Sunday, April 15, 2018

Chicago Professors Stage Walkout To Protest Working Conditions




By Professor Doom

     Leftism, in its current representation, is nothing without hypocrisy, and today I  want to focus on one aspect of this system of belief, namely socialism. Socialism is all about “power to the workers.” The most common worker on our campuses used to be, and should be, the professoriate, the people who actually do the teaching and research.

       Our campuses are to a considerable extent taken over by believers in Leftism. 

How’s that working out for the workers? Terribly. Time and again I’ve covered how the average professor in higher ed is a sub-minimum wage adjunct, barely able to get by only if he teaches quadruple the class load that was typical of faculty before the takeover.

      Now, professors tend to be free thinkers, so we’ve been slow to join a group, a union, to organize to resist this treatment. After years of being squeezed, it’s starting to happen:


      The above was only a one day walkout from the English faculty. I certainly decry what’s happened in mathematics, but I feel great sympathy for English faculty: grading papers is grueling, time consuming work, but there’s no other way to help students improve their writing skills. For this reason, class sizes in English courses are supposed to be smaller than in other disciplines. Trouble is “smaller than” used to mean their classes were around 20 while everyone else’s were around 25. But now the typical class size is 50 to 100, and admin are using the “well, English classes should be 5 students fewer” idea for the writing courses…English faculty find the increased workload impossible, so they have no choice but to strike for better conditions.

      They joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and so now take their marching orders from the SEIU in hopes of a better life. SEIU has a good track record:

SEIU won a commitment from Tufts University in 2014 to bring the pay for part-time faculty members up to at least $7,300 per course by 2016. To non-tenure-track faculty members in much of higher education, such levels are two or even three times what they earn per course.


       Yes, the SEIU basically tripled adjunct pay. As I’ve said many times, the money is already there in higher ed, it was just being sucked into administrative pockets.
      Loyola Chicago has been slow to negotiate:

Union officials say there has been progress in negotiations over issues of pay per course, typically around $4,500 for those with terminal degrees, but with a limit of four courses per year for part-timers.


      Allow me to do the math here, to really emphasize how little Loyola Chicago thinks of faculty. They want to cap the total amount of yearly income for their adjuncts, their typical college professor, to $18,000, and this princely sum only for those with “terminal degrees,” for example a Ph.D.

      Think of how ridiculous this is. Imagine spending 4 years to get a college degree, another 4 to 6 years getting a Ph.D., paying outrageous tuition all the while, as the university tells you how valuable your education is.

      Then, you get your degree, and the same university will tell you all they will offer for that precious education is a no-benefits, no-security job paying $18,000 a year…this income puts you below the poverty line once interest on those student loans comes into the calculation.

      Oh, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself, the union is negotiating to raise faculty pay to the poverty level, and Loyola Chicago isn’t interested.

       How better to represent the miserable conditions of the faculty there that they have to negotiate to get enough pay to reach the poverty level? Isn’t socialism supposed to help the workers at least a little?

SEIU contracts at Tufts and elsewhere have included provisions that, while short of tenure, have given some job security to adjuncts.


      Pay isn’t everything, and one of the main perks of teaching in higher ed is supposed to be some level of job security. Tenure is scarce in higher ed today, and most faculty not only do not have it, they will never get it. I totally understand people don’t like the idea of tenure, and I share some of the common concerns…but the bottom line is many of our campuses have degenerated into the moral and academic abyss because tenure is gone. Every time a non-tenured faculty tries to bring standards back, he just gets eliminated.

      Added to this issue is that adjuncts are “temporary” workers who work for a decade or more at the same job. Admin justify the low pay and lack of benefits to these “temp workers,” even as they know the adjuncts will be at the school long after the administrator doing the hiring has retired with a golden parachute.

      Like I said, they’re nothing without hypocrisy.

      So, the union called a 1 day walkout just to show the university that it’s time for them to show a little respect to the faculty. I hope it helps.

      These types of actions aren’t just restricted to Chicago, however:

“…the American Federation of Teachers, which represents lecturers at all three University of Michigan campuses, said it would strike for two days next week if a new contract is not negotiated…”

Many faculty members in Kentucky are angry over a provision in the state's budget bill, expected to soon become law, that would roll back tenure protections in cases where colleges are changing or eliminating programs.



     There’s been a real pattern of “roll back tenure protections,” claiming such a roll back doesn’t mean anything beyond bureaucratic formalities…and then immediately destroying the newly-vulnerable faculty. After years of this sort of behavior, faculty are starting to catch on: professors can do nothing about administrators summarily changing contracts after they’ve signed them. That said, if they simply refuse to be abused further, perhaps admin will listen?

     I have my doubts these short strikes will make a difference; there’s a huge Ph.D. glut and so I suspect it’s not yet too inconvenient to just fire every teacher in the school and then hire a new crop (and, again, I’ve seen the like). Eventually, these strikes will get longer, and hopefully will work—Ontario had a 5 week professor strike last year, and they made real progress.

     The fact remains: our most educated workers have been backed into a corner for so long that many of them are seeing no choice but, at long last, to fight back. Is it too little, too late? Perhaps, but at least they’re fighting back.