From this morning’s Guardian, reports of thousands of public workers striking over pension cuts.
Not that I’m advocating any such thing.
From this morning’s Guardian, reports of thousands of public workers striking over pension cuts.
Not that I’m advocating any such thing.
From this morning’s (Sat 6/25) New York Times:
An op-ed called “Public or Private, It’s Work” by Garrett Keizer contends that the (primarily but not exclusively) conservative attack on public employees is misguided at best, insidious at worst. You should read the whole thing, but I want to highlight two points.
In responding to the claim that public labor and private labor are qualitatively different, Keizer says:
The two-labors fallacy rests on an even shakier proposition: that profits exist only where there is an accountant to tally them. This is economics reduced to the code of a shoplifter — whatever the security guard doesn’t see the store won’t miss. If my wife and I have young children but are still able to enjoy the double-income advantages of a childless couple, isn’t that partly because our children are being watched at school? If I needn’t invest some of my household’s savings in elaborate surveillance systems, isn’t that partly because I have a patrol car circling the block? The so-called “public sector” is a profit-making entity; it profits me.
I don’t imagine that many of you who read this blog or its sisters haven’t made this argument before. The value of our work isn’t necessarily in the capital it generates, but in its good as a public service. Nothing new here, but the way Keizer puts it is powerful.
Another of those arguments that many of us have made repeatedly is that up against the extremely high pay that wealthy owners and managers give themselves in the private sector, who, exactly, in the public sector is being paid a lot? Or as Keizer says:
Right now C.E.O.’s of multinational corporations earn salaries as much as a thousand times those of their lowest-paid employees. In such a context complaining about “lavish” public sector salaries is like shushing the foul language of children playing near the set of a snuff film. Whom are we kidding? More to the point, who’s getting snuffed?
A healthy dose of perspective to kick off your (well, at least my) Saturday morning…
This press release just out from State APSCUF:
The budget that’s likely to pass (by the way, without ANY significant Democratic input whatsoever) imposes an 18% cut on the PASSHE allocation, which would require a tuition increase in the neighborhood of 10% to level off. We can rest pretty sure that the Board of Governors will approve nothing of the sort.
It’s well worth taking one more shot at calling/writing your legislators to make one more appeal on our behalf. There’s nothing to lose. And now that we have a specific number, we can make a lot more concrete arguments about how these cuts will harm our campuses; we can sound simultaneously less shrill and more certain. May as well give it a try.
And then get ready. The cuts management has been threatening for months are about to start getting announced. APSCUF will fight like hell to minimize the damage to our institutions inflicted by this absurd political theater playing out on the backs of PA’s families–students, staff, and faculty.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting on Friday morning that the PA Legislature and Governor Fracker have reached a tentative deal on the state budget.
The preliminary reports are not good for us, although the numbers aren’t yet very precise. The article indicates that the “state-supported” universities will take a 19% hit, but doesn’t distinguish between PASSHE and the state-relateds. So we don’t yet know exactly what will happen to us.
If that 19% is even close to what we see when the numbers are released, we’re going to have lots of work to do protecting our system from the kinds of Draconian cuts we all know PASSHE already wants to make. Yet again, our state government has provided the cover under which our Chancellor and Board of Governors can radically overhaul our whole system, while pretending that it has anything whatsoever to do with economics.
As a pacifist, I usually am very stridently resistant to military metaphors, but in this case, … Oh hell, I still can’t do it.
But now at least the circular logic of management is laid bare: “We can’t afford to pay for anything [except more managers and management salaries]. Why not? Because we just gave all the money away. See?”
Details haven’t been released yet, but several press outlets are reporting that AFSCME and Corbett’s negotiators have reached a tentative agreement. None of the stories I’ve seen are more detailed than this one.
What that means for APSCUF is unclear. In the last couple of contract cycles, the AFSCME settlement has had pretty clear impacts on ours regarding salary and benefit structures, but that seems less likely this time. That’s not to say there aren’t indicators in the agreement, but what they are seems less obvious.
More to come as we know more about what’s in the settlement. Conventional wisdom is it’ll take the AFSCME rank and file about 2 weeks to organize and vote on the agreement.
[When I started writing this, I quickly realized that it's going to be much longer than I thought. So it's becoming a series. --Seth]
[Updated 5 pm Thurs]
Way back in April of this year, I co-hosted a pre-conference workshop called Labor Organizing in Hard Times at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4Cs, for short) in Atlanta.
During our workshop, I learned a new word: deliverology (which, blessedly, the WordPress spellchecker doesn’t recognize as a word). My friend and colleague Kathleen, who directs the Writing Center at Cal St U-Channel Islands, told us that the CSU system had bought into deliverology, and faculty around the system were already seeing some insidious implications.
I remember thinking (in my much the same way I knew PASSHE would hire the current Chancellor as soon as I learned a little about him) that it couldn’t be long before PASSHE jumped on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, that all happened in the midst of a very long day, and I forgot all about it.
Flash forward to last week. I got an e-mail with a link to the website for an organization called the US Education Delivery Institute (USEDI). Roughly paraphrased, the note said something like, “Just in case you need something else to piss you off” (from a colleague whose sense of humor sometimes runs toward the tongue-in-cheek).
I can only describe my reaction thus (slightly Disneyfied so we can keep our PG-13 rating on the blog): “You gotta be [bleep] kidding me!”
USEDI is the brainchild of Sir Michael Barber, former member of Tony Blair’s Ministry of Education. According to the organization’s website:
The U.S. Education Delivery Institute (EDI) was founded in May 2010 by Sir Michael Barber, former head of the U.K. Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, with support from the Education Trust and Achieve.
This is a unique time in education: Many K-12 state systems have set ambitious goals as part of the Race to the Top competition, while higher education systems are working to achieve President Obama’s goal of making the United States number one in the world in college attainment by 2020. Meanwhile, fiscal concerns are requiring education systems to do more with fewer resources.
While systems often have the right ambitions and promising policies, the process of planning and driving implementation receives less attention. More often than not, leaders approach implementation by fighting fires, making a laundry list of initiatives, or otherwise managing in an uncoordinated way.
Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a similar implementation dilemma in 2001, as he was elected to a second term. To help him deliver on his priorities, he created the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) and appointed Sir Michael Barber to lead the effort. The PMDU pioneered a new approach to managing priorities – delivery – and used it with great success to help Blair achieve his priorities. With the help of the delivery unit, the Blair government reached 80% of policy targets; Prime Minister Blair called his investment in delivery the best domestic reform he had made.
If you’re already noticing the absence of specifics (sometimes signified by asking yourself or anybody else in shouting distance “What does that even mean?”), welcome to it. You should look at the website more carefully than just the highlights (ahem) I’ll lift out in this series of posts, but the short version of what you’ll find is this: USEDI is an organization that helps schools/districts/colleges/universities/systems set and meet policy targets related to “delivering” educational product as efficiently as possible.
The litany of arguments describing and critiquing the corporatization of American higher education is well-established and rehearsed, and frankly it’s too depressing to rehash (again) here. Let’s just say the folks at USEDI have leapfrogged over all that.
[OK... It's getting harder to write about this without being really angry and sarcastic. Anger is probably appropriate, but sarcasm probably isn't. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!]
My department chair (via our Dean, via the Provost) just e-mailed around this article from the Indiana Gazette (originally published Fri 6/11, updated Sat 6/12).
The short version is that IUP management proposes, by Fall 2012, eliminating 62 (yes, that’s right–SIXTY-TWO!!!!!!) programs from the university’s curriculum, ranging from Associates to Masters degree programs. Management offers a variety of rationales for elimination: low enrollments, high expenses, changing needs in the Commonwealth, the current budget crisis, and so on, all of which every PASSHE campus has heard before, and some of which aren’t especially consistent with each other. Management also lobs the retrenchment-grenade, albeit in a vague way. Furthermore, as IUP-APSCUF Vice-President Francisco Alarcon notes:
“I think it’s posturing for the most part,” said Vice President Francisco Alarcon. He said he believes the plan is an attempt by administrators to scare faculty into retirement, which would save the university money.
Alarcon said it is unclear to him the basis on which the decision to discontinue any given program was made. He said the decisions seemed arbitrary and had no real analysis behind them.
He also said the proposal fails to outline which programs are to benefit, and to what extent, from the elimination of others.
Buried among a great many slippery claims in the article, I was simultaneously relieved and disturbed to find this one, in a statement from IUP Interim President Werner:
“While commonwealth budget issues have been at the center of many of our discussions and decisions, even if future budgets are more favorable than currently projected, the university must still preserve and invest in its strongest and highest-quality programs through strategic reallocation,” he wrote.
Do you see what I see? I see a not-very-subtle admission that the agenda here has little, if anything, to do with the economic viability of IUP, and most certainly little, if anything, to do with the quality of the institution as it currently fulfills its mission. I see, as Kevin Mahoney has written about several times on the KUXchange, an effort to transform PASSHE schools, heart and soul, into degree-manufacturing facilities that turn out widgets, um, I mean degree-bearing workers, er, um, I mean students, er um (What about PEOPLE?!?), quality of their education be damned.
[I'll have a post ready later this week about PASSHE's participation in a program run by a think (ahem) tank called the US Educational Delivery Institute, one implication of which is that it provides another layer of cover for this attack.]
So, for those of us who work in or attend PASSHE schools, two points to leave you with–
1. We ALL have to be on the lookout for these moves on our campuses. If your management hasn’t yet unveiled (admitted to) these plans, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You’re not.
2. I know the IUP-APSCUF chapter is one of the best organized chapters in our union. They’re very capable of fighting this fight, but they shouldn’t have to do it without knowing we support them and stand ready to help in any way we can.
This letter went out to all APSCUF members from our Legislative Director, Laura Saccente, this morning. Some of you don’t read your e-mail over the summer, and many of you (who see the blog posts on Facebook) aren’t APSCUF members.
One editorial note–this version of the letter is addressed directly to constituents of Senator Dinniman. If he’s not your Senator, you should write to your own.
Laura’s letter explains why you need to do this, so I don’t have to. Just do it.
Dear APSCUF member,In May 2011, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved a budget bill (House bill 1485) that would set the appropriation for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) at $427.8 million. While this is better than the originally proposed cut of 54 percent, it still represents a cut of 15 percent, or a $75 million reduction from last year’s state appropriation to PASSHE.The budget proposal is currently in the Senate, and we need you to contact your Senator and ask for additional funding restoration for PASSHE. Additional restoration could help keep a large tuition increase at bay and further reduce staff layoffs. Please contact your own member, Senator Andrew Dinniman, the Education Chair, at email@example.com or (717) 787-5709.Time is very limited and the budget will be wrapping up soon, so please take five minutes to send your email or make a phone call today! Please do not use university email or stationary when making your case. If you have already contacted your senator in recent months, this is the opportunity to follow up with him or her to request restoration of PASSHE funding.When giving examples on the reason to restore funding, please consider how PASSHE has wisely used its appropriations dollars, how cuts may affect department/program cuts and class sizes, how a large tuition increase will limit the ability for some to attend, etc. I’ve also attached a general budget message sheet if you need additional talking points. Let your senator know today, before it’s too late, how the proposed cuts may impact your campus.Thank you,Laura Saccente
Our friends at Inside Higher Ed just keep the hits comin’.
This morning (6/8), IHE gives the floor to Naomi Schaefer Riley, whose pithily (snark!) titled new book The Faculty Lounges hits the streets soon.
Schaefer, who has written about arts and education for the Wall Street Journal, is (predictably) not a big fan of higher ed, even though both of her parents were professors.
Anyway, as you read this interview, all I’ll add editorially is this: in my estimation, her concern for adjunct faculty (her argument is that tenure enables the exploitation of adjunct faculty because as tenure makes us lazier, somebody has to do all the real work) is nothing but a smokescreen behind which her real agenda (a very barely masked Horowitzian political attack) lurks. She refers, obliquely but repeatedly, to the problems of faculty who are conservative (they’re the ones most at risk if the protections of tenure go away) and to the notion that fixed-term contracts will help “diversify” (Horowitz’s buzzterm for “make more conservative) faculties.
In short, after years of hearing David Horowitz, Lynne Cheney, and their ilk blusterblusterbluster about radicalism in the academy to no avail, I suspect Riley is supposed to sound like the voice of reason. And she does, except for the fact that almost everything she says is wrong.