Remarks by Joe Gorton, President of United Faculty to the 2015 UNI Fall Faculty Meeting

August 31, 2015

Regent _________, President Ruud, Provost Wohlport, fellow members of the faculty, and guests.

It has been a very busy year for United Faculty. We bargained a new contract that among other things added language that will prevent some of the most egregious behaviors that occurred on this campus during the troubles of 2012. We filed a PPC regarding certain portions of OCEM’s mandatory reporting policy. I’m pleased to inform you that the administration recently agreed to withdraw those provisions and once this is formalized, United Faculty will withdraw our PPC. We were recently victorious in an arbitration on behalf of one of our colleagues. 2

We joined with the other faculty leaders and the administration to launch a comprehensive investigation of pay equity issues. A final report on that investigation is being prepared. We represented several faculty members in formal and informal resolution of grievance related matters. We participated actively in the search for UNI’s new provost. We administered a faculty wide survey on the administration and distributed the results to faculty. Last, but definitely not least, we held the First Annual Faculty Appreciation and Awards Dinners attended by more than 125 guests and our keynote speaker, AAUP President Rudy Fitchenbaum.

None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the hard work of many of our members. People like Laura Terlip, Jeff Elbert, Jennifer Cooley, Gerald Smith, Jin Zu, Tim Strauss, Melissa Beall, Dan 3

Power, Sunde Nesbit, Barbara Cutter, Becky Hawbaker, Jesse Swan, Kim Maclin and all of the members of our Central Committee and Standing Committees. Please join me in thanking all of these individuals for standing up on behalf of our faculty and their families.

I want to acknowledge also all of the members of the administration and staff who have worked cooperatively with United Faculty during the past year. None of the achievements mentioned above could have occurred without the spirit of trust and cooperation United Faculty and the administration have worked hard to cultivate.

I want to extend special thanks to Associate Provost Nancy Cobb. Nancy epitomizes what it means to be a strong and fair advocate for the administration. She listens and she places the well-being of the university and faculty above anyone’s desire to marginalize our union. 4

She has repeatedly shown her willingness to take concrete steps to work with United Faculty to resolve common concerns. Thank you Nancy for your service to UNI.

Now do not take my comments today to suggest a rosy scenario for our future. There are major challenges ahead. For example, it is not right that UNI faculty teach a 30% heavier load than our colleagues at the other state universities and make 30 % lower salaries. Let me add that it is not right that the salaries of our upper level administrators are so much higher than faculty salaries. Did you know most university presidents, including ours, and many university provosts make higher salaries than the Chair, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who commands the entire military might of our nation? Think about that. So as I’ve said before, I make no apologies for advocating for higher faculty salaries 5

and neither should you. The disparity between faculty and administrative salaries has to be resolved.

We must also fix UNI’s broken incentive structure for promotion. When he was a candidate for the position of president, President Rudd commented in his public presentation that the traditional model for counting research is, “not appropriate for a university like UNI.” Two years later, we have seen no no changes in our university’s promotion incentive structure. During contract negotiations, United Faculty asked the administration to adopt a model that includes various types of applied research and creative work that could be counted for promotion to full professor. Unfortunately, they chose to hold that option hostage to an agreement by United Faculty to have a more bureaucratic and potentially abusive, form of most tenure review. The 6

time is now to expand UNI’s model of scholarship to include something akin to Ernest Boyer’s scholarship of discovery, integration, application, and engagement.

We also face challenges on a state and national level. Call me alarmist if you like, but I believe there is a storm on our horizon. All over America, from Maine to Ohio, from Louisiana to Illinois, from Florida to Wisconsin the forces of commodification are in the process of degrading the real and essential value of America’s public colleges and universities.

Allow me to read a couple of quotes from people who have said it far better than I can.

… most everyone now evaluates college in purely economic terms, thus reducing it to a commodity like a car or a house. How much 7

does the average English major at college X earn 18 months after graduation? What is the average debt of college Y’s alumni? How much does it cost to attend college Z, and is it worth it? How much more does the “average” college grad earn over a lifetime than someone with only a high school degree? (The current number appears to be about $1 million.) There is now a cottage industry built around such data.

…The results of this kind of thinking are pernicious. Governors and legislators, as well as the media, treat colleges as purveyors of goods, students as consumers and degrees as products. Students get the message. If colleges are responsible for outcomes, then students can feel entitled to classes that do not push them too hard, to high grades and to material that does not challenge their assumptions or make them uncomfortable. 8

… So let’s acknowledge that college is not a commodity. It’s a challenging engagement in which both parties have to take an active and risk-taking role if its potential value is to be realized.

…America is losing her way with regard to higher education. We seem to have forgotten the real value of higher education – both to our economy and to our society. We have become too focused on metrics, return on investment and job preparation

…Since the dawn of our nation, our universities have been at the center of our civil society and our search for excellence.

We increasingly view our colleges and universities as nothing more than factories that must demonstrate an immediate return on investment for consumers.

… America’s societal commitment to investing in higher education appears to have eroded 9

…We must reverse the 25-year trend in this country and begin investing again in our public universities, in their faculties and students, in teaching and learning, and in research and discovery. We must again invest in America’s dreams and America’s future by investing in our students’ dreams and futures. It is in our own selfish, self-interest to do so.

Who are the authors of these criticisms against the commodification of public higher education? What hard core union leader would dare venture into the territory of such negativism?

The first quote is from Hunter Rawlings is president of the Association of American Universities and a former president of Cornell University and the University of Iowa.

Thomas W. Ross was the president of the UNC system. He was fired from that position in what The New Yorker, properly described as a political crackdown against the UNC system.

One characteristic that many of the hardest hit universities have in common is that they have no faculty union or a weak faculty union. In 2011, I made two trips to join the protests against Scott Walkers attack 10

on collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public employees and their families. I met a lot of great folks. I was especially pleased to see so many students. Guess who I never saw, a university professor. Well that’s not working out so well for Wisconsin’s students, professors and their families.

If you are thinking such attacks could never happen in Iowa, you are wrong. In fact, a small shift in the political composition of our state senate could bring devastating consequences for Iowa’s universities. And I assure you that if the political forces in Iowa shift in that direction, they will easily roll over faculty senates and the university administrations, just as they have done in other states.

To find further evidence of the storm coming our way, you need look no further than the recent list of final candidates for the position of President of the University of Iowa.


Given the totality of these conditions, I promise you that the most important protection for our faculty and the mission we value, is a collective bargaining agreement protected by a strong union

In closing, let me say that for United Faculty to be effective we need the help of everyone in our bargaining unit. So from the bottom of my heart I am asking today that if you are not yet a member of United Faculty, please join. The faculty, our families and our very university stand to benefit from a strong United Faculty. We need to push back against the forces of commodification. We need to reject the premise that when the upper administration thrives, the university thrives. The reality is that the faculty and our families thrive, the university thrives. Congratulations to all of those receiving an award today and on behalf of United Faculty my sincere thanks to all of you in the faculty, administration, and staff for your service to our university. 12

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