Maryland AAUP Fall Conference Government in Higher Education Minutes & Executive Summary

Nearly 50 faculty from 8 different institutions attended the October 9th meeting, which included a government relations and lobbying workshop; a keynote address by AAUP National Executive Committee member, Michael Bérubé; and a business meeting to discuss various agenda and organizational issues. 

 

 

Maryland AAUP Conference Minutes - Saturday, October 9, 2010, 9AM to 1PM

Theme: Government in Higher Education

 

I. Government Relations & Lobbying Workshop:  

 

Brian Turner, Secretary of the AAUP Assembly of State Conferences Executive Committee & Professor of Political Science, Randolph Macon University: we will discuss how to organize a lobby day, cultivate relationships with government officials, track legislation, and use government relations work to get faculty voices heard in the legislature.  

A. The purpose of the Assembly of State Conferences is to issue advocacy and position statements relating to higher education issues.

B. Be pro-active: collect data; invite legislators to campus (Delegate Bill Frank, Republican, District 42, came to the state conference last fall).  Get to know delegates, stay in the information loop, so faculty not always reacting; increase visibility (e.g., MD AAUP higher education tote bags).

D. Only Montgomery College has a collective bargaining chapter.  If they (i.e., the legislature) do not know you exist, they won’t serve you well.

E. Unless you’re AARP, you need allies stronger than you: institutional lobbyists are better than faculty, can cultivate on-campus, go-to person.

F. Need to discuss with legislators issues of contingency: less equipped to guide students (less likely to advise); write recommendations for students; role in shared governance (need assessment if legislator wants accountability, contingents can’t do it).  [It is noteworthy that they often do, in fact, do these things: some of the national organization’s rhetoric is out-of-step with on-the-ground facts). 

D. Organize a Lobby Day: with higher education reforms taking place around the country in state legislatures, it’s crucial to have a presence amid the decision-making. Bring students with you; they’re more likely to meet if you bring them.  For federal issues, note that the AAUP Capitol Hill Day generally takes place mid-June, this coming year, June 19th, 2011, in DC.

E. Have government relations committees track pieces of legislation so members can follow what’s going on with it.  Have theme when subcommittee meets; communicate what you’re doing to membership.

F. Use a legislative reporting form, such as the following: (create link to a pdf).

G. Create Position Papers that include bill numbers with main talking points; examine sample ones, like the following, to use as models: (create link to .pdf).

H. Get your State Conference some publicity, not just for their lobbying day but also by issuing awards to delegates to recognize higher education advocates. 

I. Be sure to thank delegates who pushed for your bill and recognize them to your membership as well; note this sample action request in this regard: (create link to .pdf).

Additional handouts connected to this presentation: (create link to .pdf).

 

 

II. Keynote: Michael Bérubé, The Paterno Professor in English Literature and Science, Technology, and Society at Pennsylvania State University, Forthcoming MLA President in 2012, and Member of the Executive Council of the National AAUP: “What Happened to the Humanities?”

 

A. Argued one of the real crises of the humanities would be humanists have not defended what they do well and circulate uninformed views about their fields, all of which take the form of variations upon the theme, “we know we’re ugly and pointless and nobody takes our classes and everybody is right to hate us.”

 

B. Hence, the widespread attitude that when university programs and departments have to be eliminated, of course the humanities should go first; they’re regarded as boutique disciplines that lose money and have to be subsidized by other departments (e.g., SUNY-Albany cutting French, Italian, Russian, Classics and Theater and bypassing shared governance when doing so – insert link to that article here).  However, data and research does not in fact corroborate this assumption (cf. Newfield piece; insert .pdf here).

 

C. It’s said enrollments have declined precipitously since 1970 and also the field has been “ruined” by theory (most especially deconstruction, feminism, queer studies and on and on).  This assumed trend, however, fails to account for the rise of visual studies of various kinds (all of which count as part of the humanities) and that did not necessarily exist before, so in fact we see new emphases complicating the numbers that tell the story of a “decline.” See Bérubé’s What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts? for an elaboration on his position with respect to the value of the humanities. 

 

D. Kevin Mattson’s otherwise generally sympathetic review of Cary Nelson’s, No University Is an Island, in some ways captures how the issues can be muddied when he asks how can we talk about faculty rights when the Enlightenment and the very idea of rights has gone through the “poststructuralist meat grinder.” Theory figures here as if a justification for eroding academic freedom and tenure, dismissing such rights as if “elitist” rather than integral to preserving the freedom of expression and thought so integral to upholding democratic ideals and honest intellectual inquiry.

 

E. Also, to scapegoat theory in the humanities ignores that the theory wave became integral to research of all kinds, across disciplines, including the sciences (e.g., Physics and string theory). To advance knowledge, it was integral.

 

 F. The Sokal Hoax in 1996 precipitated the current skepticism towards the climate change scientists that has led to all sorts of academic freedom violations (i.e., confiscating emails, accusations of data fudging, insistence that scientifically-informed projections based on theoretical models can’t possibly demonstrate much of anything). 

 

G. Post the “culture wars” and “left-wing tenured radicals” and the marginalization of the humanities fields throughout the 1990s, we nonetheless now don’t have enough ways to organize against the backlash faced by scientists who do research that raises political dissent of whatever kind.  The AAUP can help play a role in uniting faculty when a colleague in a different department or division has their academic freedom violated.

 

H. What should we do about excluding the excluders?  Pluralist societies include people who don’t believe in pluralism.  We can emphasize the role of higher education as a public good that preserves the tenets of democracy. 

 

Some Questions Following Talk:

 

-The campus paper, The Towerlight, recently had a piece with a headline that went something like, “What Do you Do with a Worthless Education?” and it spoke to pressure put on students to pick a field that will get them a job.  What kinds of arguments would you marshal to make the case for the humanities in a tough economy? 

-What do you make of the trend of visas for International students who wish to study the humanities becoming harder to get, easier if you study sciences?

-As an educator in science education, does liberal arts advocacy or similar defenses inadvertently become dismissive of vocational training or applied scientific fields?  Did theory potentially play a role in a sort of division of labor between teaching and research?

-What do you make of the rise of creative writing in English Departments?  Did the default view become “I’ll just make my own reality,” once pluralism became cast as if making it impossible to “demonstrate” other truths? 

 

III. AAUP Maryland Business Meeting.

 

1. Chapter and Conference Membership Drives – spreading the word about the new advocacy rates to encourage involvement in the organization at both the chapter and conference/national level and to encourage participation in forthcoming 2011 elections.  What appeals can be made and how can we raise awareness of why it matters on our respective campuses?

2. AAUP Maryland 2011 Elections: The Nomination Process must commence early December to allow sufficient notice to solicit possible candidates (i.e., at least 30-days notice needed) and  to then forward the nominee information to the National, so that we can have access to their FREE online third party voting arrangement this Spring.  To qualify for this service, we must submit nominations by February 1st to Martin Snyder.  The AAUP MD Constitution indicates in odd years, the positions of President, Treasurer, and two at-large seats go up for nomination and election. 

We also ideally need and want to field candidates that represent the range of institutions in the state of Maryland and the range of faculty ranks, to keep everyone engaged and informed about the issues.

3. Volunteers for the creation of a Government Relations Committee needed – after our fall conference, it’s important to use things learned to encourage more pro-active involvement on the issues at the state and federal level.  Sign-up sheet circulated.

4. The Executive Comm. has tentatively proposed Loyola as the site for the next AAUP Maryland Conference; we’d like to solicit input for possible ideas, issues and topics for this event.  We have also tentatively proposed the date of Saturday, April 16th, but would like to discuss whether or not this conflicts with other events or whether or not folks prefer an alternative arrangement for the conference (including the possibility of shifting to one conference annually, rather than one each academic term). 

Note: this item resulted in a motion to amend the AAUP MD Constitution to accord with the national recommendation of one annual conference meeting and instead otherwise meeting to address the business of the conference or to conduct workshops that could enhance the effectiveness of local chapters.  The motion passed: 23 for and 2 against.  

5.  The Executive Comm. intends to meet again in December and during January intersession to address various organizational matters.  We welcome suggestions for agenda and issue items to discuss; email aaupmd@gmail.com

 

 

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