Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Case for Solidarity

I just finished Michele Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (New York: The New Press, 2011) which is an eye-opening account of how the American judicial system perpetuates racism. Few, if any, can read this book without feeling enraged at the systemic discrimination that targets people of color as criminals and puts them in a hard-to-break cycle of imprisonment, poverty and despair. In addition to shocking statistics and heart-wrenching examples, Alexander points to the use of “divide and conquer,” as a successful (elite) strategy for undermining opposition and thwart solidarity across color lines. Ever since Reconstruction, if not earlier, powerful interests have used “white supremacy” as a strategy for preventing poor and working class people from forming class based coalitions. Often in exchange of a few token privileges, poor whites have been encouraged to prioritize solidarity across race over solidarity across class.

So what, you may rightfully ask, does this have to do with academia and the CFA’s causes? At first glance it seems presumptuous, even absurd to compare the academic fight for self-governance with those over institutionalized racism because the material outcome is so different. Nevertheless, at the core, the two causes share a common denominator.

Much like poor whites, professors are encouraged to consider their allegiances to lie with the “managerial” classes and reject forming coalitions with colleagues of lower professional rank (i.e. instructional faculty, academic professionals and graduate students) and other workers on campus. Universities insist on keeping a distinction between non-tenure and tenure track faculty even if their educational background and job descriptions are the same, giving the latter a sense of “superiority.” In a recent article, AAPU President Cary Nelson proposes to grant all long-term college teachers tenure at the percentage appointments they currently have. (“From the President: Reforming Faculty Identity,” Academe Online, July-August, 2011). This, he convincingly argues, would lead to a better educational environment for students and professors alike. The fact that this would create a single class of tenure-track professors with common concerns and the power to challenge their employers is obviously not lost on university administrations. Thus, it is in the latter’s interest that the often arbitrary distinction between college teachers’ job classifications is kept intact and that the tenure-track individuals are flattered into considering themselves superior.

Ideally, our solidarity should reach beyond academia, to include workers of all ranks. In a recent issue of Journal of International Communication Victor Pickard warns us not to view educational labor issues too narrowly but to place them in their proper social political context and make the appropriate connections. There is no denying that tenured academics enjoy a relatively privileged lifestyle. Their salaries and benefits are (still) better than those of most workers, on campus or elsewhere, but they increasingly share the growing concerns over work-place issues, wages and benefits with other workers, be they white or blue collared. Although a professor might make far more than the office support staff, her work-related concerns are still far closer to that of the staff worker than to the top 1 percent of income earners in America. “What befalls public school teachers and public-sector unions seems distant from our daily routines. But we should see these conflicts as data points of a larger pattern: the systematic impoverishment of public services and civil society institutions in tandem with the bolstering of corporate power,” states Pickard.

Our capital is largely of cultural value which puts us in a unique situation. We can use our knowledge and skills as outreach tools – letting others know that we belong to the 99 percent of Americans who share a common concern over a long list of eroding social goods and services. Our work-related obligations might be different from those of grade school teachers, social workers and firefighters but that does not keep our jobs safe or our benefits protected. Efforts to “divided and conquer” must be rejected to ensure that we and the rest of the 99 percent stand a chance of saving civil society.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SB 512 Threatens U of I Pensions

On Tuesday a state House committee approved a pensions bill which contains a number of measures which seriously downgrade the pensions of U of I faculty and other state employees. Among these are:

*Creating a three tier pension system at the U of I which would reduce benefits for new hires
*Increase pension deductions for U of I faculty from the current 8% to 15% as from 2013. This would apply to anyone who wants the present, defined benefit pension plan. This rate could go as high as 17% after 2017.

This is a major attack on public employee pensions and committee approval means the bill can now be voted on by both houses of the legislature. This could happen as soon as today. The State University Annuitants' Association (SUAA), the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association all oppose the bill. To read the SUAA press release on the bill click here. We urge you to contact your elected representative and make your voices heard.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Story that Needs Changing

On Monday, October 24, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory hosted “The Innovation Conspiracy: Ruin and Rebirth in The American University,” a lecture by Christopher Newfield, professor of English at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Below is a post he has provided for the Campus Faculty Association Blog. His official blog can be found here.

"A Story that Needs Changing"

Public universities are being endangered by a false consensus about their problems and solutions. The consensus puts every academic activity in an austerity box, which makes it much harder for universities to imagine the educational upgrade our society and economy need.

I’ll offer two examples, and the first occurred last week in the Levis Faculty Center on the UI –Urbana campus. My comment here is not about what actually happened in the room. It is about the story arc that was pieced together by a reporter – I assume with impressive professional skill --from statements that seem to have been made.

On October 25th, the News-Gazette published an article about a faculty meeting with the new University of Illinois system president Michael Hogan. One goal was to discuss Hogan’s centralization plan, which would among other things create a single admissions system for the University’s three very different campuses – Urbana-Champaign, a mature and internationally distinguished public research university, Chicago, an important urban campus, and a regional campus at Springfield. It appeared that the enrollment centralization plan had not yet been presented to the chancellor of the Urbana campus or to faculty representatives. Faculty were worried that the plan was a done deal already decided by the new president and the Board of Trustees. The possible implications were clear: a major point of authority would be taken away from the campuses. Perhaps the Urban-Champaign campus would be leveled down by administrative means.

According to the story, when faculty expressed concerns about this lack of consultation, president Hogan asked if they wanted to go back to the days when UI was under investigation for corrupt admissions practices. He noted that state law “makes it perfectly clear the university is a single, common entity with a single seal, single president... single budget,” although, he conceded, the system has three “somewhat distinct campuses.” He added, “The president is the president.” When UI history professor Mark Steinberg told Hogan, “there’s a growing worry this is a board of trustees we have no influence over,” Hogan replied that the board is “incomparably better than its predecessors” and that they are engaging more with faculty than before. Hogan’s position appeared to be that the faculty had nothing to complain about, and that concerns about consultation could be laid to rest by invoking presidential authority.

At another point, Hogan noted that faculty would be asked to play a “big role” in identifying “programs that makes us distinctive and distinguished.” The reporter then cited Hogan saying that “this is a big university and it was built in an age of abundance . . . Now we’re living in an age of scarcity.” The faculty therefore would be helping the university “to decide whether it can afford to sustain all of its programs.”

The article does not mention anyone who described the practice and principles of shared governance at the University of Illinois. Nor does the article mention anyone that, on the question of academic programs, noted high rates of existing campus innovation or who called on the president and the Board to support upgrading educational quality.

Here we have a missing narrative, one that explains what has actually been going on in universities.

Faculty and staff struggle in a time of cuts to maintain quality, and students struggle to learn in larger classes with less help. Tuition goes up as public funding goes down, and yet, in this accurate story, faculty, staff, and students continue to innovate and try to upgrade with decreasing help from political, business, and academic leaders.

The News-Gazette article instead provided a familiar script. The presidential figure, Michael Hogan, affirms a constitutional basis for a unitary executive, places faculty outside of that, defines the era uniquely as a time of cuts, suggests that faculty had not sufficiently adapted to this plain reality, and defines their role as cutting their own programs. The narrative does not err by raising the issue of program changes, which would normally include elimination and consolidation. The problem is the false tale through which these changes are presented.

Here the executive is the bulwark against people who deny fiscal reality. Full governing partnership with the faculty would implicitly jeopardize this.

The News-Gazette article exists in ecology of such articles. The national discourse is the fuzzy sum of these inputs. As it happens, the next day the Los Angeles Times covered the new College Board report on tuition increases, where other standard elements were introduced. The headline was “California leads nation in escalation of college costs.” The piece began, “Steep funding cuts to higher education in California and elsewhere were significant factors in pushing average tuition and fees up 8.3% at four-year public colleges and universities nationwide this fall.” The causal claim here was explicit: states cut funding, and then universities raise tuition.

Lest readers believe that universities are being hurt by shortsighted legislators through no fault of their own, the narrative locates an expert named Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, a reputable think tank based in San Jose, California. Callan told the reporter that the real issue is cost containment: “Universities still resist efficiencies, especially in adopting new technology and persuading research faculty to teach more classes. `There is a real lack of serious attention to productivity and innovation,’ he said.”

This article offers an operative back-story that animates the conflict in the News Gazette narrative without being present in it.

The claim is that faculty and staff not only do not innovate but are opposed to innovation. Sadly, the innovations they oppose, according to this tale, are exactly the ones that would save money while at the same time, through higher teaching loads, help students. This narrative offers the back-story that explains why public universities now require the strong executive that Michael Hogan came to UI to be.

Taken together, these two newspaper articles reinforce the current consensus on public higher education. Here are its key elements, including several that are not part of these two particular articles:

• Everyone agrees that higher education is a private good.
• As a result public funding is never coming back.
• Therefore we must give up on that and orient public universities toward downsized programs, relentless cost cutting, and higher tuition.
• Faculty and staff will resist all of these, so a university’s senior managers must be given the authority to impose efficiencies.
• These efficiencies must be enforced through productivity assessment, including bibliometric analytics for faculty promotions, educational efficiency as measured by degree throughput, and other Taylorist practices.
• None of this hurts educational quality, which will instead improve through tougher management.

These elements form a vicious narrative cycle, and for decades it has had the real-world effect of reducing resources for public education relative to the private elites (p 237). Faculty members need to redouble their efforts to fix this narrative, for the sake of research and teaching alike.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Introducing Our New Blog Editor, Inger Stole

We are introducing a new blog editor, Inger Stole, who will be collaborating with Susan Davis in keeping us posted with CFA news.

Inger is a member of the CFA Communications Committee, and she not only has great ideas for writing about working and learning conditions at UIUC, but she’ll be doing interviews with faculty at unionized campuses.

Inger is Associate Professor of Communication at UIUC, and she is an expert on the history of advertising, war-time propaganda, and consumer culture. Welcome, Inger.

My past few days have been spent in the academic blogosphere where good news is a rarity, at best. Tales of expanded workloads, shrinking benefits, expanded class sizes, and elimination of “cost inefficient” courses and programs seem to dominate the discourse. All of these issues seem inter-linked in a race to the bottom for our working conditions and our students’ learning experiences. Demanding work conditions and stresses that traditionally have been part of adjunct professors’ burden are now trickling up to assistant professors. Those in more established careers have been less affected by the new “austerity measures” but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that tenure is a protection against future administrative quests for efficiency.

It is true that in Illinois, with its grievous economic situation, we never seem to be able to offset the dwindling income from state and federal sources. The administration is eager to show the Board of Trustees and Springfield that it CAN cut its way to a leaner University. The question is for whom and for what purpose. Programs that are less attractive to outside corporate funders are particularly affected by the ongoing “austerity measures” while the administration itself seems to have missed (or not read) its own memo about saving money.

As faculty members emphasized at the recent meeting with the President and Chancellor, many are frustrated by the lack of fiscal and decision-making transparency. We can only guess about the administration’s ultimate goals, but it looks as if the tough economic times have given it a golden opportunity to change the university’s future in much more privatized, corporate direction. Surely I am not alone is having noticed that no one from the administration promises better times, improved benefits, and better working conditions once the “economic crisis” is over. As Norman Denzin said at the faculty meeting, the administration offers no vision or dream for the public university, no big idea we can hang on to about education’s role in a good society. But I think we the faculty can offer one.

Only faculty, be they tenure track or non-tenure track, know what it is like to teach at this university. We are the closest to the students and their learning experience. It is up to us to push the academic administration to join a dialogue about public higher education and its future.

So, I hope this blog can be a place of meaningful discussion about learning and working at the UIUC, and what we can do to improve it. Techno-fixes in the form of “I-clickers” and other ways of digitally managing students are not the answer. Neither do we need to commission new (and costly) image campaigns. The people of Illinois already hold their public university in high esteem. Thus, we need to protect the institution and improve it through our own ways of taking back responsibility for its shape and direction, and make it financially affordable for students to attend.

What is happening in your school or department? What does that mean to your students? How would you improve it? What are you doing in the classroom or laboratory or community that helps your students learn, rather than merely pass assessments?

And specifically, I want to ask: what difference a union would make to faculty at all levels, and to the University as a whole?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Illinois Education Labor Relations Board Refuses UI's Application for a Stay

Big News from Chicago!

The Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) last week refused the UI Administration’s request for a stay in collective bargaining and contract negotiations with UIC Faculty United, the Chicago campus union that was certified last spring.

The board wrote:

We find that granting a stay in this case would be contrary to the public policy that supports a duty to bargain. In addition, we find that there is not a reasonable likelihood that the Employer will succeed on the merits. Therefore, the Employer has not shown “good cause” for granting a stay.

Congratulations to all who are plugging away for a contract that includes tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty! This is really good news. There is a duty to bargain.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What's Wrong with this Picture?

"What's Wrong with this Picture?" is one in a continuing series of posts about academic life. Here, from Claire Potter's wonderful blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education, is a description of the work life of a new, tenure track professor...somewhere in Missouri, we think. What's wrong with this picture?

It was my dream to get a tenure-track job. However, I am only in my second year in a humanities department and my dream has become a nightmare. The semester is not even half over and I am exhausted. My classes are over enrolled by about fifteen students. I am behind on my grading: last week my students asked when they would get their papers back and I heard myself saying that I had left them on a bus and that the Transit Authority Lost and Found was closed for Rosh Hashanah. I barely have time to review the reading I have assigned my students. Confession? Sometimes I don’t even read it.

Every time I think I have protected a little free time someone schedules a meeting: worse, our university now uses Meeting Maker, so I get an email informing me that a meeting has already been scheduled and I am expected to attend. Not infrequently, I have already made a plan for that time — seeing a students, meeting with a colleague — and that something has to be rescheduled into whatever diminishing time is left in the week.

I don’t have time to go to the gym, or to pack my own lunch — two things I swore I would do this fall to maintain my mental health and not gain back the weight I lost over the summer. I see talks and events come and go and don’t do any of them because I am already scheduled to do something else or I am so tired all I want to do is go home. Worse, I have so much to do that I am not sleeping well and I forget things constantly. Keeping up with my writing? Ha! I have deadlines coming due that I can’t even imagine I will keep.

My partner, who moved with me so I could take this job, seems to think I’m not much fun either. Help!

Wow. What's wrong with this picture?

Friday at Noon

Looking forward to Harriet Murav's talk on unionization, Friday at noon. Thai food available, too!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ruin and Rebirth: Save the Date for Chris Newfield's Talk October 24

The Innovation Conspiracy: Ruin and Rebirth in the American University

A talk by Christopher Newfield

Sponsored by the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory

October 24, 2011, Levis Center, 3rd Floor, 8pm

Why is the American university system in crisis? A central reason is the financial pressure put on colleges and universities by the "innovation economy," pressure which has led to rising student debt, less personalized instruction, and growing research funding deficits. The lecture shows that the leading response at public universities to this pressure -- large tuition increases and other attempts to replace public with private funds -- has made the budget problem worse. Now that we are stuck with a failing public university funding model that no one would have designed on purpose, how do we fix it? The bulk of the talk proposes as a solution a new public purpose (and funding structure) for universities, one enabling mass access to new individual capabilities for a "post-innovation society."

Christopher Newfield is professor of English at UC Santa Barbara and author of Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle-Class (Harvard, 2008). He maintains the terrific Remaking the University blog at

He is one of the most insightful current critics of the structure and prospects of American public higher education.

For background readings by Newfield you may go to the Unit for Criticism’s website:

The event is free and open to the public.

Coming Up: CFA President Harriet Murav Speaks on Unionization

CFA President Harriet Murav will speak at the University YMCA at noon, Friday, October 14.

Her talk is titled “Verticalization and Unionization: What's Better for Education?”

Professor Murav explores “the national trend in university administrative practices, which rely on vertical models of assessment and outcomes, numerical evaluations, and other policies that fail to take into account the educational significance of face to face dialogue among students and professors, professors and their colleagues, and students with students.”

Unionization of the faculty offers the possibility of sounder ways of assessing teaching and learning in higher education, she argues.

This talk is part of the Friday Forum at the YMCA. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

GEO Wins Tuition Waiver Decision

The Campus Faculty Association congratulates the GEO on their victory preserving tuition waivers and affordable graduate education at the U of I.

CFA would like to see less money spent on avoiding contractual obligations, and more attention paid to the high-stakes hard work that grad employees do on our campus.

The following, from a GEO press release October 3, lays out the issue and the describes the independent arbitrator's decision.

"The Graduate Employees' Organization at UIUC has won a landmark arbitration ruling in a contract dispute with UIUC administrators over tuition waivers.

An independent arbitrator has ruled that an attempt by University of Illinois officials to reduce tuition waivers for some incoming graduate employees represents a clear violation of the contract between the union and the Illinois Board of Trustees.

Tuition waivers are a benefit of employment, which represent no cost to the University. Preventing reduction of tuition waivers will preserve quality of education at Illinois, organizers say, while protecting vital labor standards.

In November 2009, over 1,000 Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) members went on strike to prevent the reduction or elimination of tuition waivers for graduate employees. This was the fifth largest work stoppage in the United States in 2009. They GEO won contract language protecting tuition waivers for current and future Teaching and Graduate Assistants at UIUC.

In the Summer of 2010, the GEO learned of a policy change affecting tuition waivers for incoming graduate employees in several departments in the College of Fine and Applied Arts (FAA). Effective Fall of 2010, incoming graduate employees in these departments were no longer granted waivers for out-of-state tuition. Even with temporary scholarships, many Fine and Applied Arts graduate employees, earning between $7,000.00 and $9,000.00 per academic year, were left with additional fees totaling up to $1,000.00.

This change in tuition waiver policy was a clear violation of the GEO's contract with the Illinois Board of Trustees. In 2010, the GEO filed a grievance alleging a contract violation, while GEO members launched a public awareness campaign that included email and letter drives, communication with elected officials, testimony to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, and other events.

By attempting to charge incoming graduate employees tuition in clear violation of its contract with teaching and graduate assistants, administrators have cost the University of Illinois as much as $100,000.00. This is yet another example of flawed budget priorities at UIUC, where the most vulnerable members of the University community are frequently asked to shoulder the burdens of budget shortfalls.

After an arbitration hearing in mid-July, an independent arbitrator on September 20 declared the University's tuition waiver policy in violation of its contract with the GEO. The arbitrator ordered the U of I administration to make whole any harm done to graduate employees.

The arbitration victory marks a significant achievement for GEO members. According to GEO communications officer Rodrigo Pacheco-McEvoy, "not only does the ruling secure tuition waivers as a benefit of employment for graduate employees, which is absolutely necessary to maintain accessibility to public higher education at UIUC; it also helps protect the arts from budgetary cutbacks."

While the GEO has much cause to celebrate, the story of tuition waivers and the arts at UIUC is not over. The GEO is entering another bargaining year. According to GEO Co-President Miriam Larsen, "our members are fully committed to protecting the tuition waivers that make a high quality graduate education accessible to a diverse student body.” "

More information can also be found on the website at

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ralph Martire Speaks on the Future of Learning at the Y on Friday, September 30.

Ralph Martire, Executive Director, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability,gave a great CFA-sponsored talk on pension funding last year. He's back this Friday (9/30) at the YMCA on Wright Street to talk about school funding and tax structure. Ralph is one of Illinois' best-informed experts on taxation and its effects on public education. He's accessible and interesting to talk with. Hope to see you there at 12 noon!

His talk "Improving Equity in School Funding," is part of the Friday Forum series, noon, September 30, University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign.

The Fall 2011 Friday Forum Series "The Future of Learning; Is Public Education Under Siege?" will explore the relationship between education and society with special attention to the challenges of improving education in an era where budgets, politics, and ideology are central to the debate.

For more information see

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Contract for Lecturers at Eastern Michigan


September 22, 2011

-- For Eastern Michigan University part-time lecturer Kay McGowan, it finally feels like her employer of 14 years is listening.

“Our voice has been silent for too long,” McGowan said of EMU’s part-time faculty, who teach 29 percent of classes on campus. “Now we have a say in some of the situations that affect us on campus.”

McGowan’s comments come after the EMU Board of Regents voted Tuesday to approve the first-ever contract agreement with part-time faculty.

About 800 contingent lecturers are represented by the new contract, which was ratified last week by the adjunct bargaining unit of the EMU Federation of Teachers. The contract increased and formalized pay and benefits for adjunct professors.

After 14 years of teaching anthropology part time at EMU, McGowan says the contract brings welcome stability.....-- Read the whole story at

Monday, September 19, 2011

University of Illinois Spends Millions on Outside Counsel to Resist Collective Bargaining

The University of Illinois continues to spend millions of dollars resisting unionization and collective bargaining.

Our unionized colleagues at Chicago, UIC United, have obtained financial and other records revealing that the University administration has spent millions of dollars over the last decade resisting unionization. The records were made available through a Freedom of Information Act filing.

In the past ten years, the UI administration has spent $3,282,414.14 on outside counsel costs for labor issues. This averages to over $300,000 per year. At the same time, UI has many on-staff lawyers who are paid very well, several of whom are assigned to deal with labor issues.

In the month of May 2011 alone the administration paid $24,583.75 to Clark Baird Smith LLP to try and defeat The UIC United campaign, which followed the legal process by filing a majority interest petition with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board [IELRB]. U of I continues to resist entering into a legally mandated collective bargaining with UIC United.

On September 15, 2011 the IELRB supported the ruling of an administrative judge and reaffirmed UIC United's right to exist and to represent tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty. But the administration has said it will continue to pursue its appeal through the courts. We can only imagine how much more expensive it will be to carry out that threat, not before a labor relations board, but in the courts of the state of Illinois. And what if they lose in Illinois? Will they go to the federal courts?

Faculty here at UI Urbana-Champaign wonder how that three million plus dollars might have been used to upgrade classrooms, maintain equipment, avoid furloughs, provide raises, lower or maintain student tuition, and bolster staffing support. $300,000 a year could go a long way toward improving the UI working environment and our students' learning environment, here and in Chicago.

President Hogan says he has a long history of working with unions. We hope that’s true. The UI’s resistance to UIC United makes us wonder.

The Campus Faculty Association is committed to transparency and wise use of public funds. We think unions can strengthen the faculty voice in the running of the university and fulfilling its three missions: education, research and public service.

Many thanks to our UIC United colleagues for their efforts, and many congratulations on their big win. We’re all for you!

Campus Faculty Association

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our Fall Reception and Membership Meeting

Campus Faculty Association Invites All Faculty to:

Come meet and share ideas with:

People who organized the victorious union campaign at UIC

Hear what's happening with CFA this fall and how you can be involved

Munchies from World Harvest, soft drinks and inspiration guaranteed.

Date: Wednesday, September 21st

Time: 5-7 p.m.

Place: University YMCA

1001 S. Wright St

Bring a Friend!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ralph Martire Slide Show 4-14-11

To view Ralph Martire's power point slides go to our wiki, by clicking here. His main point was that the problem with the $79 billion deficit in our pension fund is a revenue, not a spending problem. There is little fat to cut out of our state budget. The only way to solve the deficit problem is to bring Illinois up to speed in tax revenue. For more, see the website of Ralph's organization, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Come to CFA Forum on Pensions: "Who's Got Your Back?" April 14, 4 p.m. at University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright Street

Guest speaker will be Ralph Martire, Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in Chicago. Mr Martire is an expert on pensions and the Illinois state budget. He is a regular columnist for the Sun-Times and a technical advisor on budget issues to the Illinois state legislature. He has written and spoken widely on Illinois’s budget crisis. In our forum he will discuss:

• The state of Illinois’ pension fund
• Why Illinois is not a high spending state
• Why Illinois is not a high taxing state
• What needs to be done to guarantee pensions

To hear his dynamite video, The Illinois Budget Crisis in Three Minutes click here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

CFA and Graduate Education by Harriet Murav, Professor of Slavic Studies and Member of CFA Executive Committee, February 16, 2009

My roles as a faculty member and as a member of Campus Faculty Association, are inseparable. The decisions that determine my capacity to work with graduate students as a Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature-- are being made beyond my control. It is only through unionization that shared governance can be recovered, and a voice in fundamental issues governing the academic workplace, including graduate education, can be had. There is no clearer evidence of this basic fact of our academic life than President Hogan's decision to pursue restructuring in the face of our own Academic Senate's rejection of his proposal. We now have two new Vice Presidents whose raises alone could fund six 50% TAships, which is two more TAships than one of my home departments currently holds.

Our lack of control over our own academic future as providers of graduate education clearly emerges in the new campus-wide assessment of doctoral programs that comes right on the heels of the block grant competition; why similar data and narratives (including student accomplishments and placements, for example) have to be submitted to a committee whose charge is obscure is not obscure to any thinking faculty member. Provost Wheeler's charge to the doctoral assessment committee includes language about determining "the strengths and weaknesses of each program" and a statement about a plan for the "dissemination of best practices for doctoral education and possibly further analysis of some programs" in academic year 2011-2012. Don't the awards made in the competitive block grant distribution of ay 2010-2011reveal what these best practices are? Well-meaning individuals will be unwittingly caught up in an allegedly consensual process that will lead to the termination of certain programs: "further analysis" leads only in one direction. Faculty serve in good faith on many committees, but without the right to collective bargaining, we will never have a voice in graduate education or any other dimension of the academic workplace.
While doctoral programs on this campus are undergoing an unnecessary review, the newly created Professional Science Master' is not. This new terminal master's degree was developed with a $450, 000 grant from the Sloan Foundation. Its staff includes a director on a 12-month salary, plus other, additional positions. Three programs are already available in the Professional Master's Program; according to the Graduate College website, more are on their way. The Professional Science Master's Program is the only graduate program, as far as I can tell, that has advertising on the Graduate College Website. Graduate College handles the marketing and recruiting of these students. Most other doctoral programs use their own faculty to design recruitment materials without help in human or financial resources from Graduate College. The PSM graduated 9 students in December 2010. They paid approximately $30,000 for their sixteen-month program; they were not required to write a master's thesis.

How does this new and expanding program fit our University's stated mission as a land-grant university to serve as a "preeminent public research institution?" Consider the word "public." Does the PSM serve the public? How many recent college graduates in the state of Illinois have $30,000? Consider the words "preeminent research institution." The graduates of the PSM did not write a thesis. What is their relation to research, except a business relation? Our preeminence as a public research institution could be undermined by such programs, which are growing in number, and gaining even more rapidly in symbolic weight as the new model for graduate education.
None of this would matter so much if the threat to traditional graduate programs, particularly, but not exclusively, those in the humanities and interpretative social sciences, were not so pressing. Pushing the horizon of new knowledge means pushing the horizon of knowledge that does not translate into dollars. The humanities and arts are at the core of the university's mission. With the help of TAs, thousands of IUS are generated, but the tuition dollars are not credited back to the units who generate them. Programs in the humanities, unjustly smeared as the welfare queens of the university, are underfunded and "analyzed" whereas new programs that have no relation to the public mission of this university are the new darlings of the campus. We as faculty have no access to the information that would tell us how much revenue the alleged revenue generating programs consume. That gift of knowledge comes only with unionization and collective bargaining rights.

We lack fundamental information about revenues and resources at this campus; we have no place at the table where decisions are made, in spite of the advisory committees on which we serve, and in spite of the Academic Senate’s best efforts. There is only one way to overcome these problems: work with CFA for collective bargaining rights for tenure and non-tenure stream faculty.