American Association of University Professors
University of Delaware Chapter

301 McDowell Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE  19716
Phone: 302-831-2292; Fax: 302-831-4119; E-mail:

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February 2000 aaUPBEAT

Rebutting Anti-Faculty Mindset
Also: AAUP & AFL-CIO, What Happened?

Responding to National Attack on Faculty

In the November 1999 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, James, F. Carlin, a former chairperson of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, blasted the nation's campuses for the dire state of the U.S. post-secondary education system. Laying much of the blame at faculty members' feet, Carlin not only decried faculty members for doing "ever more meaningless research while spending fewer and fewer hours in the classroom," but also suggested that tenured faculty's "lifetime job guarantees border on the immoral" and are a prime cause of soaring tuition costs around the country. "If current trends continue," Carlin proclaimed pessimistically, "we will soon face a day of reckoning." Carlin's basic view of faculty is that they must be whipped into shape in order to improve education and cut tuition costs. He wants workloads increased, tenure dismantled ("tenure rewards the lazy and incompetent"), and tighter higher education budgets even if such budgets "run contrary to faculty's economic interests." Carlin's remarks are noteworthy because they reflect the scapegoating that too often substitutes for a reasoned analysis of the state of U.S. higher education. As in Carlin's article, this scapegoating is frequently driven by a desire to reinvent higher education along corporate lines. This corporate approach advocates the shaping of student bodies and faculties along strictly defined "productivity" lines that abolish remedial programs, dismiss the value of diversity, shrink permanent faculty and tie faculty members' salaries to the number of courses they teach.

Carlin makes no bones about his motivation in critiquing higher education. He suggests that only people like himself are capable of making higher education work the way it should work. His credentials for making such a claim? He states them clearly.

"I have been a businessmen for over 33 years," Carlin writes. "I am, or have been, a director of eight public corporations, and was chief executive officer of a transit system with an annual budget of $1 billion. I have also founded four businesses, in separate fields, that were recognized by Inc. magazine for their rapid growth and success. I think I've learned something about management and controlling costs."

Such are the thoughts of too many of the political and business advocates of higher education reform. To turn higher education into a bottom line enterprise that incarnates corporate values, they distort facts and blur the real issues facing colleges and universities.

Take faculty job security as an example.

The proponents of the corporate approach for higher education regularly describe the professoriate as an over-privileged group whose "lifetime" jobs allow them to get away with sloppy teaching habits and frivolous research. Yet such criticisms, although they might add to the chaos that passes for educational debate in the country, do not reflect the facts. In reality, higher education, far from being the refuge of hordes of tenured professors, suffers from an opposite problem: the number of full-time faculty positions is shrinking while the number of part-time positions is increasing. From 1991-1995, the number of full-time faculty nationally increased by only 1 percent, whereas the number of part-time faculty increased by 18 percent. This same pattern continued through the end of the '90s. In fact, these numbers are part of a 30-year trend during which the number of part-time faculty nation-wide increased from 22 percent to 42.5 percent. Although the concentration of part-time employees has been greater in 2-year schools than in 4-year institutions and universities, the pattern of rising numbers of part-timers working without job protection or benefits increasingly describes 4-year institutions and universities. These numbers translate into a simple fact: decent faculty positions with job security are becoming more difficult to find.

One would not know this by listening to some of the corporate demagogues who employ incendiary rhetoric to push for their version of educational reform.

As part of a broader effort to counter such anti-faculty attacks, local AAUP President Gerry Turkel and Jane Buck, President of the Delaware AAUP State Conference, responded to Carlin's article by writing a letter to the Chronicle outlining the article's misrepresentations.

Their rebuttal included the following points.

  1. The pattern of increasing numbers of part-time faculty does not affect everyone equally. As pointed out in Academe (January/February 1999), women constituted 48 percent of part-time faculty in 1995, but only 20 percent of tenured faculty. Similarly, with racial minorities. A U.S. Education Department report details how minorities are underrepresented in higher educational professional occupations and overrepresented in nonprofessional campus occupations. For example, although African Americans compose 11 percent of the nation's population, 31 percent of campus service maintenance positions are held by African Americans, whereas only 5 percent of faculty positions are held by blacks.
  2. The Report of the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education showed that faculty workloads, far from becoming smaller, have been growing. From 1987 to 1992, faculty workloads, measured by mean classroom hours and mean student contact hours, rose in all categories of higher education institutions, including public research and public doctoral granting institutions. This indicates that while the number of tenured and full-time faculty positions have been declining, faculty workloads have increased.
  3. The assertion that overindulgent faculty salaries are driving up higher education's tuition costs is wrong. Analyses published by the AAUP show that when faculty salaries are adjusted for inflation, they are slightly below their 1971 levels despite real increases in 1998 and 1999. The average salary of a mid-career associate professor is about $54,000. This is hardly overindulgent, especially considering the amount of time and expense required to earn graduate degrees. Indeed, as Linda Bell demonstrated in Academe (March/April 1999), average faculty salaries are about 28 percent below the salaries of other similarly educated professionals. The relatively low salaries paid to faculty, in conjunction with the cost of earning a doctorate, represent a growing disincentive for people from low and middle income backgrounds to pursue academic careers.
  4. As the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education has stated, mounting tuition costs are fueled by many factors independent of faculty salaries. Rising costs in technology upgrades and facility repairs and construction are one set of factors. Another set are the costs associated with the instruction of nontraditional students, including older students, part-timers, and students requiring remedial education. Administrative costs have also increased, in part as the result of the greater volume and complexity of government regulations, in part because of a growing higher education emphasis on management. All these cost increases have occurred in the context of a relative decline in government financial support for higher education. Consequently, tuition has risen as colleges and universities attempt to compensate for this decline. Increased tuition basically represents a cost shift from government to students and their families.
  5. Increased higher education costs for poor and middle income families is a serious issue. Higher education must be inclusive of all people if it is to serve a democratic society. Such issues must be addressed not through demagoguery but in ways that respect facts.

Delaware AAUP Doesn't Join State AFL-CIO

This past fall the Executive Council outlined in the newsletter our reasons for wanting the AAUP to join the Delaware AFL-CIO. We maintained that challenges to tenure at institutions like the University of Minnesota, attempts in states like Ohio to legislate increased workloads for faculty at state-funded institutions, and ongoing experimentation with using computer-aided long-distance learning for educational purposes were all signs that the nation's changing economy was impacting higher education in ways that were not necessarily beneficial or clearly thought out. We stated that, given such realities, higher education faculties across the nation were under mounting pressure to build coalitions with the constituencies they serve in order to protect educational quality. In this vein, we wrote, "To meet these challenges successfully, we must be aware of the issues facing us and astute in choosing allies in the community who will support our goals of educational excellence, reasonable workloads and job security."

Although there was some faculty resistance to the AAUP's joining the state AFL-CIO, the majority of faculty comments received by the Executive Council favored joining the federation, provided we (1) lost none of our autonomy in the process and (2) were not obligated to support candidates for political office. When it turned out that joining would neither curtail our autonomy nor entail involvement in political campaigns, the Executive Council was on the verge of recommending affiliation to the AAUP's Steering Committee.

At this point, however, the national AFL-CIO unexpectedly contacted its Delaware branch and announced that there was a "problem" with our joining. To discuss what this problem was, a special meeting was set up in December. In attendance at the meeting were two national AFL-CIO representatives (both members of the American Federation of Teachers - the AFT) from Washington D.C., two representatives of the Delaware AFL-CIO, as well as Gerry Turkel and David Colton of the AAUP's UD chapter. It soon became clear at the meeting that the national AFL-CIO wanted to prevent our AAUP chapter from joining the local AFL-CIO. Their reason: because the national AAUP isn't a national AFL-CIO member. When all the Delawareans at the meeting stressed that both the local AAUP chapter and the Delaware AFL-CIO had gone to great lengths to develop a mutually satisfying affiliation arrangement and that we didn't want this arrangement destroyed by technicalities, the national AFL-CIO representatives agreed to rethink the question and then return to the state for a second meeting. At this second meeting, which took place the following week, the two AFL-CIO representatives from D.C. brought a third representative, who, like them, was an AFT member. Not only did they reject the possibility of our joining the Delaware AFL-CIO, they used the situation to try to get the local AAUP to consider renouncing its connection to the national AAUP and join the AFT instead. We were told that this was the only way for us to join "the house of labor" (i.e., the AFL-CIO), since the national AFT was a member of the national AFL-CIO, whereas the national AAUP wasn't. The AFT representatives gave us this ultimatum in spite of the fact that earlier we had offered, in a spirit of coalition-building, to help the AFT establish a larger organizing base in the state.

One of the local AFL-CIO members at the meeting - John Schmidt, Organizing Director for AFSCME District Council 81 - was so frustrated by the AFT members' attitude that he rebuked them at one point, saying, "The house of labor that you're talking about only represents 14 percent of the workforce. I'd think you'd be looking to get more members in the AFL-CIO, not chase them away."

One argument put forth by AFT members regarding why they didn't want our chapter to join the Delaware AFL-CIO was that such a move would hurt the AFT. "Why support another union that wants to organize the same constituency we want to organize?" was the argument's essence. This might sound pragmatic, but it isn't. Since the AAUP is committed to expanding faculty protection through the creation of alliances, we could have helped the AFT in the region. Not only is the AFT almost invisible in Delaware, it is currently running an undernourished organizing campaign at Temple University. Given these realities, the AFT needs alliances; it shouldn't be rejecting them.

One other argument was made in support of the national AFL-CIO's position that only local branches of national unions which are members of the national AFL-CIO should be allowed to affiliate with state AFL-CIO branches. This argument stressed that, if local unions could join state AFL-CIO branches without belonging to a national union that was in the AFL-CIO, then there would be no need for local unions to join national unions. This argument is without factual basis. Local unions derive a significant part of their strength, bargaining resources, and information about the relationship between their specific situations and nation-wide trends from their connection to their national union, which, unlike the AFL-CIO, specializes in meeting the interests of employees and workers in the same occupational category that the local union represents. Belonging to the AFL-CIO is about building alliances between different occupational groupings. Therefore, AFL-CIO membership doesn't undermine a local union's need to remain affiliated with its national union, which represents the specialized interests of a particular occupational grouping.

Our experience with the national AFL-CIO has not changed our desire to work closely with the state AFL-CIO. We have developed a cooperative and cordial relationship with the state AFL-CIO. However, we have rejected the option of joining the state federation because of the nationally imposed conditions cited above. National unions like the AFT should be working to strengthen the labor movement, not wasting their time by placing roadblocks in the way of those who are interested in revitalizing the movement.