September 2005 AAUP Voice
New Contract for New School Year
Faculty Members Gain through Collective Bargaining
Last spring 92.6 percent of UD faculty who participated in the contract ratification vote cast their ballots for the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement. This brought to fruition months of AAUP efforts to develop a solid bargaining strategy and then to implement it during negotiations. As part of this process, union leaders devoted 260 hours to attending planning sessions and bargaining meetings.
As a result of this activity, the union won salary increases that exceed those in the last contract and will bring us to or above the median salary for our comparative institutions at all ranks. The contract also provides an improved parental leave policy that permits administered loads, which allow a one semester relief from teaching, to faculty members who declare themselves the primary caregiver. This benefit not only applies to biological parents but also to faculty members who adopt children under five. Another benefit provided by the contract is a vision plan for eye examinations, glasses and contact lenses.
In addition to these nuts and bolts gains, the new contract includes something UD faculty have long wanted: just cause language. This new language clarifies the reasons for which a tenured faculty member may be terminated and binds the Administration to adhering to those reasons. The language also expands the AAUP's power to protect faculty members from arbitrary or unjust termination.
By now, every bargaining unit member should have received a copy of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. If you have not, please call the office (831-2292). Additionally, if you have any questions regarding the contract, phone the office or contact the Contract Maintenance Officer, Leon Campbell, at 831-6767.
Union Elections in November
Elections will be held this November for new Executive Council officers. The positions to be filled are president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. The new officers' terms will begin on January 1, 2006.
AAUP members wishing to run for office can be placed on the ballot in one of threes ways. An individual may either nominate her/himself or be nominated by another member of the UD chapter. Such a nomination must be accompanied by the signatures of at least ten AAUP members. For those who are interested in being such nominees, please see the By-Laws. Another way of getting on the ballot is via Executive Council recommendation. In keeping with the union's bylaws, the current Executive Council must distribute its own slate of candidates by October 17, 2005. The Council nominees will be presented in the October Voice.
In addition to the Executive Council positions that are open, a number of Steering Committee representatives are to be elected for Spring 2006. Anyone interested in seeking such a position should contact the AAUP office and also consult Article IV A-2 of the union's Constitution and Bylaws. Steering Committee members play a crucial role in examining faculty issues and establishing chapter priorities. The recently revised bylaws provide for increases in Steering Committee openings in order to insure more proportional representation among the colleges.
British Assoc. of University Teachers (AUT) Changes Its Tune on Boycott of Israeli Universities
In our June issue we reported the national AAUP's strong disagreement with the British Association of University Teachers' call for a boycott of two Israeli universities. The rationale for the boycott of one of the universities was its alleged infringements on the academic freedom of professor who opposed Israeli policy toward Palestinians. The other university was targeted because it supported a settler college on the West Bank. In keeping with its commitment to academic freedom, the AAUP issued a statement condemning and calling for the repeal of resolutions supported by the British Association of University Teachers (AUT). The concerned resolutions urge AUT members to refrain from academic cooperation with two Israeli universities.
The AAUP responded to the AUT's resolution by claiming that the AUT was doing the very thing it claimed to be condemning - oppressing freedom of thought in higher education. The AAUP stated that its opposition to the AUT's stand reflected its commitment "to preserving and advancing the free exchange of ideas among academics irrespective of governmental policies and however unpalatable those policies may be viewed."
Since the AAUP released its critique of the AUT resolution, and in the wake of much international controversy about the issue as well as internal dispute within the AUT, the British union has reversed itself. In a public about-face, it stated that it "has now rescinded its call for a boycott of Israeli universities" and instead will pursue a policy of encouraging "all AUT members to actively engage with colleagues in both Israel and Palestine" so that everyone can "work together.
Higher Education, Language & Pennsylvania's Academic Bill of Rights
We think we know what higher education is. But do we?
What, for instance, is a student - a learner or a consumer? And is the salesperson - i.e., the professor - obligated to treat the student as if the customer's always right? Additionally, besides the student/consumer who or what is the professor/salesperson ultimately responsible to, the university's educational mission or the company that partially pays for her/his research or other activities?
The answers to such questions are not always clear.
Example: A few days following the Sept. 11 attacks, two students at Saint Olaf's College in Minnesota filed a complaint with the school's dean of students. They alleged that any faculty criticisms of the U.S. government in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York and D.C. damaged students' ability to cope with the tragedy. The students did not feel that, in exchange for their tuition, they should be forced to endure such stress. "For professors to make negative judgments on our government," they claimed, "only fosters a cynical attitude in the classroom." Greg Kneser, Saint Olaf's dean of students, sympathized with the complainants. Maintaining that Sept. 11's events had created a difficult psychological situation for students, Kneser insisted that as a result the post-Sept. 11 period wasn't a good time to increase student unease with too much intellectual debate.
Another example: David Kern, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University, was dismissed as the director of Brown's occupational health clinic after Kern released information about lung disease levels among the workers of a local company, Microfibers, Inc. Kern's "crime" was that he had ignored both the clinic's and Microfibers' demands that he not make the data public. Microfibers was especially adamant that Kern be punished, alleging that, since he had done some consulting work for the firm in the past, he had a confidentiality agreement with them which he had violated by releasing his lung disease findings. Although Kern, his Brown medical colleagues and other supporters around the nation argued that Kern's responsibility to the community and to his profession overrode any obligations he may have once had to Microfibers, the case remains a example of one of the disturbing side-effects of the increased corporatization of higher education.
Besides the obvious fact that these examples raise important questions about the nature of higher education's mission and how that mission is implemented institutionally, they also highlight another reality: that in a rapidly changing world dominated by complex economic and political bureaucracies, too frequently the very language we use to describe that world is inadequate to the task. In a society in which the word "student" morphs into the word "consumer" and the word "professor" changes into the phrase "service or product provider," the mass language, continually molded and remolded by market forces, often seems to be using us more than we use it.
George Orwell's novel 1984 deals with just this reality - the evolution of a mass language (called newspeak in the book) that, rather than expressing consciousness, conditions it and in the process imposes a prefabricated "mental attitude on the person using" the language. As an example of his language-as-imposition argument, Orwell uses the word joycamp, which in newspeak refers to a forced labor camp. Orwell's point is that after a citizenry is conditioned, the repeated use of a word like joycamp completely undermines their ability to talk sensibly about the word's referent: the horror of forced labor.
We may not live inside Orwell's 1984, but his grasp of how in a mass society language can be used to undermine the very thing - i.e., meaning - that it theoretically expresses was prescient. We see proof of this around us all the time in the substitution of terms like "inner child" for the bleaker-sounding "unconscious," "pre-owned car" for the less enticing "secondhand car," and "collateral damage" for (to give just one example) the 20 people at a wedding reception who were "accidentally" killed when the wrong house was targeted by a U.S. bomber in Afghanistan.
And now we have Pennsylvania's "Academic Bill of Rights," a resolution which was passed in July in the state's House of Representatives. Such a resolution, of course, sounds like a good thing. After all, as professors we know that the principle of academic freedom is of paramount importance to our profession, and as citizens the phrase "Bill of Rights" summons up at least a speck of patriotism in all of us.
The problem is that the so-called Academic Bill of Rights, like the term "joycamp" in 1984, is a false indicator that obscures the resolution's meaning more than it clarifies it. What the resolution does in reality is infringe on academic freedom rather than reinforce it. It does this by empowering the Pennsylvania House to "establish a select committee... to examine, study and inform the House of Representatives on matters relating to the academic atmosphere and the degree to which faculty have the opportunity to instruct and students have the opportunity to learn in an environment conducive to the pursuit of knowledge and truth and the expression of independent thought at State-related and State-owned colleges, universities and community colleges."
Although this language might sound harmless on the surface, it is not. By creating a committee of politicians to probe into, and make decisions about, publicly funded higher education institutions, the Pennsylvania House has acted in a way that we all should be concerned about. The resolution's passage in Harrisburg, far from being a uniquely Pennsylvania event, is part of a nation-wide effort in fifteen states as well as in the U.S. House of Representatives to increase government control over university and college campuses. All these efforts share the goal of establishing a politically controllable definition of academic diversity that the national AAUP correctly described as potentially disastrous. "The danger of such guidelines," one AAUP document proclaimed, "is that they invite diversity to be measured by political standards that diverge from the academic criteria of the scholarly profession."
This movement to increase government control of college teaching comes in the wake of the nervousness generated on many higher education campuses by a variety of post-Sept. 11 calls to more closely police "difference" doesn't help matters. The incident two years ago in Des Moines, Iowa, when the U.S. attorney issued subpoenas in order to secure from Drake University the names of people who had attended an anti-war conference, is just one example of how government can intervene in internal university affairs. Even the hint of government intervention can be sufficient to dampen campus creativity and freedom of thought.
This is definitely a time for higher education faculties, here at UD as well as nationally, to begin taking these issues very seriously. We cannot afford an Academic Bill of Rights that in fact undermines academic rights, nor can we allow higher education's debasement into the mere pawn of market forces. As Gerald Soslau, the head of the Pennsylvania division of the AAUP, recently wrote in a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "The last thing we can afford in our open society is for government to go on a witch-hunt to regulate academia and intellectual freedom." Professor Soslau is an Associate Dean of the Drexel University College of Medicine.
The Newsletter's New Look
We thought it was time for a change so we have professionalized the newsletter's appearance by switching printing methods, from Xerox-style duplication to offset printing. In the process we have developed a new layout, changed the newsletter's name and hired a union printer, Farley Printing in Wilmington, to do our printing for us.
We hope you enjoy the upgraded publication.