Faculty organizing efforts: Reimagining our collective role

Egq1ro4X0AEty81Image source. Please note that the photo is from a satirical site…though it’s not that far off from some safety “solutions” we’ve seen! Image description: lecture hall with a teacher up front and students sitting in individual plastic bubbles.

As we approach the end of summer, we wanted to gather a few stories and links that speak to the importance of faculty organizing amongst themselves and with other workers at their institutions to do the important work of re-imagining these spaces. Institutional shortcomings in many areas, including the limits of faculty and staff involvement in decision-making structures and the limits to institutions’ ability to listen to students and alumni calls for racial justice, have been highlighted starkly both by the challenges due to COVID-19 and by the responses to the ongoing uprisings in response to racist police brutality and violence. Of the many conversations faculty at Carleton have been having in small groups, in ad-hoc faculty meetings, and in various online venues, one has been the potential for having better ways to organize a more united front when it comes to financial and other important decisions at the college. We (Adriana and Anita) have been inspired by our colleagues at other colleges and universities who have organized themselves this summer to push back against their institutions’ financial and pedagogical decisions. We highlight here a few of their efforts. 

This story in Jacobin Magazine, written by Marquette University professors describing a protest by workers and students on the university’s decision to hold face-to-face classes, ends with this stark claim: “And without a faculty union, administrators and trustees are accountable to no one for the damage they’re doing.”

This article by the co-chairs of the Middlebury College chapter of the American Association of University Professors argues that “once-in-a-lifetime crisis requires that we break from the old orthodoxy of austerity and reimagine a university that works for the common good.” The authors delineate three lessons we can learn from the current moment by using “the critical thinking skills and values we champion” by shifting our practices and policies towards building more just institutions. We also want to highlight the helpful document prepared by Middlebury’s AAUP that was endorsed by a majority of their faculty: VALUES & BUDGETARY PRINCIPLES FOR “A FINANCIAL FUTURE FOR ALL OF US.”

Vanderbilt AAUP writes: “By pitting educational mission, public health and faculty governance against one another, the administration jeopardizes the safety of our community. This approach compromises the ability of faculty, students and staff to teach, learn and work effectively.”

Please share with us stories you’ve read about faculty / university workers as a whole organizing in order to make claims on their institutions and build better futures. We’re ready to be further inspired!