Unions/unionization

One Big Faculty Union

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A state judge ruled Tuesday that the University of Illinois at Chicago does not have the right to block a faculty union from representing both those on the tenure track and adjuncts.

The Faculty Salary Game

Nothing generates academic interest like a conversation about pay. Much faculty salary discussion focuses on why someone else makes more money. Often the contemplation of salary differences takes as its premise that the disparity must come from favoritism or some other illegitimate source rather than being a reflection of merit or that surrogate for merit, the market.

These conversations tend to be one-sided since the initiative comes primarily from the colleagues who feel underpaid. “Overpaid” colleagues rarely participate in this discussion. Thus, it is always good to see a systematic, data driven discussion of the subject of faculty salary differentials such as the recent much-quoted item from Ehrenberg, et al. at Cornell University.

Their study shows not only significant salary differences between disciplines on average (economists being paid more than English professors) but significant variation in that difference among institutions. This, they say, is because high quality departments pay more than low quality departments in the same discipline. If English is a weak department and economics is a strong department in one university, the difference in average salaries will be greater than if, in another university, both departments have the same quality.

These results validate in a systematic, statistical and aggregate way what individual participants in the academic market place have known and practiced for years. We who hire faculty or seek employment know that desirable scarcity drives up the market price of faculty. High quality, defined almost entirely by research success, is scarce, so the university has to pay for it. Medium quality is common so salary levels are less. The "outside offer" that comes to the faculty member whose local salary is significantly below the market resets that individual’s salary to meet the national market, whether through a counteroffer or a change in institution.  

This process, however, has many complexities not easily reflected in the aggregate data. Faculty have a local salary, the amount paid by their current institution. At the time of first hire, the local salary and the market salary are the same, because the hiring university must pay the market rate for the faculty member. This market rate reflects the faculty member’s current and expected value and includes any special premiums that might apply. However, the local salary diverges from the market the day after the faculty member begins work. 

Changes in the local salary depend not on the market, but on local circumstances. Across-the-board and merit increases negotiated by unions or established by administrations adjust the local salary to local concerns. Faculty who publish and get grants, and therefore are connected to the external market, tend to increase their local salaries faster than faculty who teach and perform a variety of service roles for the institution. Even so, the rate at which the local salary rises is somewhat to significantly independent of the national salary market place, although most institutions attempt to keep local salaries above the level of initial hires in the same field at the same rank. 

Promotion increases, which reward achievement as defined locally, also increase local salaries, but again at rates relatively independent of the market. In these local markets, politics and personality can intervene to slow or increase the rate of salary improvement. Other circumstances such as major budget crises in public institutions for example can hold back salary increases. On unionized campuses, the union’s principal effect is to raise the floor for all faculty, and in some places regulate the rates of increase.  

The market salary for a faculty member is not always higher than the local salary. The market may not pay more than the faculty member currently earns. This is often the case for faculty who have been in rank for a number of years, who do good work, but who have no particular distinction that the external marketplace cares to reward. This is the case for a majority of the faculty at most institutions. Simply put, the marketplace is not much interested in hiring midlevel faculty with good if not distinguished capabilities because an institution gains little by doing so. 

The hiring institution will have its own cadre of embedded faculty who are also good and experienced, but not spectacular. They rarely need to buy more of this kind of talent. The marketplace is available for those relatively few faculty members whose value is substantially above their local salary. These people can enter the market and receive an offer from a competing institution. This will set a new salary level for them because either their current institution will match the offer or they will leave and take the new, higher salary offer at the competing institution.  

Special circumstances complicate this marketplace. For example, senior minority or women faculty of significant scholarly distinction often carry a premium over equivalent individuals without the special characteristics. Faculty with the potential for leadership at a new institution but no leadership opportunities at their current institution can often command a premium because the new institution needs that leadership more than the current institution. Faculty with expertise of value in external commercial marketplaces command a premium over faculty of equivalent quality who have no commercial market value.

Staying Put

Many other circumstances discourage faculty entry into the national marketplace to attempt to improve their salaries. Faculty with a marketplace value may not enter the market because they do not want to pay the relocation costs, because they have an employed spouse in their current location, or because they have a life style that would require substantial change. Other faculty have retirement plans and options that they would lose if they enter the market and take another position elsewhere.  

These conditions help explain faculty behavior in their local environments. Because only a few actually access the external marketplace in any one year, and for most faculty the opportunity to take advantage of the external marketplace will happen only once or at most twice in their 30 year careers, most faculty salary effort is locally focused. This increases the politics around local salary policies. It also encourages faculty to develop strategies that manipulate and usually reduce their workload as an alternative to increasing direct compensation.  

The inaccessibility of the national market for most faculty encourages the local proliferation of quasi-administrative roles such as program chairs, faculty governance leadership, micro departmental organizations, and other structures that provide a rationale for a salary supplement for administrative service. Faculty pursue major administrative appointments that offer salary increases unavailable to them in the academic marketplace. They take on consulting, publish textbooks, create start-up companies, and supplement their salaries with summer grant funding.  Unions and tenure ensure that the institution cannot force faculty members into the marketplace where they might have to accept a lower, market-determined salary. Unions also usually ensure that whatever happens in the marketplace, the salary levels of continuing employees will keep rising. 

Faculty salaries also capture the value of security. Compared to many outside professionals of equivalent education and sophistication, faculty salaries appear low. When we account for the fact that faculty, once tenured, have a lifetime employment with compensation and benefits guaranteed, we recognize that part of the lower dollar payment reflects the much lower employment risk for tenured faculty compared to their professional counterparts in the commercial marketplace. College coaching salaries offer a clear demonstration of this. They often appear very high to many observers but actually capture two high-risk circumstances: coaches must win or be fired, and their compensation frequently depends on the amount of revenue their teams earn. 

Universities in search of high quality research faculty, defined in the national competition for grants, awards, publications, and the like, will always pay a premium for the individuals who fit their expectations. As the Cornell study shows, if an institution has a particular disciplinary focus for its quality aspirations, it will pay more for the faculty in that field than it will for faculty in fields where its aspirations are less.

At the top rank of public and private universities, almost every field is expected to be at the top level of quality, and in those universities, the salaries of all faculty will most closely reflect the national marketplace for their subdisciplines, including the built-in differentials between English and economics. The farther from the top rank a university is, the more its salaries will diverge from the marketplace level set by the top performers and the more its salary system and interests will focus on local concerns.

To understand the faculty salary game, it helps to know the whole system.

Author/s: 
John V. Lombardi
Author's email: 
lombardi@umass.edu

The Perils of Academic Unions

New York City’s academic community has experienced more than a semester of labor turbulence. In September, after a summer of eschewing all formal contract negotiations, the City University of New York’s faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, convened a mass meeting to rally support for a strike. Six weeks later, New York University graduate students walked off the job, demanding recognition of a graduate student union, the GSOC.

These strategies do not seem to have paid dividends. The PSC’s plan fizzled amidst widespread faculty ambivalence about (or even opposition to) defying New York State law, which prohibits strikes by public employee unions; a settlement on terms well short of the union’s “non-negotiable” demands appears imminent. At NYU, President John Sexton recently stated that striking graduate students would not receive 2006 teaching assignments; some of those who started off on picket lines have returned to their jobs.   In retrospect, PSC and GSOC leaders probably erred in their hard-line rhetoric and actions. But the two organizations also illustrate -- if in an exaggerated fashion -- some of the pitfalls associated with academic unionization.

Supporters of the PSC and GSOC attribute the unions’ difficulties to broader political, societal, and economic forces. The union movement has found George W. Bush an implacable foe. Organized labor is divided -- as seen in the departure of SEIU and related unions from the AFL-CIO -- and has struggled to organize new workers. Pressures from globalization have rendered obsolete the types of union contracts common in the 1950s or early 1960s.

Yet the nature of the university -- a non-profit institution in which an overwhelmingly pro-labor faculty shares the task of campus governance -- buffers academic unions from many of these national trends. It is for this reason, as supporters have noted, that academic unions have functioned at many public universities without significant controversy, if not for the overall educational good.

Campus organizations, however, also suffer from problems rare in the labor movement nationally. Since few academics enter the profession to become labor activists, those who gravitate toward union service are more likely to fall on the fringes of a professoriate that already is ideologically one-sided. They therefore become particularly susceptible to what Emory University’s Mark Bauerlein has termed the academy’s “ groupthink,” adopting extreme positions that weaken their standing with legislators, alumni, or parents.

Bauerlein contends that one aspect of groupthink occurs when “the members of a group reach a consensus and rarely encounter those who dispute it, [so] they tend to believe that everybody thinks the same way.” The GSOC has discovered how this “false consensus effect” can inadvertently alienate constituencies critical to the union’s success. For instance, the New York Sun reported that as part of its campaign to move classes off campus, the GSOC paid to hold classes in -- of all places -- the U.S. Communist Party’s headquarters. (It is doubtful that this move will help convince any neutral trustees that the union’s views represent a mainstream perspective.) Meanwhile, a pro-strike group of more than 200 professors, Faculty Democracy, threatened to withhold undergraduates’ fall-term grades unless Sexton assigned the strikers to spring-term teaching positions, from which they could then continue to refuse to work. (It seems unlikely that parents of NYU seniors will sympathize with the faculty’s casual willingness to disadvantage their children’s candidacies for admission to professional schools.)

The PSC, meanwhile, has demonstrated another component of groupthink. Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, has described the " law of group polarization" as a pattern in which deliberation moves ideologically one-sided groups “toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments.” Group polarization helps explain a PSC record that has limited the union’s influence by casting the organization as a caricature of out-of-touch tenured radicals. At a meeting of the American Federation of Teachers executive council five weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center, PSC President Barbara Bowen cast the sole vote against a resolution supporting the U.S. military campaign against the Taliban.In 2004, the PSC’s delegate assembly (unanimously) approved a protest at Colombia's United Nations consulate, bizarrely contending that attacks on Colombian educators were “really designed to crush teachers’ resistance to the same conservative agenda against public education we are fighting in New York.”

As these experiences suggest, academic unions’ difficulties are in many ways self-inflicted. GSOC and PSC members have noticed: Inside Higher Ed recently revealed that the GSOC, whose ranks already excluded most science students, has seen participation in the strike by math students cease, while the latest U.S. Department of Labor figures show that an extraordinary 16.6 percent of the PSC’s bargaining unit has opted out of the union entirely despite a requirement to pay agency fees.

But if campus labor organizations do not always get their way, does higher education suffer as a result? An internal ideological contradiction leads academic unions to impose a structure ill-suited for the academy, one that can even enforce mediocrity. On the one hand, groups like GSOC and PSC have committed themselves to resisting what they term the “corporate university.” (On December 15, the PSC delegate assembly -- unanimously -- approved a resolution hailing the GSOC strike as “the cutting edge of labor solidarity in the face of academic corporatization.”) On the other, the PSC and GSOC have embraced a basic element of the corporate system -- a labor/management model in which a union can represent all workers in particular jobs.

Though appropriate to an assembly line, this vision of the academy suggests that the “work” of all graduate students or professors is essentially comparable -- standing in front of a classroom for a certain number of hours each week, regardless of the quality of the performance or the content of the lecture, and (for professors) engaging in service. This level of expectation, unfortunately, often applies to adjuncts. But it is badly misplaced for graduate students or professors. In such an academy, a union member who focuses on legal philosophy would be as competent to TA a course in aesthetics as a non-union Ph.D. student who specialized in the topic, as the GSOC claims. A professor with 30 years of service but an insignificant publication and teaching record would deserve the same salary as a colleague with similar seniority but multiple prize-winning books and a record of distinguished teaching, as the PSC insists.

The corporate model of a labor/management divide also makes unions like the PSC and GSOC at best imperfect vehicles to protect academic freedom -- and at worst, facilitators of the internal threats to free thought from which the contemporary academy suffers.

A jarring reminder of campus administrations violating academic freedom occurred in 2004 at the University of Southern Mississippi. But most corrupted personnel processes (I speak, in part, from personal experience here) involve primarily the actions of senior faculty members, with “management” only ratifying decisions that “labor” already made.

Such cases produce an inherent conflict of interest, by forcing the union to contest the record of other union members -- often campus leaders or colleagues with longstanding personal or professional relationships with key union members. At CUNY, for instance, the faculty and union leaderships are interchangeable. The chair of CUNY’s Faculty Senate,  Susan O’Malley, sits on the PSC’s executive committee; many PSC leaders are in the Senate. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine a certified GSOC aggressively representing a graduate student who filed a grievance against a member of Faculty Democracy.

Even setting aside the ideological or bureaucratic temptation to uphold the campus majorities upon which unions rely for their support, the corporate model can handicap protecting untenured faculty rights. Almost all faculty contracts resolve personnel disputes through arbitration. Unlike lawyers, union grievance counselors must balance an aggressive representation of the individual faculty member against the need to maintain long-term working relationships with the administration’s legal staff. Arbitration systems, moreover, generally are weighted in favor of the employer. While it remains difficult to win a tenure lawsuit, over the last 10 years, courts (perhaps showing less deference to academic self-governance after speech code cases revealed the shortcomings of university legal processes) have increased their involvement in college personnel matters.

Not all academic unions, of course, are as ideologically extreme as the PSC or the GSOC. And the motives behind unionization movements are understandable. Compared to the public universities of two generations ago, faculty workload has increased, even though salaries have risen at a much slower rate than in most private sector jobs. Moreover, outside pressures to cut costs and demonstrate tangible achievements have led some administrations to behave in a more unilateral fashion.

Yet it is dubious that more powerful faculty unions or newly created graduate student unions will correct these problems. As Senator Lamar Alexander informed the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, the “absence of true diversity of opinion” on most campuses -- a status quo to which unions contribute -- represents “the greatest threat to broader public support and funding for higher education.” And, as we’ve seen most recently at the University of Colorado following the Ward Churchill affair, dubious conduct by tenured faculty members -- which unions are committed to defend -- can unintentionally boost the leverage of campus or system administrators. Professors would be better served getting their own house in order and then making the case for higher salaries or more autonomy rather than adopting the corporate model championed by groups like the PSC or GSOC.

At NYU, Sexton deserves credit for putting the integrity of his institution first. And at CUNY, key members of the Board of Trustees have courageously resisted the outlandish demands and frequently bullying tactics of their labor foes. The records of the GSOC and PSC offer textbook examples of how groupthink and the corporate model embraced by academic unions can contradict the basic goals of higher education.

Author/s: 
KC Johnson
Author's email: 
info@insidehighered.com

KC Johnson is a professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

Why We Were Arrested

Today most of those arrested at the April demonstration at New York University have their day in court. We though it an appropriate moment to explain why we participated.

Never before in its 91-year history have the officers of the American Association of University Professors heard the call to be arrested in the line of duty. But there we were -- Cary Nelson and Jane Buck, incoming and outgoing AAUP presidents and close friends -- on a New York street on April 27 waiting to be handcuffed and taken to a police station and booked. The AAUP, adding a professional to a basic human right, long ago joined the United Nations in recognizing that all employee groups have the right to choose for themselves whether to be represented collectively. It is not the responsibility of university administrators to decide what is best for their employees. The employees have the right to decide for themselves. NYU graduate employees have twice voted to affirm their decision to engage in collective bargaining.

The National Labor Relations Board appointed by Bill Clinton confirmed the first vote, and the NYU administration negotiated a contract with the union. Then, in a blatantly political move, George Bush's NLRB reversed itself and gave the university the option of withdrawing recognition of the
union. Although nothing compelled NYU to do so, it stopped negotiating with its employees. That much is unambiguous, and that alone would have been enough to put us on a New York street blocking traffic, but the crisis at hand was still broader.

The AAUP is concerned not only with the present but also with the future of higher education. We try to articulate principles and set precedents. And we are very much concerned with the precedent this New York struggle is setting. The NYU administration has recklessly ramped up the intensity of the conflict with its graduate students, most of whom had inadequate salaries and health care when the union drive began. So long as those conditions exist across the country, the movement to organize working graduate students will not disappear. But the expectations of what each side
can and will do to win have been dramatically increased by the NYU example.

University administrations resisting collective bargaining will now consider it normal and reasonable to retaliate against employees in ways the NLRB would consider flatly illegal in cases where it accepted jurisdiction. And graduate employees will have to counter with more widespread and
comprehensive nonviolent civil disobedience. Graduate employees who want some say in their salaries and working conditions will have to bring operations at institutions like NYU to a halt. That is the new and immensely regrettable future the NYU administration has made a reality.

So we sat down in the street north of Washington Square, faculty members from Delaware State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a last ditch effort to give the NYU administration a wake-up call. We would prefer a future of rational negotiation, a future characterized by the productive working partnerships graduate employee unions have established with universities across the country. We are concerned that NYU is calling forth a different future -- one of antagonism and opposition.

NYU quite possibly represents a turning point in the history of efforts to improve working conditions in higher education. Especially after nearly 30 years of a steadily growing national trend toward the increasing use of poorly paid contingent labor to do most undergraduate teaching -- a trend
in which higher education mirrors the now radical disparity between CEO salaries and the salaries of those on the shop floor -- NYU's effort to decisively disempower its more poorly paid teachers heralds a future of bitter labor conflict in the industry. While it was inspiring to stand beside the courageous students at the forefront of this struggle, it was sobering indeed to realize matters may now get much worse on many other campuses.

Author/s: 
Cary Nelson and Jane Buck
Author's email: 
info@insidehighered.com

Cary Nelson is president-elect and Jane Buck is president of the American Association of University Professors.

Is Fundamental Change Really 'Inevitable'?

On November 17, an article here entitled “Is Higher Ed Ready to Change?” referred to “the embrace of the necessity and inevitability of fundamental change in higher education.” It went on to characterize faculty as skeptics about change and acknowledged a certain amount of scapegoating of faculty, stating:

“Exactly why transformative change has been so hard to come by in higher education was a topic of much discussion at the meetings. As is often the case at meetings of senior administrators and policy analysts, faculty members and their unions came in for much of the blame, for failing to recognize that state and other financial support is unlikely to return to historical levels and for blocking curricular and pedagogical reforms… .” But the article also pointed out that faculty representatives are usually not present during such discussions.

Are faculty really obstacles to needed change or are they performing an important function by opposing administrative initiatives?

The budget woes seem to many commentators to be an inarguable reason for “fundamental change” in education, but is money really a sufficient excuse for reorganizing and perhaps thereby weakening an effective system of higher education that has been the envy of the world? Further, do today’s temporary budget problems really reflect a permanent inability to fund higher education in the future, a disinclination to educate students in the ways that have been traditional in the past or a dissatisfaction with the quality of prior education?

I think the pressures on education today are twofold: (1) demographic increases in the number of students seeking education combined with insufficient expansion of seats in classrooms to accommodate more students; and (2) opportunistic seeking of changes that will benefit the institutions' bottom lines but not students themselves.

Because faculty have traditionally been advocates not only for their own interests but for those of students as well, their opposition is not the self-serving intransigence of unionized labor, but a cry from the trenches opposing exploitation of a group without a voice -- present and future students -- especially at public universities and from middle- and working-class families.

Administrators once came from faculty ranks but increasingly represent business interests, either explicitly in for-profit institutions, by training when coming to academia with a business background, or by adopting the values and interests of regents selected from the business community. If administrators were once faculty members, the context in which they work changes their values over time. In general, administrators and faculty do not share the same priorities and do not have the same goals.

Whereas faculty care about the lives of individual students, administrators care about the reputation and success of the institution. Administrators want to control costs and provide the most efficient (i.e., cheapest) service to the most possible students regardless of quality. Private-sector administrators take this a step further because they must also maximize profits. Administrators believe that proposing and implementing new initiatives is the heart of their job.

Thus we are chasing an increased graduation rate this year, but last year aimed to enhance the first-year experience, and the year before that we tried to increase student engagement, all while supporting the capital development efforts of the high-priced new executives hired to put the touch on successful alumni (meaning those with dollars, not those with a satisfying job or success in creative endeavors). Administrators are evaluated by measures that have nothing to do with educational experience, such as cost savings or time to graduation. Faculty want to facilitate growth in students whether it shows up in such measures or not, and are unconcerned with cost/efficiency but very concerned about the insufficiency of resources to educate students properly.

A great deal of the faculty resistance to change occurs because many faculty regard these faddish initiatives, along with the emphasis on assessment, as a waste because they divert resources from the classroom. When tenure-track lines are replaced by adjuncts and faculty are denied lab space, travel funding, or even market-average pay, they come to doubt the sincerity of administrative assurances that the institution cares about quality education.

Faculty believe that their own competence depends on professional preparation, quality of ongoing scholarship, ability to involve students in the generation of new knowledge, and mentoring students toward roles that do not necessarily lead directly to corporate life. The less faculty are paid, the less incentive there is to pursue a faculty career, the lower the quality of teaching and the less well-educated students will be.

This happened for decades in the K-12 system; as teaching pay decreased so did the qualifications of new teachers, until now the finger points at teacher quality as an excuse to further starve K-12 systems. In the meantime, desperate parents are hiring tutors and scrambling to enroll their students in the highest-rated schools (often private), while public schools are further starved of funding to do their job well.

Universities were spared that fate for a while, but now we are being treated just as our fellow K-12 educators were. We are resisting, not because we are greedy or unreasonable, but because we do not believe we should work for insufficient pay simply because we care about student welfare.

The latest polls in California, for example, show that the public supports a high-quality university system and wants it to be funded appropriately (which means public subsidy, not exorbitant tuition that denies access to otherwise qualified students). It simultaneously doesn’t want to be taxed, but who does? The value of an educated populace to our society trumps the desire of individual Californians to evade paying for public education. In the past legislators acknowledged that and funded the university anyway. Now greed is good and individual responsibility no longer includes the duty to pay for services that contribute to the common welfare.

The result of these so-called budget pressures, as we try to educate increased numbers of students with ever-smaller budgets, is espousal by administrators of things like online education or larger class sizes or "distance" education despite evidence that these “changes” do not benefit students to the same extent as face-to-face education. For example, at one campus, administrators have encouraged faculty to teach yoked classrooms where the professor is only present in one but is broadcast to students in the other room -- something tried and discarded in the ‘70s when TV teaching failed as an educational innovation.

I am regularly contacted by students at online universities seeking hands-on research experience in my lab, because it is not offered at their school and they cannot apply to graduate programs without it. An administrator’s interest is in having fewer professors teach more students, even though this results in less personal attention to students, the one thing that correlates highest with increased graduation rates.

Their reasons are economic. This year I will be teaching face-to-face a class formerly taught only online. Students are grateful and tell me they hated the previous approach, that they avoid online classes whenever possible. Faculty who teach online have published studies showing that more faculty time is required to teach an online class effectively, not less, so class sizes cannot be increased even though there is no physical seat restriction.

But class sizes are increased and faculty thus are forced to teach less effectively. This kind of experience is being ignored by administrators because they care more about the efficiency of instruction than its quality. Then when professors point out these things, we are accused of resisting fundamental change, as if we have a collective personality flaw that makes us too rigid to recognize good ideas or “inevitability.”

A larger problem is that this focus on temporary budget difficulties obscures any discussion of the role of higher education in our society, the relation between an educated populace and an effective democracy, and the need for fostering such abilities as critical thinking, creativity, initiative, long-term thinking, deeper understandings, or grappling with subtlety and complexity. These are the abilities needed to maintain whatever competitive edge we have in the world economy. Where do new products come from if students receive only job-skills training to be workers but not innovators?

To complicate matters, there are the financial opportunists. There is talk of an "education bubble" generated by profiteers who see education as an untapped market, at the K-12 level (via private charter schools), the job-training level and now the university level. With Obama endorsing the idea that only job skills matter educationally and only community colleges need support, and the idea that everything important about education can be measured via national testing, there is a neglect of quality higher education from local to national government.

This neglect, whether motivated by financial opportunism or budget concerns, is being justified by blaming the victim. In the process of starving education, our society is being encouraged to regard teachers and students as the problem. How struggling schools can be fixed by denying them funding is beyond me, but this attitude that K-12 education is failing and thus not worth investment is now being applied to the college level as well.

Maybe university professors are not deemed underprepared (as K-12 teachers are accused of being), but they are being portrayed as trivial, snobbish, intransigent, selfish, lazy and cynical – and ultimately more concerned about their own working conditions than about their students. Demonizing faculty then excuses whatever untested reform initiative administrators might wish to propose in the name of efficiency.

Teachers must oppose changes they regard as pernicious to students. Students have power only as consumers. Unfortunately, because there is greater demand and less supply, especially among "elite" schools, students today have no leverage. Professors are supposed to speak for students and advocate for higher-quality education. We are also supposed to be society's critics, ask questions about value and purpose, and critically evaluate all proposals. Calling us obstacles to fundamental change when we fulfill our roles is manipulative and shows complete ignorance of the role of academics in public life.

The role of intellectual gadfly, the critical voice that examines social change, is protected by tenure. I believe the ongoing attack on tenure is an attempt to remove the obstacles to unfettered change and prevent faculty from carrying out their responsibilities in public life. The silencing of faculty (via economic starvation, overwork, or harsher measures such as jailing or persecution) occurs routinely in non-democratic nations.

I see a vocal professoriate protected by tenure as a bulwark against turning the U.S. into another country where erosion of freedom occurs without complaint because the educated voices have been stifled. Filling classrooms with adjunct faculty in place of tenure track professors is part of this attack on the tenure system. Just as education is being presented as nothing more than job-skills training, faculty are being offered a new role consisting of regurgitation of pre-packaged material to hordes of diploma-mill students via impersonal technologies.

Whether change is proposed out of financial necessity or a profit motive, the effect is the same. We lose the opportunity to systematically provide young people with experiences that will make them more than drones. Call me intransigent, but I wouldn’t want to work in such a system, nor would I want to send my son or daughter to that kind of university. You can call it “fundamental change,” but the fact remains that education dictated by financial considerations alone cannot produce minds with the strengths needed to pull us out of a recession, much less produce world leaders.

There is a reason why faculty are not part of the discussions being held by university administrators.

I feel hypocritical submitting this to appear under an assumed name but I do not think it will help any of my efforts to work with our campus administrators if my name appears on criticisms of their motives. I have no doubt that most administrators believe they are helping students and doing good work, including our presidents and trustees. That's why multiple perspectives with strong voices are important. The value of having a union is that it insulates individual faculty from those in power whom they must criticize, so that everyone can work more smoothly together while still being free to speak up about how the university functions -- it makes shared governance work as more than a rubber stamp.

Author/s: 
Perry A. Holloway
Author's email: 
newsroom@insidehighered.com

Perry A. Holloway is the pseudonym of a professor at a public university in California.

Backlash Over an Ouster

Smart Title: 
AAUP, used to questioning managerial decisions of colleges, faces tough questions from own members about treatment of its now former general secretary.

Line in the Sand on Hiring

Section: 
Smart Title: 
Citing concerns about educational quality, a faculty union in Washington State refuses to budge from practice of adding full-time slots.

A Debate Reopened

Smart Title: 
New decision sets stage for fresh look at whether graduate and research assistants have right to unionize.

Historians Honor Picket Line

Smart Title: 
Honoring a labor boycott, the Organization of American Historians is moving its annual meeting from San Francisco to San Jose.

A Strike in Ann Arbor

Smart Title: 
Graduate instructors at Michigan take a day off to force concessions at the bargaining table. University officials are unfazed.

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