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Posts Tagged ‘labor conference’

As APSCUF enters into a contract negotiation year, this report recently issued from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) should be mandatory reading.  The report discusses the all-but-collapse of the tenure system, the out-of-control rise in contingent faculty, and ways to stabilize higher education.  APSCUF’s contract makes the report–specifically Article 11 Sec. G and H, which address the conversion of temporary faculty or temporary faculty lines.  [Thanks to Bob Derstine for sending this link my way.]

To see more on Article 11 Sec. G. and H. check out an interview I did for Academe Online.

Interview by Marc Bousquet with Kevin Mahoney

I did that interview with Marc following last year’s APSCUF/PSEA Conference on Labor in Higher Education.  That gives me an opportunity to plug (once again) the rapidly approaching 2nd Annual APSCUF/PSEA Conference on Labor in Higher Education.  And for you observant observers out there…you are correct.  Both of your XChange writers…Amy Lynch-Biniek and Kevin Mahoney are in the picture to the left.  It was taken during Marc Bousquet’s Key note address at last year’s conference.

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As most XChange readers already know, this past spring I was elected as the next APSCUF-KU Vice President.  My term officially began on June 1st and I’ve spent a good portion of June working on the transition.  Over the course of this next year, I hope share some of my thoughts with you regarding what I think about the direction of our local, the importance of membership mobilization, and thoughts on the “health” of our local.  I also hope you will share your comments, suggestions, critiques as well.  However, given that my primary purpose in starting the XChange was to facilitate critical member-to-member discussion and to provide a venue for “unofficial” communication (that is, what’s posted here does not seek approval from local or State APSCUF or any other body), I will do my best to not turn this blog into a “voice of the local.”  Once again, what I post here reflects my position on issues.  While I would be a fool to believe that my perspective will not be influenced by my new role as APSCUF-KU Vice President, I will do my best to be conscious of that influence (and I hope all of you will assist me in that capacity).

Today our APSCUF-KU Executive Committee will meet to continue planning our strategies concerning retrenchment as well as mobilization for this contract negotiations year.  We decided to include members of the out-going Exec as well as newly elected members, some of whose terms do not begin until September.  I think it goes without saying that it is important to formally include as many people in leadership decisions of a union local as possible.  I also recognize that this is one of the greatest challenges any local faces–to keep members actively engaged in their union’s governance.

One of my hobby-horses this year will be to press this issue of member activism and participation in governance.  And, for that matter, to expand our local’s conscious understanding of leadership.  Over the past eight years of my involvement in APSCUF-KU, there are two issues that have continually frustrated me.  The first is that members–including members of APSCUF-KU Exec and Representative Council–think of our local leadership as  the APSCUF-KU President (and sometimes the Vice President).  While the president clearly has an important leadership role, the entire Executive Committee and the entire Representative Council constitute the local leadership.  In my mind, it is critical that these leadership bodies actively assume their leadership roles and not wait to be told what to do or serve simply to affirm or criticize the actions of the president.

The second issue has to do with the dominant patterns of communication among members and between members and the local leadership.  I have been in countless meetings (both union meetings and academic meetings) at which participants are skillful in raising issues, critiques, problems, or injustices.  However, many times those critiques just hang in the air waiting for someone else to do something about them.  Depending on the context, that “someone else” might be “the administration,” the “union leadership,” the “department Chair,” or just “someone else.”   I want to be careful as to not overstate my case, but I’ve found this dynamic especially frustrating at KU.

While the tendency to criticize an issue and wait for “someone else” to take up the labor is certainly not limited to Kutztown University, I have always been part of groups at other institutions who had a kind of DIY ethic.  That is, I’ve generally been surrounded by people who, when faced with a problem, tended to immediately begin to generate creative solutions without waiting to be given permission.  In those contexts, we always felt a sense of ownership of the issue–and a kind of core belief that “if you want to get something done, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

In the spring of 2009, I was in San Francisco for the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication.  Thanks to facebook and one of my old college friends, Andrew McFarland, I got together with a few of my punk rock friends from back in my Syracuse days who had migrated West over the years.  Andrew’s efforts to arrange a kind of reunion, also lead to several virtual conversations with old Syracuse friends over facebook and email.  What became so clear in those conversations was that every single one of us still carried that ethic–the punk DIY ethic through our lives.  We pursued vastly different “career paths,” but each of those people–each of us–still echoed the same kind of DIY spirit that we brought to the Syracuse scene in the late 80s and 90s.

What’s amazing about that DIY ethic is that it is hopeful–a basic belief in the creative labor of self-organizing groups–affinity groups, if you will.  While our frustrations were deep, we tended to gravitate toward possibilities–whether those possibilities included putting on shows, carrying out “guerrilla art” campaigns, building shanty towns on university campuses, occupying administration buildings, living collectively, or starting our own independent zines and newspapers.  And we did these things.  They weren’t just ideas.  We created and built and produced.

I don’t mean to turn this post into a nostalgic trip.  That’s not the point.  And, frankly, I’ve been part of groups of people like this since I was in high school.  I was part of groups like this in grad school in Southwest Ohio and during my three years working as an adjunct in Washington, DC.  Kutztown is the first place that I’ve been where I struggle to find this kind of community.  The odd thing about that for me is that we are unionized.  We have a democratic structure within which to fashion our working lives.

Over the next two years, I am going to devote myself to preaching (so to speak) this DIY ethic in hopes that as a union, we as members take up our “leadership” roles–given to us not by the outcomes of a vote, but by the fact of our membership.  On occasion, I return to the song “Direct Action” by Utah Phillipsn and Ani Difranco  for a reminder of the DIY ethic.  In it, he recounts the Spokane Free Speech Fight in 1910.  At one point he quotes Joseph Campbell on free speech:

“The state can’t give you free speech, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears…freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.”

In my mind, the same principle applies to political organization.  That includes union organization.

I hope we can activate some of this ethic locally and at state-wide.

As usual, I am running out of time to write…I’ve got to get my materials together for Directed Self-Placement.  Today, I have the bonus of welcoming Amy Lynch-Biniek aboard for the ride.  She’s currently the director of KU’s University Writing Center and a true leader in our Composition program.  Welcome!

Talk to y’all soon!

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As many readers of this blog know, earlier this semester APSCUF and PSEA held a joint conference on labor in higher education in Harrisburg, PA.  If you want a little flavor of some of what some key figures at the conference said, check out this edition of Behind the Headlines, a TV show sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy.

Behind the Headlines, November 16 and 23, 2009.

In this video you will hear from current APSCUF president, Steve Hicks; current APSCUF vice president, Amy Walters; Howard Bunsis, Eastern Michigan University, AAUP; and Marc Bousquet, author of How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (Cultural Front).


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Some recent discussions regarding the current economic “crisis” and the budget implications for PaSSHE universities have revolved around a presentation that Howard Bunsis made at the recent APSCUF/PSEA conference on Labor in Higher Education.  I thought it would be important to include a link to the presentation here for the purposes of information and discussion.  The link below will take you to his slide show.

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APSCUF-KU held a joint Conference on Labor in Higher Education in Harrisburg on October 15-17th.  Here’s some stuff that came out of the conference:

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