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.

Monday, December 16, 2013



As we have argued before – most extensively in Nick Burbules's recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education – shared governance depends on mutually respectful relations between administrative and non-administrative faculty colleagues; collective bargaining, in contrast, is adversarial by nature. Faculty union advocates may deny that collective bargaining is adversarial, but all you have to do is look north to UIC to see what a union fight actually looks like. And while some of our CFA colleagues are personally respectful in their dealings with administrators, the general tenor of their organization's discourse is often one of scorn, accusation, and ridicule.

There are differing views here about which comes first: Does an adversarial state already exist between faculty and administration, thus justifying the response of unionization – or does a decision to unionize create adversarial relations? It is unlikely that this chicken-and-egg debate can ever be settled, but our stance is clearly the latter, for reasons we have already expressed. As further dramatic evidence we cite some of the Comments written in response to Burbules’s CHE article, which reveal the attitude of many faculty on unionized campuses:

I do not view my administration besides my department chair as my "partner." I view them as spies who watch me and report to my department chair, who I really like . . .

"Shared governance" implies shared power. But that is just what does not exist on most campuses. At my university . . . no decision of any faculty body was in fact anything but advisory. . . .

Public unions function to raise the alarm over corrupt and incompetent administration.

Of course, the administration is knee-capping faculty all the time. . . .

It was pleasant to share Prof. Burbules's fantasy of 'shared governance' where 'faculty and administrators view themselves as partners in a common project. . .'

White-collar workers today are subject to the same management BS that blue-collar workers have been subject to all along. If you’re not a high-level executive, the suits see you as a fungible drone.

Does this reflect your view of our campus? Of your work life? Of the administrators you deal with? Are these the kinds of voices you want speaking for you as a faculty member?

Then there was this exceptionally cynical comment:

Prof. Burbules's comments remind me of the attitude common among members of the AAUP many years ago who seemed to think of relations between faculty and administration as high-minded discussions between individuals sharing common goals and where professors were 'professionals.' Please note that the AAUP now endorses the union-management paradigm and pursues collective bargaining. Why? Because college administrators across the nation made it clear to the befuddled academics that they were employees who served at the pleasure of their masters--and that when push came to shove the 'collegial' relation between faculty and administration would vanish into thin air to reveal the iron fist of power. Unions grew as a measure of self-defense. To be without one is to be naked before one's enemies. I define 'enemy' as any individual who is free to make decisions about my fate that I am powerless to modify or reject.

Indeed, to this day, the mission of the AAUP remains "to advance academic freedom and shared governance..." and its cornerstone documents continue to emphasize the importance of cordial relations among members of the faculty, upper administration, and the governing boards.

We find it disheartening that there are faculty committed to the processes of intellectual inquiry who prefer to launch vituperative attacks against the administrative "enemy," and who ridicule the idea of "high-minded discussions between individuals sharing common goals" as a quaint, outmoded "fantasy."

For us, such values are intrinsic to the principles of academic freedom and shared governance upon which the AAUP was founded; and we have grave doubts about the future of any university campus that loses sight of them.

The more we see how suspicious and hateful the faculty attitudes are toward administration on other unionized campuses, the more we appreciate the system of shared governance on the Urbana campus that faculty leaders and faculty colleagues in the administration have worked to create and preserve. It is not to be taken for granted – and it could easily be lost.

*** 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. ***