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Posts Tagged ‘seth kahn’

If you check out the side bar on the right side of this blog, you’ll see I have a feed for posts from the blog, “Here Comes Trouble,” written by Seth Kahn of West Chester.  A couple of weeks ago he wrote a post titled, “Who Does that Help” which began like this:

At last weekend’s APSCUF Legislative Assembly, delegates were treated to a Q&A session from our recently hired Chief Negotiator Stewart (or Stuart?) Davidson.  I won’t talk here about the specifics of what he said, except to say that he was impressive.

A comment he made about how he approaches negotiations (something to the effect of always reminding the other side that we do, in fact, have a shared mission) got me thinking (long chain of associations, the underlying rationale behind it between me and God) about one way we (all of us APSCUF members) ought to be responding to just about every management “initiative” or “challenge” we face these days.

What happens if we insist on asking one simple question: Who does this help?

Earlier today, Seth posted “Who Does that Help? (redux),” which extends the logic of asking “who does that help” to the current protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and others.  I think it’s worth reading his post in its entirety, so here it is:

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post contending that our faculty union ask the question, “Who does that help?” in response to every management initiative that seems to benefit nobody in any clear way.  The point is to remind management that beyond the spreadsheets, formulae, and policies are actual human lives that count for something–including their own!

The events in Wisconsin, that is, the proposal that state employees lose collective bargaining rights so that the Governor can balance the budget (a claim that’s nonsense on its face), invite the same question.

If public employees in Wisconsin give up their right to bargain anything other than salary, who does that help?  It helps the insurance companies that can change fees and coverages willy-nilly because they’re not negotiable anymore; it benefits school system managers who can make and enforce absurd curricular and other working conditions demands; it benefits employees NOT AT ALL.  And neither does it solve a single penny of the budget “crisis.”

If the public employees accept the requirement that they have recertify their unions every year, who does that help?  It helps opponents of unions who get much more frequent opportunities to intervene in organizing efforts.  While some people might contend, “Well, that’s just democracy,” the fact that unions all have had certification elections in the first place (and could vote to decertify any time they wanted) makes that claim ancillary if not dishonest.  That is, for those of you who like to shout “Elections have consequences,” yes, they do!

If public employees agree that non-union-members don’t have to pay fair share, who does that help?  It helps the employees who then ditch their union membership but still benefit from the work the unions do–unless the unions then decide not to represent those workers.  The reptilian part of my brain is OK with the idea that people could bail on their union memberships–if they then chose to negotiate their own salaries and benefits; if they never filed any grievances; if they never accepted any of the workplace protections the unions won for them; and so on.  No, I wouldn’t really want to see that.

The short version is this: Governor Walker’s proposal helps the public-sector workers of Wisconsin NOT AT ALL.  It helps the working people of Wisconsin NOT AT ALL.  It helps wealthy private interests who want to bust unions.  It helps one political party that hates unions.  That is, it concedes huge amounts of political power to people whose ethics are already so questionable that to give them even more power is, at best, utterly and completely foolhardy.

And who does THAT help?

 

 

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Readers of the XChange: If you haven’t checked out Seth Kahn’s blog Here Comes Trouble, now is the time to do so.  In his most recent post, “Who does that help?,” he writes:

At last weekend’s APSCUF Legislative Assembly, delegates were treated to a Q&A session from our recently hired Chief Negotiator Stewart (or Stuart?) Davidson.  I won’t talk here about the specifics of what he said, except to say that he was impressive.

A comment he made about how he approaches negotiations (something to the effect of always reminding the other side that we do, in fact, have a shared mission) got me thinking (long chain of associations, the underlying rationale behind it between me and God) about one way we (all of us APSCUF members) ought to be responding to just about every management “initiative” or “challenge” we face these days.

What happens if we insist on asking one simple question: Who does this help?

Notice I’m not asking “What’s the benefit?”  I’m emphasizing “Who” because our management, even the saner, more humane ones, seem to need an occasional reminder that at the end of the day, our system is made up of actual people.

I’ve got a lot to say about what he’s proposing, but since I’m concluding my day and packing my bags for the hour-long commute home, I’ll just say this for now: you’re dead on Seth.

Seth briefly ran this idea by me at Legislative Assembly last weekend, but to be honest, the full beauty of this simple move — to ask that question, “who does this help? — can have a profound affect upon how we approach our administration as they seek to slash more programs.

Thanks Seth…more soon!

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At this past weekend’s APSCUF Legislative Assembly, Seth Kahn of West Chester introduced the following motion:

WHEREAS, Senator Tom Harkin has introduced the Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010, which would provide $23 billion of federal funding in order to keep both K-12 and public higher education budgets level through at least another year;

THEREFORE be it resolved that:

  1. APSCUF strongly supports the passage of this legislation and its companion in the House of Representatives.
  2. APSCUF will indicate that support in letters to Senator Harkin, thanking him for introducing the legislation, and to Pennsylvania Senators Casey and Specter calling for their co-sponsorship, or at least their votes.
  3. APSCUF’s Mobilization Committee will organize the membership statewide to make individual phone calls and write letters to Senators Casey and Specter in support of the legislation.

This is a very important piece of legislation that I think we all need to get behind.  I know that many of you may not be familiar with the details of Harkin’s bill, so here is a link to an Inside Higher Ed article:

“Moving the Cliff,” April 15, 2010

And here is a link to the actual text of the legislation:

Keep Educators Working Act of 2010

Given the way that “budget crises” are directly affecting our working conditions and the state of higher education across the nation, I can think of no better bill to support.

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While I would be the last one to say that blogging is the same thing as organizing and activism, I do think it’s been incredibly valuable.  As you may know, this blog is networked into several other sites…so what gets posted here gets circulated well beyond this site.  I’ve gotten personal emails from other APSCUF members around the state (I’ve encouraged them to post comments to this blog so everyone can benefit from their voices of solidarity).

Today, APSCUF President Steve Hicks sent a letter to all Kutztown University faculty expressing the full commitment of our State union as well as his own personal commitment to our efforts in pushing back a potentially damaging retrenchment.  I’ve been back and forth a bit with Steve over the past couple of days and I know, as I write this, he has people at State APSCUF working on a point-by-point response to Cevallos’s recent email to faculty.

I also thought you’d like to see the following blog post from an APSCUF member at West Chester University:

Retrenchment at KU

MARCH 11, 2010
by sethkahn

If you haven’t already heard, retrenchment proceedings have begun at Kutztown University.  At an emergency local Meet and Discuss on Monday, KU management indicated that they intend to cut several programs that are underperforming (the list they provided is partial, and they won’t say which others are targeted), and that they intend to reduce the faculty complement (they won’t say by how much).

This news is troubling on several fronts.  First and most obviously, any move that reduces the size of the faculty is bad, especially as enrollments continue to increase.  There’s no way, under the circumstances, for class sizes not to grow and hence lead to all the negative impacts that come with it: reduced attention to individual students; reduced attention to other duties like advising, service, and scholarship; pedagogical and curricular shifts that don’t benefit anybody.

Second, of all the campuses in the PASSHE system, KU is the least likely candidate for retrenchment.  Their student body has grown, in proportion, much more quickly than any of the others.  Programs continue to achieve remarkable successes.

Third, beginning system-wide retrenchment proceedings with such a not-obvious target bodes very poorly for the rest of the system.  As I commented on the KUXchange blog, I can only believe that this move is more political than economic, and more economic than educational.  PASSHE has lobbed a hand-grenade into the middle of an already-difficult situation (dealing with economic problems state- and system-wide).  Based on their stances at both local-KU and statewide Meet and Discuss meetings, they seem disinclined to share the requisite data, to be clear about what their plans are, and to recognize the reality of what they’re doing.

Faculty aren’t just paychecks and FTE’s.  We’re people; most of us have committed huge chunks of our lives, time, energy, money, and more to being the best faculty we can be–to doing right by our students and our schools, to protecting an environment in which learning and teaching can happen at their best.  Retrenchment, even if really necessary, is an incredibly painful process.  To use it as a political tool; to deflect attention from management’s mistakes by blaming the economic problems of the system on those of us with the least power to have made the mistakes, much less correct them; to pit faculty against faculty in turf battles over which programs and jobs stay alive…  There’s no word bad enough to describe how inhumane that is.

We’re certainly not alone in this.  And, if PASSHE begins to look at other campuses for retrenchment, the time may come for us to return the favor.

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