Bargaining Contract Update

Your GAU bargaining team has been negotiating with the administration.  Thus far we have talked about:

  • Grad employment evaluations
  • Increasing vacation time for 12 month employs so GAs not from nearby can see their families (some international GAs go years at a time without seeing their families)
  • Discipline processes
  • Anti-discrimination language
  • Workload protections (including specifying that an increase in class size is an increase in work)

Of course the elephant in the room remains the lack of a state budget. Governor Rauner is doing his best to damage higher education and worker protection making national news from the New York Times and the Daily Show to name a few. SIU has still received no funding from Springfield this year and is paying its bills by spending down its reserves. “SIU covered the costs of the grants in the fall semester anticipating reimbursement when the state budget is settled, and the university will do the same in the spring.”¹ As such the administration has been unwilling to talk in terms of specifics about financial issues.

 

What can you do?

 

Show the University that you support GAUnited by becoming a member or department steward.

 

Attend a Bargaining Session.

 

If you would are interested in observing how the bargaining process works, please contact the union at gau.siuc@gmail.com and we will contact you about attending.

 

Contact your legislators!

 

 

From the President’s Desk

j-flowersIn my previous message, I said that my inaugural piece would likely be the last piece for the semester. Apparently I was incorrect: this aptly titled “year in review” will be my last piece prior to the close of the semester, so I ask a brief indulgence.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this year was extremely difficult, not just for GAUnited, but for SIUC as an institution. Between contract freezes, the elimination of GA lines, and the need for “belt tightening” across the University due to the ongoing budget situation, there is no one on this campus that the budget situation has not affected.

Fortunately, your union has been hard at work defending the rights of graduate student workers across the campus through advocating for graduate students to administrators, reminding them that the elimination of graduate student positions is not a solution to the university’s budget woes. And it has worked: the upper administration has heard the message loud and clear.

Specifically GAUnited has been instrumental in pushing the university to repeal its contract freeze, pushing the administration to continue to offer contracts to international GAs, and pressing our new interim chancellor to admit, publicly, that the elimination of GA positions is off the table as a solution to the current budget crisis.

GAU has also made significant headway in several long standing grievances over the course of this year. While specifics of the grievances, naturally, cannot be discussed, you may rest assured that your union is working hard towards a successful resolution that upholds and maintains your rights as graduate student workers.

Finally, GAU continues to work hard in bargaining your new contract, one which will provide expanded protections for all graduate students across the SIU System. Unfortunately, contract negotiations are a slow process, and it is one that is made more difficult by our current budgetary situation.

The above is but the silver lining to the cloud that the current budget situation has cast over our university. While GAU has made progress in defending your rights in this difficult situation, unless we see a resolution in the budget stalemate, GAU and the university itself may be placed in an even more difficult situation than it finds itself right now.

Further, while GAU has been able to advocate for the offering of contracts by the administration, and has been given assurances that the elimination of GA contracts is not the solution to this problem, GAU is unfortunately unable to prevent the university from eliminating the programs that provide some GAs with their employment. This is coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the release of state grant funds to projects and GAs dependent on them.

Thus, while GAU has managed to gain, and hold, some ground during these difficult times, there are still more difficulties ahead of us. And this is why we need you, our members. As we have seen at Mizzou and other campuses across the country, a united front of students can make incredible gains, and a united front of students supported by a union can do even more.

A union’s strength lies in its member body, more so in an active member body, and the more of your voices that we can make heard, the stronger your union will be. All of this is to say that we need the support of you, the members, if we are to succeed in defending your contract, in bargaining a new contract, and securing your rights as graduate student workers well into the next semester.

Without you, a union is nothing.

In solidarity,

Johnathan Flowers

Academic Freedom: A Reconsideration

By James Anderson

The concept of academic freedom contains a tension within it, mirroring the tension within society writ large. This essay will examine the conceptual and class divisions inherent in the concept. I will argue academic freedom has to be extended in such a way that breaks down these divides. To do so, it must not be a right reserved only for some within the increasingly hierarchized academy. It also cannot ignore the material effects and dearth of economic democracy, within and outside the university.

A recent proponent of a restrictive conception of academic freedom, Stanley Fish, argued higher education is valuable not because of any benefits it might have for the common good, but rather because of the pleasures it affords those within scholarly professions to engage in creative inquiry.[i] Were higher education subordinated to outside concerns, the “pleasures” derived from the exercise of free inquiry in the academy would be “unavailable or rendered secondary if higher education were regarded as the extension of another enterprise.”[ii]  Fish is right to refute the subjection of scholarly inquiry to external control. Fish argues, albeit implicitly, against instrumentalist scholarship and against alienating academic work. However, as Robert Post pointed out, Fish downplayed why traditional arguments for academic freedom were intended to protect against that instrumentalism and external coercion.[iii]  Predicated on the belief that scholars required a degree of autonomy from administrators and other authorities in order to produce knowledge valuable to society, traditional conceptions of academic freedom rested on the assumption that freedom (and in this way, separation) of academics from institutional and social coercion provided the space necessary to both realize the pleasurable pursuit of knowledge and to produce the new knowledge beneficial to society. Both the traditional argument and Fish’s formulation miss the mark. In trying to carve out and protect freedoms – and as far as Fish is concerned, pleasures – for some, without attending to conditions of un-freedom in the rest of society and even (or especially) in the university setting, advocates of academic freedom impregnated the concept with an indissoluble tension from its inception.

Read more of this post