Joe Gorton’s Faculty Meeting Speech, Fall 2016

United Faculty President: Remarks, Fall Faculty Meeting, 2016

Remarks by Joe Gorton, President of United Faculty to the 2016 UNI Fall Faculty Meeting, September 19, 2016

Interim President Wohlpart, Interim Provost Bass, President Gould, fellow members of the faculty, and guests. It has been another very busy year for United Faculty. Allow me to review some of our achievements:

1. Salary equity agreement that led to $155,000 in annual salary increases for 51 faculty members.
2. Completed an investigation into possible constraints academic freedom in the College of Business Administration.
3. Partnership with the administration in a new Labor Management Committee serves as a prelude to bargaining. The LMC focused on thorny issues related health insurance, expanded definitions of research (e.g., the Boyer model) and post tenure evaluation.
4. Assisted several faculty members with a variety of difficult issues related to their working conditions and personal well-being.
5. Completed a two year project to reform United Faculty’s organizational structure and elections process. Among other things, we expanded our Executive Board into a more representative body and we did away with the Central Committee. With these changes there were significant changes to our Constitution and Bylaws.
6. Redesigned and made operational a new website. One feature of our new website is the ability to join UF by filling out our new online application. For this we are very grateful to the fine work of Bettina Fabos.
7. A new Facebook page that is used to communicate our messages to hundreds and on occasions, thousands of people.
8. Preparations for bargaining. An announcement about the members of the bargaining committee will be forthcoming. We are waiting for one more confirmation.
9. We have been deeply involved in the initial stages of the presidential search process.
10. Along with the AAUP Presidents of our sister universities, UF is working in the political arena to create an impetus for reform within the Iowa Board of Regents
11. Last, but definitely not least, we held the Second Annual Faculty Appreciation and Awards Dinners attended by about 200 guests and our keynote speaker, AAUP Counsel Risa Lieberwitz.

By the way, all of this was achieved without a strategic plan.
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the great work of many of our members. First and foremost United Faculty’s Vice President Becky Hawbaker. I wish time would permit me to describe everything Becky does for our union. It would take hours. All I can say is that she that she is simply amazing.

In addition to Becky and I, the members of our new Executive Board are:

Laura Terlip, Secretary
Francis Degnin, Treasurer
Megan Balong, College of Education
Carissa Foryum, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Susan Moore, Rod Library
Kyle Ruddick, College of Humanities and Sciences
Gerald Smith, College of Business Administration
Thomas Hesse, non-tenure track faculty
Daniel Power, Past President

Please join me in thanking all of these individuals for standing up on behalf of our faculty and our families.

I want to also acknowledge a particular community leader who has been a wonderful partner to United Faculty. Sarah Eastman.

I want to also acknowledge all of the members of the administration and staff who have worked cooperatively with United Faculty during the past year.

Last year at this time, I commented that presidents come and presidents go; provosts come and provosts go. Sadly, that comment turned out to be unintentionally prophetic.

But one need not be a prophet to predict turn over in university executive leadership positions. The truth is that unreasonably high salaries have transformed the labor market for those positions into something that resembles free agency in professional sports. Why be loyal to a particular university or community if a $100,000 or $200,000 salary increase is only a job interview away?

So what does this mean for faculty and our families? Simply put, it means that during the unprecedented turbulence and corporate commodification in public higher education today, faculty and our families must not rely on appointed leaders, who are here today and gone tomorrow. That does not mean that we should not work with them while they are here. But it does mean, we have to understand their role in the broader cultural, political, and economic arrangements that are all too often hostile to our university mission and our jobs.

It no longer matters to me how many strategic plans we have or how often I hear the words “transparency” or “inclusive decision making.” The juggernaut that is commodification of public higher educations has caused these terms to become dislodged from their intended meaning.

Instead, all over the country they are used increasingly as benign forms of social control.

So here is my point. It is up to the FACULTY to protect and liberate our public universities. That only happens when we have real power. At UNI we are moving in the right direction. Gone are the days when a UF leader would rarely speak with a regent. Believe me when I say the board of regents and the administration are very mindful of UF’s ability to influence our environment. They frequently reach out to us in ways that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. Let there be no doubt that United Faculty is the central platform for faculty power as it relates to salary, benefits, conditions of employment, academic freedom, tenure and faculty governance.

But one only need examine the current presidential race to know that we must not stand still. The world is changing rapidly. Most of you know many of those changes will not be good for you or your family. This is one of the reasons Becky and I are working hard to recruit and train new leaders like Carissa Froyum, Megan Balong, Jim Mattingly, Kyle Ruddick, Leila Rod-Welch and many others. We absolutely must grow this union so that a new generation of leaders will be prepared to strengthen the foundation necessary to withstand the storms that are surely on our horizon.

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

But 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 benefits 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 when faculty and our families thrive, the university thrives. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions!
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.

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