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From the Guest Editor: Organizing In and Outside a Union

By Martin Kich

This issue of Academe focuses on faculty organizing, a topic that the magazine has treated previously but perhaps not quite in this way. The contents reflect the AAUP’s commitment to organizing not just tenured and tenure-track faculty who can form collective bargaining units, but also advocacy chapters of faculty members at private colleges and universities and full-and part-time contingent faculty.

Organizing in higher education is a crucial topic at this time when collective bargaining rights and shared governance are under sustained attack, faculty appointments without tenure or other protections for academic freedom have become the norm, and the quality of US higher education is in jeopardy.

A number of the articles in this issue focus on the challenges and rewards
of organizing for faculty on contingent appointments. In the lead article, David Kociemba describes the formation of the AAUP chapter of adjunct faculty at Emerson College. In the process, he provides a detailed primer on the substantial challenges involved in organizing such a chapter, even in a pro-labor state. As “right to work” becomes a fact of life in some previously pro-labor states, the strategies employed by the leadership of this chapter will have to be adopted by many collective bargaining chapters representing tenured and tenure-track faculty.

Miranda Merklein describes how adjunct faculty have played a major role in organizing a new advocacy chapter at Santa Fe Community College, where all faculty hold contingent appointments and the full-time faculty members are hired on renewable or temporary contracts. And Simeon Dreyfuss describes the formation of another new AAUP advocacy chapter, this one at Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon. All of the faculty at Marylhurst, a Catholic liberal arts institution, are also contingent. Ron Bramhall provides an insightful overview of the negotiation of the initial contract at the University of Oregon. The bargaining unit includes both tenured and tenure-track faculty and non-tenure-eligible full-time faculty. Bramhall offers an insider’s view of the ways that the negotiating team ensured that it presented a united front at the bargaining table.

In contrast to the previous articles, Sally Angel offers an insightful postmortem on an unsuccessful organizing campaign at Rhodes State College, a community college located in Lima, Ohio, at which all of the faculty are contingent.

In his piece, Christopher Vecsey delineates the strategies that he and other AAUP chapter leaders have employed to build and sustain membership at a very different kind of institution, where many faculty are tenured and tenure-track.

Finally, Alex S. Vitale chronicles the ongoing faculty resistance to the Pathways initiative, a major revision of the City University of New York’s curriculum imposed without meaningful faculty input. In this case, the faculty and academic professionals are members of one of the strongest bargaining units in American higher education which continues to organize its members to ensure that their resistance is unified, energetic, and effective.

In all of the situations treated in these articles, faculty respond to the increasing corporatization of their institutions, the decreasing role of faculty in shared governance, and the eroding security of employment and guarantees of academic freedom. They demonstrate that, even if the changes they are able to achieve sometimes seem to be only incremental, organized faculty can have a substantial impact in reshaping their institutions—regardless of whether they are eligible for tenure or part-time appointments. And clearly, the national AAUP has been a major asset in their efforts to organize.

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