COCAL Updates

By Joe Berry

Some updates from the Chicago Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor.

Bowling Green U (Ohio) condemn admin role in crafting bill to outlaw outlaw collective bargaining.

Eastern Michigan U contract for new adjuncts union (AFT) approved.

Adjunct exploited at Plymouth State U (NH).

Good article on massive healthcare strike in CA (biggest in US history?!) that has many lessons for us in higher ed. Also because my daughter was in it as a Kaiser nurse. I am very proud.

A good article on the Wall Street occupation (ongoing and growing). I think this relates to all of us and also news of union endorsements and participation building, including Transport Union in NYC

Northern Michigan U adjuncts [or a portion thereof?] vote on coming into FTTT bargaining unit (AAUP)

Higher Education Update (Including Cincinnati State Strike)

Laura Clawson at DailyKos writes about part-time student graduation rates and notes, “don’t try to pretend that economic factors aren’t affecting college completion rates.”

Roger Shuler writes about being threatened with a libel suit by Ted Rollins, the CEO of a student-housing development company.

Updates on the Cincinnati State strike:

“‘We love our teachers,’ says Becker. Becker and other students chanted, ‘We want our teachers back,’ as cars drove by and honked in approval.” Read the story or watch the video on WCPO 9. (9/29)

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The Poster Police at UW-Stout

On September 12, 2011, University of Wisconsin at Stout Professor James Miller posted on his office door the image of a character from the TV series Firefly and a quote from the show: “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.”


The campus police chief informed Miller that the poster was removed because “it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing” and warned Miller that if he tried to put up the poster again, he could face charges of disorderly conduct.”

Miller put up a second poster that declared “Warning: Fascism” and which stated, “Fascism can cause blunt head trauma and/or violent death. Keep fascism away from children and pets.” This poster was also removed after consulting with the campus Threat Assessment Team because it “depicts violence and mentions violence and death.”

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The Climate for LBGTQ Faculty and Students

In an essay in the current issue of Academe, Elizabeth Cramer and Charles Ford discuss how, despite improvements in the climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, staff, and faculty on college campuses over the last generation, discrimination persists. They cite the harassment and suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi last fall, harassment of other gay students, and incidents in which lesbian and transgender faculty were fired, denied tenure, and otherwise discriminated against.

Readers, what is the climate like for LBGTQ faculty and students on your campus? Do you think discrimination is overt, subtle, or nonexistent?

Freedom for Teachers

It’s always disappointing when advocates of the First Amendment find an excuse to fall short of full freedom. Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center wrote a column last week arguing, “Teachers should have more academic freedom than they presently enjoy. But when religion is involved, teachers should not be free to impose either a religious or an anti-religious viewpoint on students.” Haynes accuses the 9th Circuit of having a double standard on religion because they rejected the claim of a teacher who had put up patriotic banners in the classroom emphasizing references to God, but defended a teacher who called creationism “superstitious nonsense.” I happen to disagree with the 9th Circuit’s restriction on religious banners, but I think there is a clear distinction between a teacher giving opinions in class and a school deciding that certain banners should not be put up in classrooms. What’s more alarming is Haynes’ belief that teachers today have too much freedom to discuss religion. Why should religion be treated any different from any other controversial or offensive topic? It’s very disturbing to me that Haynes thinks that the First Amendment demands that all teachers must be banned from calling creationism “superstitious nonsense,” primarily because creationism is, in fact, superstitious nonsense, and I cannot bear to think that stating the obvious scientific facts could be forbidden in school. But I also believe in freedom for teachers who disagree with me, who believe in religion and express these views in class.

The Bowdoin Broil

The National Association of Scholars has announced a projectexamining the curriculum, student activities, and campus values of Bowdoin College.” I am sure that Peter Wood and the research fellow he has hired will attempt to do a thorough and fair job. But obviously they bring certain biases to their approach. And one concern I have is the fact that the NAS article announcing this program didn’t mention who is funding the study. Wood emailed me in response to my question to inform me that Tom Klingenstein is the funder. Considering that Klingenstein is the center of the controversy about Bowdoin, it’s hard to regard this as a neutral, unbiased approach. It will be hard for the NAS to make a convincing case for their objectivity no matter how much research data they try to bring to the question.

Nor is the campus culture something that easily lends itself to a data-driven analysis. For example, Bowdoin has numerous religious student groups, but no atheist student group as far as I can tell. There is an entire department of religion, but none of its class descriptions mention atheism. Does that mean Bowdoin lacks diversity of views on religion, or that atheists face a climate of repression on campus? Of course not. And if there was a lack of atheist events on campus, there’s an easy solution: the atheists, and their supporters, can organize student groups and bring speakers to campus.

Instead of trying to prove an alleged lack of ideological balance or denouncing Bowdoin for failing to confess its liberal sins, I’d much rather see conservatives come up with innovative ideas for how to improve the debate of ideas on college campuses.

Upcoming Events

Some upcoming events (email us at if you have more events to recommend):

In the Chicago area: On Mon Sept 26, at North Central College the newly constituted AAUP chapter is holding a fall kick-off event: North Central College will host a talk by Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors. Nelson’s talk, “How to Save Higher Education,” will begin at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26 in Smith Hall, located on the second floor of North Central College’s Old Main, 30 N. Brainard St., Naperville, IL.

Tues, September 27th: UIC GEO Teach-In. Students? Workers? Both? Graduate Employees and the Changing University. 11-1pm 6th Floor SCE (Student Center East), University of Illinois at Chicago. Come hear keynote speaker Cary Nelson ( author of No University is an Island) and grad employees discuss the threats to graduate education and employment at UIC.

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Inside the World of For-Profit Lead Generators, Part I

Earlier this summer, Josh Keller wrote a story for the Chronicle of Higher Education about the tricks that some for-profit schools use when advertising online. He looked at two websites in particular, and, both of which promise to help prospective students “find the school that’s right for you.” In actuality, the only schools that students learn about are for-profits, who are paying for the leads these sites generate. In the Chronicle story, for example, the director of marketing for University of Arkansas at Fort Smith went to and filled out the form asking for information about his own school. He didn’t get any – but he was contacted by an Argosy University recruiter just twenty minutes later.

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Florida Governor Rick Scott Takes Aim at Tenure

Guest blog by Lisa Roney

I am a tenured associate professor at one of the largest (though, let me emphasize, not one of the highest ranked) public universities in the U.S. How can I explain why it is that this often makes me want to cry?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my work, and, although I am not an academic superstar, I’ve done reasonably well. In economic times when so many are losing jobs, my job is relatively secure. The work that I do has pleasant and meaningful aspects that I value, in spite of sometimes snake-pit politics and bureaucratic burdens that often make it very difficult to focus on the things that are actually my job.

However, the future of public higher education, and especially in my area of the humanities, is truly in question. Even though more than half of all Americans attend at least some college courses, and 30% over age 25 have a bachelor’s or higher degree, what we do in academia and the value of it is still largely misunderstood by the public. When the governor of the state of Texas can blithely call for higher education reforms that include “treating students as ‘customers,’ judging faculty by how many students they teach and how those students rate them, and de-emphasizing research that doesn’t produce an immediate financial return,” it becomes clear that our future is in the hands of people who either don’t know what they are talking about or harbor a truly vile and anti-intellectual agenda. Or both. Continue reading

COCAL Updates

By Joe Berry

Here are some updates and links from the Chicago Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor.

1. Nice cartoon about Portland State bargaining

2. Good update article about organizing at St Xavier U in Chicago:
Not In My Backyard: St. Xavier University Fights Union Organizing, By Tom Suhrbur, IEA Organizer

3. Update on bargaining at Central Michigan University

4. Very good newsletter by former head of publications for the National Education Association, Sam Pizzigati, called “Too Much” which focuses on economic inequality and why it is bad. (His book “Greed and Good” has a very good chapter on education as well.)

5. A tax court rules again that adjuncts are employees, not contractors

6. Rank and file economics: fighting for a wages and jobs led recovery. By Katherine Sciacchitano in Dollars and Sense.

7. Australian academics leaving higher ed because of casualization

8. AFT FACE blog about union busters paid by tax money at U of Ilinois, Chicago

9. Big Surprise: Chamber of Commerce sues to block new National Labor Relations Board rule that would require employers to post signs telling workers of their right to unionize

10. “A” for a new adjunct movement?

To be added to my email list with the full COCAL updates, contact Joe Berry at See the Chicago Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor for news, contacts and links related to non-tenure track, “precarious” faculty.