Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Power of Two: Leveraging Academic Senates and Faculty Unions

... strategizing unofficially for #CFHE, Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, post by Teri Yamada, Professor of Asian Studies, originally appearing at Restructuring Public Hi Ed
The challenge for government, universities, and unions is to recognize that while the environment is changing and the pressures are intense, adaptations must be made in ways that ensure that short-term fixes do not compromise sound public policies, such as the right to form associations and collectively bargain. Nor can short-term fixes be allowed to compromise fundamental public priorities, including access to an affordable, high-quality college education, and prudent, long-term financial planning by the government (1).
(image above) Student arrests during protest against tuition increases, Nov. 17, 2011, CSU Board of Trustees meeting. Photograph by Stefan Agregado

What strategic response is there to a management that ignores its own university policy in tough times, often while demanding civility as a form of suppressing dissent? At the campus level, we need to be more engaged in academic senates and faculty unions while recognizing the power of synergy.  Keeping senates and unions at odds or co-opting them is a strategic advantage for authoritarian management.  Both senates and unions need to maintain independent integrity.  For senates, integrity means upholding university policy, essentially  maintaining faculty control over curriculum and programs; for unions, it is the support of faculty through enforcing the collective bargaining agreement.

Acting together, academic senates and unions present a formidable force against bad decisions of authoritarian administrations. When senates and unions fail, we see outcomes like the reactionary and disruptive reorganization of the entire public higher ed sector in Connecticut, a draconian imposition of “efficiency” and standardization (3). The inspirational faculty unions in Ohio collaborated with their public sector union colleagues in the “We are Ohio” movement to repeal SB 5  in fall 2011(Fichtenbaum). This bill would have undermined collective bargaining for all public workers in that state (4). Collective action—joining across lines of “perceived” difference—in a single concerted action is the power of convergence. The power of two forces combined — activist academic senates and faculty unions—would at least slow down the thoughtless dismantling of public higher education.
Two  patterns to watch out for: corporatization or restructuring through pay-for-play funding,  and  the authoritarian corporate president.
Read the rest at The Power of Two: Leveraging Academic Senates and Faculty Unions

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