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.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013



This will be a recurring feature on this blog: various claims by faculty union advocates that, while not necessarily false, are incomplete and misleading. We’re here to tell you what they aren’t telling you.

1. They are posting articles about the neglect of the arts and humanities on other campuses across the nation, with the implication that faculty members should worry about the same thing happening here.

But you aren’t hearing that there is a targeted salary program to improve salaries in the arts and humanities here -- in some units averaging as much as 10% to try to get salaries back on par.

And you aren’t hearing that the Provost’s HASS program, to create research accounts for faculty in the humanities, arts, and social sciences (where it is harder to get grant funding), has been increased from $1000 to $1500 a year. This program came as a direct result of efforts by the University Senates Conference and your elected faculty leaders, working with campus and university administration (see page 9).

2. You are hearing about the AAUP's concerns over protecting faculty intellectual property (IP). They claim it's a “union issue.”

But you aren’t hearing that the University of Illinois General Rules lay out one of the strongest and most pro-faculty IP policies in the country. Thanks to the hard work of your elected representatives on the Senate and University Senates Conference, these protections are ALREADY written into the rules (see Article III, Section 4).

We don’t need to duplicate the governing documents by writing these protections into a union contract.

Examples like (1) and (2) are quite common in the union debate: citing some bad decisions and policies at other universities and saying, “Don’t let these happen here – a faculty union will protect you!”

(Faculty unionization, it seems, is the solution to every problem confronting higher education.)

But the question in many cases needs to be turned around: why AREN’T these issues at other places being experienced here? Often it is because Senate leaders and administrators have worked to put better, fairer policies in place. It’s a credit to Illinois and its system of shared governance that we have avoided many of these problems – and we did it without a union!

3. You have probably heard a lot about the faculty union contract at University of Oregon. We are certainly happy to see faculty colleagues earn a salary increase there. They were ranked #99 among public four year institutions in salaries in the AAUP rankings for 2012-13, so they have a lot of ground to make up. (Our campus was #17 in those rankings.)

But when you hear about the “12 percent” raise faculty received at Oregon, keep two factors in mind: one is that the increase is spread over three years. The other is that you have to subtract union dues from the net gains. When you do that, the first year increase for faculty at Oregon is considerably lower than the 4.16 average increase faculty on this campus received this year (4.65 including promotion increases) -- without having to spend months in adversarial negotiations.

Admittedly, we don’t know what the increases will be here over each of the next two years, but there is a good chance that the NET gains will be equal to or better than at Oregon.

4. You are hearing that recommendations of the Senate and its committees are “merely advisory” to the administration. But you aren’t hearing that advice from elected faculty leaders is accommodated whenever possible, and even when it is not, it is always taken seriously. Governance on this campus occurs through close consultation over time, and elected faculty leaders have been part of virtually all of these campus conversations.

Successful administrators never regard this as “mere advice,” but as something it is in their interests and the interests of the campus to accommodate whenever possible. We don’t always agree, certainly, but exceptions are very rare – and as recent events have shown there is serious fallout when faculty advice is not sought in earnest, or is ignored when given.

5. Faculty union advocates consistently undervalue or ignore the achievements of shared governance on this campus. You hear that we need a union to “strengthen” shared governance.

What you don’t hear is that Illinois has one of the strongest and most effective shared governance systems in the country. Former Michigan President James Duderstadt said just that when he visited our campus.

Many faculty union advocates serve on the Senate, and they are respected and valued colleagues there. But very few have served in leadership positions, been on the Senate Executive Committee or the University Senates Conference, and so they don’t know how shared governance works and what it has accomplished (not all of it public) over the past several years.

What you also don’t hear is how faculty unionization would weaken, not strengthen, shared governance. To see that argument, look at Nick Burbules’ essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education (link in the right-hand margin).

*** 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. ***