I’ve been writing about queen sacrifices* for a while now, usually in response to the announcement or implementation of one. This week gives me the chance to examine a different approach to that strategy, as one academic governing body attempts to arrange campus institutions to be more amenable to such a sacrifice. Consider it preparing the academic battlespace.
The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education (Wikipedia) is responsible for the Connecticut State University system, and has just issued opening positions for a union contract negotiation.
From Inside Higher Ed and excellent reporting by Colleen Flaherty, we start with a series of proposals to cut back faculty autonomy and increase administrative power over instructors. The central, multi-campus administration can fire tenured profs more easily, and also move them to other campuses in the system:
tenured faculty members may be moved to another regional university without their consent, without the guarantee of tenure there. Tenured faculty members could be terminated, not just in cases of financial exigency, as is now the case, but if the administration “believes economic or programmatic conditions exist” for retrenchment. And tenured faculty members also could be fired without the chance to appeal for breaking any local, state or national law, ethical standard or policy statement…
Moreover, “faculty members would have to be ‘professional’ and ‘collegial,’” i.e.,, more easily disciplined. ** Additionally, a significant union-managed faculty grant program would end, making professors more dependent on the administration.
The number of people eligible to actually be full-time faculty would drop. Instructors are somewhat more likely to be adjuncts, as “the allowed percentage of part-time faculty members would jump from 20 percent to 25 percent”. Beyond the faculty, “[n]ewly hired librarians and counselors would no longer be eligible for tenure.” Among other things, this shrinks the protective work shield tenure offers, growing the number of more easily fired and reassigned people on campus.
One local AAUP rep describes the proposals as “like an attack on faculty”.
What can we learn from this?
To begin with, if the Regents win even some of these proposals they’ve increased their ability to conduct queen sacrifices. Each CSU campus (there are four) administration would also have such increased power. If they want (or seem themselves as needing) to cut faculty and reduce departments, this is a useful way to proceed.
This story also reminds us that the Democratic party has not been a reliable friend to education for some years. Note that Connecticut is a very blue state. Its governor is a Democrat. The state legislature’s two houses each have solidly Democratic majorities. Its two United States senators are Democrats, as are all of its House Representatives. John Pelto compares the Regents’ moves to those of Republicans like Scott Walker and Bruce Rauner (cf my two posts earlier this year), but it’s been clear for at least a decade that Democrats are fully capable of playing the anti-education card.
Pelto also notes this related development:
[state governor] Malloy’s political appointees on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees have authorized a contract with an extremely controversial, high profile, anti-union, Governor Chris Christie affiliated New Jersey law firm to lead the negotiations against the UConn Chapter of the AAUP.
Partisan political thinking is not a very useful tool when it comes to today’s higher education policies, as I keep reminding people.
One caveat: obviously these are opening positions, designed to be negotiated down. Parties on both sides of a table tend to open bargaining by taking a more extreme stance in order to dicker down to something closer to what they want. Yet these Board’s demands seem programmatic, and tied in to the broader queen sacrifices we’ve been tracking.
As the local AAUP notes,
It is to be expected in such negotiations that the two sides will have very different starting points, but the BOR proposals contain truly drastic alterations to our work conditions. Understand that these are starting points intended to be negotiated; nevertheless, you may find the BOR proposals alarming.
*A queen sacrifice is when a campus administration fires tenure-track and tenured faculty while reducing some academic offerings. I picked this metaphor because it reminds the reader just how central the academic mission is supposed to be for postsecondary education. For more info, check these posts.
**Faculty advocates generally say that they oppose collegiality requirements not because they are against being collegial but because such rules can be used to punish those who hold unpopular views or criticize administrators.