Monday, May 2, 2011

What good do faculty unions do?

So asks the title of an article by Peter Schmidt in the current Chronicle of Higher Education. "Research," the subtitle continues, "sheds little light on quantifiable benefits of collective bargaining." Well yes, we've noticed the gaps in highered research, haven't we? Big enough to drive double wides through. Unlike other articles pointing out gaps, promising them filled by research, that all-purpose academic highway pothole packer, this article mentions adjuncts. Nine times, which may be a record, one via Marc Bousquet and ~ no surprise ~ most but not all of the rest quoting Keith Hoeller

In case you're curious, I used control + F to find and count. This was early so comments were only just starting. Hop or surf on over and have your say. Adjunct-relevant excerpts below for your reading convenience.

Across the country, unions representing public-college faculty members
 are on the brink of being stripped of collective-bargaining rights

"At institutions where a substantial number of the faculty are represented in collective bargaining, you are much more likely to have a substantial faculty voice in governance," says Marc Bousquet, an associate professor of English at Santa Clara University, regular blogger for The Chronicle, and co-chairman of an American Association of University Professors committee on the working conditions of adjunct faculty members. "It is not necessarily the case that collective bargaining addresses governance procedures directly," he says, so much as it gives faculty members more power within their institutions than they might otherwise have.

"Across the broad spectrum of institutions of higher education, faculty unions do make a difference," says Philo Hutcheson, who has monitored research on faculty unionization as an associate professor of educational-policy studies at Georgia State University. While unions can bring about improvements in faculty members' pay and working conditions, he says, "they are far stronger, in general, in terms of protecting faculty members" from arbitrary management decisions.

[David W.] Hedrick says he and the other authors of [a] paper on full-time faculty at four-year colleges [published April in Industrial and Labor Relations Review] are conducting similar studies looking at both two-year and four-year colleges and covering other types of faculty members, including adjuncts. They hope to publish results within a year.

Research on unionization's effects on two-year colleges is sparse, and the research on its effect on adjunct faculty is virtually nonexistent.

On the question of whether unionization has helped adjunct faculty members, Keith Hoeller,   [editor of the Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, author of innumerable articles on adjunct issues], and a co-founder of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association, is skeptical. Although unions that represent solely adjuncts have cropped up at many colleges, the chief national unions that they are affiliated with represent a mixture of adjuncts and tenured and tenure-track faculty members. Mr. Hoeller, who teaches in Washington State, complains that adjuncts have relatively little say in negotiations involving tenured and tenure-track faculty members, whose interests often are at odds with theirs. "When the dust settles," he says, "there are almost no gains for adjuncts from these bargaining teams."

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