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Faculty Forum Papers

March 1983 Collective Bargaining - Collective of the Mediocre By

Charles E. King
Department of Zoology

February 24, 1983


Earlier today I met my General Zoology class of 234 students. Tonight will be devoted to preparing for tomorrow's graduate class in Population Biology. In the interim I have spent a couple of hours in the laboratory, conferred with two colleagues and a graduate student on theses research, participated in the selection of a topic for next week's journal club, revised part of a manuscript, slipped out for a quick noontime swim, helped an undergraduate locate a research advisor, discussed an upcoming field trip with a colleague, skimmed through a new issue of Nature (reading one article and noting two others that should be read, but probably, won't), surreptitiously attended a faculty forum meeting, talked with a colleague at another university, kidded and been kidded by a secretary, and started to grade a stack of term papers.

Sounds like a typical day in the life of an OSU faculty member? Obviously not because I also signed several travel requests, ok'd the purchase of a $78 calculator by the department's accountant, and asked three of my colleagues to serve on a committee. These activities, it seems, can only be performed by management and one can not be both faculty and department chairman.

By mutual agreement of the "Faculty" Alliance (not all of whom hold professorial ranks) and the OSU "Administration" (all of whom do hold professorial ranks and have extensive backgrounds in classroom instruction), departmental chairmen have been excluded from participation in the important decision on unionization. In reaching this political conclusion, both groups have acted on self-interest at the expense of common sense and concern for the welfare of the university. It is precisely this type of action that destroys collegiality and illustrates the dangers of unionization. A similar pattern evolved at the University of South Florida which unionized while I was a faculty member at the institution. Deans became adversaries. As at PSU, distinctions between outstanding or barely adequate performances in teaching and research, were lost in common across-the-board salary adjustments. Unionization did not increase the size of the pie; it did endure that all individuals received an equal serving independent of their merit. If unionization would solve the real problems of our research assistants, or would make OSU a better university by building excellence in the liberal arts, I would be an ardent advocate of collective bargaining. Frustration is a powerful motivator. Let us hope it does not change OSU into a "collective of mediocre."