Faculty Forum Papers
Department of English
March 2, 1983
In talking with my colleagues in the English Department and in reading the Faculty
Forum Papers, I have concluded that the most cogent arguments against collective bargaining
fall primarily into
three categories: collective bargaining will undermine collegiality; collective
bargaining will fail
to improve faculty salaries and benefits in times of financial difficulty;
and collective bargaining
will encourage standardization and discourage excellence. As an advocate
of collective bargaining,
I would like to look more closely at each of these concerns.
The collegiality question seems to contain two elements: that
collective bargaining divides the
faculty itself, and that it places the faculty in an adversarial
relationship with the administration.
Concerning the faculty itself, it seems clear that the faculty divisions already exist, and
the discussion of collective bargaining has only brought about a healthy discussion of those
differences. In fact, I might argue that had the administration intentionally set out to
divide and weaken faculty, it could not have done a better job, and it is these existing
divisions that weaken all of us. One is not a faculty member at Oregon State, one is tenured,
tenure track, fixed-term/renewable, fixed-term/part-time/soft money/
non-renewable -- the list goes on, and none of these groups has much common interest with
any other. A yes vote on March 9th or 10th won't automatically unify the faculty, but we
need an organization which recognizes that we are all part of the essential function of
research and instruction that this university offers, and within which we can begin to
forge a community of interest which will serve the best interests of all of us. Defining
those common interests may be difficult and even painful at times, but until we do we
will remain divided and conquered.
Concerning the adversary relationship that collective bargaining might establish
between faculty and administration, perhaps a better description would be an advocacy
relationship. This, I think, is more than just semantics. The faculty needs an
organization which can do more than complain and point out that we already are losing
some of our best people to other institutions or to the private sector. These losses
occur only after the problems have already gone on too long, and are best addressed
by an organization which speaks first for faculty and which is empowered by faculty.
Negotiation does not, as one writer has suggested, violate the principles of the
proposed Peace Studies program; negotiations are a recognition that two communities
of interest are involved and that each is empowered to work for a solution to
differences which is acceptable to both. At the moment, the administration has
both advocacy and power; the faculty has neither.
The second point argues that regardless of how strong the faculty alliance
may be, it cannot bargain for funds that are not available. To whatever degree
this is true, it ignores the effect a union can have on how funds are allocated.
In a typical tax levy for a school district, for example, voters know exactly
what programs they are voting for because bargaining at the K-through-12 level
has clarified faculty status, salaries and benefits. Voters might know that
failure to pass a levy will eliminate a district's hot lunches, advance placement
program, and activities busses. If they vote down the levy, they know those programs
will not exist because they have chosen to eliminate them.
In higher education, however, it is the university's responsibility to provide
programs with the money allocated, and "sound fiscal management" dictates that this
is often done at the expense of personnel. Thus, instead of saying that we cannot
provide a certain program at a certain level of funding and that funding must be
increased or the program reduced or eliminated, we employ pay cuts, larger classes,
or fixed-term or part-time employees to provide a service the legislature is not
really willing to fund. The ultimate extension of this idea is that with maximum
"efficiency" and "productivity" we can do anything with nothing. The long-term effect
is already quite clear; life may not be perfect for K through 12 teachers, but they
certainly enjoy relatively better pay and benefits, more job security, and more
clearly defined and equitable personnel procedures than we have in higher education.
Their sole advantage has been in collective bargaining.
Finally, there is absolutely no reason to believe that collective bargaining
will discourage excellence. Excellence, first of all, comes from within, and those
of us who are committed to our work, who value the recognition of our colleagues,
and who take pride in the accomplishments of our students will continue to strive
for excellence regardless of the vote on March 9th and 10th. To suggest that
we will not is false and furthermore is a disservice to the integrity of the
faculty. Collective bargaining will not end merit pay and will not eliminate
standards for tenure. It will give faculty a stronger voice in setting policy
in these areas, and thus will serve to encourage excellence. It will also, to
the benefit of the majority of us poor plodders, serve to adequately compensate
mere competence, itself no small achievement at the modern university.
As many have pointed out, collective bargaining will not be a panacea for
Oregon State University, but the Faculty Alliance does offer a framework within
which faculty can work together for the greatest good of all of us. Our first step
must be a yes vote. Then the real work will begin.
March 2, 1983
Opinions expressed by authors of Faculty Forum articles are not necessarily
those of the OSU Faculty or Faculty Senate.