Mission Statement

The purpose of this blog is to deconstruct the rhetoric and strategies of faculty union advocates at the University of Illinois. A consequential decision like this must be based on facts, not spin. Right now only one side of the argument is being presented to faculty. This blog represents the other side of the argument.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


This cartoon was published in April 2012, not long after the abrupt resignation of a University president whose disdain for shared governance had been under attack from faculty leaders for months, and after the Board had replaced him with an administrative leader who is widely respected for his collegial, respectful dealings with faculty: 

We have been asked to remove this cartoon from our web site. To view it, go to:  http://cfaillinois.org/2012/04/05/stateuniversityincone/

The truth is stranger – and certainly funnier – than fictional cartoons like this one. The new president, Bob Easter, did PRECISELY what the cartoonists portrayed as an absurd fantasy: he insisted on taking a much lower salary than his predecessor, and less than the Board wanted to give him.

Easter was concerned about the emerging Imperial Presidency and growing University Administration (UA) costs, and felt that, even though his salary would be dramatically lower than that of his peers at other institutions, there was a better use for these funds.

He also triggered the most thorough and rigorous review of UA structure and expenses this university has ever seen, empowering seven review committees with extensive faculty representation, and he has already begun to reduce significant pieces of the UA superstructure. This isn’t a secret: the story has been in the news.

And what credit does he get from faculty union advocates for his personal modesty, his frugality, and his commitment to the institution? Ridicule. Because it doesn't matter if the people occupying administrative positions are decent, principled, and committed to fairness: “the Administration” needs to be positioned in the abstract, as an enemy, no matter what the people in these positions actually do.

And so you hear about the gap between the President’s salary and the salary of the lowest paid university employees. Well, this is always going to be a large gap, given the market rates for top administrators at tier-one institutions. In fact it is a much smaller gap here than at many other peer schools. But this offers a simple (ie. simplistic) picture that grabs the emotions and represents administrators as plutocrats.

The world view of faculty union advocates is Manichean, and there are always only two sides to the issue: you are either with the “bosses” or with the “workers.” This makes it impossible to develop a nuanced, even-handed assessment of individual administrative initiatives. Any sympathetic comments about the Evil Administration, their achievements, or their character and motivations, shows that one is hopelessly co-opted, or even worse a toady to the Powers That Be.

For those who care to remember or find out, there is no ambiguity about our individual records and those of other elected shared governance leaders when it was necessary to stand up and speak truth to power – even when it meant telling top administrative leaders that they had lost the faculty’s respect and support, and needed to step aside.

But we also recognize that faculty and administration need to work together for the well-being of this institution. The “us vs. them” rhetoric and mentality – which is an essential part of the faculty union strategy – wastes valuable energy and divides the campus community. It embroils campus debates in a rhetoric of accusation, suspicion, and anger. When faculty union leaders refer to the “snakes in Swanlund,” as one did at a public event, all of us are diminished. Faculty are not well or truly represented by such comments.

We do not want to live and work on a campus where the atmosphere is poisoned by a politics of constant suspicion and resentment.

Do you?

*** This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise.

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us.

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts. 

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus. 

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it.

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same. ***