Use institutional e-mail for AAUP communications!

BY KEVIN L. COPE | AUGUST 15, 2020

Kevin L. Cope is the Robert and Rita Wetta Adams Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He served for ten years as president of the LSU Faculty Senate and of the LSU Council of Faculty Advisors and serves as the vice-president of the Association of Louisiana Faculty Senates. A former member of the AAUP national Council, he is treasurer of the Louisiana AAUP conference and chair of its Committee A.

Anyone engaged in activism sends and receives a lot of email.  Many of these letters might be considered confidential or provocative or controversial or just plain “hot,” for most colleagues doing a cold call on an experienced faculty leader are burning mad about something, whether bad policy or administrative persecution or workplace problems.  A very large number of the agitated letters that I receive ask, encourage, or occasionally (politely) order me either to reply to a private, non-university address or even to use such an address myself.  This request usually originates in a belief that a private email address is exempt from scanning by vindictive administrators who, the party believes, routinely reconnoiter faculty email.  Whether distressed or inquisitive or ardent and evangelistic, correspondents are often alarmed when I persist in using my standard university email service.  I would like to suggest that colleagues think twice before resorting to supposedly safe or even secret private addresses.  Here are some thoughts as to why we should come out of the cyber-closet and proudly use our institutional addresses.

Those in faculty leadership positions should, of course, recognize that colleagues with complaints may have fears that, even if unwarranted, seem real to them.  We should be glad to send email to any address that a nervous colleague may request.  I never force a colleague to receive email in an uncomfortable way.

However, under no circumstances will I change my own address, the address from which I send email.  There are several reasons for this decision.

First, it is something of an urban legend that the use of private email addresses provides protection.  In any situation where law is involved, an employer may subpoena any email that pertains to work—and that category, “work,” is a very wide one.

But, second, and more importantly, colleagues should exercise their right and authority to speak on issues of all sorts and should not aid and abet the culture of fear that has not only been imposed upon them but that they themselves propagate.  Avoiding controversy is one of the best ways to allow administrations to proceed unchecked in their erroneous ways.  Hesitation and trembling are quickly detected by the administration, who interpret these phenomena as signs of weakness and as licenses to move ahead.

Those who talk about their fear of detection often, indeed most of the time, do so with respect to their careers:  “you must understand, Professor Activist, that I and my blessed little career might be in jeopardy if I were caught dissenting.”  What such a person is saying is that he or she sets his or her personal welfare above the profession and the common good.  Such a person is passing the responsibility on to someone else—passing the buck: “let that notorious faculty troublemaker make the statement and take the heat for me.”  This behavior is especially malicious when it masquerades as mentoring, i.e., telling the next generation that the way to career advancement is to keep quiet (and quiver).

Colleagues who are afraid even to be seen speaking up are not allies.  They are enablers of antagonistic administrations.  They are also generally the first to sign up with the regime the minute that they get some paltry little favor.

Now and then, a colleague will come up with an inventive metaphor by way of justifying his or her reticence.  Recently, for example, a dear friend as well as fellow activist suggested that using private email addresses could be compared to wearing masks to protect others from coronavirus infection.  I do not agree with that analogy to mask wearing.  Wearing a mask is designed either (or both) to protect oneself against infection or to safeguard others from infection that one is spreading.  With regard to the first purpose, a courageous professor is immune from administrative infection, having informed himself or herself of the issues and having thought rightly and convincingly about them;  with regard to the second purpose, the protection of others, the allegorical mask is only necessary when spreading an infection, but what AAUP and other faculty leaders are spreading is truth and solutions.

Therefore, and again, I shall always send my email to any address that anyone pleases, but I shall continue sending from and receiving at my own usual email address.

President’s Newsletter August 9, 2020

The following was sent to all members, except for two administrators (associate members; can see the mailing here), and one member who does not wish to receive mail (but can also read here).

Dear colleagues,

The August 8 Zoom meeting had 23 participants at its highest point, but usually 22. Secretary Thomas Miller is preparing formal minutes and will have them to you soon. The next general meeting, originally planned for October 10 in Lafayette, will be virtual as well. Christof Stumpf (Prof. Biology, LSU-A) will serve as parliamentarian and timekeeper.

We adopted as a conference the two resolutions already endorsed and recommended by the executive committee: “Protecting lives, promoting education,” on COVID-19 and reopening, and the open letter on higher education funding. We urge you to consider their principles and to keep them in mind, in whole or in part, in your own organizing.

We also adopted the resolution by an ad hoc committee (K. Cope, J. Miranti, D. Sherman, M. Massé) asking the Governor for faculty representation on higher education boards in Louisiana. For reference I have archived the text here: https://aaupla.org/resolution-august-8-2020/. A task remaining for our next meeting, for Outreach and Communication or for the Executive Committee, is the delivery of the resolution and its possible use as an organizing tool.

We discussed implementation of the dues subsidy program, adding to the list of possible applicant categories members who have lost or reduced employment in the COVID-19 situation, but who are still active in AAUP or becoming yet more active. People who have nominees or wish to self-nominate should contact secretary Thomas Miller (Thomas_Miller@subr.edu) by October 10 if possible, although we will still consider applications later; the purpose of the program is to facilitate entry for newer / younger / lower-paid / underrepresented / contingent / faculty for whom dues are a barrier this year. We’ll subsidize 10 memberships at 100% for dues up to $100, and 50% for higher dues rates. If there are more than 10 nominees we will establish a protocol for ranking applications. We hope to encourage membership growth at institutions forming new chapters, and to support members interested in active participation on committees or other AAUP projects.

Other agenda items were deferred to the October 10 meeting. We will take new agenda items ahead of the meeting, and we will take new business, but we must cover all still-pertinent planned items, without disruption, this time. These are as follows, and some are routine:

– Implementation/use of resolution on HE boards (executive committee could also take this up in the meantime / appoint a committee to take up) 5 minutes
– Report on applications for dues subsidy program (Tom Miller) 5 minutes
– Report from COVID-19 committee (Tom Miller, Christof Stumpf, Sudhir Trivedi, Leslie ex officio); consider any new COVID-19 news; note Tulane survey and results here 10 minutes
Brief report from Summer Institute (Dave Reid, Leslie, perhaps others; all webinars and supplemental materials are available here (current members only – you must log in) 5 minutes
– Creation of network on the status of women (Judith Miranti, Leslie, [Jana Giles]) 10 minutes
– Brief reminder on fall/spring organizing drives, tools and materials for (Leslie) 5 minutes
– Brief report from Committee A (Kevin Cope, Leslie) 5 minutes
– Possible reports from chapters (Tulane, Southern have interesting activities, and others may) 10 minutes
*** BREATHE FOR 5 MINUTES, WE’LL BE COMING UP ON 11 AM ***
– Discussion: the idea of union (Steve Rushing, Kevin Cope) – what are the obstacles to organizing for HE advocacy in Louisiana, and how can they be overcome? 5-10 minutes presentation, 10-15 minutes discussion.
– 11:25 AM: Other agenda items / questions / new business, planning for JANUARY (not December) meeting; in the meantime executive committee, other committees, chapters can meet. 10 minutes
NOTE:
new agenda items already include report from Outreach/Communication committee and proposal to create Zoom issues workshops (Kevin Cope, Leslie Bary)
– 11:30 adjournment; if people still want to hang out, converse more informally, socialize, complain, plot revolution, I will hang out until 12 sharp, taking notes and moderating so that no one person dominates the floor.

Many thanks to everyone for your attention and your work.

In solidarity,

LESLIE
Leslie Bary
2020-2022 President
Louisiana Conference AAUP

Draft Resolution

SECOND DRAFT RESOLUTION FOR AUGUST 8TH AAUP MEETING: IMPROVING MANAGEMENT BOARDS, CONNECTING MANAGEMENT BOARD WITH FACULTY

Whereas the citizens of Louisiana have established universities as repositories of expertise—as resources for the teaching of our people, for the betterment of our life, for the advancement of our economy, and for the discovery of truth and knowledge;

Whereas Louisiana universities, per their mission statements, jointly cover a very wide range of disciplines and professional pursuits, from health care delivery to music history to astrophysics, and more;

Whereas the leadership of institutions that are dedicated to the cultivation of expertise requires familiarity with the culture and expertise of those whose profession is the production and dissemination of knowledge;

Whereas the management Boards of public institutions—the Boards of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System; the LSU System; the Southern University System; and the Louisiana Community and Technical Colleges System along with the State Board of Regents—are the appointed deputies of the Governor of Louisiana, regulating higher education on behalf of the State executive branch;

Whereas the membership of these five Boards is overwhelmingly comprised of persons drawn from a very small range of professions and vocations, most notably business, finance, and law, and whereas those few—no more than half-dozen—Board members with experience in education are former administrators rather than rank-and-file faculty members who belong to only two of the five Boards, those of Southern University and the LCTCS;

Whereas a much greater level of vocational, ideological, and socioeconomic diversity characterizes the governing Boards of Louisiana’s independent and religion-affiliated colleges and universities, which include in their membership architects, activists and social reformers, restaurateurs, artists, priests, and medical personnel, to name but a few of the participating professions;

Whereas a greater level of vocational diversity is also found among the management Boards of those prestigious institutions that routinely outrank Louisiana universities according to assorted metrics and rating services;1

Whereas, although the contributions of all Board members are highly valued, a Board that is dominated by one profession or cluster of professions lacks the breadth of expertise needed to served the expansive interests of higher education—a problem noted by prominent commentators writing for accoladed publications who have drawn attention to the potential conflict of interest between business-dominated Boards and the university mandate to probe, critique, and transform the status quo;

Whereas the thousands of faculty members of Louisiana colleges and universities possess an enormous but largely untapped treasury of disciplinary and educational knowledge as well as front-line experience in Louisiana higher education;

Whereas faculty members have made repeated attempts to establish channels of communication with both the management Boards and the executive branch of Louisiana government, whether through two meetings with the Governor’s Chief of Staff or whether through forums conducted under the aegis of ALFS (the Association of Louisiana Faculty Senates) or whether through testimony before legislative committees or whether through an assortment of personal contacts;

Whereas Louisiana’s higher education management Boards enfranchise student members but not faculty members;

Whereas the neglect of faculty advice and the unfamiliarity of management Boards with academic standards and practices have led Louisiana into the ignominious position of leading the nation both in total number of AAUP censures and the rate at which AAUP censures are imposed;

Therefore be it resolved that the Louisiana Conference of the American Association of University Professors [in partnership with the Association of Louisiana Faculty Senates] asks Governor John Bel Edwards to conduct a review of the qualifications required for appointment to any of Louisiana’s higher education;

Therefore be it resolved that the Louisiana AAUP [and ALFS] encourage[s] Governor Edwards to include experiential, vocational, and educational diversity as a criterion for appointment to management Boards;

Therefore be it further resolved that the Louisiana AAUP [and ALFS] ask[s] Governor Edwards to create formal channels for regular input to state higher education officials from Louisiana college and university faculty members;

Therefore be it further resolved that the Louisiana AAUP [and ALFS] ask[s] Governor Edwards to take the necessary steps, including legislative action if required, to include Louisiana faculty members on Louisiana higher education management Boards.

And therefore be it further resolved that the Louisiana State Conference of the AAUP will appoint a committee to introduce this resolution to Governor Edwards, either by preparing a suitable cover letter or arranging for direct delivery.

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