From the President's Corner
The TU-AAUP/Faculty Association has had a busy Fall semester! We started off early this year, having our Fall meeting in the first week of classes. October featured our biggest Faculty and Friends Crab Feast (now simply called the Faculty Feast) to date! It was incredible to see such a great group of faculty from all across the university, enjoying each others’ company and delicious food. The funny thing is, even though all that people were doing was enjoying themselves, simply attending that event was a performance of advocacy and activism by each person in attendance. (Who knew that drinking a beer could also be a political gesture?) The size of the group indicated that we have an engaged and active faculty interested in strong shared governance at Towson. That’s a significant message to send to the administration and a reminder to ourselves that we have shared goals .
Just two days after that, Towson once again hosted the Fall meeting of the Maryland Regional AAUP chapter. Prof. Michael Bérubé, the keynote speaker, discussed how the financial crisis and the changing face of academia threaten academic freedom; addressing the case of the Humanities specifically, Bérubé suggested by extension that active faculty engagement in every academic field is essential to protect the integrity of the profession and higher education. Brian Turner, a member of the national AAUP executive board, helped faculty to conceptualize specific strategies for addressing governmental policy concerns via lobbying the legislature.
While these were both important events, there is much more work to be done. Your TU-AAUP officers and committees are actively working to promote fairness in annual review and P and T standards; increased faculty support in research, teaching, and compensation; better conditions for our contingent faculty; and policies that support work-life balance for faculty.
In addition to these issues, I’m sure most of us are also concerned about compensation. In the midst of our third year of furloughs and the absence of merit or COLA raises, we face an even bleaker situation in the future. The Maryland economy continues to struggle desperately and, as state workers, that deficit is sure to hit us, one way or another. In addition, our frozen (actually reduced) salaries have laid the groundwork for monumental problems of compression in the years to come.
These are all serious issues and require the committed engagement of all of us in helping to craft solutions. The situation at Towson, as in all of academia, is grave and the measures that are taken to recover will be steps that have a significant impact on the face of the university in the future; it is obviously in our best interests to be as involved as possible in shaping what those steps are. These faculty issues are at heart issues of educational quality: class size, curriculum, teaching load, research support, faculty workload, and faculty compensation all affect the kind of education we’re able to deliver to our students.
The first step for every faculty member in all the colleges of our university should therefore be to join the organization—at the local level by mailing a check for $15 local dues (made out to TU-AAUP) to our treasurer, Shaun Johnson (in the Elementary Education Department) and at the national level via the AAUP website: www.aaup.org. If you’ve already joined, convince at least one of your colleagues to join. Right now.
The next step should be for every faculty member to become involved in shared governance in whatever form possible. Run for a position on a university committee in the faculty elections coming up next semester. Run for an officer position in our TU-AAUP/Faculty Association chapter—we’ll be having an election for the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer this spring. Serve on departmental and college committees, participate in the standing committees of the TU-AAUP.
However you decide to play a role, please recognize that this is a time of great transition; what is done during that transition depends, I think, upon who is actively engaged in the process. It is as if we are in the most tumultuous passage you can recall from Melville (or, okay, if you must—The Perfect Storm): the winds whistle, the sea churns, and the sky throbs with the dull glowering that precedes a terrible squall. There’s no Gregory Peck in the wings—we’ve only ourselves. At this point, not to be engaged is not only irresponsible but foolish. To imagine that someone else will step in to take care of our jobs and of education is to sit and wait dumbly for the white whale as the ship slowly lists and sinks.
Thanks for all you do!
Associate Professor, Department of English