University of Oregon to Faculty: You Belong to Me!

by Corey Robin on September 15, 2013

I always thought of the University of Oregon (UO) as one of great gems of our public university system. It’s got a terrific political science department (with Hobbes scholar Deborah Baumgold in theory and wonderful APD folks like Joe Lowndes and Gerald Berk in American Politics). It’s in Eugene, a lovely little city of hot tubs and hippies. And since last year, it’s had a faculty union. Who wouldn’t love it?

Apparently, the UO administration, that’s who.

The administration is currently locked into a battle with the faculty, who are trying to negotiate their first contract. Rather than seize the moment to establish good relations with the union and improve the university, the administration is intent on doing the reverse. Not simply with the usual patter of bottom-line administrators—no big raises, say (though even here the administration has gone the extra mile by refusing to guarantee the fulltime faculty a living wage)—but with proposals that would astonish even the most jaded observer of administrative ways and means.

I first caught wind of the UO’s aspirations this past week, when Inside Higher Ed reported that the administration was trying to undermine the speech rights of the faculty by inserting a so-called “civility” clause in the contract.

The university statement mentions civility twice in a section on faculty responsibilities, including that faculty are responsible for treating “students, staff, colleagues and the public fairly and civilly in discharging his or her duties and in accordance with this agreement.” Civility clauses have long been of concern to advocates for professors. While it’s hard to find people who are anti-civility, many academics note that requiring civility can become a tool for punishing those professors who speak out against their bosses or who push unpopular positions.



Bill Harbaugh, professor of economics and moderator of the “UO Matters” blog, which is frequently critical of university policy, said decoupling academic freedom from free speech left room for administrators to punish those faculty – like him – who say things administrators don’t like. He also objected to the idea that administrators would be the ones deciding what qualifies as “civil.”



Asked about the civility clause, [executive assistant to the UO president] said Oregon has a long history of promoting respectful discourse – one that’s covered by the university’s existing policy on academic freedom and free speech: “It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the university community.”


Any determination of what’s civil would likely include faculty input, he said.


The minute I read that, I thought of my blogging. I’ve accused CUNY leaders of lying and cover-ups, of being Stalinists, of peddling nonsense and of being “as crude as the day is long.” I’ve no doubt they consider my posts uncivil and unfair. The notion that these same administrators would be in a position not only to define civility but also to enforce it as a contractual obligation, with all the attending disciplinary powers such obligations entail, well, you can see where this is all going.

Thankfully, so did the UO. They pulled the proposal.

When it comes to the freedom of the faculty, however, never underestimate the ambitions of an administrator scorned. The UO is back at the table, mooting even more draconian assaults on faculty autonomy and privacy.

Take their latest proposal (see section 7) on faculty email:

Bargaining unit faculty members have no expectation of privacy in emails, files, documents, or other information created or stored on university information assets. The university may monitor the use of, and review documents and other information stored on university information assets. Emails sent on a bargaining unit faculty member’s non-university email account and information created or stored on non-university computer systems belong to the bargaining unit member except to the extent that they address work-related subjects.


Read that last sentence carefully. Not only is the administration demanding the right to monitor and review the faculty’s UO email accounts, but it also arrogates to itself the right to monitor any emails on the faculty’s non-UO accounts (and computers) so long as those emails or documents “address work-related subjects.” So if I email my wife on my Gmail account, complaining about the action of a university administrator, or if I keep a diary on my home computer in which I talk about what that administrator did, that very same administrator can demand to read and review that email or document.

I’ve written quite a bit about the lengths to which employers will go to command and control the actions of their employees, and I’m certainly no naïf about the differences between universities and other employers. But this overreach from a university administrator seems like a first.

The administration has apparently tried to reassure the union that they would only monitor the faculty’s non-UO accounts in pursuit of what the university calls a “legitimate” “business need.” When the union asked for some examples of a “legitimate business need,” the UO’s hapless chief negotiator said the administration might want to check up on an individual professor’s work habits: Is she putting in her required 40 hours per week or is she shopping on-line during that time? (Apparently the negotiator really said this.) Or perhaps the administration, the negotiator added, would want to check up on a professor who was publicly critical of her chair. When the union countered with an offer that would guarantee the faculty a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” the administration said no.

Little side note: you’ve got to love this chief negotiator. When she isn’t telling the faculty at the table “you all need to get focused on your students,” she apparently moonlights as a defense attorney for Phillip Morris. Charming. Wonder how she squares that with her proposal to radically restrict the faculty’s freedom to consult with outside organizations. Which brings me to…

Like the faculty at CUNY, faculty at the UO are allowed to work one day a week as consultants for outside groups and organizations. At CUNY, professors consult for human rights groups, civic education groups, and other NGOs and non-profits. In Oregon, this activity is protected by state law. But the administration at the UO wants to eliminate that protection. (Yes, you heard that right: university administrators want to be even more intrusive and restrictive than the state.)

From now on, says the administration (see section 3), faculty wanting to do consulting work for outside groups or organizations “must get the prior written approval of the Provost or designee.” Among the criteria administration intends to apply when considering such proposals is whether the activity lies “within the scope of the bargaining unit member’s professional competence.”

How is that judgment to be determined? And how is a provost trained in, say, microbiology, in a position to judge whether a political scientist’s consulting work lies within her area of competence? And what if it doesn’t? Why is that any of the university’s business?

Oddly, in section 2 of the same proposal, the administration says that “activities unrelated to a bargaining unit faculty member’s…areas of professional competence do not require prior approval.” Given that section 3 requires the provost to determine what is or isn’t within the faculty member’s professional competence, it seems that anything and everything must come before the provost for approval.

Having to get permission from the provost, and under these terms, is creepy enough. You might wonder, though, why the administration would even want to involve itself in such byzantine determinations. After all, even the UO chief negotiator—there she goes again!—could not cite a single instance of the faculty abusing this right in the past.

The penultimate criterion in the administration’s proposal gives you a sense of why they might be interested in the faculty’s consulting work. The consulting, says the proposal, must not be “contrary to the University’s best interests.” The University’s best interests as determined by…the administration.

Now whose interests might the administration be most mindful of? Perhaps its Board of Trustees, which includes CEOs from the state’s timber and construction industries, the wife of the CEO of Microsoft, and a retired executive from Nike? Or big UO donors like Nike’s Phil Knight? It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which a professor is forbidden by the provost from consulting with an organization critical of Nike’s labor polices or Microsoft’s market practices. “Contrary to the University’s best interests” and all that.

There’s a lot more to be said about these negotiations; check out this blog for more info and updates (especially on the administration’s plans regarding intellectual property: they’re a doozy!)

But in the meantime, drop a note to the UO President Michael Gottfredson at pres@uoregon.edu— make sure to cc the union (info@uauoregon.org)—telling him what you think about all this.

{ 50 comments }

1

hix 09.15.13 at 10:59 pm

Is the demand to get access to private mail legal? If yes, US law is weird.

2

adam.smith 09.15.13 at 11:00 pm

wasn’t the e-mail issue something discussed in Wisconsin as well? IIRC, there it wasn’t the university administration (which was supportive of its faculty’s privacy rights), but the state who claimed that all faculty e-mail was subject to FOIA.
Corey doesn’t come out saying this, but I wonder how much football has to do with this – I’m not a big fan of Joe Nocera’s NYTs columns, but he’s right about the inability of university presidents to manage successful universities and major quasi-pro sports enterprises. Maybe it turns out that, while in most other places the administration fails at managing the sports part, at UO they’re good at that but fail at the university part. There’s also the creepy “University of Nike” thing – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/sports/ncaafootball/oregon-football-complex-is-glittering-monument-to-ducks-ambitions.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 moneyquote: “We are the University of Nike,” said Jeff Hawkins, the senior associate athletic director of football administration and operations. “We embrace it. We tell that to our recruits.”

3

Alan 09.15.13 at 11:28 pm

as @2

I can verify that the state has not only said–but warned–that any political-activity use of university email is forbidden as subject to FOIA inquiry for misuse of publicly-funded property (hah! we’re essentially a private institution already), and it’s clear that the reigning party in Wisconsin will do so at the drop of a hat. Some faculty attach signature warnings of particular names and phrases to avoid in case of such a search–but only (I take it) to try and depth-charge such a search by that very inclusion (who says UW faculty aren’t clever at least?).

4

Main Street Muse 09.15.13 at 11:42 pm

What is a “bargaining unit faculty member”? Are these rules applied only to those faculty members who are in the union?

5

Corey Robin 09.15.13 at 11:53 pm

Main Street: Yes.

6

Main Street Muse 09.15.13 at 11:56 pm

To Corey @5. Wow. I find myself without words for this.

7

Corey Robin 09.16.13 at 12:02 am

I know. When you recover from your shock, please do write the president (see email above) and cc the union (also see email above) expressing your dismay.

8

anon 09.16.13 at 12:11 am

Corey speculated:

“Rather than seize the moment to establish good relations with the union
and improve the university …”

Perhaps the administration researched what has happened to numerous universities with Faculty Unions and decided the best way to improve the University was to actually BARGAIN with it.

We know you far leftists here at C.T. ASSUME that any union is a good thing. Not surprisingly Chris Bertram has opined that he would rather ignore facts and go with his feelings.

Too bad for you guys that neither the voters of Australia or Norway felt it was in THEIR interest to ‘ignore the facts’. But then, they are the ones funding things, unlike you guys here who are only takers.

9

P O'Neill 09.16.13 at 12:32 am

Question prompted by comments 5-7: Is that legal?

10

Astroprof 09.16.13 at 12:45 am

We have been informed by legal counsel that any emails mentioning individual students are educational records as defined by FERPA, and must be disclosed to the students upon request. Hard to know how the university meets that obligation without a right of access to faculty email — it is the federal government that has chosen to define those mailboxes as “files maintained by university,” not as the private property of the faculty. I suspect our institution is willing to defy this interpretation and be a test case to protect email privacy, but I also understand why a public university might not be willing.

11

Corey Robin 09.16.13 at 12:46 am

P O’Neill: Is what legal? Unions negotiate contracts on behalf of their members. The bargaining unit includes everyone who is potentially a member. So the rules apply to them as well. Just wouldn’t apply to people who could not be members.

12

Corey Robin 09.16.13 at 12:49 am

Astroprof: In this case, UO has gone far beyond that. The federal government has not, to my knowledge, defined email accounts that are not maintained by the university — my gmail account, for example — as “files maintained by the university.” But the university insists upon access to those accounts. In its defense at negotiations, the university made no mention of FERPA rules.

13

P O'Neill 09.16.13 at 1:06 am

Sorry Corey I meant the way some rules read now e.g. the rule on external consulting … surely it applies to all faculty and not just union members?

14

Corey Robin 09.16.13 at 1:10 am

I suspect it applies to all members of the bargaining unit — again, all faculty who are eligible to join the union, whether they join or not. It would not apply to faculty who are not members of the bargaining unit. I’m not sure what the bargaining unit (in my union, it includes adjunct faculty; in other unions, that’s not the case).

15

Alan 09.16.13 at 1:21 am

My guess about what motivates UO’s wish to access personal accounts: our system’s lawyers have told us that any discussion of personnel matters on such accounts is subject to subpoena if grieved. That’s a matter of civil law I suppose. Maybe UO thinks that if such matters can be subpoenaed, then all work-related matters in any stored media such as email or twitter, etc. is thus subject to examination by due process in contested matters, and they wish to cut to the chase and claim proprietary interests over any such media as regards university matters. But that jumps over the simple fact that such access may be granted only through due process. So UO wants to eliminate questions of due process and claim some sort of de facto authoritarian role in these matters. Disgusting and illegal, I’d say.

16

Bill Harbaugh 09.16.13 at 1:45 am

At this point the likely outcome of the free speech policy is not clear. The administration has backed off some of its language, but requiring criticism to be “respectful” is even worse than requiring it to be “civil”.

In contrast, the policy from the faculty Senate, which our president refused to sign, was very good:

“All University employees retain the right to address any matter of institutional policy or action without fear of institutional discipline or restraint. They also are guaranteed the protections of freedom of speech with regard to any matter, so long as it is clear that they are not acting or speaking on behalf of the University.”

I’m trying to keep this link updated with new developments: http://www.uomatters.com/2013/09/gottfredson-to-gut-senates-academic.html

And the story about the university’s efforts to charge me $225 to find out which administrators wrote the anonymous open letter criticizing my blogging as “anti-university” is here: http://www.uomatters.com/2013/04/fact-check-names-to-cost-28598.html

Thanks again,

Bill Harbaugh
UO Prof of Economics
http://harbaugh.org

17

Anderson 09.16.13 at 2:09 am

Computers have hugely multiplied workplace productivity. A small part of that gain is cancelled out by web-surfing, etc. at work.

It’s unreasonable to act as if professionals are assembly-line workers required to focus for 4 consecutive hours on work alone. The admins pushing that crap are checking Facebook at work. They need to STFU.

(Btw, google “NLRB Facebook” for the protected status of Facebook postings addressing workplace grievances.)

18

David 09.16.13 at 3:28 am

U of O embraces Stalinism. But very civilly.

19

StevenAttewell 09.16.13 at 4:20 am

“Bargaining unit faculty members have no expectation of privacy in emails, files, documents, or other information created or stored on university information assets. “

That’s pretty familiar to us grad student union folks here at the U.C. University email addresses being university property we’ve known about for a long time, but the snooping on anything on their wireless network is a more recent development.

20

Meredith 09.16.13 at 6:06 am

Bill Harbaugh@16, I’ve been wondering about this as I’ve read up on the whole OU business, and your problems raise the question again. Does Oregon not have public disclosure laws that apply to all public employees or actors (e.g., people serving on a local zoning board or sign commission)?

21

Fr. 09.16.13 at 8:52 am

@1: same question here; it is certainly not legal anywhere in Europe.

22

SusanC 09.16.13 at 10:55 am

For communications between a union official and union members, it’s clearly important that the employer can’t intercept them. e.g if an employee wishes to complaint to the union about some workplace problem, without fear of being victimized by their employers. This kind of communication is clearly work-related, so yeah, you have a problem.

Some universities have a policy that any messages between staff and students go via university computer systems and not private email accounts, so that (e.g.) if a student complains of sexual harrasment the university is in a better position to investigate what happened. This kind of restriction is, I think, just about reasonable (compare, for example, rules intended to prevent insider trading in the financial industry).

We’re possibly under a moral obligation to be civil to our own students. The university admnistration, or the National Security Agency (to pick one institution that people might have been uncivil about recently…) – not so much.

23

SamChevre 09.16.13 at 1:00 pm

I work in a regulated portion of the financial industry; these restrictions sound exactly like what is legally rquired here. (Private email is discoverable if it is about work matters–I can’t send insider info from my personal account, or co-ordinate an effort to deceive regulators or counterparties using private email).

Is that not the case in Europe? I’m hoping dsquared will weigh in.

24

Anderson 09.16.13 at 1:22 pm

“I work in a regulated portion of the financial industry; these restrictions sound exactly like what is legally rquired here.”

There are, just possibly, much stronger & very different public interests at work there.

25

Corey Robin 09.16.13 at 1:31 pm

SamChevre: There seems a world of difference between a court of law or a prosecutor subpenaing documents related to a criminal or civil case and a university stipulating in advance that it can monitor and review your private, non-university emails or documents on your home computer in search of any “work- related subjects.” And as I said, when the negotiator — who’s a lawyer, and apparently a good enough lawyer to represent Phillip Morris on the side — was asked to cite specific examples of what the university had in mind, she didn’t cite anything on the order of what you’re talking about.

26

In the sky 09.16.13 at 1:31 pm

Bargaining unit faculty members have no expectation of privacy in emails, files, documents, or other information created or stored on university information assets.

I appreciate this is a serious matter, but that quote is genuinely funny. They’re not even trying.

@Bill Harbaugh
Bill, your famous JPubEc paper posits a “warm glow” coefficient, say β>0. Might I suggest you use the current scenario to consider a research agenda whereby some people exhibit β<0 ?

27

SamChevre 09.16.13 at 2:09 pm

Corey Robin: I think there is less difference between the two than you would be imagining.

In all cases that I’m aware of, the “disclose relevant documents” (which can be a subpoena, but can also be a request from a regulator which has no court oversight) goes to the company; the company is required to comply. There’s no subpoena directed at SamChevre, but my employer would be liable if anything relevant that I had done wasn’t provided.

28

Marc 09.16.13 at 2:14 pm

Corey: in my state (Ohio) university emails are public records and they could be published in the newspaper if anyone so requested. University employees are not supposed to conduct business on private accounts (e.g. gmail) because it violates public records laws, not because the university wants to spy on academics. Here is a link to the Ohio State policy:

http://legal.osu.edu/publicrecords.php

Key bit: “Public records include, but are not limited to, personnel files; salary and compensation information; search records of personnel; meeting minutes; documents created and provided to parties outside the university, such as contracts and textbook lists for the upcoming quarter; and certain correspondence, in whatever medium or format including email, which documents University operations. “

29

SamChevre 09.16.13 at 2:14 pm

Here’s the policy language:

All electronic communications and information accessed through Employer Computer Systems are the property of Employer. Subject to governing law and without further notice, Employer reserves the right to:
(1) Retrieve and review any electronic communications (including but not limited to email, instant messages and text messages) composed, sent, received or stored on Employer Computer Systems.

Note that it’s clear from other materials that any personal email account accessed from a work computer is included.

30

Marc 09.16.13 at 2:18 pm

So, yes, you can have your tenure evaluation published in the paper, or your salary, or the letters of recommendation that someone wrote for a graduate student who applied there. I doubt that this is what the intent of the laws was, but there has been sustained and pious opposition to changing it because freedom is freedom and information wants to be free, etc.

31

Barry 09.16.13 at 2:40 pm

SamChevre 09.16.13 at 1:00 pm

” I work in a regulated portion of the financial industry;…”

That does explain a lot.

32

Corey Robin 09.16.13 at 2:43 pm

Marc: It obviously varies by state. Ohio, I gather, has an especially, um, open policy; other states do not. New York, for example, has lots of exemptions. See here: http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/foil2.html#s89

SamChevre: The policy statement you cite makes a very clear stipulation: if it’s accessed via a university computer system. You’ll notice that the language in the OU proposal makes no such stipulation. It’s far far broader. As for the subpoena issue, I’m not so sure: I’ve heard of my university making such requests for documents but they’ve never asked for folks’ gmail accounts, as far as I know.

33

JBSay 09.16.13 at 5:40 pm

Get used to the real world.

Most of us are expected to use or work email for work, and our private email for our personal life.

Most of us are severely restricted in terms of outside consulting we can do if we are employed, because employers often get sued for the consulting work their employees do.

I have zero problem with contracts – negotiate whatever you can.
I also have no problem with UO getting what they can.

As to academic freedom perhaps professors should be subject to the same speech and civility codes as students are subject to.

34

Marc 09.16.13 at 6:01 pm

@32: Fair enough; I don’t know the status quo in Oregon. A little poking around makes it look less intrusive than Ohio, but if there are recent rulings to the contrary it might be relevant to what the university is trying.

35

Erica 09.16.13 at 7:27 pm

@JBSay: The issue is precisely that the university is trying to break down that separation by treating private email like work email – saying professors should be unable to communicate privately about work issues even at home and off the clock.

36

Nick 09.16.13 at 7:29 pm

“Get used to the real world” at #33

I believe the point of these posts is that universities represent a superior version of the real world, and the people who work in them are willing to fight to maintain the qualities that make them such. Your point seems to be that since most people live degraded lives of outside intrusion, so should profs and students.

I think it’s sad how people fail to recognize how much of a hodge-podge our lives our. Universities pre-date the modern state, they represent a civil alternative to the church and the government, as self-governing, self-interested organizations; somehow that status, which I always took for granted when I was young, seems to be under concerted attack by not only individuals, but the various forms of bullshit that walk in the world. I bet that in a few decades, universities will be divided by their organizing philosophy, with some following corporate patterns, others trying to hew to a ‘classical 20th century model’, with governance by faculty administrators and less involvement with the state.

37

Barry 09.16.13 at 7:49 pm

“Get used to the real world” at #33

The right works on the simple principle that if they don’t have something, their peers/inferiors shouldn’t have it, either (their betters, of course get privilege).

Real ‘crabs in the bucket’ thinking.

38

Paul 09.16.13 at 10:38 pm

Everyone who is in the bargaining unit (not just the union) will be covered by the CBA.

It is normal for an administration to throw their wish list into the first round of bargaining. At the end of the day it’s money that will be the sticking point.

The union negotiators need to stand firm, it should be easy to find examples of agreements from peer institutions that do not have those sorts of provisions. My institution had a President who got it into his head that faculty needed a “code of conduct” notwithstanding that as state employees we were already subject to a slew of regulations regarding our conduct. The union got it tossed. It was just an off the cuff wacky idea that didn’t matter for the bottom line anyway.

39

Alan 09.17.13 at 1:02 am

I have to say after reading this thread that I feel like astronauts Bowman and Poole trying to find privacy in a space-pod but being thwarted by HAL’s lip-reading. How did we get to this presumption that privacy is not a rule, but an exception?

At least personnel meetings in Wisconsin may enter into closed session without a specific record of discussion beyond a report of votes. I wonder how long that narrow window of privacy will last?

40

Andrew F. 09.17.13 at 2:17 am

The wording of the provision regarding emails created and stored on non-university systems seems lacking in craft, even assuming that the provision is placed there to ensure compliance with state law regarding public records.

It’s certainly fair that faculty members agree to comply with any state law regarding record-keeping and disclosure, but then the provision should be worded to reflect, and be limited to, that purpose. Moreover, the phrase “address work-related subjects” is hopelessly broad and vague. A faculty member in the English Department receives an email from his daughter about a play she’s recently seen, and he sends off a response with his own thoughts on the work. Certainly this email addresses “work-related subjects.” Yet it seems unlikely that any public records law would consider this type of email subject to capture. That kind of thing needs to be substantially tightened. Frankly, I don’t think it’s in the University’s interest for control, and therefore responsibility, to be asserted over such a broad range of emails either.

No doubt, though, it would be helpful to both sides if they stopped assuming bad faith on the part of the other party (even where its attribution may be justly made). Doing so, imho, only makes it more difficult for the other negotiator to give ground reasonably, since he doesn’t want to give credence to the accusation of bad faith.

Negotiations can get ugly, and sometimes there’s a place for ugliness, but the impetus should never be a desire to simply “beat” (i.e. show up, humiliate, or insult) the other negotiator. Ugliness should always be strategic. And I don’t see the point of some of the statements and accusations being thrown around here (to be clear, I’m not referring to Corey’s post).

For example, apparently one of the University’s negotiators introduced a “child porn” hypothetical to argue for the reasonableness of a provision. Professor Harbaugh thought this ridiculous (he may well be correct; I have no idea). That’s fine. But then the Professor made a records request to see all the emails among University administrators containing certain words, in an effort to show that the hypothetical was simply a tactical argument and not a real concern.

That’s not helpful, imho. The way to deal with an unpersuasive tactical argument by the other side is not to dig into their emails to “prove” that they used the argument as a bargaining tool (both sides of course do this). Arguments like that are a normal part of a negotiating process.

Neither though was the University’s way of dealing with it, which was to publish an “open letter” castigating Professor Harbaugh, particularly brilliant.

At the end of the day, a state of permanent hostility is not going to benefit either party, especially as their relationship is a continuing one (though it would certainly benefit those whose services would be needed in that state, i.e. professional representatives for both sides). Don’t misunderstand me. If it’s appropriate to screw the other side, then do so. Even in such cases, though, it’s usually beneficial if they don’t walk away feeling like they were screwed.

41

Alan Keffer 09.17.13 at 2:24 am

A “living wage” denied? Color me laughing. Why should educators be any less further from redundancy than my plumber who can be fired at a whim? Astounding that folks who purport to teach youngsters how to thrive in the real world are so protected from it’s vagaries. Balderdash.

42

Alan 09.17.13 at 3:13 am

Alan@41

Love your name. Not much else.

I have been a public employee university faculty member for 3 decades. My career is, from my perspective as hired, as a public servant to educate students for the public good. My present state employers are trying to make me more a plumber. Plumbers are all about profit for good manual work, not the improvement of society by producing good citizens.

You want me to plumb bums for profit or educate for a hopeful future? I’ve got lots of former students telling me on email that they are better for my tutelage; not so much for making their individual careers a lead-pipe cinch.

43

Tom Shillock 09.17.13 at 3:42 am

I believe that the U of O’s fascism is part of a broader trend in America government and corporations. My sense is that since the implosion of the USSR the United States government and society has become more like the USSR. This seems especially to be the case since 9/11. People like having and exercising power especially when they can do so with impunity.

44

JW Mason 09.17.13 at 4:45 am

Nick @36 makes the key point. It is true that universities offer (some of) their employees more security and autonomy than you can find in almost any other part of the economy. I think a lot of academics are (understandably) reluctant to admit that in many ways we really do have it better than most workers, even other professionals. But I think we need to be more willing to take pride in the relative non-crappiness of our jobs. I know it runs against many people’s instincts, but it’s really important to say we are not just asking for the protections other workers get, we are asking for much more. Not because we’re so special, but because everyone should have the same protections we have. We need to proudly hold our institutions up as proof that it is possible to organize work on the basis of self-government and intrinsic motivation.

45

SusanC 09.17.13 at 7:56 am

JW Mason@43: I partly agree. Much of this is a standard union dispute, and we’d support workers in other sectors who were campaigning for the same protections (right to join a union, right to communicate privately with the union without management surveillance etc).

But some of this is a bit sector-specific. “Work related” is a much more nebulous term when applied to an academic than it would be in other industries where there’s a clearer line between “work” and private interests, political activity etc. In a contract for academics, you really need to be clearer about what is meant.

And part of the function of an academic is be someone who is kept around for when others need to consult a specialist expert who they think is reasonably impartial (though, of course, academics have their own personal views/biases). Being permitted to communicate with members of the public, and having relatively few restrictions on what you say, is much more vital to being an academic that it is to other jobs

46

Manta 09.17.13 at 10:39 am

A few days ago there was a post on LGM on a similar issue

http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/09/free-speech-and-employee-rights

47

Barry 09.17.13 at 12:00 pm

41
Alan Keffer 09.17.13 at 2:24 am
“A “living wage” denied? Color me laughing. Why should educators be any less further from redundancy than my plumber who can be fired at a whim? Astounding that folks who purport to teach youngsters how to thrive in the real world are so protected from it’s vagaries. Balderdash.”

As I said, crabs in a bucket.

48

Chuck Dyke 09.17.13 at 2:49 pm

What I can’t understand is why, after the experience of half century or so of unionizations, you’ve decided to unionize. As a FACULTY you have the right and the duty to claim that the traditions and ideals of the university are primary. As LABOR you do not. As labor you can bargain for money wage, job safety, and a few other incidentals. In everything else, management prerogative, by law, trumps. University administrations quickly learn to love unions. They make things so convenient and easy for them. Of course, if the ruling motivation for unionizing was indeed the wage issue you can give it a try. You’ll get nickeled and dimed into the desired bodily docility (to evoke some Frenchman or other) that the administration needs. In all else, including most of the issues discussed above, you’ll lose. You might want to research the sorts of things that have been assigned to management prerogative at long unionized universities.
(Of course the Keffers of the world won’t even understand the distinction between faculty and labor, and its deep historical roots. So they’ll keep on keffing until you’re keffed into complete submission. — And don’t get romantic about it in terms of a tradition and rhetoric of unionism that’s obsolete even in the industrial world that’s its home. You’ll end up providing the edifying spectacle of folks making 1ook plus trying to figure themselves as the salt of the earth, on the picket line trading their educational responsibility for a few bucks. I don’t know what the living wage is in Eugene, but there are folks living across the street from my university on considerably less than I make. )

Incidentally, anyone thinking that the content of any electronic communication is in any significant sense whatsoever private hasn’t been paying attention, and has missed something. The operative distinction is “public and accessible” vs. “public and sufficiently encrypted to be inaccessible to third parties” — and even that distinction is metastable these days. Photons go all over the place.

49

StevenAttewell 09.18.13 at 1:48 am

@48 – what are you talking about?

1. Being unionized doesn’t stop you from advancing claims to academic freedom; it just gives you another venue to advance those claims, a venue that’s less dominant by management no less.
2. Collective bargaining is not limited by law to “money wage, job safety, and a few other incidentals.” There are required topics of bargaining, but you’re not barred from discussing other topics, nor are you required to defer to “management prerogatives” on “everything else.”
3. “University administrations quickly learn to love unions. ” That’s not supported by evidence in say the last 15 years, as university administrators have fought against unionization tooth and nail in public and private contexts.

50

elspi 09.18.13 at 5:18 pm

\begin{rant}
I have been using e-mail since before 1990. These johnny-come-lately corporate slave drivers don’t get to tell me what the rules of e-mail are. They didn’t build it and they didn’t start using until a decade later, so they sure as hell don’t get to make the rules for e-mail.
\end{rant}

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