In a terrific essay explaining “Why We’re On Strike,” University of Illinois-Chicago professors Lennard Davis and Walter Benn Michaels wrote this about their institution’s flawed shared governance system: “To call shared governance real governance is like saying your dog has an equal say in how your household is run because sometimes when he whines he gets fed.” Sadly, the comment applies to an increasing number of higher education institutions across the country.
Take, for instance, the case of Fort Lewis College (FLC), a public four-year liberal arts school in Durango, Colorado. Below is an article by FLC faculty members and AAUP chapter leaders Mark Seis and Janine Fitzgerald, posted originally on the website of AAUP’s Colorado Conference. The article concerns a decision by the college’s Board of Trustees to change the curriculum from a mix of 3-unit and 4-unit courses to one limited to 3-unit courses. The issue, however, is not which system is better; indeed, some faculty, especially in the sciences, support the change. That may be because, as opponents of the change contend, the decision was confused with a proposal to reconfigure workload in lab classes. Be that as it may, it’s not for me to determine who’s correct. The issue is not whether FLC’s board made the “right” decision. It’s about whether it should have been their decision to make in the first place. That’s because, whatever differences the faculty may have had among themselves, a faculty task force had recommended keeping the 3-4 unit mix and the Faculty Senate had voted 12-3 against the change, urging continued discussion of the problems it was allegedly intended to address.
In its 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, jointly formulated with the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and University (AGB), the AAUP declared:
The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. In these matters the power of review or final decision lodged in the governing board or delegated by it to the president should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances, and for reasons communicated to the faculty. It is desirable that the faculty should, following such communication, have opportunity for further consideration and further transmittal of its views to the president or board.
In a January 24 letter to the Board of Trustees the Ft. Lewis AAUP wrote: Continue reading
It has been some time since I’ve reported on the fight to save City College of San Francisco (CCSF). As readers will recall, last summer the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) announced that it would terminate CCSF’s accreditation as of July 2014. (See my original post of July 8 and subsequent posts on July 13, August 13, and November 8.) Several recent developments highlight the importance of this fight.
First, on January 2, a San Francisco Superior Court judge granted a key aspect of a motion by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to enjoin the ACCJC from terminating CCSF’s accreditation in July. Under terms of the ruling Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow barred the ACCJC from finalizing its planned termination of City College’s accreditation during the course of the litigation, which alleges that the private accrediting body has allowed political bias, improper procedures, and conflicts of interest to unlawfully influence its evaluation of the state’s largest community college.
Earlier today the PSC received the decision by Judge Anil Singh on CUNY’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit contesting the original Pathways resolution passed by the Board of Trustees in 2011. Judge Singh decided in favor of CUNY’s motion to dismiss.
We are disappointed in the decision, but we are fully prepared to appeal. We maintain that the initial Pathways resolution was passed in violation of the law and feel confident that our position will eventually be upheld.
Nothing in the legal decision changes the terrible impact Pathways is having on our students or the importance of our collective fight for a curriculum that offers a meaningful college education. The sustained commitment to academic quality by the faculty and staff has already forced the CUNY administration to implement significant changes in the Pathways structure, as announced in CUNY’s February 3 memo. And the New York City Council has signaled its interest in oversight on Pathways by convening a hearing on the subject, to be held tomorrow, February 25, at 10:00 at City Hall. The shift in terrain on Pathways is the result of faculty and staff organizing. Continue reading
If American higher education is going to continue to aspire to excellence, its institutions need to address and reverse the growing reliance on adjuncts as teachers. Not only is this exploitative of the adjuncts (to say nothing of the students), but it reduces our colleges and universities to factories, effectively excluding academic freedom and removing research components from teaching responsibilities. Two of the three aspects of a professor’s job, teaching, scholarship and service, are eliminated, for adjuncts are expected to do nothing but complete classroom activities.
Though reliance on adjuncts has risen primarily because it is a cheap alternative to tenured and tenure-track faculty, it also fits into the corporate top-down models of governance, models of efficiency that see shared governance as a waste of time and energy. To date, college and university administrations have been given little incentive to move in another direction. To them, use of adjuncts provides a situation where they not only save money but they get rid of pesky faculty involvement in what they see as exclusively their own responsibilities. They are not going to make a change unless countering incentives, or new oversight structures, are offered.
It’s nice to see that the plight of adjuncts is finally getting play in American media. The New York Times, for example, ran an editorial today that ends: Continue reading
In a recent op-ed piece on the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s Worldwide blog, Dzulkifli Abdul Razak responded to an article written by Nigel Thrift, vice chancellor of the University of Warwick. Thrift had argued for the creation of an international association of colleges and universities, suggesting that it would not only facilitate efforts to meet the common challenges confronting institutions, but it would also promote higher education as a global resource in meeting broader socio-economic challenges.
Razak, the president of the International Association of Universities, pointed out that his organization already exists and is committed to the core aims delineated by Thrift. I am not sure whether Thrift’s apparent lack of awareness of Razak’s organization demonstrates his own limited perspective or the limited reach of the organization, or both. But, since I was also completely unaware of the International Association of Universities, I sense that the that organization either has considerably more work to do in becoming more truly representative and effective, or that it somehow is not meeting the need that both Thrift and Razak articulate very convincingly.
Coincidentally, as I have been collecting materials for this blog, I have become much more acutely aware that the challenges that we are facing as faculty at American institutions are not unique to our country—that those challenges are not only being confronted by faculty in nations around the globe but they are often complicated by socio-economic, political, and cultural factors that make them much more difficult and even hazardous to confront. Continue reading
This is a more detailed version of the invitation to file amicus briefs with the NLRB prior to its consideration of Pacific Lutheran University’s filing to prevent SEIU from organizing the university’s faculty.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BEFORE THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD
PACIFIC LUTHERAN UNIVERSITY
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL Union, LOCAL 925
NOTICE AND INVITATION TO FILE BRIEFS
On September 23, 2013, the Board (Chairman Pearce, Members Miscimarra and Hirozawa) granted the Employer’s Request for Review of the Regional Director’s Decision and Direction of Election because it raised “substantial issues warranting review…with respect to the assertion of jurisdiction over the Employer and the determination that certain faculty members are not managerial employees” under the Act.1
The Board invites the filing of briefs to afford the parties and interested amici the opportunity to address the issues raised in this case.
The parties and amici specifically are invited to address one or more of the following questions: Continue reading
So says Richard Vedder in “New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators,” an article by Joe Marcus appearing last week on Huffington Post. Marcus writes:
Universities have added these administrators and professional employees even as they’ve substantially shifted classroom teaching duties from full-time faculty to less-expensive part-time adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, the figures show.
“They’ve increased their hiring of part-time faculty to try and cut costs,” said Donna Desrochers, a principal researcher at the Delta Cost Project, which studies higher-education spending. “Yet other factors that are going on, including the hiring of these other types of non-academic employees, have undercut those savings.” Continue reading
My Professional Activity Report and Self Evaluation (or PARSE) is over twenty pages long… not counting all of the required documentation. PARSE was instituted to save time and space–it’s all on computer and just needs ‘updating’ each year–but it seems to have become a repository of everything that can either be scanned or entered having any sort of relation to faculty activities. All of us on faculties everywhere are, for good reason, concerned about our advancement… to tenure (if we are lucky enough to be on that track), to re-appointment, to promotion. So, we dump everything we can into our files and then burn them all onto our particular institution’s version of PARSE DVDs at the end of each academic year.
Promotion committees get the pleasure of reading through all of this. It’s quite the experience. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of years (having made it to Associate Professor that recently), but I am already exhausted each year by the sheer volume on each candidate… and by the demands of the Peers Committee as it discusses each file. Teaching, scholarship, and service: we get caught up by the minutiae of each, constantly in danger of forgetting that there’s a person involved, too, someone whose contributions can’t be completely reduced to the 1s and 0s of a digital file. Continue reading
Many of us, and for many years, have been raising our voices against the growth of two-tiered systems in the United States. The sense of security felt by those at the top, unfortunately, keeps them from listening–and this is just as true in academia as it is elsewhere.
Let me be blunt: Instead of seeing tenure as something that should be expanded, something that is the bedrock beneath the tower of academic freedom, we have allowed it to be turned into a jealously guarded perquisite, a wall as high as those surrounding the gated communities of the wealthy. But it gets worse: Instead of fighting to bring the necessary teaching contingent fully into the academic environment, we who are tenured or are on the tenure track have allowed our own fears to let the door be closed against others. Instead of insisting that we cannot do our jobs without an adequate body of full-time colleagues to meet student needs, we have allowed our administrations to establish an explicit second tier or temporary hired help–and have turned our eyes from the plight of those caught in the snares of contingent academic labor.
Of course, I’ve said this before. You’ve said this before. Thousands of others have said this before.
This week, in a chapter excerpted in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Moser says it again–but extremely well. He writes: Continue reading
Ever since the American Studies Association announced in mid-December that its membership had voted to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, criticism of the organization’s action has snowballed. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education the “Association has itself become the target of widespread criticism and ostracism. It has gone from relative obscurity to prominence as a pariah of the American higher-education establishment.”
Even before the Association’s vote, the AAUP urged ASA members to reject the proposed boycott and when the vote went the other way AAUP issued a statement that declared the decision “a setback for academic freedom.” The AAUP was soon joined by leaders of the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. As of today, 116 university presidents had individually or on behalf of their institutions denounced the ASA boycott, according to an online count. The ASA stance has also come under withering assault in a slew of op-ed pieces and blog posts by faculty and university leaders nationwide.
The ASA’s resolution is surely misguided. As I wrote in an op-ed piece during the ASA vote, “the whole idea of boycotting academic institutions in order to defend academic freedom is utterly wrongheaded.” “Not only is it the wrong way to register opposition to the policies and practices it seeks to discredit, it is itself a serious violation of the very academic freedom its supporters purport to defend.”
However, some overzealous opponents of the boycott would themselves violate academic freedom in the name of its defense. Even before the vote was complete, former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers opined on television that universities should deny their faculty funding to attend or make presentations at meetings of Continue reading