What the Strike Authorization Vote Means

In just a little while, voting will open across the entire state system to authorize APSCUF leadership to declare a strike should contract negotiations not make sufficient progress.

There’s been no shortage of information on the substance of the negotiations, so I won’t rehearse all that again here. Instead, I want to reinforce the importance of the vote itself so that we won’t have to cajole you more than once (or maybe twice) to do it.

A successful strike authorization sends two messages. First and most concretely, it signals to our leadership that we’re behind them, that we want them to stand strong for fairness, for our students, our system, and for us. Second, it announces to the state system that we really mean it. We don’t want to strike,  but we will. In other words, this week’s vote is the time for us to make a loud and clear statement of solidarity to both our own leaders and the state system folks.

In order for the statement to be loud and clear, it has to be loud and clear (While that may sound circular, I’d rather think of it as mutually reinforcing). That’s why our local officers, Mobilization Committee members, and department reps will be knocking on doors, calling and emailing–doing anything and everything we can to get our turnout to 100%.

If you find that irritating, you can do two things that are helpful. First, VOTE!!!!!!!! You can cast ballots at these times/places on North and South Campus and the Graduate Business Center; information about Exton and Center City is forthcoming.

Wednesday 9 – 11:             Main Hall, Sykes Lobby, Sturzebecker
Wednesday 11 – 1:             Main, Hall, Sykes, Lobby, Sturzebecker
Wednesday 1 – 3:               Main, Hall, Sykes, Lobby, Sturzebecker
Wednesday 3 – 5:               Main, Hall, Sykes, Lobby, Sturzebecker
Wednesday 3:30 – 5:          Graduate Business Center

Thursday, 9 – 11:                 Main Hall, Sykes Lobby, Sturzebecker, Graduate
Business Center
Thursday, 11 – 1:                 Main Hall, Sykes Lobby, Sturzebecker
Thursday 1 – 3:                    Main Hall, Sykes Lobby, Sturzebecker
Thursday, 3 – 5:                   Main Hall, Sykes Lobby, Sturzebecker
Thursday 3:30 – 5:               Graduate Business Center

Friday 9 – 11:                        Main Hall, Sykes Lobby, Sturzebecker
Friday 9 – 10:45:                  Swope Hall
Friday 11 – 12:                     Main Hall, Sykes Lobby, Sturzebecker

Second, and just as important, GET OTHER PEOPLE TO VOTE! If everybody who sees this post gets a couple of other people to go with you to vote, we’ll be near 100% without having to spend three days scurrying around and irritating you into doing it :).

Finally, for anybody who sees this soon–if you’re at WCU and not committed at 10 am, join us at the APSCUF office for a march to the Quad that will help to kick off the vote.

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Filed under APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, PASSHE, Strike Authorization, West Chester University

The LIU lock-out is one reason for a YES vote on Strike Authorization

By now, many of you have read of Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus lock-out, which may well turn out to be one of the most anti-union attacks on a faculty in modern times.  The ploy at LIU is, in effect, to hire scabs and empower non-faculty to administer courses based on syllabi collected by the administration via Blackboard.

The cynical gambit at LIU will ultimately fail because it takes much more than “content”, a learning management system and a syllabus to foster excellence.  We know from for-profit, distance education institutions that courses proctored (not taught) by poorly paid and unsupported instructors have terrible completion rates. And if the lock-out proceeds for a significant length of time, LIU could damage their “brand” (i.e., reputation) and become a corporate degree mill to be shunned and ridiculed.

I very much doubt that the Chancellor would have much to gain by using this rare (but increasingly prevalent) tactic against APSCUF in our current situation.  A management lock-out would prove that the Chancellor cares more about saving money than delivering a high-quality education, and would warn potential new faculty hires to look elsewhere if they want a secure career that keeps pace with the cost of living.

If you are not sure whether playing defense against a lock-out is better than preparing for a strike, consider the power of taking a strike authorization vote.

  • A vote for strike authorization demonstrates that the faculty stands solidly behind its bargaining team. It is a vote for fair raises, affordable healthcare, and continued shared governance.
  • A vote for strike authorization sends a resounding message that we stand for the quality of our universities, and that hiring and retaining the best faculty is the best way to ensure the excellence of our institutions.
  • A vote for strike authorization publicly declares the faculty’s solidarity and resolve to the Chancellor, the BOG, the Legislature, the Governor, our students and their families.
  • A vote for strike authorization demonstrates your strong support for the collective bargaining process on our campus.  Not very long ago, the Weisenstein administration paid an outside consultant via the WCU Foundation to lobby faculty strenuously to support secession from PASSHE.  Thankfully, they failed.  This move could have turned us into an institution much more like Long Island University, and without the strong protections of APSCUF.

This Labor Day, please take a moment to reflect that every page of your CBA was written thanks to 30+ years of your colleagues regularly stepping up and arguing for your rights and for the betterment of the bargaining unit.  Then join with me on September 7 – 9 by voting YES for Strike Authorization.

Sincerely,
Mark Rimple
President
APSCUF-WCU

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Autonomy and Solidarity

A quick (well, you know) musing from your friendly APSCUF-WCU Mobilization Co-Chair on the way into the holiday weekend before the Strike Authorization Vote–

Yesterday, I had a conversation with somebody in the hallway about getting people to sign up for work we need done over the next months: staffing the voting tables, making themselves available for rallies and picketing, making phone calls and writing letters, and so on. We commiserated for a minute about the herding cats problem that lots of us academics use to describe ourselves.

But I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and think it’s somewhat more complicated than that. I haven’t done formal data collection on this, but anecdotally I know that many of us are drawn to the profession, along with our interest in our disciplines, because faculty work offers more autonomy than almost any other job I can think of. While we rightly get mad at the “They only work 17 hours” trope, it is true that many of the hours we work each week are flex time. We have more decision-making authority over our teaching and research (and even our service) than most people have over their job responsibilities. Yes, we’ve earned it and in many cases paid a dear price for it (years of grad school, student loans, all the financial/emotional stresses that come with those, and more). Nonetheless, it’s one of the features that distinguishes our jobs from most others.

Which is why at moments where unity and solidarity are at a premium, like right now in our contract negotiations/strike preparations, it’s that much more important for each of us to remember that we chose to become faculty, and we chose to become union members, and we therefore need to choose to commit to the solidarity it will take to stand strong for our students, our colleagues, our campuses, and our system against system management that claims to have a monopoly on all those in spite of their continued failure to fight for us and even alongside us instead of against us as they all too often do.

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Filed under APSCUF, Contract Negotiations, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Uncategorized

Yes, Mr. Chancellor, We Understand

Well, if the people who run our state system were trying to get the new semester off on a sour note, they sure found a way to do it.

In a letter addressed to PASSHE students, Chancellor Frank Brogan makes a claim that I feel compelled to respond to before the semester starts–my goal here is to help APSCUF faculty think about how to respond when students accuse us, faculty, of not looking out for their interests should we have to strike.

Chancellor Brogan says:

We can only hope that APSCUF recognizes the potentially devastating impact that a strike would have on our students.

Yes, Chancellor Brogan, we understand. We wish you understood as well as we do. We’re the ones who work with the students and faculty across the system every single day. We–the students and the faculty–are the people who do the learning and the teaching that give the system, and hence your office and your staff, any reason to exist. We know our impact because we see it every day: in the classes we teach, in the clubs and services we oversee, in the advisees we mentor; in the athletes we coach. Our impact has been steadily and widely positive and productive through often challenging circumstances. We want to work in an environment that allows us to continue having our positive impacts for years to come

The implications of a strike could, in fact, be devastating. That’s why nobody on the APSCUF side wants to do it. On the other hand, if it takes a strike to make PASSHE understand that we’re not going to sacrifice the integrity of our system or our campuses, that’s a positive implication.

In other words, a strike doesn’t have to happen; all it will take to prevent one is for PASSHE to get to work bargaining in good faith like they should have been doing for more than 400 days now. And if a strike does happen, it will be because APSCUF believes that’s the only way to convince PASSHE  to bargain in good faith. We know better than anybody in some office in Harrisburg what will happen to students if we strike. The people who are gambling blindly with our students’ learning conditions aren’t us.

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Filed under APSCUF, Contract Negotiations, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Uncategorized

A quick note about today’s negotiations update

We hope you’ve seen the update on this week’s negotiations session. It sounds like maybe the work that should have happened a long while ago is maybe starting to happen now. 

​For those of you who are new to this process, here’s a bit of context. It’s typical for negotiations to start slowly, and for us to start making noise about that. Very often, the first visible response to our rumbling is what you’re seeing here–little bits of progress on issues that aren’t too contentious so that management can tell themselves (and us) that they’re trying really hard.  So take the news as good in the sense that something is happening, but remember that it’s happening because we’re pushing and we need to keep doing it.

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Speak up for faculty (and students) at Mount Saint Mary’s University

By now you’ve likely heard the news from Mount Saint Mary’s University about their recently hired president’s plan to improve the university’s retention rates and the aftermath. I’ll summarize below in case you haven’t followed it. If you have but haven’t yet signed this petition to Mount Saint Mary’s University to reinstate two fired faculty members, we encourage you to add your name. It’s an important statement in support of colleagues whose due process and academic freedom have been violated as ominously as any time I can remember.

Here’s a nutshell version of Newman’s retention plan–

  1. Early in the fall semester, identify students who are at risk–academically, emotionally, financially–of leaving the institution.
  2. Encourage them to drop out as quickly as possible so that you never have to report them as matriculated.
  3. Ergo, improve retention by reducing the number of “dropouts.”

[It’s worth a minute to look at President Simon Newman’s background before we keep going. Notice anything missing? Any experience whatsoever with higher ed before being appointed as president of a university. Anywho….]

To make matters worse, President Newman had an email exchange with campus leaders in which he said some controversial (yes, that’s understatement) things, the most disturbing of which was:

“This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

When that quote showed up in the Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed, the story suddenly became national (read: embarrassing). And when President Newman learned that two faculty members–one tenured, one tenure-track–had leaked emails (one of the faculty was the advisor to the student newspaper), he fired them without any hearings, investigations, or procedures whatsoever. Clearly, his fundamental ignorance about how universities work and what faculty do made it seem logical for him to fire people who were “disloyal” (his word).

This is why we fight to protect tenure (and due process for colleagues with/without tenure). Signing this petition is a simple way to help. Indirectly, it’s also a statement on behalf of students who spent a lot of time, money, and emotional energy committing to a school run by somebody with such profound disregard for their well-being that he could think, much less say, what he did.

PS: In case you’re curious, the president tried to identify students to “drown” via a survey (as reported in Inside Higher Ed) that will make your skin crawl if you know anything about privacy or research ethics.

[Updated 5 pm Fri: The university has announced that it will reinstate the fired faculty in hopes of beginning what the president and board call a healing process; the board has reaffirmed their support of the president. The fired tenured faculty member says he has no intention of returning to the university.]

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Filed under Academic Freedom, Access, free speech, Inside Higher Ed, Retention, Tenure, Uncategorized

Secession legislation information

Interested in knowing how the proposed PASSHE severance legislation will affect faculty and the CBA? Please consult the attached documents:

Faculty – What to Expect from Legislation

Impact of PASSHE Dismantling Proposals

What the Freedom to Secede Proposal Really Does

CBA Implications of Legislation

Legislation Summary

Link to final legislation: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2013&sInd=0&body=s&type=b&bn=1275

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