Thursday, August 18, 2005

The road to mediocrity 

Reader jw points out that the new round of contract negotiations between MnSCU and IFO have brought out some tendencies of our union to engage in class warfare. From the IFO's latest newsletter, we find president Nancy Black fighting performance pay:
We have had an exchange of proposals on language items already, and it appears this will be a very tough round of negotiations. MnSCU is proposing to eliminate the early separation incentive in the contract, to make the career steps subject to employer review, and to move toward performance pay. And of course, we have to fight these proposals. We are pushing for more competitive salaries and reduced workloads. A union is only as strong as the support and commitment of its members; we need to stick together through this round of negotiations and not allow one group of faculty members to be pitted against another.
Yes "of course": We couldn't possibly have people be rewarded for being more productive than others on campus, because that would be pitting one group against another. Instead we want higher salaries and less work. That's imaginative leadership there, folks.

MnSCU is proposing as well to have faculty teaching loads taught over 12 months rather than nine. This is considered by them a means to alleviate workload issues during the school year. But the union would hear nothing of it. I for one see nothing wrong with faculty shifting some of their load to summer if they and the university chose to do so. That would, however, show plainly that the union isn't interested in redistributing the work faculty do but rather reducing teaching loads while maintaining the sanctity of the summer.

Of course, MnSCU has only itself to blame by insisting on this language of a 168 day contract. That tells faculty they don't work the other 197 days. Most universities define the contract in months (typically 9 or 12) which provides much more flexibility. 168 is the number of days we're expected to be on campus, which almost exactly matches the number of teaching days (there are some days for "grading" and a week of convocation activities.) The signal MnSCU gives is that all we do is teach. Their proposal, in this way, makes sense.

Both sides, therefore, are behaving like university faculty are no different than secondary school teachers in their preparation, study, and teaching as disseminating knowledge. Faculty that never do research are seldom more than mediocre, and MnSCU will be that until it embraces the concept of faculty creating knowledge and provides incentives for them to do so.

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