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, May 3, 2014



The Senate’s record of aggressive, effective representation of faculty concerns hardly needs to be rehearsed. Not too long ago, the Senate called for doing away with the Chief mascot, and though it took much too long, eventually the Board was forced to accede to faculty demands, over the objections of students and alums. (The NCAA helped.) The Senate challenged the $20 million Global Campus initiative, and it was dismantled. The Senate exposed the Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government, and it was booted off campus, and now is a mostly empty shell. The Senate demanded accountability from administrators over the admissions scandal, and a Chancellor and a President had to step down. More recently, another President resigned after the Senate made clear that it wouldn’t tolerate his disregard for faculty views and his antipathy toward shared governance processes. Last summer, a Senate task force developed a broad and ambitious set of proposals to improve the compensation and working conditions of faculty. The list could go on . . .

Repeatedly and forcefully, the campus Senate has used its processes to represent faculty interests and protect the integrity of the structures of shared governance. In all these instances, senators who happened to be CFA members and senators who were not worked together toward common goals. Most Senators neither knew nor cared who were CFA members and who were not, and CFA members of the Senate didn’t wear their affiliation across their chests. Longtime members of the UPE (the former name for the CFA), and later the CFA, worked within the Senate structures to effect positive changes on behalf of the faculty, their departmental constituencies, and the campus. No one worried about who got credit when the Senate was successful: the SENATE got credit.

Unfortunately, those days seem to be gone. CFA has stated its intention to focus its energies on organizing a faculty collective bargaining unit, and so it must justify the need for a union to represent the faculty’s voice and interests. To do so, it must portray the campus Senate as toothless, “merely advisory.” Shared governance, they say, is weak, and needs “strengthening” (by a faculty union). Even some CFA members who are members of the Senate have expressed scorn for its efficacy and its achievements.

And, when the Senate’s accomplishments become impossible to ignore, the CFA has been quick to take credit: the only possible motivation for changes beneficial to faculty is the threat of unionization. If administrators work with faculty leaders to respond to faculty concerns, it can’t be out of good will or an honest concern for the faculty – it must be out of fear of a union.

If you read the faculty testimonials on the CFA blog, what is most striking is that they make almost no mention of the traditional union issues of wages, hours, and working conditions. Instead, they say that faculty need a “voice,” that they need a way to influence campus policies, academic and otherwise, that they need to demand transparency from administrators and hold them accountable. Many of these testimonials seem to be premised on the assumption that there is no independent faculty voice. They say we need “shared governance,” a term that the union has tried to appropriate as theirs because they know it has positive resonance with faculty – a resonance that the Senate, through its effective advocacy for and defense of faculty rights, has created.

One would think, reading the testimonials’ repeated insistence on the need for “a strong faculty voice,” that the Senate had disappeared, or had suddenly become powerless and empty. One would think the colleagues writing those statements were unaware of the Senate’s history on our campus and its documented record in providing a democratically elected, strong faculty voice.

We don’t know what CFA representatives are saying to faculty members in their office visits to create such a deep misimpression. But here is the fact: We have an extremely strong and effective Senate, and we respect and acknowledge the contribution that all Senators have made to keeping it strong. The accomplishments of shared governance on this campus have been real and substantive – and clearly go far beyond the “merely advisory.”

It is sad that the CFA apparently has decided that they need to make the Senate appear weaker in order to make themselves appear stronger. The Senate and shared governance are not perfect; on the contrary, what has enabled the Senate to create the strong record it has is its constant practice of examining itself in order to improve the state of shared governance on our campus. The Senate recognizes the need to work continually at making itself more representative of, and responsive to, the voices of all faculty.

We also need to take the elements that make shared governance effective at the campus and university levels, and spread that culture of collegial, shared decision-making down to governance at the college and departmental levels. Senate leaders, and committees of the Senate, have publicly acknowledged this need, have moved to address it, and will not be satisfied until shared governance is consistently enacted across all our academic units.

But the tools and resources to strengthen shared governance already exist in the University Statutes, and in the structures of the Senate. Any attempt to draw authority away from those statutes and structures, or to denigrate them, will weaken shared governance, not strengthen it.

The Senate we need is one in which all faculty are committed to its value, its processes, and its tradition of advocacy for faculty concerns. Shared governance is strongest when we all support that commitment.

***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.***