UW: “Academic Workers” vs. “Faculty”

AAUPAn Article in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Very Relevant to the UW’s Own  AAUP.

“Academic Workers” vs. “Faculty”

Jane Buck: Candidate for President of national AAUP  “It would be a tragic loss if we were to weaken our historic commitment to academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure—a commitment that distinguishes us from other organizations,”:

For some time now, the University of Washington chapter of the AAUP has focused almost all of its firepower on the issues of non-tenure-track academic workers. I call these faculty “academic workers” because the teaching done by these faculty is done under conditions not very different than those faced by employees who mow the lawns.  The union issues are very real and made worse by the obvious fact that there is little obvious  difference an academic who has to earn a living teaching English composition in the night school and her colleague fortunate enough to have a tenure-track position in English literature.

At the same time, the a AAUP has become less active in promoting academic freedom. A good example is the support the AAUP put behind the recent change in the UW faculty code.  As well-meaning as the words are, the new code lacks teeth.  For example, at least in the School of Medicine, it is still standard procedure to treat charges of academic misconduct as administration rather than faculty responsibilities.  Similarly, as editor of THE-Ave.US, I am all too aware of the quiet censorship that still prevents this campus from having any online, uncensored  forum for open discussion of issues ranging from racism in our athletic program to the academic standards of new online education efforts.

There are many other symptoms of the same problem here at the University of Washington. For example, I recently received an email from one of the medical school’s Senators endorsing one of two candidates running for chair of the Faculty Senate.  I was very surprised that the candidate endorsed by my colleague was a person very high in the administration of the School of Medicine.  What surprised me was that the other candidates name was never mentioned. Moreover, if we had a real open political system on this campus the competition for this critical position in what is supposed to be shared governance, would be open.  Given the lack of a free press, how can there be any any semblance that the University of Washington Faculty Senate is a democratic institution? 

Why hasn’t this listserv already discussed campaigns for this position, the highest position in what we call “shared governance?”

The article in the Chronicle shows the same problem at a nationwide level.  Jane L. Buck and Cary Nelson, former Presidents of the AAUP, have put together a slate of candidates bent on ousting the association’s current leadership.   They argue that the AAUP “sought to divide the association against itself by creating a “false dichotomy”  by failing to vigorously represent members who do not belong to a unionized chapter or any chapter at all.

The current top AAUP officers accuse Ms. Buck and Mr. Nelson “groundless fear-mongering about a phony collective-bargaining takeover.”  The AAUP’s president, Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, says the real choice before its members is whether the association would continue to build a national network of activist chapters or retreat into a Washington office that weighs in on few controversies each year. vs. “organizing people.”

Is the AAUP a Union?

The AAUP’s collective-bargaining units now account for nearly three-fourths of its roughly 40,000 members, and its membership outside such units remains in a state of long-term decline.  However,  membership and financial health remain poor and about a fifth of its national-office staff departed last year, leaving its department of academic freedom, tenure, and governance especially thinned.  The insurgents  accuse the AAUP’s current leadership of diverting nearly all the association’s discretionary funds to its union-organizing arm. Mr. Nelson, in his own candidate statement, argues that the chairman of the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress now functions, essentially, as the association’s de facto president.

The current leadership dismisses the accusation as “hogwash,” says the shift in funds was the result of needed financial reorganization, and reflects growth in the share of the membership that belongs to unions and increased revenues from raises in unions.


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