UW Faculty Forward Steering Committee member, Jim Liner, authored this inspiring and relevant piece, "Organizing Love As A Political Practice: Strategies For Labor and Antifacism."Read more
The University of Washington chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and UW Faculty Forward (SEIU affiliate union) issued a joint statement this week on the U.S. Presidential Election.
Please read it here to learn more about our shared principles, and our action statements in response.
In 2013, I came to the University of Washington as an assistant professor in the philosophy department. During my time as a graduate student at NYU I witnessed an undercurrent of tension between the administration and the broader community because of institutional growth.
At NYU, corporatization of higher education was at play. At the time, the school thought of development primarily in terms of opening new campuses and spreading the NYU brand instead of, say, making the school more affordable for undergraduates.
I see a similar tension at the University of Washington and a growing lack of affordability.
I came to the University of Washington in 1976 as a graduate student, and began doing research here after I earned my degree. Over the past forty years I’ve seen UW slowly – and in recently years, very quickly – become more corporate in its outlook.
This corporate mindset, and the cultural changes it brings with it for faculty and students, is one of the main reasons I joined the voluntary faculty union.
An example is the shift that’s happened in how UW recognizes and rewards academic progress.
Today, UW’s outlook is ‘you need to be a superstar and be constantly producing the next breakthrough in your field.’
This concept of academia is oriented towards what’s marketable, and it subverts the approach of scientific progress: the gains that are made from toiling in the trenches using the scientific method, and learning sometimes as much from failures as successes.
I see my PhD students absorbing this message from the UW environment; that they need to perform within a narrowly defined range in order to succeed in their field, and it worries me.
"At the UW, rates of non-tenured faculty have almost doubled from 578 total lecturers in 1998, to 1,030 adjunct faculty this year. During the same time period, tenure track professors have witnessed their ranks decline from comprising exactly 50 percent of the UW’s total faculty in 1998, to only 41 percent this year, according to charts from the Administration and Faculty Senate website.
In response to the UW’s reliance on lower paid, non-tenured faculty, 327 professors across all three UW campuses signed a letter in support of forming a faculty union last fall quarter. In summer 2015, professors in favor of starting a union on campus organized themselves into a group called “UW Faculty Forward,” which is affiliated with one of the largest labor unions in the United States, the Services Employees International Union (SEIU).
“We’ve formed a union, in part, because we think the time is right to come together as a faculty to work to advocate for public higher education in the state of Washington,” said Gina Neff, a tenured professor in communications and leader within SEIU and Faculty Forward."