Friday, July 14, 2006

dear colleagues

our colleague jane connolly recently sent this letter to the UM faculty as a commentary on the administration "response" to our letter of june 27. we endorse its content and share in jane's indignation.

Dear Colleagues,

On June 27, 110 faculty submitted a letter in support of our students to Patricia Whitely, Vice President of Student Affairs, and William Sandler, Dean of Students, with copies to President Shalala and Provost LeBlanc. This letter was also posted on and released to the local press. The Daily Business Review published the letter and offered the UM administration the opportunity to respond. Although the faculty were not given the courtesy of the acknowledgement of the letter, much less a response to its content, the administration did provide a response to DBR as follows:

To the Editor:

While we respect the views expressed by our faculty, it is unfortunate that these particular faculty members have chosen to publicize private, protected information about University of Miami students.

Because the university's principal concern is the well-being of its students, which includes maintaining confidentiality of disciplinary proceedings, it declines the opportunity to discuss the specifics of this matters.

It is worth noting, however, that the faculty letter contains many factual inaccuracies and mischaracterizations with regard to the events to date and is co-signed by only 110 members of the 2,600 faculty body.

The university's actions in this matter have been supported by a number of broad constituencies, including faculty, students, and alumni. The university continues to strongly believe that the students have been treated fairly, responsibly and in accord with its Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook.

University of Miami

The letter makes a number of false claims which must be addressed.

1. The purported signatory of the letter is "University of Miami." It is odd that anyone in the administration believes that s/he is the "University of Miami." The closing sentence also reveals that the author believes that s/he speaks for the entire university: "The university continues to strongly believe that the students have been treated fairly, responsibly and in accord with its Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook." This is, quite simply, not the case. The university is comprised of its students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni. Minimally, the 110 faculty who signed the letter and scores of students who have been accused or who support the accused do not believe that the students have been treated fairly. Conversations with a large number of staff and some administrators, both vulnerable entities in this context, show that they do not share this view. Nor does any of the alumni we have spoken to. The 110 faculty signatories did not claim to be the University of Miami, and we ask in the future that the administration refrain from such misleading statements.

2. The administration asserts that the release of this letter to the press violates "private, protected information" about the students. This claim is sheer nonsense. Since no student's identity was revealed, no confidentiality was infringed. In addition, the students themselves have spoken directly to the press about the charges and proceedings. They have also authorized some of the signatories to do so, as well as saying that information, including their identities, may be posted on picketline. The administration's claim of a violation of confidentiality by faculty is the height of hypocrisy, given that the administration violated the students' right to privacy (and hence, the Buckley amendment) by delivering summonses to some students in class, in front of their colleagues and faculty.

3. The administration claims that the letter contains "factual inaccuracies and mischaracterizations" but declines to indicate any of these. We stand behind the statements in the letter, which are based on information provided by the accused students and their lawyers (some of whom are UM faculty), our own discussions with UM administrators, and our own eyewitness experience of the events.

4. The administration's declaration that "The university's actions in this matter have been supported by a number of broad constituencies, including faculty, students, and alumni" is bogus. While some from each group *may* have supported the administration's actions during the strike, very few in any of these groups even *know* of the administration's actions with regard to disciplining the students, most especially because these actions are being taken in the summer when faculty and students are largely absent from campus. This, in fact, is a large part of the complaint of the accused students and the faculty signatories: the administration has refused to postpone the proceedings until the fall when the students could have a fair hearing before a panel including students and with student and faculty witnesses and faculty advisors to support their cases.

5. The administration shows no respect for the signatories, who are "only 110 members of the 2,600 faculty body." Only? The fact that as many as 110 faculty signed the letter in the middle of the summer is astonishing. Either the author of the letter wishes to denigrate the 110 signatories or, as an administrator, doesn't realize how astonishing it is that 110 faculty could even be found in the middle of the summer to consider signing a letter. It is also worth noting that, unlike the administration, we have no means to communicate with all faculty across the campuses. We can only communicate to that portion of the faculty (fewer than 600) who are members of this list.


Jane Connolly
Professor of Spanish

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Check out this piece by Mary Beth Maxwell, from American Rights at Work. The piece appears in Political Affairs.

U.S. Labor Law is Broken

If you ask most people in America why there are fewer members of unions, they have ready answers. They think it’s because of technology or because manufacturing jobs have left or it’s due to globalization and changes in the economy. They agree how important unions were in the old days, but wonder if maybe they just don’t fit anymore—maybe that’s why fewer workers have unions today. There are three answers to that question that most people in America don’t know—and need to know—that explain why so few workers have unions.

The first is that employer interference with workers making a choice about a union is completely off the charts. At American Rights at Work, we crunched the government’s own numbers from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and demonstrated that literally every 23 minutes in the United States—in the United States of America—someone is illegally discriminated against or fired for trying to exercise their rights at work. That’s really an outrage in a democracy. There is a level of lawlessness in the U.S. workplace in terms of firings and surveillance and intimidation that I think would stun most people if they knew about it. We commissioned a report from the University of Illinois at Chicago that found 30 percent of employers fire somebody illegally during organizing campaigns. Further, 49 percent of employers threatened to shut down the worksite if people were to vote for forming a union, and 82 percent of those employers actually hire high-priced union-busting consultants to coach them in how to defeat those campaigns.

Second, most people in America have no idea that union-busting is a massive, for-profit industry—it’s simply not “some workers want a union and some don’t.” Workers are up against hired guns, coaching managers and middle-managers and co-workers on how to defeat a union organizing campaign. [cont'd]