Lives on the Line | Faculty Unionism and the Threat to American Public Higher Education – Part III

Lives on the Line WORKING

Editor’s Note: Marty Morand’s, “Faculty Unionism and the Threat to American Public Higher Education,” inaugurates Raging Chicken Press’s new newest series, Lives on the Line. Morand’s article was a talk given at Baruch College in 1976. At the time, Morand was the Executive Director of APSCUF – yes, the very same union that currently represents more than 6,000 faculty and coaches at the 14 university Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Morand played an instrumental role in the founding of APSCUF.  Given the length of this piece, we are publishing it in three parts. Part I: “The Assault,” appeared yesterday. Yesterday, we brought you Part II: “A Yardstick for an Unfinished American Revolution.” Here is the concluding post,  Part III: “Facing Up to Action.” 

Part I | Part II | Part III

Faculty Unionism and the Threat to American Public Higher Education
Part III: Facing Up to Action

Originally presented at Baruch College, 1976

Facing Up to Action

How do we face up to the disillusionment and misconceptions that have brought us to our current condition? My own conviction is that our faculties have the understanding, knowledge and commitment that is required. The problem is to give our faculties an effective voice and an effective means for action. I believe that if educators are to be heard, the best means at their disposal is through the respect that a large and powerful union commands. However it is nut self-evident that faculty unionism is or can become a meaningful force for change.

While faculty unionism is not necessarily, as some traditionalists view it, simple opportunism or degradation of idealistic principles neither is it necessarily a Lancelot of educational reform. A faculty union must be a reasoned and vital reaction to managerial inefficiency and managerial import in protecting public higher education from its enemies. Critics and doubters will question whether faculty unionism can or will play a constructive and relative role in public higher education—or whether it will amount to a defensive rear guard action for the protection and insulation of the professoriate from any and all change. They assume that unions are merely for higher wages and shorter hours. George Bernard Shaw, they would point out, observed that “Trade Unionism is not Socialism. It is the Capitalism of the Proletariat.” I prefer to stress with David Lilenthal that “enlightened self-interest is often astonishingly altruistic.” To understand how the apparent contradictions may and must be molded, it is crucial to remember that a union classically concerns itself with wages, hours and working conditions. For faculty, working conditions are not and cannot be merely office space and research facilities. For faculty their working conditions and the products of their labor—a liberally educated student body—are explicable.

APSCUF Pic from BOG picketFaculty unionists, in their fight against an alienated working life and experience for themselves are simultaneously fighting for a quality educational experience for their students. The student/faculty ratio is more than a question of workload. It is at question of the interpersonal relationship between instructor and pupil. It mines the quality of the teaching/learning experience. Even the narrow traditional trade union concerns must be approached by a faculty union in an unconventional way. To overcome the unfair wages unions have—from the priesthood through the medieval guilds to the American Medical Association—attempted to counter the iron law of wages through the control of the supply of filled labor. But the closed shop that has worked for seers, bricklayers and the Bar association is insecure for professors who proliferate cheap labor replacements for their jobs merely by practicing their profession. Because teaching and hiring are such inextricable activities to the learning imparted by the teacher.

Because Malthusian prospect of professional over-population is so bleak, faculty unions will inevitably do what other unions have done to expand market for their wares. How? Through support of low-wage, non-union contract education, adult education, community based learning and education. Given the presumption of the fiscal crisis of the state, how are these expanded opportunities to be paid for and by whom? If we reject the notion that students must bear the burden through tuition, then it must be the larger society. But a society skeptical of the value of education will not be eager to adopt additional burdens regardless of the quality of the services we proffer. This problem is compounded by the fact that our natural political supporters, the working class clientele served by the public colleges, are themselves already overburdened by an inequitable tax structure. So faculty unions will of necessity confront two issues: the inequities of the present tax structure and, closely related thereto, the need to shift a greater share of the cost of education to the federal budget. Since the defense establishment claims such a large and increasing slice of the federal budget, this competition for federal funds will inevitably lead to a confrontation with the military industrial complex thus freeing faculty unionists to address the major issues of our society.

How realistic is my assessment—call it dream if you prefer—of the ability of faculty unionists to make the defense of public higher education that it’s a major goal? I have said that I am at best cautiously optimistic but there are in fact grounds for this qualified optimism. Let me review a few experiences that suggest a course for the future and then suggest why these beginnings which may presently be exceptional must become universal. APSCUF, The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties is the union that represents the faculties at the public colleges in Pennsylvania fourteen campuses spread across the state. With a bargaining approximately 4500 we have over 3700 voluntary dues paying members. In the area of wages and hours and, most important, working conditions, we have:

  1. Increased wages and benefits. This has enabled the public colleges of Pennsylvania to attract and retain quality instructors. Perhaps equally ir~-,o~ it has improved the image and the self-image of the colleges. It is an unfortunate fact which we recognize and deal with that in our society price is still the producer of value. Because we are expensive we ought to be good. Because we are expensive we had better be good. At the same time that we have bargained for increased wages and benefits we have lobbied effectively for budget increases compensation with the increased costs.

Bargained for contractual restraints on increased work loads-credit hours, contract hours, independent study, preparations, etc. to protect the quality of the colleges as well as the quality of the lives of the faculty.

Improved working conditions not at the expense of, but to the benefit of the institutions. For instance,

  1. Colleges that were chronically subject to censure because of the decision of academic freedom now provide, by contract, the best of due process protection. Students during their life on campus thus see a model of civil liberties for the larger society.

Retrenchment has been effectively resisted and in our current faculty have job security against adverse economic circumstances at 1978. In the process the program options of students have been having

The faculty, through their union, now enjoy equal status with the academic management and the state government in planning for the furore orderly evolution of the college curricula in response to social needs but without the hysteria of resentment. Through a jointly administered half million dollar Educational Services Trust Fund, created through collective bargaining, faculty are provided opportunities for professional development and re-training so that effectiveness in preserved along with their jobs.

A system of individualized self-evaluation with input from students and administrators but administered through peer committees has been developed. It is not punitive but improvement-oriented and creates, permits for the first time. an open, honest and effective vehicle for peer review.

This year—again as the result of collective bargaining—35 of our faculty won Distinguished Teaching and Service Award of up to $6,000 as public recognition of and stimulus to excellence in our academic and service activities.

The single most important thing that APSCUF has done to protect and enhance public higher education in Pennsylvania has been simply to serve as a model and inspiration for the development of an independent student union—the Commonwealth Association of Students. This has been both the result of and reinforced by the faculty union’s move from the cloister of academe to full involvement in the political arena. Our major political thrust was for adequate funding without a tuition increase. Since politics in our society depends on dollars and people—and since we were able to generate more political dollars ($25,000 from our 3700 members in our first effort) than voters, the political alliance with students was enhanced. This alliance has not limited itself to votes or budgets but inevitably comes to grips with questions of the quality of education. The inherent differences between professors and students in the classroom are offset by the fact that they are peers at the polling place. By virtue of this equal relationship there is a transcendent impact on their lives on the campus.

Can we overcome—even with the most enlightened of faculty union leadership—the forces intent on retrenching liberal public higher education in America? I am not certain that we will win. But l am certain that if we lose the Bicentennial celebration will be the dirge of the American dream.

Can faculty unionists do it by themselves? Or even in alliance with students? Obviously not. I have already suggested that the fight for public higher education must be seen in the context of the struggle for public education in general, of public services for society, and, ultimately, of the continuing struggle to establish a truly just and egalitarian society.

Clearly the is not today, a united movement of college professors. The minority organized for collective bargaining is fragmented between AAUP, AFT, NEA and no affiliation. The mass of unorganized faculties serve only to distract and impede the defense of higher education.

We will ultimately overcome it because we must. Not only because we cannot survive as individuals or as institutions without a reordering of social priorities but because what the world needs now is us—what we have to offer, what we stand for. Not only education but civilization itself is doomed in any society where it is possible to imagine that there is such a thing as over-education.

The same educational system which flooded the market with an excess of people competing for the acquisitive life and exposed the pyramidal structure of our hierarchial society, must now propose alternatives, most reaffirm its goal of extricating the laboring class from slavery of the assembly line and the mindlessness of automation and re-establish the systematic exploration of our existence.

Source: Sixth Floor Finds: West Chester University Archives & Special Collections Blog

If public higher education is to survive, the faculty union must address itself to the broken dreams of the working class. It must show that education is something more than just job training and that alternatives do exist to our pyramid of affluence. The connection between education and career is no longer linear or plausible. Questions of persons over-qualified for their jobs and qualified people without jobs are not questions of education’s broken promises but of governmental and economic priorities. Full employment should not be the Utopian goal of a group of idealistic college professors, but rather the reality of a technologically advanced and mature society as envisioned and endorsed by a politically active group of college professors—the faculty union.

Let me sum up what I have said thus far. I believe the fiscal crisis that confronts us is the result of our failure to realize the full potential of our society. To succumb to the easy arguments of those who point to financial austerity as a solution would be an abdication of the fundamental commitment of the public educator to a liberal, progressive education readily accessible to all strata of the society.

The appropriate response to the so-called fiscal crisis is a calculated effort to reawaken in our society a Colonial Structure of our society and the consequent attempt to restrict access to a liberal education. The faculty union, I believe, is the best available instrument for accomplishing this task. Through the faculty union the people capable of solving these problems can be politicized. The faculty union can be the instrument that brings the power and competence of the faculty to bear upon the problems of the effective management of available resources.

Critics of trade unions express concern that unions tend to restrict their goals to economic matters. Through faculty control of higher education, the faculty can make collective bargaining a force for significant change and progress in higher education. In so doing we may well point the way to the use of collective bargaining as a more creative force for workers generally since we may reasonably expect fully half the population, as students, to learn and benefit from the successful operation of the faculty union. Faculty unions can be the vanguard for a new post-industrial model of collective bargaining.

It is fortunate that we have reached this crisis at the time when society has become conscious that continuing to rape the earth of its resources and pollute the environment with materialistic production and consumption is impermissible. Environmentalists—and soon that must mean all of us if we are to survive—are increasingly conscious that rewards to labor will take new forms as technological productivity continues to rise. Labor will have to demand its rewards in shorter hours and the uses to which labor’s leisure will be put will increasingly take the form of personal growth, cultural enrichment and intellectual outreach. Only in a world where all are philosophers will philosophers find their ultimate fulfillment—and employment.

Perhaps this is all a dream. If so, it is not a dream which will be deferred. It will not dry up like a raisin in the sun. Nor will it fester and stink. It will explode.

Part I | Part II | Part III

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