Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Screwing Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class

April 2011

IN 2008, A LIBERAL Democrat was elected president. Landslide votes gave Democrats huge congressional majorities. Eight years of war and scandal and George W. Bush had stigmatized the Republican Party almost beyond redemption. A global financial crisis had discredited the disciples of free-market fundamentalism, and Americans were ready for serious change.
Or so it seemed. But two years later, Wall Street is back to earning record profits, and conservatives are triumphant. To understand why this happened, it's not enough to examine polls and tea parties and the makeup of Barack Obama's economic team. You have to understand how we fell so short, and what we rightfully should have expected from Obama's election. And you have to understand two crucial things about American politics.
The first is this: Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-'70s—far more in the US than in most advanced countries—and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and—even more dramatically—among the top 0.1 percent. It has, in other words, been CEOs and Wall Street traders at the very tippy-top who are hoovering up vast sums of money from everyone, even those who by ordinary standards are pretty well off.


The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 25th, 2014

How should academics respond to the death of Michael Brown and the non-indictment of his killer? If you teach critical race theory, criminology, modern American history, African-American studies, or any number of other subjects explicitly linked to Brown’s death, then I suspect you already have a plan. But what about the rest of us?
One of my beliefs about public engagement is that the process of becoming an academic, as both a scholar and a teacher, creates habits of mind that we can bring to bear on topics far outside our subjects. Academe teaches us to be narrow, to state “that’s not my field” when questioned. That caution, while understandable, has contributed to the sense of isolation of academe from public discourse. In moments like the reaction to Brown’s death, we need more engagement, not less, and each of us has something to offer.

Public Colleges Face Major Threat From Some Trustees

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 25th, 2014

Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities, says that ideologically motivated and corporate-minded trustees pose a great threat to public colleges. Mr. Rawlings, who leads a group of elite research universities, was highly critical of a recent effort to fire William C. Powers Jr., president of the University of Texas at Austin. In 2012, Mr. Rawlings also admonished University of Virginia board members for forcing out Teresa A. Sullivan as president, only to reinstate her under public pressure. Both cases, Mr. Rawlings says, point toward a troubling trend that has created instability at some of the nation’s top academic institutions.

To Change a Campus, Talk to the Dean

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 24th, 2014

When Kathryn J. Boor became a dean at Cornell University, change was at the center of her agenda from the very beginning.
She began leading the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in 2010, when the Ivy League institution—like colleges everywhere at the time—was in the midst of streamlining operations and cutting costs. Just four months into Ms. Boor’s tenure, the college announced that its department of education would close. Cornell administrators said they didn’t have the money it would take to raise the small department’s national profile.
Since then, Ms. Boor has overseen a steady stream of change. In the spring, for example, she grouped five departments to create the new School of Integrative Plant Science, with the goal of showcasing the university’s strengths in plant and soil sciences and attracting federal grants, more students, and more top faculty.
"This took reorganizing people and getting people excited about a new structure and a new way of thinking," says Ms. Boor, a food scientist. "This is a way to ensure our pre-eminence five and 10 years down the line."

Winning Raises Without Contracts?

Inside Higher Ed
November 25th, 2014

Most of the new adjunct faculty unions affiliated with Service Employee International Union’s national Adjunct Action campaign haven’t yet achieved contracts. Those who have negotiated collective bargaining agreements, however, say they have better pay and working conditions as a result. Take adjuncts at Tufts University, for instance, whose newly inked contract guarantees significant pay increases, longer-term contracts and the right to be interviewed for full-time positions.
But can adjuncts elsewhere achieve similar gains without the help of unions – or at least not through collective bargaining? Developments on several campuses suggest that even when adjunct union drives fail, stall or just loom, they can still exert pressure on institutions to improve part-time faculty working conditions.
This summer, in a relatively rare loss for SEIU, adjuncts at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota voted down a proposed union. Critics said they attributed the outcome to unconvincing union rhetoric and personal pleas from their new president, Julie Sullivan, to give her a chance to improve pay and working conditions without outside interference.

Adjuncts at 2 Vermont Colleges Vote to Unionize

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 25th, 2014

Adjunct professors at two Vermont colleges have voted to form unions, according to a news release from the Service Employees International Union. Adjuncts at Champlain and Burlington Colleges have voted to be represented by the union, which is in the midst of a national push to organize part-time faculty members.
Champlain adjuncts voted, 118 to 30, in favor of unionizing, while the vote among Burlington adjuncts was 23 to 4.

U. of Georgia Moves to Fire Lecturer Over His Relationship With Student

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 25th, 2014

The University of Georgia is moving to fire a lecturer in its psychology department after the administration found him to have violated a policy barring professors from dating students under their supervision, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.
The lecturer, Rich Suplita, admitted to violating the university’s policy in 2012, when he dated an undergraduate he had met in one of his classes. The student filed a harassment complaint against him, and he received a reprimand.
He began dating a graduate teaching assistant in his summer class this year. The couple reportedly met with a supervisor to ask about the propriety of the relationship as it began, but the university determined that Mr. Suplita had engaged in a “prohibited consensual relationship.”
Mr. Suplita has appealed a decision by the university’s equal-opportunity office to the university’s president, Jere W. Morehead. Mr. Suplita said he believed the inquiry into his conduct was inconclusive, and he insisted he had not violated university policies. But he said that he intended to leave the university no matter the outcome of his case.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Got Unfair Labor Practices? Put ’em to Use

Labor Notes
November 10th, 2014

Employer unfair labor practices (ULPs) are violations of worker and union rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and similar public sector collective bargaining laws. For many unions, they are a familiar experience.
Some, however, have discovered that a ULP can be a gift in disguise, providing a defense against the most dangerous employer weapons. A union that plays its cards right can use ULPs to help win contract campaigns, strikes, and other confrontations.
Risks are always present during union struggles. But the following scenarios are particularly threatening:
  • After a few bargaining sessions, the employer announces that negotiations “have reached impasse” and that it will be carrying out its final offer with substantial cuts to wages, benefits, and other conditions of employment.
  • The union goes on strike. Within days or weeks, the employer hires permanent replacements for striking workers...

The N-Word, in Class

Inside Higher Ed
November 24th, 2014

Should students hear the "n-word," a slur for black people, in class? And if a professor uses it and then apologizes, should that apology feature multiple uses of the word?
These questions are being debated at the Mercer University Law School, where black students are calling for the dismissal of a professor, David Oedel, who used the word in his constitutional law class -- without any need to do so, the students say.
Tiffany Watkins, a third-year student at the law school and president of the Black Law Students Association, said the group was not ruling out that there might be circumstances where there are pedagogical reasons to use the word. But the reason to do so needs to be essential, she said.
Oedel first used the word (according to his account and others) when discussing the way justices of the Supreme Court viewed Thurgood Marshall when he argued Brown v. Board of Education (as a lawyer, before he joined the high court). Then, a few days later, Oedel reportedly apologized to the class, but in doing so used the word several more times (some reports say up to 10 times).

Pensacola State Faculty Vote No Confidence in President

Inside Higher Ed
November 24th, 2014

Pensacola State College faculty voted no confidence late last week in their president, Edward Meadows. The union and the administration are at an impasse in contract negotiations. The faculty cited five major reasons, including a culture of reprisal, cronyism, disregard for the terms of their contract, poor funding and attempting to prevent coverage of the labor dispute by the student newspaper. "This vote was necessary to bring faculty concerns to the Board of Trustees. Faculty have been discouraged from communicating with the board since Dr. Meadows has been president," one professor said in a statement released by the faculty union. The union said it was the first time in the college's history that faculty have taken a no confidence vote. According to the union, 133 of 193 full-time faculty took part in the vote. Of those, 125 voted no confidence in Meadows.
The college’s trustees remain behind Meadows. “The Board of Trustees of Pensacola State College has full confidence in President Meadows and the college administration,” Herb Woll, the board chairman, said in a statement released by the university.

Gates Goes Open

Inside Higher Ed
November 24th, 2014

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will require grant recipients to make their research publicly available online -- a multibillion-dollar boost to the open access movement.
The sweeping open access policy, which signals the foundation’s full-throated approval for the public availability of research, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015, and cover all new projects made possible with funding from the foundation. The foundation will ease grant recipients into the policy, allowing them to embargo their work for 12 months, but come 2017, “All publications shall be available immediately upon their publication, without any embargo period.”
“We believe that our new open access policy is very much in alignment with the open access movement which has gained momentum in recent years, championed by the NIH, PLoS, Research Councils UK, Wellcome Trust, the U.S. government and most recently the WHO,” a spokeswoman for the foundation said in an email. “The publishing world is changing rapidly as well, with many prestigious peer-reviewed journals adopting services to support open access. We believe that now is the right time to join the leading funding institutions by requiring the open access publication of our funded research."

U. of Colorado Will Pay Philosophy Professor $185,000 to Resign

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 22nd, 2014

The University of Colorado at Boulder is paying an associate professor of philosophy roughly $185,000 to resign after he was investigated for potentially violating the college’s policy regarding relationships with students, the Daily Camera reports. Bradley Monton will receive $120,000 in addition to the rest of his yearly salary in exchange for his resignation, according to a settlement agreement with the university, in which both parties denied fault or liability.
Mr. Monton has been a vocal critic of how the university has dealt with allegations of sexism in its beleaguered philosophy department. An April report by the American Association of University Professors said the college had violated Mr. Monton’s academic freedom by removing him from certain university committees, among other things.
The past year has been a nightmare for Boulder’s philosophy department, which was the subject of an outside report that last year found a culture of sexism within the department. The college responded by removing the department chair and suspending graduate admissions, which it recently said it would resume.

The Value of a Shared Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 17th, 2014

At the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, social theorists of an evolutionary bent were seeking to describe the development of societies from the simpler to the more complex. Émile Durkheim, for example, contrasted two major ways in which societies could be held together: either by mechanical solidarity (the likeness among component members) or by organic solidarity (a division of labor that makes component members dependent upon one another).
Ferdinand Tönnies drew a distinction that has had a more nuanced history in the field of sociology, that between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Like "mechanical solidarity," the concept of Gemeinschaft points to what members of a society share, expressing it in a more positive way. Gesellschaft refers to the more differentiated networks and interactions that characterize a complex society. Tönnies suggested that a healthy society needs both forms of connection to hold it together.
Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft help illuminate today’s college experience. To what extent are undergraduates moving through overlapping though largely differentiated networks, and to what extent do they share experiences, priorities, and goals?

The Shrinking World of Ideas

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 21st, 2014

When, in 1942, Lionel Trilling remarked, "What gods were to the ancients at war, ideas are to us," he suggested a great deal in a dozen words. Ideas were not only higher forms of existence, they, like the gods, could be invoked and brandished in one’s cause. And, like the gods, they could mess with us. In the last century, Marxism, Freudianism, alienation, symbolism, modernism, existentialism, nihilism, deconstruction, and postcolonialism enflamed the very air that bookish people breathed. To one degree or another, they lit up, as Trilling put it, "the dark and bloody crossroads where literature and politics meet."
Trilling belonged to a culture dominated by New York Intellectuals, French writers, and British critics and philosophers, most of whom had been marked by the Second World War and the charged political atmosphere of the burgeoning Cold War. Nothing seemed more crucial than weighing the importance of individual freedom against the importance of the collective good, or of deciding which books best reflected the social consciousness of an age when intellectual choices could mean life or death. And because of this overarching concern, the interpretation of poetry, fiction, history, and philosophy wasn’t just an exercise in analysis but testified to one’s moral view of the world.

How a Persistent Scholar Landed an Invitation to T.S. Eliot's Archive

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 24th, 2014

The first letter was dated June 19, 1970. "Dear Mrs. Eliot," it began.
The recipient was Valerie Eliot, widow of T.S. Eliot. The writer was Ronald Schuchard, a young literature scholar. "I have been researching Mr. Eliot’s lesser known writings for over three years," he wrote, "and I have written a master’s thesis and a doctoral dissertation on my findings."
He asked for permission to read some of Eliot’s unpublished writing, permission that could be granted only by Mrs. Eliot, who controlled the estate.
So commenced a correspondence, and eventually a friendship, between an extremely patient academic and a woman known for fiercely protecting—some might say overprotecting—the papers of the revered poet who ushered in High Modernism.