Rethinking the University, Day 2, Part 1

The conference continues on from yesterday. I got here late today, in the middle of the second morning session.

Roundtable - inside/outside: the university and the public intellectual

I arrived in time to hear Naomi Scheman make some interesting comments about objectivity as the creation of trust in expertise. But before my thoughts could rush through Galison, Daston, and Giddens her comments were over and it was time for Q&A. There was some interesting back and forth about open access and academic publishing. How are we going to get beyond the current publishing regimen?

Roundtable - labor in neoliberal university

Paula Rabinowitz - Addresses her experience as a department chair during the recent strikes and how it intersected with academic freedom. Academic freedom for research is largely unquestioned, but the current challenge to freedom is in the classroom. Three anecdotes from the strike: she told her dean that she would not cross the picket line so he told her to work from home, she compromised by working at an off-campus cafe – but in one of her classes she got a complaint from a student in her lecture class who staged a sit-in protesting the class being off-campus; then there was a creative writing professor who was challenged with an ethics complaint for teaching/reading literature about work during the strike; and finally a graduate student getting grief for teaching off-campus from another department chair.

Jess Sundin - union worker at UM for 9 years. Neoliberalism is savage capitalism = global capitalism. The tax payers fund plenty of private endeavors - 10 year coca-cola franchise, TCF bank stadium, 3m - guidant - medtronic make billions based on research from the UofM, food services run by aramark, sale of the university hospital, pharmacy benefits make money for self-insured university health plans. Maximizing the profit of the university by eliminating general college, top-3 research university. 2003 strike in the wake of massive layoffs, wage freeze, and health care cuts. 1. workers unwilling to accept terms 2. no way to compel work 3. union willing to fight. Lessons: timing of strike in October was too late, better to walk out at start of school year. 2007 walked out early meant there was less time to build coalitions on campus. 2003 afscme walked lines alone, only union on strike. 2007 coalition of unions. 2003 worked with community partners, this work was fearful to other unions in 2007. Universities will not work with labor, we need to go outside the structure of the university to make change.

Jeff Pilacinski - What will it take to win? We suffer from a failure to organize ourselves. What is the disconnect between academics and activists? Product for activists is also education and the divisions between groups are established by the state and the employer. And they only come together when there is a labor stoppage, between strikes there isn’t much working together. In 2007 more groups participated but still the strike was crushed. We must change how we fight together. What is the difference between on and off campus classes? The production of education continues despite the strike.

Eric Jensen - steward from the teamsters. Mobilizing the neoliberal ideology against the workers by the administration see health care, wage bargaining. In 2003 there was a massive assault by the state government against workers. The university administration complained at the time, by appealing that the university is a public good. It’s not the employers fault, something in the environment causes the problem. Examples from 2003 - claim by administration that the U has no ‘free’ health care, claim that copays are “behavioral modification” to keep people from abusing doctor visits despite the fact that Americans visit doctor’s less than other countries.

QA - product of university is credentialing; teaching during the strike - learning from the struggle. in class teach-ins. faculty governance is meaningless. ; professors conceive of their jobs as a calling, end of the goal is tenured position, a lifetime position – this makes it harder for professors to strike, academics have bought into meritocracy from the start ; most academics do not think of themselves as workers but academics are asked to work more and more today, we are willing to expand our work because we (academics) realize that their lifetime job is a rarity and is in jeopardy ; living wage avengers - trying to build coalitions on a regular basis ; need to defeat the idea of collegiality in faculty governance.