Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Inclusion by Exclusion? 

How can I rationalize the irrational? How can I justify indiscriminate discrimination? Is my advocacy of inclusion by exclusion no different from addition by subtraction? What does that mean? Help me, please! My head hurts.

You see, this evening I�m imagining that I serve as an elected Faculty Association (FA) senator at St. Cloud State University; and today I�ve been challenged by a colleague in our Herberger College of Business to consider the merits of a long-standing policy. That policy specifically excludes �fair-share� members of the Inter-Faculty Association from serving on university-wide (or even intra-collegiate) committees that deal with a wide range of governance issues - from curriculum development, to pedagogical improvement, to research grants, to deans� searches.

But today I read a posting to the SCSU-discuss list that was written by a PhD-ed professor of Management who has a wealth of business experience and academic expertise in the field of Labor Relations. That scholar writes:

The current SCSU FA (faculty association) policy is seriously mistaken and should be replaced with an appropriate policy such as:

�Full IFO membership is required for election or appointment to any FA position involving the representation of the faculty bargaining unit for the terms and conditions of employment. Union membership is not required for any other elected or appointed faculty governance, service, or professional position. Full IFO membership is required only to vote in any election for a position that must be filled by a full IFO member.�

1) The FA is not a union. It is basically a standing committee of the IFO. Every university has its equivalent of an FA and senate whether unionized or not. Such bodies are necessary for university governance. Faculty rights in university governance were well established long before university faculty ever unionized.

2) The IFO was right to fight for faculty control of governance processes that properly belong to faculty because of their professional qualifications. It is doubtful that the IFO could have won had it fought to limit participation in university governance and professional issues to [�full-share�] union members.

3) Instead of advocating for and supporting university faculty rights and prerogatives, the FA has chosen to support the interests of [�full-share�] union members at the expense of non-union [�fair-share�] members and the institution and faculty as a whole.

4) Few university governance processes concern union issues (i.e., the terms and conditions of employment). Rather, governance processes concern professional issues, academic issues, management issues, and a host of other issues which university faculty are uniquely qualified to administer because of their professional qualifications.

5) Under the FA policy, [�full-share�] union members who lack appropriate professional qualifications would be permitted to participate in governance whereas non-union [�fair-share�] members with appropriate qualification would not. The FA has no policy or process for ensuring that union members have appropriate professional qualifications before they are appointed or elected to positions in which they engage in university governance. Hence, the FA policy has simply replaced professional qualifications with another qualification, namely [�full-share�] union membership.

6) It is interesting that the FA policy of excluding non-union [�fair-share�] members from governance involvement was adopted using a process that did not include participation from non-union [�fair-share�] members. Indeed, it is still being discussed as though it is a labor relations issue rather than a university governance issue. This reveals that the FA policy represents little more than a power grab by [�full-share�] union members seeking to concentrate their influence by eliminating the influence of non-union [�fair-share�] members. If SCSU had real university governance, then the issue would be decided by qualified faculty, not by unionists.

7) This substitution of [�full�] union membership for professional qualifications undermines the status of university faculty and may explain why many professional faculty will not join the union. They wish to maintain their professional status. Their objection [may be] to the subordination of professionalism to labor relations. The union is supposed to fight for faculty rights to engage university governance issues, not to take over university governance issues and attempt to turn them into labor relations issues.

8) The FA policy simply reduces the resources available for university governance work and thereby shifts work from non-union members to union members. Under the policy all that one must do to reduce his or her workload is to refuse to join the union. Then one is not permitted to engage in one of the most important of the service components of faculty jobs regardless of one's qualifications, and as a bonus one saves money. It is difficult to see how this advances the interests of faculty or the institution.

9) The ironic element is that such a strategy cannot work. Non-union [�fair-share�] members still have the right to advise the administration and, under the current system, and [�full-share�] union members may never even know about this advice. In a university, administrators must consider qualified professional input. Hence, all that the FA policy has done is create an underground processes by which non-union [�fair-share�] members participate in university governance, but do so without the workload burdens of [�full-share�] union members.

Yikes, how can I respond to such logic? Can I find rational rationale for continuing to defend our current union policy; and if not, how can I rationalize my stance? I could say things like, �we and other campuses in Minnesota have always been inclusively exclusive�. . . or is the phrase I meant to say, �exclusively inclusive�? Hmm. Either way, that�s not a very strong argument, is it?

Well, I could argue that there�s not a great difference in the annual dues between those paid by a �full-share� member and those assessed against a �fair-share� member: $652.50 vs.$554.50. That $98 difference isn�t much of a hardship, really, for those who seek to serve on our committees. Or is it? I know that there�s a small bunch among those so-called �SCSU-Scholars� who say that they refuse �on principle� to become �full-share� members because our IFO union negotiators will not negotiate in favor of the concept of merit or excellence of performance being included in our contracts. But forget them. Since some of their political positions are apparently more philosophically aligned with individualistic exclusivity, they must not be collectively inclusive enough to join our exclusively inclusive committees. Oh, but is it really "fair" to exclude "fair-share" members because their viewpoints might be different? I thought we were supposed to value and embrace all kinds of diversity on our campus. Hmm.

Well, let me try another line of thinking. If we senators on the FA allowed �fair-share� members to serve on our committees, then some might argue that the $98 difference would amount to an illegal poll tax levied against those who choose to vote in our elections. No, wait, that wouldn�t make sense as an argument, since only about a third of our faculty voted for our current president, even though almost 80% were eligible to vote as �full-share� members.

Aha, now I�ve got the argument. Let�s rely on the phrase, �terms and conditions of employment� to retain our policy of exclusive inclusivity. After all, almost every committee touches on some facet of our �conditions� of employment, doesn�t it? Oh, damn, I�m wrong again. Another SCSU-scholar just pointed out on our discuss-list that Minnesota Statutes 179A. 03, Subd. 19 defines �terms and conditions of employment� as �the hours of employment, the compensation therefore including fringe benefits except retirement contributions or benefits other than employer payment of, or contributions to, premiums for group insurance coverage of retired employees or severance pay, and the employer's personnel policies affecting the working conditions of the employees.� And only a couple of our more than 30 university committees on campus deal with compensation and employee benefits. Oh, heck with it, I still feel like excluding that annoying �fair-share-scholar� Dave, even his primary area of expertise is employee benefits. He�s just not inclusive enough for my tastes, so I feel like excluding him.

Let's face it, we senators just haven't been challenged to find in either our state's statutes or in judicial rulings precisely where "full-share" members are allowed to exclude "fair-share" members from committees. We've only just interpreted the law to meet our own needs for power and control.

Well then, maybe I should propose my own new policy. To determine if �fair-share� members are inclusive enough to join any of our exclusive committees, let them first serve a year of penance on one of our most prestigious and exclusively inclusive committees. :


There, now how�s that for being exclusively inclusive? Or was it inclusively exclusive? Or am I still indiscriminately discriminating? Oh, but my head still hurts. Please help by offering your comments.