Thoughts on No University Is an Island, Part 4.

10 02 2010

It must have been around 2005 that the administration sent out a note to everyone here who had been hired in the last ten years ago that they had forgotten to sign a loyalty oath. We all had to swear to protect and defend the Constitution of Colorado.

I had no idea what was in the Constitution of Colorado, so I was wondering if I really had to sign it. I’m not sure how my thinking went, but pretty soon I dropped an e-mail to the AAUP. I got a response back by phone in about half an hour.

The answer to my loyalty oath question was yes, but what really impressed me was that they had the information at their fingertips. Reading Cary Nelson’s No University Is an Island made me realize that what should also have impressed me was that the organization go to the trouble of helping someone who wasn’t a member.

You can see the same sentiment in this story (pp. 254-55):

“In 2008, I presented a long-term staff member in the national office and a long-term Committee A member with the same hypothetical grievance and asked if the relevant regulation would apply. Their opinions were diametrically opposed, with the staff member convinced the AAUP would not pursue the grievance and the Committee A member convinced it should. Both were coauthors of the very regulation in question. The Committee A member went on to say the regulation would be rendered worthless were the AAUP to refuse such a complaint and I agreed…The staff member insisted a long-term and broadly qualified part time faculty member could be terminated if an institution asserted that the precise courses the faculty member happened to have taught recently were no longer needed. Moreover, the staff member added, it would always be acceptable to dispose of a highly qualified part-timer in order to hire a considerably less accomplished tenure-track faculty member.”

That’s why the AAUP isn’t really a labor union (even if they do conduct collective bargaining). The staff member (whether consciously or not) here was acting on interests. The two faculty members were motivated by principles, the same principles that motivated them to call me so quickly.

That’s not like most labor unions. It’s even better.

PS That’s the last Cary Nelson post. I don’t have the time to find the links to the other ones, but they’re down there somewhere.


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