Why I Support the WCU Sanctuary Campus Letter

November 30, 2016

Ten days ago, out of concern among WCU students and faculty that the post-election wave of violence and threats against marginalized people will likely our campus, a group of faculty decided to join a nationwide movement called #SanctuaryCampus that calls on colleges/universities to become havens for community members who may be in danger under the new political regime. Among other provisions, the campaign asks campuses to declare their unwillingness to participate in sweeps or raids fishing for undocumented people.

I helped to circulate the letter and organize this effort–i.e., I didn’t just sign but have recruited other signers–not because I want to “tell the university to break the law” or “demand non-compliance with federal policy” or other such nonsense, but because I want the university/system leadership to take a proactive stance on behalf of threatened populations before a new administration tries to execute policies that would harm people we’re supposed to support.

Speaking for myself, I don’t think the letter asks the university to break any laws–and it certainly doesn’t demand anything of the sort. The letter does ask the university to resist efforts at harming our students as strongly as we can–or more to the point, it asks the university’s leadership to commit to not enabling miscarriages of justices that we fear are likely given the campaign and post-election ethos. PASSHE spokesperson Kenn Marshall (who lost my trust based on his active propagation of disinformation during our contract negotiations and strike) thinks it might.

That’s what dialogue is for, y’all. If the university/system made the case that they can’t commit to certain terms in the letter but can do ___ instead, I think most of us are listening.

I also support the campaign because it asks for other commitments from the university as well, largely redoubling our commitments to diversity and inclusion in ways that are more than hortatory. There are students and staff and faculty who feel directly endangered, and we need to make sure they feel as safe as we can make them.

Yesterday the West Chester Daily Local ran a story about the sanctuary campus effort. Dr. Nadine Bean, who did most of the drafting of the letter, was the only faculty member who spoke to the reporter and has, unsurprisingly, become the focus of predictably nasty troll attacks against her as a result.

I’ve looked at the comments, one of which I responded to (the commenter “wondered” how Dr. Bean would feel when one of those “rapists” attacked a female student: I replied that his comment demonstrates precisely why we needed to do this), but anybody who’s been publicly visible for doing any kind of social justice work has probably been here or nearby before. Getting flamed sucks. People who are willing to say the things those folks say (usually behind a wall of pseudonymity, which is probably a conversation for another day) are usually pretty good at being intimidating–which is what they’re trying to be.

If you read this blog back in 2007, 2008, you’ve seen what this kind of flaming looks like. I learned then, especially as it relates to threats about my job, that the best response for me was to invite flamers to watch my teaching and read my scholarship. If any of you trolls wants to scare me by threatening to “turn me in” to WCU and PASSHE bigwigs, they already know who I am. They know what my politics are. They know I’m a union thug. Now they know I’ve not only signed the Sanctuary Campus letter but helped to circulate it. If you want to have a conversation about how well I fulfill my professional obligations, let’s do, but you have to play by my rules:

  1. It happens here so it’s visible and archived for anyone who wants to see it.
  2. You know my real name, so I get to know your real name too. If you say the nasty things, you have to own them.
  3. I get to decide if you cross a line such that I won’t approve a comment. It’s my blog. If you want to say something I won’t publish, start your own blog. It’s free and easy.

 


CFP, Deadline Revised: Open Words, special issue on Contingent Labor and Educational Access

June 23, 2011

Amy Lynch-Biniek (Kutztown U), Sharon Henry (U of Akron) and I have decided to extend the deadline for submissions to our special issue of Open Words on Contingent Labor and Educational Access. We got lots of great ideas and concepts, and any number of “I wish I could, but the timing really stinks” notes, and we decided that the material is important enough to warrant the wait. So if you’re somebody who decided not to submit because the June 1 deadline wasn’t convenient, we urge you to reconsider.

The CFP, with dates revised, is below. We look forward to hearing from you.

*********

Call for Papers

Open Words Special Issue on Contingent Labor and Educational Access

Deadline for Submissions: First drafts, August 1, 2011; Second drafts, December 15, 2011

Guest editors Seth Kahn (West Chester University of PA); Amy Lynch-Biniek (Kutztown University of PA); and Sharon Henry (University of Akron)

This special issue of Open Words invites contributors to consider relationships among three issues–contingent labor, educational access, and non-mainstream student populations (by which we mean both non-traditional students, in demographic terms, and populations more likely to be served by colleges recently than they have been historically)–all of which the fields of composition and literacy studies have struggled with for decades. Scholarship and policy statements on contingent labor are replete with calls for equity, variously articulated but vigorous nonetheless—and with occasional exceptions, largely unsuccessful. The intensity with which we’ve written about open-admissions and open-access higher education institutions has waxed and waned over the years, but big questions about the roles of literacy instruction, the micro- and macro-politics of higher education, critical pedagogy, and many more bear on the working, teaching, and learning conditions of open-access campuses as heavily as, if not more than, anywhere else. Finally, we’ve thought and written a great deal about working with non-mainstream students (i.e., students often served by open-admissions institutions, but increasingly at other kinds of schools as well), and again, still face large-scale structural problems with ensuring equitable opportunity and quality learning experiences for them. Individually, the problems facing contingent faculty, those facing open-access institutions, and those facing non-mainstream students are difficult. Taken together, we believe they are exponentially more complicated.

Thus the motivation for this issue: we work and live at a time when the American cultural and economic politics are pushing against labor equity and quality education; when colleges and universities operate according to corporate logics that consistently work to dehumanize faculty and students. While these forces come to bear on contingent faculty, open-admissions campuses, and non-mainstream students in unique ways, we also believe that careful analysis of such conditions presents significant possibilities for positive changes across levels and types of institutions. At the risk of sounding cliché, even managerial, difficult situations really do sometimes present unique opportunities.

With that frame in mind, we invite contributions for our Spring 2012 issue addressing relations of contingent labor, open access, and non-mainstream students; manuscripts (generally 15-25 pp., although we will review longer submissions) might consider these questions, or use them as provocations to ask and answer others:

  • How does the increasing reliance on adjunct faculty on open-admissions campuses (and/or campuses serving largely non-mainstream student populations) impact students’ learning conditions? Faculty’s working conditions? Academic freedom? Curricular control? And how are these situations complicated at institutions employing graduate teaching assistants?
  • Why is the casualization of academic labor happening more quickly, or to greater degree, on open-admissions campuses and campuses serving non-mainstream students? What strategies do faculty, both contingent and permanent, and students have at our disposal to respond to the inequitable conditions facing us?
  • How do the interests of open-admission, community, vocational/technical, and branch university campus faculty coincide/overlap with the interests of students and administrators? How do these interests differ?
  • How is the trend toward hiring non-tenure track faculty affecting the teaching of writing? As PhDs in literature, for example, are pushed out of tenure lines into these non-tenure lines, how do their (probable) lack of familiarity with composition scholarship and theory, and differing professional commitments to teaching writing, impact students, programs, and other faculty on our campuses? And, how is this trend affecting literature programs and the degrees to which they can address the interests and concerns of their ‘non-mainstream’ students?
  • To what extent are contingent faculty involved in curricular and/or professional development, and to what extent can/should they be? How might departments/units balance the desire to involve contingent faculty in curriculum development, or placement (for example), with the minimal (if any) compensation most units offer for the work? How does this problem become more complex on campuses serving large populations of non-mainstream students with large numbers of contingent faculty?

Please submit manuscripts electronically, in MS Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text Format (.rtf), to Seth Kahn (skahn@wcupa.edu) by August 1, 2011.


Thanks, Michelle Rhee, for exposing the lunacy of your own position

March 8, 2011

Found the link to this video clip on Daily Kos this morning, but want to say some things about it that the Kos blogger didn’t say:

On the page of a Facebook friend the other night, I posited the notion that Scott Walker is serving the rhetorical function that propaganda theorists call “the decoy.”  As you might imagine, decoys are examples that look much worse than what you want your audience to accept, such that your proposal looks a lot better in comparison.  The simplest example (roughly paraphrased from the textbook I use in my Propaganda class) is the real estate agent who shows you a dilapidated house with a very high price tag, so that when you look at the not-very-nice house with the slightly-less-ridiculous price tag, the second house looks like a great deal.

So I’d already been considering this idea in relation to the newly elected governor of my own state (PA), Tom Corbett, who is also a Republican with strong conservative credentials; before his election to the Governorship, Corbett was one of the Republican state attorneys-general who filed lawsuits to kill the new healthcare law.  Not long after the Wisconsin protests hit the news, Corbett was able to say that he has no interest in union-breaking, which makes him sound quite reasonable–except that Walker has said the exact same thing.  And except that Corbett will almost certainly sign individual pieces of PA legislation that do most of what Walker’s budget repair bill does in terms of union-busting.

Sorry for the diversion into local politics there…  Anyway, so when Michelle Rhee, one of the virulently anti-union education “reformers” who’s led the national charge to attack teachers and eviscerate any meaningful notion of education, shows up on Fox News (quel surprise!) to talk about teachers’ unions, she able to distinguish her own position from Scott Walker’s, ostensibly, while agreeing with the really insidious parts of it.  That is:

[Scott Walker is bad]: I don’t want to bust unions; he’s overreached; unions should be able to negotiate some things.

[Scott Walker is right]: Unions should only be able to negotiate salaries, not policy or working conditions.

[Conclusion]: Look at how reasonable I sound!  I’m not as crazy as he is!

The problem here, I hope it’s obvious, is that the position is incredibly offensive.  I don’t want to speak for other teachers and teachers’ unions, but my hunch is that most of us would trade some of our salary and benefits bargaining power for the power to negotiate policies and working conditions.  In fact, we know for a FACT that the Wisconsin teachers’ union would do this BECAUSE THEY ALREADY OFFERED.

More importantly, Rhee’s position is offensive to teachers because who knows better than teachers do what our jobs are?  Who knows better than somebody who works with students, and administrators, and (for K-12 teachers) parents EVERY DAY what it takes to do the job well?  Somebody who (like Rhee) was an abject failure at the job?  Somebody like Bill Gates who, by all accounts, wasn’t even a successful student much less teacher?  Somebody like George W. Bush who, by his own accounts, was utterly uninterested in his own education except the diplomas that his family name earned him?

This isn’t to say that teachers at all levels, especially those whose schools rely heavily on public funding, shouldn’t be answerable to those who fund us.  Of course we should (Just like Congress should! And the Pentagon! And all the corporations that suck down corporate welfare and then hide their crimes behind “proprietary interest” laws, and hide their accounting practices in other countries’ banks!).  And if the pitbulls on the right would actually shut their yaps and listen every once in a while to anybody other than themselves, they’d realize that we already do exactly that–we try quite diligently to discuss results, polices, outcomes, needs, possibilities, curriculum and pedagogy, lots of parts of our jobs.  But they don’t want to hear it, and continue to contend that they (knowing NOTHING about what we do or what it takes for school systems to work) should have complete control over the schools.

Lots of us on the left decry the anti-intellectualism that’s really pervasive in our culture these days, but I’m not talking about the street level version of it right now (of course it’s related–school board members have to win elections, and as the mayoral race in DC showed last year, education policy can cost elections too).  I’m talking about the level of the agenda setters, the folks who have access to the mass media that charts the terms of the discussion, the people with recognizable names and faces.

If it didn’t depend on punishing students in the process, I’d challenge Michelle Rhee and Bill Gates and Arne Duncan to spend a year as a full-time teacher (not a week or a month, as I’ve seen others propose–that’s not long enough), in a school that actually operated according to the principles they espouse.  But I wouldn’t wish that on any student, much less a school full of them.  So instead, I’ll challenge the educational reformers to do something more practical and, maybe over the long haul, more useful.  OPEN YOUR DAMN EARS AND LISTEN!

Your unwillingness to listen to anybody else’s point of view is exactly what would make you suck as teachers and colleagues, which I suppose is no surprise now that I think about it….


And another question about shared sacrifice

March 7, 2011

Yesterday, I wrote a critique of the current shared sacrifice trope in debates about budgets at federal and state levels.  The basic point, if you didn’t read it and don’t feel like reading it now, is that not only are the current budget-cutting efforts happening primarily on the backs of the non-rich, but that the rich are in fact benefitting from every single implication of those cuts.  It’s not even not-shared sacrifice; it’s actually redistribution of wealth and power from the bottom up.

Thinking this morning about our faculty union’s current negotiations, I have to ask the question in our context too.  We hear, over and over, that the current economic situation in our state is calling for shared sacrifice.  And our union, as we’ve made quite clear, understands the economic terrain–just as well or better than our system’s negotiators do, because we live with the consequences of it EVERY DAY.  I’m sorry, y’all, but that’s a divide that system management simply can’t cross.  We work, on the ground, with students, faculty, staff, and our local management; we see the direct implications of the state’s economic situation every time a student has to drop out of school because of financial problems, or a faculty member is retrenched, or another manager gets hired, or groundskeepers have to buy their own gloves and masks in order to be safe at their jobs, or…

So, when faculty sacrifice by taking on larger clases, more advisees, increased research expectations with decreased support, salaries that lag behind inflation even before you account for our increasing contributions to benefits packages (which I don’t begrudge, except to the extent that PASSHE management doesn’t seem especially inclined to do the hard work of fighting for better deals because the costs aren’t the same for them), shrinking academic freedom as teaching and research opportunities shrink in the face of increasing student bodies and mandatory “efficiencies” (like our state’s 60-credit transfer articulation agreement), …

Most of these sacrifices, management can make a case for on a one-by-one basis: accept larger classes in return for x; pay more for your benefits in return for y.  The problems are two:

(1) Taken together, they represent a huge problem.  It’s very, very difficult to do the job we’re hired for if every day we have to undertake another rear-guard action to protect our ability to do our jobs.  More directly–when we have to spend as much energy defending our work conditions as doing our work, there’s a big problem.  The problem is, as I think we call know, that anti-academic forces then use that problem as an argument against public higher education.  They get to say (although they’re lying) that faculty are greedy (we’re selling out our students in order to negotiate better contracts) and ineffective (we’re not working hard enough).  We all know that’s bullshit, but it plays well in the press.

(2) Closer to what I thought I’d be writing when I started this post–as faculty bargain away more and more of our positive working conditions in the face of supposed economic catastrophe, where’s the sharing?  That is, what is management giving up in return, and on what grounds are we faculty to believe it’s anywhere near proportional to our own sacrifices?  As faculty positions haven’t grown in proportion to increasing student bodies while management positions have skyrocketed, even as slight reduction on management hires doesn’t come close to balancing that out.  We also all know that because management salaries aren’t on steps or regular increments, they can play all sorts of accounting games with when and how raises are allocated (and often backpaid) so they can say they sacrificed the very raises they were still able to bank.

And beyond that, following closer the logic I started laying out yesterday, there’s an argument to be made that management doesn’t simply avoid sacrificing, but actually benefits when faculty gives up hard won territory.  When fewer of us are teaching more students, cobbling together more grants so we can afford to do any research, advising more, administering programs and departments with shrinking support, and all the rest of it, we’re also less likely to participate in shared governance (on whose time? with whose energy?); we (especially junior and temporary faculty) are scared for our jobs and less likely to make waves; we spend a lot more time doing management’s work for them (my last two CCCC papers are about the trickle-down of management work onto faculty, obscuring that phenomenon by calling it “shared governance”); and on and on.

I’m not as angry at our system management as I am at the Scott Walkers/Tom Corbetts/Chris Christies/Koch brothers/Tea Partiers of the world.  I’ve met a couple of our upper managers and, while I don’t especially appreciate some (most?) of the moves they make, I don’t distrust them personally.  Let’s put it this way–it very often doesn’t seem like their commitments to the work of the system are the same as ours.  There are lots of reasons that might be, and lots of ways of accounting for it, and even probably some good responses to it.

But for now, the important thing is that I see scant evidence that our state system is coming anywhere close to the level of sacrifice they continually ask faculty for, and it’s increasingly difficult to motivate faculty to keep sacrificing without some sense that we’re not the only ones doing it.

UPDATE: Comrade (!) Kevin Mahoney at the KUXchange has written extensively and convincingly about Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine, one of the more convincing descriptions of how PASSHE covers for its decisions in economic terms.  His colleague Amy Lynch-Biniek has done some good work calling attention to the inattention system management pays to what matters about teaching and learning, namely, teaching and learning.


Call for Papers! Open Words, Special Issue on Contingent Labor and Educational Access

January 7, 2011

Call for Papers

Open Words Special Issue on Contingent Labor and Educational Access

Deadline for Submissions: First drafts, August 1, 2011; Second drafts, December 15, 2011

Guest editors Seth Kahn (West Chester University of PA); Amy Lynch-Biniek (Kutztown University of PA); and Sharon Henry (University of Akron)

This special issue of Open Words invites contributors to consider relationships among three issues–contingent labor, educational access, and non-mainstream student populations (by which we mean both non-traditional students, in demographic terms, and populations more likely to be served by colleges recently than they have been historically)–all of which the fields of composition and literacy studies have struggled with for decades. Scholarship and policy statements on contingent labor are replete with calls for equity, variously articulated but vigorous nonetheless—and with occasional exceptions, largely unsuccessful. The intensity with which we’ve written about open-admissions and open-access higher education institutions has waxed and waned over the years, but big questions about the roles of literacy instruction, the micro- and macro-politics of higher education, critical pedagogy, and many more bear on the working, teaching, and learning conditions of open-access campuses as heavily as, if not more than, anywhere else. Finally, we’ve thought and written a great deal about working with non-mainstream students (i.e., students often served by open-admissions institutions, but increasingly at other kinds of schools as well), and again, still face large-scale structural problems with ensuring equitable opportunity and quality learning experiences for them. Individually, the problems facing contingent faculty, those facing open-access institutions, and those facing non-mainstream students are difficult. Taken together, we believe they are exponentially more complicated.

Thus the motivation for this issue: we work and live at a time when the American cultural and economic politics are pushing against labor equity and quality education; when colleges and universities operate according to corporate logics that consistently work to dehumanize faculty and students. While these forces come to bear on contingent faculty, open-admissions campuses, and non-mainstream students in unique ways, we also believe that careful analysis of such conditions presents significant possibilities for positive changes across levels and types of institutions. At the risk of sounding cliché, even managerial, difficult situations really do sometimes present unique opportunities.

With that frame in mind, we invite contributions for our Spring 2012 issue addressing relations of contingent labor, open access, and non-mainstream students; manuscripts (generally 15-25 pp., although we will review longer submissions) might consider these questions, or use them as provocations to ask and answer others:

  • How does the increasing reliance on adjunct faculty on open-admissions campuses (and/or campuses serving largely non-mainstream student populations) impact students’ learning conditions? Faculty’s working conditions? Academic freedom? Curricular control? And how are these situations complicated at institutions employing graduate teaching assistants?
  • Why is the casualization of academic labor happening more quickly, or to greater degree, on open-admissions campuses and campuses serving non-mainstream students? What strategies do faculty, both contingent and permanent, and students have at our disposal to respond to the inequitable conditions facing us?
  • How do the interests of open-admission, community, vocational/technical, and branch university campus faculty coincide/overlap with the interests of students and administrators? How do these interests differ?
  • How is the trend toward hiring non-tenure track faculty affecting the teaching of writing? As PhDs in literature, for example, are pushed out of tenure lines into these non-tenure lines, how do their (probable) lack of familiarity with composition scholarship and theory, and differing professional commitments to teaching writing, impact students, programs, and other faculty on our campuses? And, how is this trend affecting literature programs and the degrees to which they can address the interests and concerns of their ‘non-mainstream’ students?
  • To what extent are contingent faculty involved in curricular and/or professional development, and to what extent can/should they be? How might departments/units balance the desire to involve contingent faculty in curriculum development, or placement (for example), with the minimal (if any) compensation most units offer for the work? How does this problem become more complex on campuses serving large populations of non-mainstream students with large numbers of contingent faculty?

Please submit manuscripts electronically, in MS Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text Format (.rtf), to Seth Kahn (skahn@wcupa.edu) by August 1, 2011.


Making people mean what they say

August 9, 2009

[Long and rambling; beware]

Well, I suppose it’s impossible to *make* people mean anything; that would require changing people’s psychological states, which I wouldn’t want to do even if I could (not very democratic, is it?).

What I’m thinking about this morning is ways of making people responsible for their own declarations and positions.  It’s easy to say one thing and do something else.  But once somebody has articulated a position, how can somebody else work to make sure they actually enact that position?

Let me be more concrete.  The summer before I started my Masters program, I worked for the Florida Public Interest Research Group (FPIRG).  Our director at the time, Tom, gave a talk in which he argued that corporate attempts at greenwashing (which was an embryonic cottage industry at the time, nothing like the slick professional operations we see 15 years later) showed that corporations had already lost the fight.  Once they adopt green rhetoric, Tom said, they’ve lost the battle even while they believe they’re using it to their own advantage.

In retrospect (as I’ve spent more time as a leader in activist/organizing settings), I realize that most of the payoff from that talk was motivational.  He knew that we were getting more and more frustrated, as a canvas office, with our public’s beliefs that corporate America was getting more responsible (and therefore didn’t warrant attention from groups like ours).  So he was reminding us that greenwashers were actually helping us by reinforcing our message.  And that greenwashers were establishing a high bar for themselves to meet.  Once polluters announce their greenness, that is, it becomes much easier to pound them for doing bad things.
OK, so it wasn’t all that simple.  If I’d heard of post-Fordism at the time, I would have argued with Tom that what we were saying was the appropriation of environtalist discourse into capitalism, the marketing of green without actual green practices.  Tom, I imagine, would have replied that the greenwashers were enabling our demands; by making green a marketing issue, we could know put pressure on them to live up to their own pronouncements by organizing customers for or against various companies.
While that approach has had mixed results (I tend to take a very long view about environmental activism, much more so than other kinds), the principle is important.  People say stuff all the time; what would happen in a world where they had to live up to what they said?
The current health care debate has provided some juicy examples to think about.  If you read this blog, you’ve probably heard already about the guy at a townhall meeting (and Prez Obama says he’s received a bunch of letters along similar line) who insisted that we can’t have government run health care, and followed up by saying, “Keep your hands off my Medicare.”  In the world I’m imagining, he would have instantly lost his Medicare (not permanently; I’m not a sadist) at least for long enough to learn that Medicare is, in fact, a government program.  That is, if he’d meant what he said and had to live with it, he would give up his Medicare.  I would kick Libertarians off sidewalks.
My current project has me thinking about this again, in a different setting.  I’m writing a conference paper in which I argue that our faculty union needs to do more with the concept of shared governance.  Although our Board of Governers doesn’t use the term in any official document, neither do they contest it when we do.  My sense is that they’re more than happy to let us believe that we’re sharing both power and responsibility for running the system, at the same time they pretty much do whatever they want–at least as much as our Collective Bargaining Agreement will allow.  They also use this concept to divide faculty, by putting intractable decisions in our hands and leaving us to reach conclusions that nobody is happy with.  But since we reached them, they’re our fault if we don’t like them (I’ve been talking about this problem for a couple of years now in various conference presentations, and apparently haven’t reached any useful conclusions since I’m still talking about it now).
So what would it look like if shared governance were actually practiced in a meaningful way?  Let me start with what it wouldn’t mean.  As long as the interests of faculty and management are at odds, which they currently are, I’m not seeing a huge, sudden shift into consensus-building lovefest.  That is, while shared sounds like a kind of starry-eyed romantic term, it doesn’t have to be.  But neither can it be the kind division of labor Christopher Carter describes/critiques in Rhetoric and Resistance in the Corporate University.  Carter argues that the origins of shared governance–as a hegenomic device–were in the move to leave financial decisions to management while faculty focused on teaching and research.  As soon as faculty left financial decisions to management, the marketing and framing of higher education went with it.
I’m hardly the first person to think about how we get that back; every academic group I’ve ever been part of wants to talk about how we reframe public perceptions of higher education, faculty work, our own disciplines in relation to the “real world” (a phrase I utterly despise), and so on.
My current line of thinking is to wonder how important that PR war actually is, especially given that we’re not in position to fight it very well.  Instead, it seems like we might be able, in an aikido kind of way, to use their own energies to our benefit.  How?  By jumping up and down in celebration every time we do something their discourse says it values.  And by stomping and booing every time their actions prevent us from doing something they say they value (I hadn’t really thought about it that way until Shelley, a friend/colleague, put it that way in a listserv discussion).
Celebrating our successes seems obvious enough.  We know when we’ve done good work.  Our students do well, graduate on time, get into successful programs, jobs, etc.  We get grants, publish articles, present at conferences.  It’s not about measurability, when we talk about it (it is when management talks about it, and that’s part of my point).  And it’s not about puffing up accomplishments disproportionately, which would be a serious strategeric (!) error.  It’s simply a matter of chronicling our successes regularly and publicly.  As they accumulate, so the theory goes, they’ll gain power exponentially, providing us grounds from which to argue the importance of our work.  Moreover, and I wish this were as much of a “duh” as it feels like it ought to be, we’ll have a much easier time acting collectively if we know each others’ work better.
I’m going to jump a couple of steps in my thinking so I can get somewhere I haven’t been before.  What I want to think about now is some strategies for enforcing shared governance that I’ve seen work elsewhere, or that have provoked me to consider some possibilities at least.
1.  Organizing outside the union: our union has certainly worked on affiliations of various kinds over the years–with other teacher/faculty unions, with other labor unions, and so on.  The situation at the College of Dupage earlier this year, which I blogged about, suggests a different (in the sense of additional) approach.  When CoD was struggling to fight against an Academic Bill of Rights campaign running through (if not by) their Board of Governers, the faculty union at CoD went to community-based actvist groups for help.  Of course, they had an obvious reason to do so–their BoG is elected from the local community, so it makes obvious sense that community organizations would have a stake in their elections.  In our case, membership on the BoG is by appointment, so the direct effects of community organizations isn’t as obvious.  I would argue, though, that in addition to help with strike-related activities, coordinating with other activist groups would help to: (a) embed us in the local community in ways that we can’t do through PR; (b) make for more efficient, if less far-reaching, networking; (c) tap into already mobilized groups; (d) invigorate our own membership as we established collaborations in which our members actually wanted to participate.
I know it’s bad form to number a #1 and not keep numbering, but I’m going to stop here.  Should be writing the paper instead :).

In support of the faculty at the College of Dupage

March 17, 2009

[Copied from Christine Monnier’s blog, at her request, as a display of solidarity]

A.A.U.P.-Ill Letter to College of DuPage Board of Trustees

The following letter was sent by the American Association of University Professors (A.A.U.P.)- Illinois State Council to the Board of Trustees of the College of DuPage. They are considering the adoption of what journalist-author David Horowitz has advocated as the common law for academe: Academic Bill of Rights (A.B.O.R.). Rather it is our opinion an attack on academic freedom, teaching and scholarship. Its adoption will place the College of DuPage beyond the mainstream of educational practices in the United States. More importantly it will diminish the quality of education available to its students which ultimtely are the ones who suffer with the crazed imposition of draconian, ideological polemics to restrict open inquiry.

March 16, 2009

Dear College of DuPage trustees:

The state council of the Illinois conference of the American Association of University Professors wishes to express our deep concern about the proposed policy changes reflected in the new Policy Manual for the Board of Trustees. We believe it represents an extraordinary attack on academic freedom, shared governance, and intellectual liberty on campus. We believe that the changes would put the College of DuPage outside the mainstream of colleges and universities in the state and in the country.

We recognize that the proposed policy manual makes some improvements over the original proposal in areas such as student publications and educational philosophy. However, there are still many serious threats to academic freedom contained in these policies.

The most disturbing proposals give the administration extraordinary power to ban speakers and protests, ban any discrimination based on “viewpoint or opinion,” and prohibit “demeaning” behavior. These policies will most certainly create a litigation nightmare for the College of DuPage as censored speakers or disgruntled students and applicants sue for “opinion discrimination.”

The sheer number of proposed policies that fail to meet AAUP – recommended standards relating to intellectual freedom is a matter of deep concern to us. The Board of Trustees should drop this effort at wholesale, and unfortunately unwarranted, revision of the campus policies in this manner, and instead begin a process of working with campus constituencies, particularly the faculty to revise individual policies. We also encourage the Board to utilize AAUP statements (available at http://www.aaup.org) as models for these policies.

Below we list in detail some of the objectionable proposed policies and why we believe that they are flawed. We encourage members of the Board of Trustees to contact us if you have any further questions about this issue, and we would be happy to open a dialogue about the College of DuPage Policy Manual.

Sincerely,
Illinois AAUP State Council
by Walter J. Kendall III, President

Specific analysis of College of DuPage proposed policies by the Illinois AAUP:

5-30
“Board members and employees of the College are required at all times to perform their duties in such a manner that they present a proper and ethical image to the community and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”
Requiring employees to meet an undefined standard of “a proper and ethical image” could easily be abused to punish employees based on “image” alone.

5-30
A. 1.
“No Board of Trustee member or employee shall use or permit to be used College equipment, materials, services, or other property for personal convenience, benefit, or profit.”

This policy is far too restrictive, and needs to be brought in line with modified policy 15-25 by adding “while working” and removing “convenience.”

5-30
A.3.
“No Board of Trustee member or employee shall practice dishonest or demeaning behavior.”

This policy is too vague in banning all “demeaning” behavior without defining the term. Certainly, it is not intended to ban satire and humor, even though it can have a bite, so to speak.

10-110
“The rights of free speech and lawful assembly do not confer upon those who exercise these rights a license to limit, interfere with, or infringe upon the equal rights of others.”

This confusing and unnecessary policy is extremely vague, and should be eliminated.

10-110
“The President and/or his authorized representative reserves the right to invite, acknowledge, or deny requests for assemblage as well as the right to control the time, place and manner of the assemblages.”

Under the Supreme Court rulings about the First Amendment, there can be reasonable regulations of time, place, and manner. But this does not mean a public college has total arbitrary power over the time, place, and manner of assemblies. Nor can the President be given complete authority to deny requests for assemblies. Only in very rare cases, where public safety is immediately endangered, can a public college prohibit an assembly or protest.

10-115
“The President and/or his authorized representative reserves the right to invite, acknowledge or deny requests for outside speakers or programs as well as the right to control the time, place, and manner of the speaker or the program to be presented.”

This repeats the same flawed policy that gave the administration absolute power to ban protests.

10-115
“No person shall be required to listen to a speaker or participate in a program that he/she finds objectionable.”

This policy in effect is the antithesis of education. Education is about the wisdom and skills of the ages, and challenging the students to grow and develop in their mastery thereof. See the further comment in 15-10 below. Certainly, faculty members may require members of a class to listen to a particular speaker, just as they can require students to read a particular book, even if a student finds the views objectionable.

10-115
“The President may deny a particular speaker or program on campus if it reasonably appears that such speaker or program would advocate:” followed by a long list of reasons, including “violation of any federal, state or local laws.”

Any rule imposing censorship based on guesses about what a speaker might say is a threat to both academic freedom and the First Amendment. The list of historical figures who could be banned under this rule includes all of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. It could be used to justify enormous censorship. For example, because waterboarding is a form of torture and therefore illegal, any member of the Bush Administration who defended waterboarding could be banned under this rule. If someone breaks the law in a campus speech, legal authorities can deal with that speaker. But preemptive, speculative censorship is never acceptable.

10-115
“Any expense incurred as the result of scheduling a speaker or program on campus will be the responsibility of the sponsoring individual/group.”

This is vague and troublesome in that at other campuses, controversial speakers have effectively been banned by imposing extreme security costs on sponsors. Colleges should not charge student groups for the security required to protect controversial speakers.

10-125
“Posting and display of materials on campus shall be governed by the procedures and regulations established by the Office of Student Activities and published in the Student Handbook.”

This rule does not establish the First Amendment rights of the campus community to post and display materials.

15-10
“The College will not tolerate discrimination and harassment based on an individual’s viewpoint or opinion.”

The essence of education is discriminating between truth and falsity. Policy 25-135 declares that a central mission of the College is “the pursuit of truth.” But under policy 15-10, a Holocaust denier could sue the College for not being hired as a history professor, and a creationist could sue for not being hired to teach evolutionary theory. A student with the “opinion” that 1+1=3 could sue if a math professor gave that student a failing grade. No college has ever imposed such a doctrine of total relativism.

15-25
“No volunteer, officer or employee shall engage in dishonest or demeaning behavior in the workplace.”

This policy is too vague in banning all “demeaning” behavior without defining the term.
15-170
Among the list of reasons for termination is the vague category of “unprofessional conduct.” This term is vague and not defined.

15-335
“Faculty members have a duty to present controversial issues in an unbiased manner which respects their students’ rights to academic freedom to determine for themselves the proper resolution of such issues.”

Faculty members should be evaluated on the basis of competence and professional and disciplinary standards. Many of the revered books of our civilization are “biased”; the great thinkers all had a point of view. This policy, if taken as written, would have prevented Jefferson from teaching our Declaration of Independence at the College. As we all know, in James Madison’s word we are not “angels” and thus, it is almost impossible to be “unbiased.” Further, it would appear that under this policy, a creationist student could assert the right to disagree with the scientific reality of evolution in a biology class. This academic freedom policy also omits several important provisions of the AAUP standards for academic freedom, such as the protection of extramural speech.

20-5
“The College will also prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s viewpoint or opinion.”

The danger of adding “viewpoint or opinion” to the list of prohibited acts is that quite obviously there are correct and incorrect opinions about reality. Certainly the Professor’s job is to discriminate between them. Students are in school to learn how to discriminate between them. If they fail to do so, of course they will be “discriminated” against – questioned in class; or get a poor grade, for instance.

25-135
“Academic Freedom -The Concept – Academic freedom and intellectual diversity are values indispensable to the American college.”

The inclusion of the term “intellectual diversity” into the discussion of the philosophical, conceptual, and contractual meaning of “academic freedom” is to either add a vague and thus potentially confusing redundancy, as the word “diversity” is used in other places in the document; or to attempt to change the settled meaning and understanding of the term. Neither is warranted, and the words “and intellectual diversity” should be deleted from this policy.