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 16, 2013



The Senate Task Force Report on Faculty Issues and Concerns is a clear victory for the faculty and for the processes of shared governance. It puts in place both short-term fixes for issues of immediate concern to faculty, and proposes long-term structural reforms that can strengthen the processes of governance on campus and allow us to more effectively promote faculty contributions to unit-level and campus policies.

The Task Force was co-chaired by faculty union supporter Randy McCarthy and faculty union critic Nick Burbules, who both agreed that the main goal was to set aside the arguments about faculty unionization, pro and con, and try to make substantial progress on the issues and concerns that faculty care about. And the Task Force did that, producing 18 significant recommendations and reform proposals, developed in co-operation with members of the campus administration, addressing issues ranging from salary, to benefits, to promotion and tenure and other faculty concerns.

What has the CFA response been?
First, they fought against the establishment of the Task Force when it was proposed to the Senate (you can watch the video here).
Their main objection was that the Senate COULDN’T address issues of salary, benefits, and working conditions because these were union territory.
Then, when the report came out, they ignored or minimized the committee’s accomplishments in just these areas, because they didn’t address non-tenure track faculty issues even though (a) it was not the charge of the committee to do so, (b) not a single CFA member spoke up when the Task Force was proposed to say that it SHOULD address those issues, and, most important, (c) the report did in fact address some NTT issues, in particular the key question of strengthening protections and appeals processes for our colleagues working off the tenure track when they are not reappointed.
Finally, and most recently, the new CFA line (on their Facebook page) is that these accomplishments mean nothing because the administration is just trying to undermine the unionization drive by making concessions now. In their world, administrators were only willing to respond positively to faculty recommendations because they are afraid of the union movement.
This is a fascinating, Moebius-strip like argument. When things are bad it is proof that we need a union. When things are getting better, this is also proof that we need a union because it is only union pressure that forces concessions.
Faculty union advocates like to say that they want to “strengthen shared governance.” But here, and up at UIC, a central part of their strategy has been to undermine the Senate and shared governance processes, to minimize its achievements, and to insist that no matter what the Senate accomplishes it is never enough (and any accomplishments that it does have are really attributable to the union).
As Randy McCarthy and Nick Burbules said when they proposed the establishment of the Task Force, what we need is a pragmatic process that focuses on solving real problems and taking real responsibility for coping with the fiscal and other challenges this university faces. We want to make the nationally-recognized system of shared governance we have work better -- and we want to strengthen the partnership between faculty and administration so that we can respond more effectively to the very real challenges and opportunities we face.

*** 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. ***