My Visit with the Illinois Conference

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of joining the leadership and some members of the Illinois Conference at their annual meeting in Chicago. I had previously met several of those in attendance, and I had the opportunity to meet in person several others with whom I have corresponded about posts to this blog and other AAUP matters. But, I was meeting most of those in attendance for the first time, and everyone made me feel immediately very comfortable: very truly, they made me feel that I was among friends.

The annual meeting was held at the Uptown campus of St. Augustine College, in buildings that in the 1910s served as the production facilities for Essanay Studios. (I would say “soundstages,” but of course, these facilities were used during the silent-film era.) The auditorium in which the annual meeting was held has been restored to something close to the condition it was in when Gloria Swanson, “Bronco Billy” Anderson, and a newcomer named Charlie Chaplin were making films there. Lee Maltby of Augstine College hosted the meeting and was surprised, near the end, with an award recognizing his extended and substantial service to the Illinois Conference.

I was subbing for Rudy Fichtenbaum was unable to speak, as planned, at the meeting. In addition to my talk on “Corporatization and Online Learning,” the program for the meeting included a very informative presentation on legislation related to higher education now being considered in the Illinois legislature. The presenters were Leo Welch, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Southwestern Illinois College, and Linda L. Brookhart, Executive Director of the State Universities Annuitants Association. Every conference should have leaders who are as knowledgeable about relevant measures being considered by their state governments.

After lunch, Jerry Kendell of the John Marshall School of Law moderated a very informative and insightful panel discussion on “Investigations and Censure.” The panelists included: Michael J. Harkins, Illinois Conference President; Peter N. Kirstein, Illinois Conference Vice President; Todd Price, National Louis University; Diana Valera, President, Part-Time Faculty Union, Columbia College; and John Wilson, Editor of Illinois Academe. Clearly, this conference continues to be engaged in important work on behalf of its members, though most of that work will undoubtedly go unrecognized except by the faculty most immediately benefiting from it.

After listening to both of these presentations, I was struck, of course, by the similarities in the broader challenges faced by each of our conferences, but also by the very distinct differences in the specific issues being addressed by and in the composition of each of our conferences.

Michael Harkins acted as my host for the weekend and could not have been more gracious and accommodating. He is a faculty member at William Rainey Harper College in Palatine and lives in Oak Park. I stayed at the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park, and he shuttled me to and from the meeting at the St. Augustine campus. He also drove me around the residential neighborhoods in Oak Park, which include a seemingly endless number of architecturally fascinating residences. Among those residences are Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and the three homes in which Ernest Hemingway was born, lived briefly as a very young boy, and then lived for the bulk of his childhood and adolescence.

Here are some links:

To photos of the homes in Oak Park—




To photos of the Hemingway homes in Oak Park—





And to Frank Lloyd Wright’s residence in Oak Park–




And here is a photo of a very unusual planter outside of the entrance to the Carleton Hotel—


I not sure whether this “cow” is an homage to the stockyards that were one of Chicago’s first major industries, or some sort of talisman intended to put to rest the ghost of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow—or simply the result of a moment of whimsy.


5 thoughts on “My Visit with the Illinois Conference

  1. Hi Marty, Thanks for that blog of your Chi-town trip. The cow must have some profound meaning…La Vache Verte…a green planter celebrating milk….all life-giving symbols, yes?

    Actually, may I ask you a question: Do public employee unions in newly-designated ‘right to work’ states suffer the additional harm of losing dues payroll deduction if it existed before the change?

    Thanks. Hope all is fine…. Mel G


    • Mel:

      In most “right-to-work” states, I believe that unions do lose the right to use payroll deduction–and I believe that this is especially true for public-employee unions. But, specifically, for faculty in some of those states, it may depend on the terms of the contracts that faculty negotiate with their institutions.

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