Having followed all of the comments on Sean Kennedy’s post and the follow-up post from the AAUP leadership, I’d like to offer several observations:
It is very clear that no one has been prevented from expressing his or her opinions or from doing so without constraint.
The comments do, however, collectively serve to illustrate why the leadership made the statement about what may or may not be appropriate for posting on this blog: this at least initially internal dispute has become an opportunity for venting all sorts of concerns and complaints that, if not well beyond the scope of the original issue, have not really served to clarify very much about the original issue beyond what has been very pointedly stated in the original post by Sean Kennedy.
Moreover, the original issue has to do with the way in which ongoing contract negotiations are being conducted, and what has lost in this very public discussion is that the people seated on the other side of the table are no doubt privy to it–which does violate one of the most basic principles of how to conduct contract negotiations effectively.
Although I very much agree with Mike Alewitz that this blog and our unions in general would benefit greatly from more member participation, I wonder how we make that happen, at least more dramatically. We clearly can provoke people to express themselves very passionately, but we are less effective in channeling that passion into constructive action. Instead, all progress in that direction seems to be very incremental.
The number of contributors to and readers of this blog has certainly increased over the last 18 months. I believe that Aaron, John, and Gwen have been very welcoming of new contributors, and the increasing mix of voices seems to be attracting a broader spectrum of readers. But there is very obviously much more room for growth.
Likewise, I ran for an at-large seat on Council this past spring, and there were twelve candidates for two seats. I thought that the very large number of candidates, at least for that position, was a very positive sign–and by the way, I finished fourth, behind three adjunct faculty, which, if I was going to lose, seemed a nice way to lose. But that is clearly just a start to making AAUP more representative.
I know that I have been working at the local, state, and national levels to try to make that happen. But, in the process, I have come to recognize that it is almost always much easier to see and to say how things ideally ought to be than to make them that way. So some of what has been said in some of the comments on these recent posts bothers me a great deal.
I consider Rudy and Howard to be good friends, but also more than that. I became more active in AAUP because I witnessed firsthand the tremendous commitment that Rudy and Jim Vance, another founding member of our chapter, have had to the AAUP and, more specifically, to serving our chapter members as conscientiously as possible. I thought that such commitment demanded more support from those whom they were working so hard to represent. It may sound hokey, but they genuinely inspired me to become much more involved.
So, although everything that Rudy, Howard, and the others in AAUP leadership do is absolutely open to criticism—I myself have disagreed with both Rudy and Howard on some issues and have been very straightforward in sharing my views with them–the criticism warrants a greater degree of underlying respect than what has been apparent in some of the comments on these recent posts.
Our leaders are not “union bosses,” nor are they Judases selling out themselves or anyone else for “silver.” Our leaders are all volunteers in the truest and most complete sense of the word: they have not made a cent from their work, and they have been devoting a very large chunk of their professional lives to make AAUP a more effective and representative organization–at the local, state, and national levels, and even now at all of those levels at once.
So, in my view, every member of AAUP absolutely has a right to criticize the statements and actions of anyone and everyone in our leadership. But if you are going to personalize those criticisms, to turn them into personalized attacks–and are not a complete ingrate–you had better have demonstrated something close to the level of commitment to AAUP that they have demonstrated–and not just for a couple of years but over their now lengthy careers.
That said, you should feel very welcome to level more personalized attacks on me for writing this post.
Relatively recently, in a private conversation, I provoked an extremely professional administrator, whom I have known for years and “grudgingly” respect, to call me an “asshole.” A short while later, as we were walking out of the building, he apologized for the remark. I told him to forget about it—that if he was going to try to get under my skin, he’d have to be a lot more creative than that. I added that in the neighborhood in which I grew up, if I was walking along with a group of friends and someone shouted, “Hey, asshole!,” we each would have turned around, thinking that the shout was meant for us.
I am fairly certain that Rudy and Howard will not think that my writing this post was one of my better ideas–that they may even feel somewhat embarrassed by it.
But, very obviously, I still have considerable room for personal growth and enlightenment.