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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014



The Campus Faculty Association has seized on the controversy over the Chancellor’s decision not to proceed with the hiring of Steven Salaita as one more reason why we need a tenure-track faculty union.

This is hardly surprising. Over the years, their reasons for arguing the merits of unionization have constantly shifted. Whenever anything happens to upset the faculty on the campus, the CFA sees it as an opportunity to advance their cause, claiming that if our faculty were unionized, those bad things wouldn’t have happened.

Here is the fact: whatever one thinks about the Salaita issue (and we fully understand that there are deep disagreements over it), the existence of a union would have done NOTHING to prevent it. No administration, and no Board of Trustees, is ever going to sign a union contract giving faculty search committees – much less unions – final say over hiring. Because state law entrusts the oversight of the University to its Board of Trustees, there is always going to be a level of upper administrative review, and that means there is always going to be the possibility of a faculty recommendation not being accepted by accountable administrators.

That is why the Senate Executive Committee is exploring a consultation procedure that will clarify the limits and controls on such decisions in the future.

With a union we would be having exactly the same arguments over whether academic freedom protects Salaita’s speech, over whether “civility” is a campus value that can legitimately enter into hiring decisions, over how faculty members’ public profiles related to their fields of expertise in social media are relevant to their identities on campus or in the classroom. These are unresolved issues because they are difficult and in fundamental dispute. A union’s pronouncements would not change that.

The one thing that could be different is that a union might threaten to strike over this issue. Is that what CFA means when it says a union would solve this problem? If so, they should say it.

We have some other questions about the CFA’s position on this issue.

What is the CFA’s position on the boycott against this campus? Here is what the primary national petition says:

In solidarity with the Campus Faculty Association of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), which has called upon Chancellor Wise to reverse her decision to revoke the offer of appointment made to Professor Steven Salaita in October 2013, and in consultation with concerned faculty members at UIUC.

These “concerned faculty” are not named, and CFA says on their Facebook page that “CFA is not part of the boycott movement.” But since the boycott organizers claim to stand “in solidarity” with the CFA, it seems likely that at least some of the anonymous “concerned faculty members are associated with the CFA. 

Are members of the CFA actively working to support and encourage a boycott against their own campus?

The CFA claims to have nothing to do with the boycott, but every single link posted on their website about the boycott links to a site supporting it. Why haven’t they spoken out against a boycott that is damaging our campus?

And, finally, what is the CFA’s position on the vote of no confidence from American Indian Studies and two other small departments against Chancellor Wise? Are they going to stand as an organization in favor of a campus-wide vote of no confidence?

We are tempted to borrow one of CFA’s ear-horn photos.


***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.***