initial statement from the group calls for a bolstering of public higher education and renewed efforts to make higher education a tool for promoting social equality. Signatories include Cornel West of Union Theological Seminary, Frances Fox Piven of the City University of New York Graduate Center, Adolph Reed Jr. of the University of Pennsylvania, Walter Benn Michaels of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Jeffrey J. Williams of Carnegie Mellon University.
In 1962, Grove City College fired Larry Gara, a history professor whose left-wing politics offended a powerful trustee. As recounted in an Associated Press article, the college brought various charges of incompetence against Gara and fired him. Gara went on to a successful teaching career at Wilmington College, in Ohio. But a Grove City alumnus, Steven Taaffe, a history professor at Stephen F. Austin University, did research on his firing and found considerable evidence that the charges were unfair. All the Grove City officials involved in the firing are dead. Based on Taaffe's research, a former president of the college, Richard Jewell, recently visited Gara and personally apologized on behalf of the college. Gara, 93, told the AP, "I never thought they would come around."
Clay Christensen, a professor at Harvard University's business school, has since his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma been widely acclaimed in the business world for his theory of “disruptive innovation” to explain why upstarts derail established companies. A later book applying the ideas to higher education has led many administrators to feature Christensen at meetings and quote him to promote various ideas about change. But an article in The Boston Globe notes that his ideas are increasingly being questioned. A year ago, The New Yorker published a critique. But now an article in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan Management Review (summary available here) offers detailed academic criticism of the disruptive innovation theory. The article questions whether many of Christensen's examples actually prove what he says and cautions business leaders against relying on the theory. In another article in the Globe, Christensen explains why he thinks the theory is still valid.
Campus Equity Week, an annual week of events to draw attention to the treatment of non-tenure-track faculty members, kicks off today. A list of some of the activities -- including film viewings, panel discussions and protests -- may be found here.