Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tufts U. Adjuncts Vote to Unionize in Regional Campaign's First Victory - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Adjunct faculty members at Tufts University have voted to unionize with the Service Employees International Union, marking the national union's first victory in a campaign to organize adjuncts across the Boston area and push institutions to improve their working conditions.
The 128-to-57 vote at Tufts, announced after ballots were tallied on Thursday, precedes an October 4 ballot count for adjuncts at Bentley University, who are also voting on whether to unionize with the SEIU as part of the Adjunct Action campaign.
The campaign's strategy is to organize adjuncts across a metropolitan area and put colleges in that region under competitive pressure to improve both pay and working conditions for their own adjuncts. About two-thirds of faculty employees in the Boston region are not on the tenure track, according to data released by the SEIU.
The union has pursued the same strategy in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region. After adjuncts at Georgetown University voted to unionize with the SEIU last May, the union now represents part-time professors at four institutions in that area: Georgetown, George Washington, and American Universities, and Montgomery College.
Other regional campaigns are under way in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and California, where the Adjunct Action project had previously announced a Los Angeles campaign.
Rebecca K. Gibson, a lecturer in the English department at Tufts, said she hoped the new union at her institution would eventually push for longer-term contracts.
"You feel uncertain and not treasured, even though you're giving a lot to your classes," said Ms. Gibson, who has been at Tufts since 1995.
Having multiple adjunct faculties in one regional area represented by the SEIU will strengthen their message, said Joan L. Atlas, an adjunct professor of English and media studies at Bentley.
"This effort is recognizing that there are thousands of adjuncts in the greater Boston area who are all struggling with the same problems, the same working conditions," she said.
Ms. Atlas, who represents adjuncts in Bentley's Faculty Senate, said she expected that enough faculty members there would vote to organize.
Ms. Gibson, at Tufts, said that forming multiple unions in one regional area can help adjunct faculty members find similarities across institutions.
"There are lots of us, people who are dedicated teachers, who love being in the classroom with students," Ms. Gibson said. "That love has, in a way, been taken advantage of."
Tufts U. Adjuncts Vote to Unionize in Regional Campaign's First Victory - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Tufts U. Adjuncts Vote to Unionize in Regional Campaign's First Victory - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Adjunct faculty members at Tufts University have voted to unionize with the Service Employees International Union, marking the national union's first victory in a campaign to organize adjuncts across the Boston area and push institutions to improve their working conditions.
The 128-to-57 vote at Tufts, announced after ballots were tallied on Thursday, precedes an October 4 ballot count for adjuncts at Bentley University, who are also voting on whether to unionize with the SEIU as part of the Adjunct Action campaign.
The campaign's strategy is to organize adjuncts across a metropolitan area and put colleges in that region under competitive pressure to improve both pay and working conditions for their own adjuncts. About two-thirds of faculty employees in the Boston region are not on the tenure track, according to data released by the SEIU.
The union has pursued the same strategy in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region. After adjuncts at Georgetown University voted to unionize with the SEIU last May, the union now represents part-time professors at four institutions in that area: Georgetown, George Washington, and American Universities, and Montgomery College.
Other regional campaigns are under way in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and California, where the Adjunct Action project had previously announced a Los Angeles campaign.
Rebecca K. Gibson, a lecturer in the English department at Tufts, said she hoped the new union at her institution would eventually push for longer-term contracts.
"You feel uncertain and not treasured, even though you're giving a lot to your classes," said Ms. Gibson, who has been at Tufts since 1995.
Having multiple adjunct faculties in one regional area represented by the SEIU will strengthen their message, said Joan L. Atlas, an adjunct professor of English and media studies at Bentley.
"This effort is recognizing that there are thousands of adjuncts in the greater Boston area who are all struggling with the same problems, the same working conditions," she said.
Ms. Atlas, who represents adjuncts in Bentley's Faculty Senate, said she expected that enough faculty members there would vote to organize.
Ms. Gibson, at Tufts, said that forming multiple unions in one regional area can help adjunct faculty members find similarities across institutions.
"There are lots of us, people who are dedicated teachers, who love being in the classroom with students," Ms. Gibson said. "That love has, in a way, been taken advantage of."
Tufts U. Adjuncts Vote to Unionize in Regional Campaign's First Victory - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Berklee College's Class Cancellations Broke Labor Law, Judge Says - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Berklee College of Music violated federal labor law by failing to involve its faculty union in a decision to eliminate classes with low enrollments, a National Labor Relations Board judge has ruled.
In a decision published on Tuesday by the NLRB, the administrative-law judge, Susan A. Flynn, held that the private, undergraduate college in Boston had engaged in unfair labor practices under the National Labor Relations Act by failing to bargain with its faculty union over the impact of a new policy setting minimum class enrollments.
Read more:
Berklee College's Class Cancellations Broke Labor Law, Judge Says - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Are colleges being too quick to suspend professors? | Inside Higher Ed


September 25, 2013
It would be hard to find a faculty advocate opposed to the suspension last week of a University of Florida professor of veterinary science who was secretly taking videos of students’ body parts with a device hidden in his pen. Administrative -- and police -- action came swiftly, without any public objection from fellow instructors.
But beyond such a clear violation of professional conduct, and, in this case, the law, faculty advocates often are quick to criticize institutions for jumping the gun with punishments. A spate of forced leaves for professors in recent memory raises the question of what exactly constitutes suspension-worthy speech and action -- particularly a suspension made unilaterally by administrators.
In other words, does a line exist and, if so, where?
The answer, some experts said, is another question: Does the faculty member’s exercise of his or her rights violate anyone else’s? And some fear that institutions may be becoming too quick to suspend in cases in which faculty conduct may have resulted in hurt feelings but not actual harm.
“The proper line to draw is where a professor's actions interfere with the legitimate rights of others,” said John K. Wilson, co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ "Academe" blog, editor of AAUP’s Illinois Conference Academe journal, and author of the book Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies.
If, for example, a professor commits a crime against students (such as video voyeurism), it's punishable, Wilson said in an e-mail. So, too, is unfairly grading or meeting the “high bar” of discriminating against some group of students; making verbal threats in violation of the law; or engaging in academic fraud. And professors can be suspended for failing to do their jobs, such as refusing to teach.
Still, that’s all with due process – and the professor should keep teaching as his or her case is being adjudicated, outside of being an immediate threat to students or others on campus. (Even the Florida professor deserves the right to defend himself before fellow professors at some point, faculty advocates said.)
But a professor can’t be punished if he or she “merely says something that offends someone,” Wilson said. “When a professor is suspended for expressing controversial ideas, it violates the rights of students to hear those ideas, and the rights of everyone on campus who must live in a climate of fear about freedom of expression.”
That students don’t obtain the right “not to be offended” is a position long held by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
In an e-mail, Robert Shibley, vice president of FIRE, said: “A faculty member’s expression does not lose protection, nor is it punishable by a state university, simply because someone might find it offensive (even highly so).”
Speech is more protected than conduct, where administrations have a bit more “latitude” in judgment, Shibley said; the former mode of expression has “long been recognized as fundamental to the academic enterprise.” First Amendment case law and AAUP statements on academic freedom and tenure, including protections for intramural and extramural faculty expression, “have been widely accepted.”
And yet, in the last year and a half, several professors have been put on near-immediate administrative leave for utterances or actions that seemingly didn’t violate anyone else’s personal freedoms.
Last week, a tenured professor of journalism was put on administrative leave from the University of Kansas following a controversial, anti-National Rifle Association Twitter remark he posted following the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shootings. Michigan State University put on leave a tenured professor of creative writing who was videotaped disparaging Republicans in class earlier this month.
Last academic year, a Florida Atlantic University adjunct professor of communications was put on leave and barred from campus, ostensibly for his safety -- effectively fired, given his temporary employment status – for his “stomp on Jesus” exercise. (In an interview with Inside Higher Ed Deandre Poole said he never used those words; he was later rehired). Also in 2012, a tenured professor of sociology at Appalachian State University was put on leave for showing her students an explicit documentary about pornography, which she said was academically relevant (administrators also said her in-class language was “hostile” to student athletes). Jammie Price has since been reinstated, but can now be fired “at will,” according to the details of her contract, she said in an e-mail.
FIRE found fault with those suspensions. In the most recent case, for example -- that of Kansas’ David Guth, whose tweet blamed the NRA for the Navy Yard shooting and said “next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters” – the offense doesn’t meet the legal definitions of the "limited categorical exceptions" to the First Amendment, Shibley said.
“It is not a true threat, it does not constitute harassment or incitement, it is not obscene, and it is not defamatory,” Shibley said. And while “unpleasant and upsetting to some,” it’s not unlawful.
Guth told Inside Higher Ed he accepted his leave in part to protect students from death threats he’d received since his statement. But Wilson called even that kind of agreement “illegitimate,” as it was reached under pressure and because academic freedom doesn't "belong" to the professor alone.
“A faculty member’s expression does not lose protection, nor is it punishable by a state university, simply because someone might find it offensive (even highly so).”
--Robert Shibley, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
Shibley said he couldn’t comment with "any certainty" on whether or not faculty suspensions for protected speech are on the rise. That said, he added, “the issue does seem to be coming up more often recently.”
But there also are recent examples of institutional acceptance of faculty utterances some deemed questionable.
The University of Rhode Island publicly distanced itself from a professor’s Twitter remarks calling for the NRA CEO’s “head on a stick,” in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting in 2012. But Erik Loomis, assistant professor of history, remained in the classroom, despite many calls for his dismissal. 
In a different kind of incident, Columbia University all but ignored public reaction to a physics professor who in February stripped down to his underwear and featured sword-wielding ninjas and 9/11 imagery during a lecture on quantum mechanics.
The different treatment of questionable utterances stems from a variety of factors, but primarily from the fact that they are subjective; even the idea of what constitutes a violation of someone else’s "legitimate" rights can be subjective. Consequently, there’s no one document from AAUP or elsewhere that outlines what constitutes words or actions warranting suspension.
Neal McCluskey, associate director of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, said subjectivity is particularly acute at public institutions, which must “somehow balance both the free speech rights of professors – the right not to have government punish speech – and the rights of taxpayers not to support speech they find unacceptable. That leads to judgments that will always infringe on someone’s rights.”
Private institutions, which aren’t taxpayer-funded, don’t face the same issue, McCluskey said, “but it’s still very hard to set a clear line.”
Drawing on the doctrinal definition of academic freedom, which guarantees a professor’s right to teach or do research on ideas that may be unpopular, he said: “As close as it gets seems to be that a professor may say anything in class that is related to their subject matter.” He added the following qualifier: “[And] that is not intended to offend.”
Extramural utterances speech can be “more troublesome,” McCluskey said, because the professor still carries the “imprimatur” of the institution.
Greg Scholtz, director of tenure, governance and academic freedom for AAUP, said in an e-mail that experience shows “precisely ‘where the line gets drawn’ cannot be defined in the abstract and necessarily depends on the facts particular to the particular case. And these cases are often extremely complicated.”
Ultimately, he said, a professor’s faculty peers should determine in each case whether conduct or speech warrants suspension, or some other sanction – or whether it’s protected.
As a result, the AAUP takes “considerable interest” in the procedures institutions follow when sanctions are threatened or imposed, Scholtz said. It opposes unilateral, administrative sanctions, in which the faculty plays no role.
If an administration wishes to suspend a faculty member pending a dismissal for cause, it should do so only after consulting a faculty body and only if the faculty member constitutes a threat of "immediate harm" to himself or others, Scholtz said. "The AAUP has not, by the way, construed bad publicity as an 'immediate harm.' "


Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/09/25/are-colleges-being-too-quick-suspend-professors#ixzz2fv79fwn2
Inside Higher Ed 


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Non-Tenure-Track Faculty at Wright State U. Win Degree of Job Security - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Full-time non-tenure-track faculty members at Wright State University have won an unusual degree of employment security in their first contract with the Ohio institution after voting to unionize last fall. After six years at the university, non-tenure-eligible faculty members who are part of the bargaining unit will have a "continuing appointment with no identified date of termination," the contract, signed on Friday, reads.
The distinction is likely to be unprecedented for non-tenured faculty members, according to Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors and chief negotiator for the Wright State AAUP chapter, which represents the bargaining unit.
Mr. Fichtenbaum, who is also an economics professor at the university, said that Wright State had a strong history of employment security for non-tenure-track faculty members.
"But going forward, you never know exactly if things will change," he said. "Today in higher education, there's a lot that's in flux."
The university's chief negotiator, William E. Rickert, said that the contract had clarified the university's terms.
"For those who are going to stay on as continuing faculty, then we've made the decision that we want to provide a measure of security that they deserve," Mr. Rickert, the university's assistant provost, said.

Separate Agreement on Workload

Alongside the contract, the chapter and the university signed a separately negotiated memorandum of understanding that specifies the workload for non-tenure-eligible faculty members. The workload issue had been a point of stress after the institution's switch from a quarter-based academic year to a semester system.
With the quarter system, many instructors primarily taught three courses per term, Mr. Fichtenbaum said. For many faculty members, the figure changed to four courses per term with fewer hours when semesters were introduced, in the fall of 2012.
"Most of them, I think rightly so, viewed that as a fairly significant increase in their teaching load," he said.
The memorandum states that for instructors' first four years at Wright State, they will typically teach eight courses per academic year. All other instructors will typically teach six or seven courses, while having greater responsibilities outside the classroom, like serving as chair of a department, advising a student group, or coordinating a program.
In negotiations, the union argued that increased class sizes in some courses, alongside the proposed changes in teaching loads, was revenue-neutral for the university.
This marks the first contract for Wright State's AAUP chapter representing non-tenure-track faculty members, who unionized with the chapter in the fall of 2012.
Today the chapter represents about 180 non-tenure-track full-time faculty members. Collective bargaining for the new agreement began in March, Mr. Fichtenbaum said.
Mr. Rickert said that, with the two transitions—from a quarter to a semester system and into a unionized non-tenure-track faculty—the university had confirmed faculty security but largely preserved the status quo.
Read original article at : Non-Tenure-Track Faculty at Wright State U. Win Degree of Job Security - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Friday, September 13, 2013

Special Edition: Indiana’s “Right to Work”/"Right to Shirk" Law Unconstitutional

Last week in Sweeney v. Zoeller, Lake Superior Court in the State of Indiana found that the state’s newly enacted 'right to shirk' law is unconstitutional. In February 2013, the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150 filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of Indiana’s so-called 'right-to-work’ law on four grounds. Among its arguments, Local 150 urged the court to find the law unconstitutional because it made it a crime for unions to collect dues for services that federal law requires unions provide to both members and non-members.
The Indiana court found that the state’s right-to-work law violated the state’s constitutional provision requiring that “No person’s particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation.” While the court noted that it was “loathe to declare any state statute unconstitutional,” it ultimately invalidated the law because “it becomes a criminal offense for a union to receive just compensation for particular services federal law demands it provide to employees,” such as negotiating collective-bargaining agreements and processing grievances. In other words, the Court decided it was unconstitutional to force the Union to provide services to non-members without just compensation.
Indiana’s Attorney General said that he will appeal the decision to the Indiana Supreme Court.
As Republican-controlled legislatures across the country attempt to weaken unions, the Indiana court’s decision represents a huge victory for the labor movement. Unions in other states can use the Sweeney decision as a template to challenge right-to-work laws.
By Anthony Tucci | Septembet 13, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Appeals Court ruling Bolsters Professor's Free-Speech Rights in the West

Appeals Court Ruling Bolsters Professors’ Free-Speech Rights in the West
WSU Professor’s Plan to Improve Murrow Program Qualifies for Free-Speech Protection

A U.S. District Court judge erred when he ruled that a Washington State University professor was not entitled to First Amendment protection when he developed a controversial plan for restructuring and improving a journalism program, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday.

“The decision is a great victory for those who cherish academic freedom, free-speech ideals and shared governance,” said David Demers, a former tenured WSU professor who created the plan to improve the quality of education in the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication.

“Professors should be able to criticize administrators and their policies and play an active role in the affairs of the university,” added Demers, who left the university in 2012 and currently teaches a mass media law course in The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. “The decision bolsters the idea that free-speech protection for professors extends beyond their academic research programs and the classroom. It covers our service role, too.”

Demers brought suit in 2010 alleging that four university administrators retaliated against him for distributing a “7-Step Plan” that sought to improve the quality of the Murrow program (Demers v. Austin, et al.).

The plan asked university administrators to give more power to professional faculty, to seek national accreditation for the Murrow School, and to remove a non-journalism major from the school. The latter program only served 60 of the 1,000 majors in the Murrow School but was consuming one-fourth of the school’s resources, Demers said. Demers also offered to donate $100,000 of his own money if the university implemented the plan.

University administrators ignored the plan.

When he submitted the plan, Demers said he assumed his speech was protected under the principles of shared governance and academic freedom.

The WSU administrator-defendants disagreed.

But instead of fighting the lawsuit on its merits, the defendants asked Spokane District Court Judge Robert H. Whaley to declare that professors, as employees, do not deserve First Amendment protection.

Whaley agreed and threw the case out of court, before it went to trial.

To support his decision, he cited the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, which held that government employees (an assistant prosecuting attorney in this case) are not entitled to free-speech protection, even if those employees report criminal wrongdoing on the part of other government workers (the attorney learned that police officers had fabricated evidence to obtain a search warrant).

The high court ruled 5-4 against the “whistle blower,” with the conservative justices outflanking the moderates and liberals. The majority essentially ruled that it is better to control employees than to expose corruption, Demers said.

But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, headed by Judge William A. Fletcher, ruled in the Demers case that Garcetti does not apply to professors, because “teaching and academic writing are at the core of the official duties of teachers and professors. Such teaching and writing are ‘a special concern of the First Amendment.’ ... We conclude that if applied to teaching and academic writing, Garcetti would directly conflict with the important First Amendment values previously articulated by the Supreme Court.”

The appeals court ruling means that, to receive First Amendment protection, a professor’s speech must address matters of public concern and the professor’s interest in the matter must outweigh the state’s interest in promoting efficiency on the job.

The appeals court remanded the Demers case to the Spokane District Court for further review. A trial date has not been set.

The defendants could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Demers said this would hurt the reputation of the Murrow program even more.

“From the beginning, it never made any sense that administrators working in and supervising the Murrow journalism and mass communication programs would argue that journalism professors don’t deserve free-speech protection,” Demers said. “I think this is a case of where the administrative bureaucracy was so focused on winning that it forgot about the importance of principles. Free speech is a principle worth defending.”

Demers said the ruling is another black mark on the administration of WSU President Elson Floyd, who in 2009 concealed a report from the Washington state Auditor’s Office which concluded that a WSU internal audit of Demers was tainted by a conflict of interest.

The appeals court also ruled that the defendants have qualified immunity from financial damages because the Ninth Circuit has never clarified Garcetti. This means Demers cannot seek punitive damages. But Demers, who said the case has cost him about $350,000 so far, said he didn’t care.

“This was a case about principles and free-speech rights, not money.”

The American Association of University Professors and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression penned a friend-of-the-court brief in support of free-speech rights for faculty.

The appeals court ruling, if it stands, will affect public universities nine states, including Arizona, California, Nevada, Montana, Washington state, Idaho, Hawaii, Alaska and Utah.

Demers taught at WSU for 16 years. He quit in 2012 to spend more time writing about civil liberties issues.

WSU has implemented some aspects of Demers’ 7-Step Plan, but the Murrow program, now a college, is not accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The Cronkite School is.



For more information, contact

David Demers
509-290-9240
dkdemers@cox.net