Monday, January 24, 2011

Faculty Town Hall Meeting: Jan 25th --what will we hear?

There is supposed to be a Faculty Town Hall meeting with the President on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 on the Fourth Floor of the New Academic Library at 12:30 p.m.

Things I would like to hear, but don't really expect to:

1. that the CEO and CIO have relented and will put an effort into making and maintaining more "smart" classrooms--last Trustees meeting the CIO targeted faculty neglect for the theft and loss of resources and the reason the university is no longer equipping classrooms.

2. the CEO will be spending more time raising money with all his Springfield connections than micromanaging department chair appointments (or the configuration of classroom labs)

3. that an organizational chart for the university is forthcoming (but it must be difficult with a continuous turnover in the Cook Building, SUB, Library etc etc).

4. that directives (or fiats as they're called in the Bible) from on-high come out in writing rather than from an untraceable source

5. that the quaint academic custom of UNIVERSITY-WIDE SEARCHES be reinstituted for ALL interim positions hired since July 2009: e.g. Deans and above --since this is a state regulation (at UIC human resources says they are bound by Federal regulations for conducting searches for Deans and above since they receive so much federal funding--they don't want to be found wanting during THEIR audit process).

6. that senior administrative university positions will be given to people with university experience

7. that the university will adhere to the Board of Trustees'guidelines that Academic Affairs originate with the academic experts (uh, that would mean the faculty, not the administration)

8. that the university will retain the old mission of CSU until it has actually been accomplished...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Putting the assault on faculty in context

Today's (Jan. 4) New York Times has an article about the plans by state legislators to curb the rights of state workers ( Illinois is among the states prepared essentially to eliminate teachers' right to strike; Illinois legislation would also tie pay to measures of student performance.

First a little background. Currently only about 12% of U.S. workers are in unions; in private industry unionization is about 7%. So public employees are unionized at a rate at least double that of employees of private firms. Unionization has been as high as 23% but over the past thirty years unions have been decimated in auto, steel, aerospace and other basic industries while jobs are outsourced to non-union plants. Where possible bosses ship jobs overseas, exporting either the physical plant or just the job itself (airline reservations, computer help-desk, etc.). In auto the parts plants have become increasingly non-union shops (with complicity of UAW leadership).

Racial injustice has been transformed. Race used to work directly through judgment about physical appearance, and it still does. But in "post-racial" America the state is central to the new racism. It takes at least three major forms.
1. Clinton's "welfare reform" forces people on aid to work for their checks at sub-minimum wages, eliminating higher paid workers.
2. Changes in immigration laws drastically cut the number who may legally enter the U.S. from Mexico and elsewhere; at the same time internationally-imposed restructuring of the Mexican economy (by IMF, the World Bank, and the U.S.) impoverishes Mexican workers while U.S. dumping of cheap grain in Mexico makes it impossible for many small farmers there to continue farming. So traditional migration of Mexican workers to the U.S. expands, but now they are classified as "illegal," becoming workers without rights.
3. The War on Drugs spearheads a 400% increase in the rate of incarceration in the U.S. since the early 1970s. This has the consequence that over ten million people are either in prison or jail, on probation or parole, or enter the labor market as convicted felons (I can't get the exact number, but all the categories but the last are seven million, and there are many whose probation or parole has ended). Nearly half of this group is black (two-thirds are either black or latino); black people are incarcerated at a rate six to seven times the rate for white people.

So we have folks on workfare, twelve million undocumented immigrants, and over ten million under the control of or stigmatized by the criminal justice system. These are workers without rights or with very limited rights. Racial injustice has been transformed, now working largely through the actions of the state. Workers without rights have been used to break strikes and weaken other workers. An attack on one workers leads to attacks on all of us.

Now the assault on labor--which has initially targeted the most vulnerable--is reaching to public employees in transportation, health care, and education. We are next in their sights. They are targeting not only the right to strike and our pay; they also target pensions.

Two points: When we ignore the injustices done to those more vulnerable than us, we set ourselves up for attacks later; racism is the leading edge of an attack on all of us. We need to fight these attacks and link them to the attacks on workers even more vulnerable than ourselves.