At last weekend’s APSCUF Legislative Assembly, delegates were treated to a Q&A session from our recently hired Chief Negotiator Stewart (or Stuart?) Davidson. I won’t talk here about the specifics of what he said, except to say that he was impressive.
A comment he made about how he approaches negotiations (something to the effect of always reminding the other side that we do, in fact, have a shared mission) got me thinking (long chain of associations, the underlying rationale behind it between me and God) about one way we (all of us APSCUF members) ought to be responding to just about every management “initiative” or “challenge” we face these days.
What happens if we insist on asking one simple question: Who does this help?
Notice I’m not asking “What’s the benefit?” I’m emphasizing “Who” because our management, even the saner, more humane ones, seem to need an occasional reminder that at the end of the day, our system is made up of actual people.
So, who does it help when KU (or Mansfield, or Shippensburg, or…) management issues retrenchment letters? It sure doesn’t help the retrenched faculty, who lose their jobs. It doesn’t help the rest of the faculty, who have to soak up the extra work their former colleagues can’t do any more–or see bargaining unit work get shipped off to other units where it doesn’t belong. It doesn’t help the students to see programs cut, or classes grow, or advising get thinner because there are fewer people to do it. It doesn’t help the community. It doesn’t help the Commonwealth keep students from leaving the state for greener pastures, or keep alums in the state because of their fond memories of watching their faculty get fired and their programs canceled.
So, who does it help when WCU management tries to comply with the 25% temporary faculty cap in the CBA by simply firing as many adjunct faculty as they can? Not the students–class sizes inevitably go up. Not the faculty–class sizes go up, reassign time is harder to come by… Not departments, who still face pressures to increase majors, course offerings; to comply with sometimes bizarre and/or labarynthine mandates from agencies nobody recognizes… Management, somebody might argue, benefits from evading a loss at arbitration, but that’s not a “Who.” And that’s precisely why I insist on asking the question that way.
I could keep adding examples here, but I think the principle is pretty clear. If anybody who reads the blog is interested in adding examples, by all means do!
The most important thing to remember here, I really believe is that we’re not professor-bots; our students aren’t student-bots; our managers aren’t manager-bots. If we all make a good faith effort to remember that formulas, systems, projections, policies, and all the rest of it don’t mean jack shit in the absence of *people*, then navigating the current terrain of budget problems and bad government leadership (Oh, hi Governor Corbett) gets a lot easier.