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Tagore on UW Unionization

AAUP cross post From the AAUP Listserv  Rajib Doogar

This is meant as a largely light-hearted aside/riff evoked by Professor Peñas use of the formulation “… for the people …”.  But, as always, in the spirit of the greatest Marx of the them all, “no aspersions unintended.”   
Hailing from the great state of West Bengal in India, both my home state and native country have a long and colorful history of our great and fearless political chieftains (I would hate to call them leaders) advocating “cutting off your nose to spite your face” policies in the name of “the upliftment of the people.”  (Which of course harkens back to the “volk” motive so common in late 19th and early 20th century politics, but I digress from my digression.)  A staple of the proceedings at any political rally in Kolkata is to call on “us” to rise up against “them” – usually the government in power whoever they may be – “for the people” so that “all may be uplifted.”  Without specifying, of course, who “they” are and whether or not the who that is the “they” is part of the “all.”
And in 50+ years of experience, coupled with remembrance of things past from those who were born before me, the only things that have been systematically uplifted since India because independent in 1947 are the sag of the money belt around the public’s waist and the bank balance of those whose profession it is to “feel for the people.”  This observation must be caveated with the acknowledgement that in the case of the – rarer than unicorns on the ground here – personally honest types, (including to her perhaps only credit, our present CM), it is not they but their sycophants, acolytes and hangers on who are true upliftees.
In fact, as I type this in from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), I sit here relishing the thoroughly moving irony of a city renamed in order to “reclaim the Bengali heritage” and to wipe off from the face of the Bengali people the stigma of white rule (Gora Raj) — even though that most horrible of all liars, the historical record, shows clearly that Kolikata was a thoroughly unimportant little pimple of a three-mud-hut village in the Bengal countryside when the British landed and built their fort here.   Against which backdrop, our deeply adored and utterly fearless Chief Minister, the ornament of all formal logic and reasoning that flourishes in our fair land, promises to make of Kolkata a new London, by – among other things – repainting all public buildings blue, presumably to give them a more “blue-blooded aristocratic feeling,” of which I am told – in conversations with fellow citizens sharing lurching-along public transport on ever-more-crowded by-lanes of an ever-expanding unplanned urban agglomeration – she is a great fan.
All of which probably explains why when I hear cries for solidarity, or for action in  the name of the people, I see a camel trying to get its nose under the tent.  And that’s on those days when the milk of human kindness is fluxing high in the veins, and I am feeling particularly optimistic and giddy about the promised future.
At the risk of asking two impossibly impertinent questions coming as they do from one of those philistine hacks from over at the business school.  One, whatever happened to methodological individualism?  And two, Is reification now back in?  IIRC it was definitely “out” when I stumbled my way through grad school back in the day.  Perhaps it is time I took another good undergraduate level methods class: any recommendations?  If I have time to write this, I surely have too much time on my hands …
All this is relevant because it feels that to proponents, Unionization seems to be a desideratum in and of itself, a veritable panaceum universalis for all that ails our fair U, instead of being merely one of many possible solutions to an impossibly complex contracting problem between the University – with its obligations to all citizens, indeed to the entire human species, current and future – and the different strata of faculty – each with distinct horizons, contract terms and contracting practices that range from the largely implicit (tenured faculty) to the largely explicit (part time or adjunct faculty) and all the way in between.
It may well be such a cure, although I mightily  doubt it.  However arguments impugning people’s motives is, may I gently suggest, unbefitting an AAUP list and is best left to those running for more unimportant offices such as POTUS.  I am not sure they have any place here.  Without taking sides, may I ask that folks posting here take the politicking elsewhere and only regale the rest of us suffering majority with material that has greater intellectual merit?
Please, pretty please, please?
With warmth to all and sans the scantest heat to any,
PS. The sig refers to Tagore’s famous poem “Bongomata” or “Mother Bengal”
Rajib Doogar
School of Business
University of Washington | Bothell

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