September 2004 aaUPBEAT
Join the AAUP and Build Faculty Bargaining Power
Here's the good news:
Over recent years, the AAUP has won UD faculty salary levels that are above average for our comparator group. We've also secured solid health and other benefits, including a one year sabbatical pay rate in the amount of 75 percent of a faculty member's regular salary.
Here's the bad news:
As a result of rapid faculty turnover and the complacency of too many veteran faculty members in recent years, the percent of UD faculty who belong to the AAUP has dropped in spite of AAUP accomplishments. Forty-eight percent of faculty are currently AAUP members, a decrease from the 53% we had in 2002.
If this doesn't change, our bargaining strength will be weakened. The union's power in all AAUP-Administration negotiations, from contracts to grievance disputes, depends in part upon the Administration's sense of the union's faculty support. In the absence of strong membership support, UD faculty could experience a dip in salaries and a loss in benefits relative to other institutions in our comparator group. If you don't want this to happen and instead want to win strong faculty protections during our upcoming contract negotiations, nonmembers should join the union now and current members should become more active in AAUP activities.
Although the bread and butter issues of salaries and benefits comprise a significant portion of the AAUP's activities, issues pertaining to workload, academic freedom, campus equality, the corporatization of higher education, and the impact of new technology on the academy are also crucial union concerns.
As a result of a strong union, we have not experienced much of the erosion in salaries, working conditions and academic quality experienced across the country. Yet we are in an era of massive change in higher education. Faculty who don't believe this or who, although they understand the magnitude of the changes facing us, believe they can manage such changes on a personal, ad hoc basis without need of a united faculty voice are sadly mistaken.
Individual faculty members may indeed overcome some of the approaching challenges on their own; however, what is equally certain is that such successes will be sporadic, unpredictable and short-lived as faculty are placed under increasing pressure to conform to a new higher education status quo that includes the consolidation of a number of trends into a re-visioning of the academy designed to diminish faculty power over classroom and laboratory. This re-visioning will entail:
The consolidation of such trends into a new status quo represents a restructuring of higher education. If faculty are not united to protect their economic and academic rights, higher education will assuredly become a zone over which faculty have less and less control. The implications of such a diminished faculty role could eventually touch upon everything from salary levels to workloads to receipt of future pensions.
This is not a time for faculty to sit by and be idle.
The AAUP is both the faculty's voice and its arm for collective action.
Fighting Faculty Disempowerment
As faculty members in fields as diverse as bioengineering and sociology know, phenomena tend to be parts of sets of interrelationships as opposed to being disconnected realities. The same fact governs academic life: one thing is connected to another. Workload disputes, for instance, are related to rising tuition and the question. "What do professors do for their money?" Similarly, pressure to decrease public funding for so-called esoteric research is part of an effort to make higher education more consumerist by subjecting research and curricula to market models that prioritize the manufacturing of products (in this case, ideas and research projects) that the student/consumer demands. It is impossible to identify one of these issues (or others that could have been mentioned) as the dominant one facing the academy since it is in the way these issues play off each other that we find the emergence of the biggest challenge facing us - i.e., the emergence of a "new" higher education that depends less on faculty than on managers for the delivery of the academic "product."
The trend toward reducing the number of tenured professors nationally is an example of this problem. Under the call to streamline departments and apply managerial efficiency models to higher education's operations, the trend of tenure-reduction during the 20th century's last decade established the guideline for how colleges and universities are expected to operate from now on: save money through an ongoing reduction in the number of tenured faculty. According to the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, the percent of U.S. faculty with tenure fell during this periods to 32 percent, less than one-third, while the number of part-time faculty increased to 45 percent. Of special interest here is that some of the largest tenure losses were experienced in institutions (e.g., public research universities) sometimes thought of as sufficiently entrenched to withstand outside attacks on their culture. Yet the numbers show otherwise. From 1992-1999, the percent of tenured faculty at public research institutions avalanched from 56.5 to 49.8 percent. Private doctoral institutions also took a tenure blow, the percent falling from 51.8 to 24.8 percent.
Such trends cast a serious shadow over academic freedom. Faculty members who are increasingly less secure in their work and who exercise less power over their institutions' day to day lives are in a weaker position to follow their teaching and research interests freely.
According to Prof. Henry Lee's article "Tenure: Why Faculty, and the Public, Need It," the tenure debate operates primarily as a diversion from more cutting-edge higher education issues. From Lee's perspective, "The battle over tenure diverts attention from the failure of some postsecondary institutions to clarify their missions, come to terms with their changing student populations, or make the institutional adjustments that are necessary to educate their students and fulfill their mission." The implication here is clear: that by scapegoating faculty rather than dealing with existing organizational problems, administrations cut labor costs while simultaneously undermining faculty's governance power. Lee argues that coincident with such policies and the ongoing curtailment of faculty input into institutional decisions, colleges and universities will gradually become institutions that are unable to shield "the academic profession from jingoistic pressures to compromise the pursuit of truth on the altars of ideological, political, social, and economic expediency." Evidence in fact exists that this process of compromise has already begun. Less than vigorous academic debate on issues ranging from budget cuts to the war in Iraq to the importance of dissent in general suggests that a dangerous percent of faculty may have lost sight of the relationship between academic freedom and an outstanding education.
That a profound higher education restructuring is already under way is beyond question. In part, this restructuring entails reduced government funding coupled with the demand that universities adopt the "lean production" industrial model - i.e., force employees to adopt greater workloads, whenever possible substitute part-time workers for full-time workers, and restructure the workforce so as to shrink the number of higher paid (e.g., tenured or senioritied) workers.
This trend, far from being evidenced only in the shrinkage of higher education's tenured faculty as described above, is also shown in the states' steady withdrawal of funds from public institutions. On average, in the 2-decade period from 1980-2000, state budget allotments for institutions of higher education dropped by 28.5 percent. This represented a decline from state governments funding 9.8 percent of those institutions' budgets to funding only 7 percent. Implicit in such funding reductions is a clear government message: in order to survive higher education institutions must become financially independent, which means prioritizing the development of a profits oriented business strategy that will keep schools financially afloat by using corporate efficiency models to cut labor costs. This means forced increases in workloads, fewer tenured faculty and more part-time faculty.
As data from the National Center for Educational Statistics show, public higher education costs nationally are rising at a dramatically more rapid rate than are those in private institutions. In terms of the relevance of this for UD, and UD tuition increases in fact outstrip those at most public higher education institutions in the nation. The consequences of this trend for students from lower income backgrounds is predictable: economic factors prevent them from receiving postsecondary degrees or, if they do manage to receive a degree, they are saddled with massive amounts of educational debt. As the bifurcation of the U.S. population into the higher educationally privileged and the higher educationally underprivileged continues, public frustration will increasingly take the form of challenging faculty for living off "the fat of the land" while a growing percent of citizens is unable to afford higher education costs. In Delaware, where tuition for in-state students is the 7th highest in the nation for public universities and is more than 70 percent above the national average of $3,746, the pressure to make faculty "work harder" over coming years is certain to increase unless voices like the AAUP's, backed by a strong faculty majority, make strong and clear arguments that trace higher education's rising costs not to faculty enervation but to backfiring corporatization processes that sacrifice educational excellence in an effort to continue the trend of expanding administrative/managerial staff at the expense of hiring sufficient faculty to do what higher education exists to do: educate.
Almost four years ago Thomas Mortenson from the Center for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education analyzed in a November-December 2000 Academe article the extent to which higher education affordability has become a national issue. Not only did Mortenson show how state funding for higher education in the year 2000 amounted to 77% of 1979 funding levels in real dollars, but he also highlighted how ironic it was that during this same period legislators began concentrating not on how to democratize access to higher education for potential students from low income backgrounds, but rather how to increase financial assistance to students from more economically secure backgrounds. The implication of this was to widen the higher education accessibility gap between rich and poor. On the basis of such facts, Mortenson concluded that institutions of higher education increasingly serve "a group, made up mostly of affluent white students, that represents a shrinking share of the U.S. population."
Most questions of workload, "esoteric" research, tenure shrinkage, and so on are offshoots of the central debate facing higher education today: do we need a higher education system organized around sound educational principles or around consumerist/corporatist principles that increasingly subordinate academic freedom, research, and classroom curricula to market forces.
Our futures depend on how this question is resolved. So does our relationship with the public. We must reassert ourselves as the most knowledgeable voice when it comes to discussing the future of higher education in the nation. If we don't, legislators and managers will determine where we go from here.
The Restructuring Debate: From Campus to Courtroom and Department Of Homeland Security
Not surprisingly, often adherence to academic freedom principles leads to legal battles. Whenever necessary the AAUP lends its support to court cases it believes are crucial to defining faculty rights.
One such recent case is Axson-Flynn v. Johnson (University of Utah).
In this case, a former theater major at the University of Utah, sued the department for allegedly denying her free speech rights and her right to religious expression. At issue was Axson-Flynn's contention that the theater department's faculty infringed on her rights by not allowing her to change, during performance, words and phrases which she found objectionable in the plays being performed. Eventually Axson-Flynn left the theater department, then lost her suit when the court found that if she got her way, "then a believer in 'creationism' could not be required to discuss and master the theory of evolution in a science class; a neo-Nazi could refuse to discuss, write or consider the Holocaust in a critical manner in a history class." Unfortunately, this decision was later reversed by the Tenth Circuit in 2002. The AAUP has challenged this finding by arguing that "(1) seeking to hold professors liable for damages because they insist that students complete established course requirements contravenes settled principles of First Amendment faculty academic freedom; and (2) giving a high level of deference to academic judgments and requirements established by university faculty is proper."
Among other issues raised by this case is the question of to what degree higher education is to be redefined along consumerist lines by institutionalizing a student's right to force alterations in a predefined curriculum by arguing that the "product," in its current state, violates his/her sense of values.
Another case in which the AAUP recently became involved entails the U.S. State Department's sudden decision, at the behest of the Dept of Homeland Security, to revoke a previously granted work visa to Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen who was scheduled this fall to begin his appointment as Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame. Scott Appleby, who heads the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame, expressed his chagrin with the government's decision by insisting that Ramadan was "a strong but moderate voice in a world plagued by extremism."
The AAUP agreed with Appleby and articulated its own concerns about the implications of revoking Ramadan's visa. In a letter to Secretary Colin Power and Secretary Tom Ridge, the AAUP stressed that "foreign scholars offered appointments at an American institution of higher learning should not be barred by our government from entering the United States because of their political beliefs" and that such an "action was manifestly at odds with our society's respect for academic freedom."
The organization Scholars at Risk also criticized the government's decision, stating that "the free exchange of ideas is one of the most basic values of the education and of open, democratic societies" and that "freedom of travel is one of the most important ways of furthering that exchange."
Murder of Iraqi Academics
In a Chronicle of Higher Education report on August 2, 2004, an aspect of the U.S. presence in Iraq that isn't usually commented upon was discussed: the disappearance and/or assassination of Iraqi academics since the occupation began. The Chronicle cited a finding by Iraq's Union of University Lecturers that approximately 250 academics have been murdered since the beginning of the war.
On July 14, more than two weeks prior to the Chronicle's report, journalist Robert Fisk, stationed in Baghdad, provided details of what the purge of academics has looked like. According to Fisk, at the beginning of his proconsulship Paul Bremer "fired all senior academics who were members of the Ba'ath party" in spite of the fact that academics under Saddam Hussein's regime were required to be party members and therefore such affiliation did not accurately represent individual faculty members' politics. Unfortunately, this mass firing helped to create an anti-academic climate that eventually escalated into an epidemic of assassinations, not all of which were committed for the same reasons. Some seem to have been motivated by revenge, others by fundamentalist disdain for liberalism or leftism, and still others by a distaste for the right.
Only one thing is certain: in Iraq, the academic world is under siege and the U.S. presence has done little to protect targeted academics and, in some cases, has even aggravated the problem.
This situation has led to the formation of The International Coalition of Academics Against Occupation, an organization demanding that the U.S. and its coalition allies provide greater protection for Iraqi professors.
In the words of a petition distributed by the Coalition: "Whoever is responsible for these targeted assassinations, the U.S. and its Coalition of Allies... bear an international responsibility and obligation to protect civilians living under occupation."
The petition was written and disseminated by Andrew N. Rubin, a Georgetown University assistant professor of English. He told the Chronicle that the U.S. and other involved nations should display as much interest in saving the lives of Iraqi academics as they display in "protecting oil and other assets."
Anyone wishing to read the petition's complete text and to consider signing it can find the petition at www.icaao.org.
Respond to Weakened State Support for Higher Education: