Monday, March 07, 2005

Academic Politics: the Obsession with "Diversity" Continued

This comes courtesy of Mal Kline.

From Accuracy in Academia’s www.campusreportonline.net


Collective Bargaining Conspiracy
by: Larry Scholer, March 07, 2005

On Monday, March 1, the New York Times reported that “Minorities and women have made little progress in breaking into the faculty ranks of the Ivy League.”

“In 2003, Ivy League campuses hired 433 new professors into tenure-track jobs, but only 14 were black and 8 were Hispanic,” Karen Arenson continued. “Women received 150 of the jobs.”

The Times bases its article on a report of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization. The GESO, a pro-union organization, is hardly disinterested. Its report, titled “The (Un)Changing Face of the Ivy League,” purports to expose discrimination in the hiring mechanisms of Ivy League schools.

This discrimination, according to the GESO, is intentional and malicious—the Ancient Eight have modified their hiring practices in order to keep minorities and women off the tenure-track.

Ivy League schools have made finding a job harder for minority professors by placing them in non-tenure-track positions, according to the report. Non-tenure-track jobs have grown at more than ten times the rate of tenure-track jobs. “The explosion of insecure, low-status jobs has become the vehicle by which Ivy League universities have maintained their historic racial and gender inequalities,” the report claims.

Graduate students and teaching assistants who sought union recognition encountered a serious setback in 2004. In July of that year the National Labor Relations Board decided that graduate students at Brown University could not unionize. The NLRB reversed a 2000 decision, ruling in the Brown case that “graduate student assistants are primarily students and not statutory employees.” In 2000 the board ruled graduate students at New York University could form a union.

The NLRB’s ruling does not preclude graduate students from forming a union on their campus. Graduate students at a private university may continue to seek union recognition from their administration. Because of the ruling, however, graduate students would not have success in the courts if a university turns down their overtures.

The union push remains strong, and these students have powerful national allies. The Capital Research Center’s October 2004 Labor Watch reported that the United Auto Workers have pushed the unionization movement. The UAW is credited by the GESO as a producer of its report.

This report may signal a shift in tactics of students wishing to unionize. With no recourse in the courts, the unionization movement must sway the sentiments of university officials—and so it has turned to a loaded issue, diversity.

While graduate student assistants often motivate their calls for unionization by claiming inadequate pay, the true motive seems to be a desire to influence hiring practices in order to increase the number of tenured minorities and women. The report equates unions with diversity. Diversity on campuses, according to the report, is under attack, and unions are necessary to stem the tide. “As the prevailing discourses in national politics move steadily rightward, there is a real danger that these universities could be drawn with it and abjure their commitments to diversity,” writes University of Pennsylvania professor Adolph Reed in the preface of the report.

The unionization movement claims to “strengthen academic freedom,” and it has received support from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). However, while the AAUP has been quick to condemn an academic bill of rights due to fears of government intrusion into academic life and subsequent violations of academic freedom, no such criticisms have been made of graduate student unions.

The union movement believes that there must be outside oversight. “Ultimately, the unionization movement reflects the understanding that instituted commitments to redress inequities almost never come to pass through benign consideration of upper-level academic managers,” the report declares. “Rather, they require organized collective demand by academic workers, as well as government oversight and public pressure.”

Universities, according to the union movement, have failed, but not in their pursuit of knowledge or in their support of free discourse. “Ivy League universities have fundamentally failed in one of their primary missions as institutions of higher education: the promotion of social equality,” says the report.

Some state schools do allow unions, but they restrict collective bargaining to economic issues. Private schools, where unions would be governed by federal laws, do not have such restrictions.

Robert Brame, a former member of the NLRB, warned the CRC’s Labor Watch that graduate student unions would have a broad and influential reach. “Once graduate students unionize, management is required to negotiate about “all terms and conditions of employment,” and that would include not only pay and hours, it would encompass grading systems, how reviews are made, how references are written and made, the whole working relationship between professors and students,” he said. “It’s all subject to negotiations in union contracts.”

Larry Scholer is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.

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