The SEIU Debate Is Bitter

AAUP cross post

The ad hominem attacks in this discussion around SEIU/AE at the UW is very disturbing. In my opinion, it also detracts from the goal of solving the problem of the needs of our faculty.  READMORE ABOUT SEIU/UW

James Tweedle from AAUP listserv

There is so much confusion in Sarah Stroup’s latest treatise that it would be impossible to respond to all of it. A few points will have to suffice.

First, she agrees that The Seattle Times opinion piece by Ed Lazowska and Paul Hopkins is marked by what she calls a “failure of nuance,” but she suggests that this failure is unimportant because Lazowska only claimed to be careful and accurate in his communications “in Olympia” and with “colleagues at our sister Washington institutions.” Outside of those specifically enumerated situations, outside of the Capitol and Pullman, he’s allowed to make the false claim that he represents “the UW’s leading faculty,” rather than a smaller subset of that group or just himself. I’m struggling to identify a coherent intellectual and moral system in her message because it consists of a series of random attacks on the side she dislikes and ad hoc defenses of the side she supports. But I can’t imagine what moral principles would forbid someone from misrepresenting himself in conversations with colleagues at WSU but allow him to make the same misrepresentation to hundreds of thousands of readers on the editorial page of the largest newspaper in the state. After all, doesn’t the readership of the Times include many members of the state legislature and many of our colleagues at WSU, not to mention the students, faculty, and staff at UW and average citizens of this state? Is it OK to mislead all of those people? She seems to believe that in the mass media everyone is permitted to play by Fox News rules. I think self-proclaimed leaders like Lazowska and Hopkins should be careful, clear, and accurate everywhere, and they’re not entitled to a free pass when they make misstatements in the press.

Second, she offers a series of examples that allegedly show union organizers overstating their authority in the way that Lazowska and Hopkins did. Her first example completely contradicts the argument she’s trying to make, and I wonder if the links were just pasted onto the page to conjure up an illusion of evidence, with the expectation that nobody would bother to click through them and verify their accuracy. Although she says that she’s “pretty touchy about misrepresentation,” she blatantly misrepresents the status of that first example. The article (which is actually quite good) was written by a student journalist for the UW Daily, not by Faculty Forward or SEIU, but Prof. Stroup falsely attributes a quote from that journalist to the union. After jumping through every hoop imaginable to absolve Lazowska of responsibility for an inaccurate statement published under his own name in the state’s paper of record, she suggests that the union is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of a story written by a reporter for the student newspaper. That seems like hypocrisy to me.

Finally, to move toward a more substantive discussion, I’d like to ask about one topic raised by Lazowska and Hopkins in the Times. They say that the “University of Washington should distinguish itself as a national leader among research-intensive universities by improving working conditions for contingent faculty members,” but they don’t explain where we’re supposed to find the money to pay for that when we’re already underfunded relative to our peers. One of the most eloquent and detailed accounts of the day-to-day impact of this funding gap was produced by Hopkins himself, in the Chemistry Department’s ten-year review from 2011-2012, which he signed in his capacity as Chair. He wrote that “our instructional budget is very low in comparison with our off campus peers.” The department budgets at a peer group of Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Florida, and Wisconsin averaged 30% higher than UW, for a shortfall of “over $2M/year.” While UW was producing more Chemistry graduates than any other university in the country, the departments at peer institutions had, on average, 20% more tenure-track faculty, smaller classes, 50-100% more TA positions, and 8 more staff FTE. One of the effects of this underfunding was that his department was forced to “rely more heavily on temporary instructors” than peer institutions. I was surprised to find that the author of that document had become such a vigorous defender of the status quo. Maybe things have improved dramatically in Chemistry over the last 4 years, but I expect that most people reading this message are working in underfunded departments or programs with substantially lower budgets and faculty counts than other state universities. My own program conducted a similar comparison at about the same time, and the results were much worse than the situation described by Hopkins. Are we just supposed to accept that UW will always be hopelessly underfunded relative to universities like Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or the UC system? Shouldn’t a relatively wealthy state like Washington have the same level of public investment in higher education as Indiana or Florida? The union outlines a plan to address that problem, beginning with more effective representation in Olympia to confront what is essentially a political problem. There’s no guarantee of success, but at least it’s a plausible strategy, in my opinion, and it doesn’t assume that our current condition is inevitable or leave us on the same path that got us into this predicament in the first place. Does the leadership of the anti-union campaign acknowledge the continued existence of the funding crisis that it so precisely described just a few years ago? Does it have a strategy for dealing with that crisis? Can it explain how we’re supposed to achieve both excellence and fairness when we’re operating on a budget more consistent with mediocrity and exploitation?
James Tweedie

On Feb 5, 2016, at 12:27 PM, Sarah Stroup <> wrote:

Esteemed Colleagues, Every Man Jack of You—

I must admit that I was alarmed by Prof. Tweedie’s email, claiming that Prof. Lazowska had represented himself as a voice for the UW faculty.

I then reread Ed’s email, in which he was explicit (even overly so) in emphasizing that he was discussing the representation in Olympia or our sister institutions.  Below are the relevant sentences:

  1.  … can reasonably purport to represent the University of Washington or its faculty to those in Olympia, or to organizations such as the Senates at our sister Washington institutions?
  1. I spend lots of time in Olympia – but I would never dream to allow anyone to think that I was representing the University of Washington, its faculty, or its Faculty Senate
  1.  Similarly, I spent lots of time interacting with colleagues at our sister Washington institutions, including Deans, Provosts, and Presidents, but I’m always clear about who I’m representing:myself,
  1.  The Faculty Legislative Representative is certainly authorized to represent us in Olympia.

Because Ed was referring specifically to the representation of UW will in Olympia and to our sister institutions, I did not find his email terribly remarkable.

However, upon reading Prof. Tweedie’s email, I went back to the Seattle Times piece, to see how many times Olympia was mentioned:

I will save you the trouble of counting.  Olympia is of course not mentioned, because that opinion piece is not an attempt to represent UW faculty in Olympia or our sister institutions.  It is just what it says at the top of the page, an Opinion.  In a local newspaper. I’m pretty touchy about misrepresentation—no matter who does it—but I simply cannot find any suggestion in Ed and Paul’s editorial that they are representing themselves in any kind of authoritative or legislative way.  I’m not seeing it.

Now, of course, they write:

The UW’s leading faculty members consider SEIU unionization at this point in time as an unwelcome change—a big step backward.

And perhaps the first five words of that sentence could have been been given useful and needed nuance by the edition of a “Some of” or “Many of” or what have you.

However, it has frequently been the case that UWFF / SEIU has similarly failed to nuance their representations:  (“Faculty members at the University of Washington are attempting to form their own union, much to the disapproval of university administration.”) (“Q.  Why are UW faculty forming a Union?  A. We are forming a union because we want…”) —Note that this page treats the union as a fait accompli. (“UW faculty joined forces with SEIU”)

The notion that it is UW Faculty (not “some of”) who “are forming a union” is repeated in the language that has been giving to both our grads and undergrads by UWFF.  This from the recent resolution—which puzzlingly calls for a cessation of emails about the union (puzzling to me, at least, as it’s been months since I’ve received one):  (“University of Washington faculty are forming a union…”)

—So, although Ed and Paul’s editorial might have been served by the edition of “Some of” or “Many of” prior to the phrase “the UW’s leading faculty…,” I feel it is important to note that:

  1.  An editorial in the Seattle Times is not comparable to an misrepresentation of the will of UW faculty and the Faculty Senate either in Olympia or our sister institutions (I believe this was Ed’s primary concern); in short, an Opinion piece is just that.  An opinion.  This piece was in no way concerned with Olympia, nor—to my mind—did it claim to speak for all UW faculty.  It employed a mild of elevated rhetoric, which is pretty much what you expect in an opinion piece on a heated topic.
  1.  Although a failure of nuance for rhetorical purposes is an unfortunate thing, this is a failure that UWFF / SEIU has committed time and again.  Indeed, I admit that although I started off favorably disposed to the notion of a union, it was the rhetoric of “The Union is Us!” (which I truly found confusing, until I started reading up on SEIU rhetorical techniques) and “We are forming a union…” (Wait.  What?  What do you mean we?) and “UW faculty joined forces” (They did?  Am I not UW faculty? Where does this leave me?) and so on that really put me off.

It put me off, and frankly it ticked me off, because as someone who studies rhetorical technique for a living I know about the rhetorical use of the fait accompli, and it’s frankly one I don’t respect much at all.  And when someone starts pulling out disingenuous rhetorical techniques, it is a very good idea to get suspicious about both their motives, and their abilities (I am here obviously talking about SEIU, not my colleagues in UWFF).  As I did.  And as I remain.

In terms of self representation, above I cited a bit from the UWFF website (as SEIU production).  After doing that, it occurred to me that I should see what sort of language of representation appears on the UW Excellence website.  So here you go:

  1. We are a group of University of Washington faculty members who deeply respect the historical role of organized labor in our nation, and acknowledge the current and future importance of unions for the protection of workers in many fields.
  1.  It’s important to demonstrate that a majority of the UW faculty does not support SEIU unionization at this time!


and, on the Statement of Opposition: 

  1.  We, the undersigned members of the faculty of the University of Washington,

Throughout this website, which does claim to represent the opinions (varied as they are) of those faculty who do not support the present efforts to unionize, it is never claimed that the site speaks for the whole of UW faculty.  The site is very explicit in this detail.

Cliff’s Notes version: an opinion piece in the ST is nothing whatever like emailing Olympia or WSU; the analogy fails.  I expect that we all realize this, so let’s not try to muddy the situation.  Further, I think that we can all agree that our representation in Olympia and with our sister institutions is crucially important to our relationships and reputation.  Any misstep was surely just that; but let us keep in mind what is at stake here, and the robust system of shared governance—as well as our legislative representative—through which these relationships continue to be built.

And yes, let us do continue work together, with Olympia and our sister institutions, to get a faculty Regent.  We can do this, and we will.

Remarkably Unchanged,

Sarah Stroup

Sarah Culpepper Stroup
Associate Professor, Classics
Faculty, Comparative Religion and Jewish Studies
Director, UW Classics Excavations and Field School
University of Washington
Seattle WA 98195-3110

On Feb 5, 2016, at 08:38, James Tweedie <> wrote:

Ed Lazowska writes that he would “never dream to allow anyone to think” that he represents UW or its faculty. He mostly speaks for himself, “as an individual,” and sometimes other organizations, such as his department. “That’s as far as it goes, and I’m always careful to be clear,” he assures us, while chastising others for their presumptuousness. I wish he and Paul Hopkins had been more careful when they wrote their anti-union editorial for the Seattle Times. In that piece they fail to distinguish between their own opinions and the views of a much broader group of UW faculty. Their editorial contains the following statement: “The UW’s leading faculty members consider SEIU unionization at this point in time as an unwelcome change—a big step backward.” When was Ed Lazowska elected chairman of “the UW’s leading faculty members”? Does he really believe he has the right to speak on behalf of all “leading faculty members” at this university? It should be obvious from the ongoing debate about unionization that other “leading” and “excellent” faculty don’t share his views on the union. I hope that in the future he holds himself to the same standards that he would like to apply to others.


James Tweedie

On Feb 3, 2016, at 6:20 PM, Ed Lazowska <> wrote:

Allow me to ask the following question, which I hope is on many minds:

Exactly who – and based on exactly what authority – can reasonably purport to represent the University of Washington or its faculty to those in Olympia, or to organizations such as the Senates at our sister Washington institutions?

I spend lots of time in Olympia – but I would never dream to allow anyone to think that I was representing the University of Washington, its faculty, or its Faculty Senate. It’s me as an individual, and on occasion the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, the Technology Alliance, or the Washington Technology Industry Association. That’s as far as it goes, and I’m always careful to be clear. Similarly, I spent lots of time interacting with colleagues at our sister Washington institutions, including Deans, Provosts, and Presidents, but I’m always clear about who I’m representing: myself, and on specific occasions my department.

I’m not a Faculty Senate sort of person, but I’m willing to admit that the Faculty Senate represents, and is authorized to speak for, the faculty of the University of Washington. We elected the Senators, we elected the Senate leadership. The Faculty Legislative Representative is certainly authorized to represent us in Olympia. Chairs can speak for their departments, Deans for their Schools and Colleges, the President and Provost for the University as a whole.

I don’t recall, though, that we the faculty voted for or authorized those who have been purporting to represent UWs faculty through statements and actions described on this list in the past few days.

What am I missing?

On Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 12:34 PM, Ann M. Mescher<> wrote:

Dear UW faculty members,

I’d like to share with you the responses below from the secretary of the faculty senate and senate chair at Washington State University.  The state representatives and faculty members who worked together in earnest, on the prospect of a faculty regent serving the boards for WSU and UW, are painfully aware that it was only the UW faculty senate which on Jan. 28, 2016 stood in the way of a revised bill that would have passed the house higher education committee this week.

The revised bill was to align with the UW 2007 senate resolution and was expected to pass with ease in the house.  Passage in the house coupled with a verbal handshake between UW and WSU regarding the faculty regent term and mechanism for appointment, would have allowed our faculty legislative representatives to lobby together in the state senate.  With this collaboration, it was feasible to make law in 2016 that WSU and UW faculty regents would serve as voting members on the boards of our respective institutions.
Consider what actually occurred in our own UW faculty senate on Jan. 28.  If shared governance is alive at the UW, make your view on the question of a faculty regent known to the UW faculty legislative representative, whose role it is to serve in the best interests of UW faculty.  We might also keep in mind the way in which we as UW faculty are viewed from outside this institution.  I hope that we can be viewed increasingly as a collaborative faculty, both within the institution and with many others in the state of Washington.

Finally, I hope we can respect the collective wisdom from which this UW 2007 faculty senate resolution came:

We still have time to breathe life back to the UW faculty senate.

Ann Mescher



On Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 2:02 PM, Zack, Richard Stanly,Jr <> wrote:

Ann. We did not take a formal vote as to a regent and us working together. We did ask for comments by today. The comments are very positive and we are very much looking forward to working with you on this and other issues. We are looking forward to a long and close relationship between our respective faculty senates. Rich Zack.

Sent from my iPhone


On Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 1:24 PM, Converse, Sheila Kearney <> wrote:

Hello Ann,


How frustrating for you!  When it comes again, I think there is enough support here that we could work together.


Will you be at the PAC12 event in Arizona?  If so, it might be good to find time to have a conversation with our two groups about ways WSU and UW can cooperate.


Take care.





From: “Ann M. Mescher” <>
Date: Monday, February 1, 2016 at 10:49 AM
To: music <>
Subject: Re: faculty regent


Dear Sheila,

Thank you so much for your willingness to bring the question of a faculty regent to your WSU senate leadership.  My heartfelt thanks also to your faculty senate chair, Rick Zach, for his willingness on such short notice to bring to your senate body the question of a selection mechanism for a faculty regent at WSU and at UW.

I deeply regret that our own UW faculty senate was unable on Thursday Jan. 28 to reaffirm the selection mechanism in the UW 2007 senate resolution.  A number of UW faculty senators and former senate chairs worked diligently last week on a resolution to reaffirm the 2007 resolution, but the resolution didn’t even make it to the UW senate floor because of internal politics.  Instead of reaffirming our own 2007 UW senate resolution, the current UW senate body resolved to further study the selection mechanism and to do so in time for the 2017 legislative session.

Please accept my deepest apology with heartfelt regret,

Ann Mescher

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

AAUP Executive Board Member, UW chapter

Resident of the 46th district


On Thu, Jan 28, 2016 at 11:52 AM, Converse, Sheila Kearney <> wrote:

Hi Ann,


I heard from Joan Wu, our faculty legislative rep,  that she is in contact with JoAn.

We have shared the Exec Committee’s agreement with this proposal.

We will send an e-mail to our Senators in a few minutes, asking them to respond byFriday at 5:00.


Rich Zack, our chair, will remind them during the meeting to respond .


I’ll be in touch as soon as I hear.




From: Ann M. Mescher []
Sent: Thursday, January 28, 2016 8:05 AM
To: Converse, Sheila Kearney <>
Cc: Janelle S. TAYLOR <>; Stephen Hauschka <>; Duane Storti <>; Max Lieblich <>; Robert J. Pekkanen <>; Diane Morrison <>; Christoph Giebel <>
Subject: Re: faculty regent


Dear Sheila,

If there is any possibility for a positive sense from WSU senate leadership regarding the question of a faculty regent at our respective institutions, could you ask your faculty legislative rep to communicate today before our senate meetings, directly with the UW faculty legislative rep, JoAn Taricani?  JoAn’s email address is and her number is (206) 685-0569.

The UW senators who are receiving a copy of this email will be happy to share any news from WSU at our senate meeting today; however, as I mentioned by phone, the timing of communication is extremely important now.  Our goal is to ensure that a revised faculty regent bill does not die in the house higher ed committee.

Ann Mescher

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

University of Washington

Seattle, WA   98195-2600
(206) 616-8517


On Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 5:00 PM, Ann M. Mescher <> wrote:

Thank you so much Sheila for forwarding the UW 2007 senate resolution to your executive committee members.  We will anxiously await news from you, with the hope that WSU faculty senate leaders and the body are in general agreement regarding a faculty regent for the boards of our respective institutions.

If it is possible for WSU senate leaders to find a sense of the body on Jan. 28, and if general agreement is found, then a revised faculty regent bill will pass from the house higher ed committee in approximately one week or less.  With agreement between the faculty of our respective institutions, it will become plausible to see the bill pass not only in the state house but possibly in the state senate yet this session.

We look forward with hope to a collaborative effort,

Ann Mescher


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