A Note From Prof. Carney: I receive between 300 and 1000 emails a month asking whether there has been any improvement in my treatment by the Boston University administration. (Short answer: No. In fact, recently, probably as a result of these postings, it's been even more professionally nasty and financially punitive than ever.) A significant number of my correspondents ask me about the general university situation: whether I have personally been singled out for abusive treatment or whether the abuse I have received is representative of the treatment of faculty in general by the administration (and specifically by university Provost Jean Morrison and university President Robert Brown). It is, for obvious reasons, an impossible question for me to answer. In the first place, I can’t poll all of the other faculty members and prove that they have been treated the same way I have; in the second place, precisely to the extent that they have been similarly abused and mistreated, many of them are too intimidated and afraid to speak out in the ways I have on this blog; and in third place, anything I said about faculty mistreatment at Boston University would be viewed as being slanted and biased by my own situation. So I have avoided answering the question and generally only described the abuse and financial, bureaucratic, and personal punishment I have personally suffered.But in the past few weeks some evidence that may be relevant to a more general answer has presented itself that I wanted to share with readers of this blog. A little background is necessary to understand it: Boston University is infamous for exploiting their adjunct and part-time faculty members. For more than forty years, adjunct and part-time faculty members have been paid poverty wages, denied all fringe benefits (including even the most minimal health benefits), and been subjected to flagrant administrative mistreatment of all kinds (including being hired and fired at whim with no notice). Only a few months ago, after years of abuse and neglect, an effort was begun to organize a union (or quasi-union) to, at the very least, attempt to secure adjunct and part-time faculty members (many of the adjuncts working a full-time schedule more demanding than a regular faculty member) even the bare minimum in pay, administrative fair treatment, and legal rights of the sort that blue-collar workers at your neighborhood McDonalds or Walmart have been guaranteed for decades.I realized that this organizing effort, and the response from President Robert Brown and Provost Jean Morrison to it, could stand as my reply to my questioners about BU's general treatment of its faculty. A previous time, when staff members attempted to organize, the Boston University President solved the problem by firing the organizers. That was that. Immediate, easy, and absolute. He just terminated their positions. All of them. En masse. They were gone the next pay cycle. The message was loud and clear and no one misunderstood it: No organizing. No complaints. No rights. Or you're out the door. That's the BU way. This time President Robert Brown has taken a slightly different tack with the same goal. Stop the organizers. Stop the unionization. Stop the faculty movement. To hell with rights, with adequate pay, with benefits, with legal due process. Who needs fair, humane treatment, anyway? The adminstrators are being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. They have granted themselves all the rights they want. Boston University has been this way for decades. What's your problem, faculty dude?I reprint two emails I received connected with the unionization effort and the administrative response to it below. The first is from one of the most respected senior members of the Boston University full-time faculty, a Professor in the School of Law, David Lyons, who is advising the organizing effort and sent the following email to the entire list of full-time faculty several weeks back. Though he tries to be neutral and dispassonate in his statement, I would call your attention to several sentences in his message where Prof. Lyons writes: "As you may already know, the administration has taken an anti-union position and maintains an anti-union website, despite these practices being condemned by prominent alumni" (a link is included here to alumni statements), and “[I] urge the BU administration to allow the adjunct professors to make this decision for themselves, without fear of retaliation or intimidation.” Can you read between the lines? Does that answer the question of how faculty (and attempts to obtain minimal fair treatment and the most minimal benefits) are treated by Boston University administrators? Do those statements tell you whether my treatment as a faculty member is exceptional and uncommon? Does someone need to include those statements if, in the words that end Prof. Lyons' email, there has not been a well-documented history of a "fear of [adminstrative] retaliation or intimidation” against full- and part-time faculty members at Boston University extending over many years? Think about it. Think about what kinds of experiences, over many decades, it would take to have prompted Prof. Lyons to have written the following email to the entire BU faculty a few weeks ago, virtually pleading with the administration to mend their ways and not continue their policies of harrassment and retaliation againt independent-minded faculty. —R.C.Dear Colleagues,
Good news! Adjunct and other part-time faculty of Boston University have successfully petitioned to hold an election to form a union! This is a turning point for their campaign to win better pay, access to benefits, and improved working conditions. Now more than ever, it is necessary that we demonstrate our support for their effort to have a voice in the future of both Boston University and direction of Higher Education nationwide.
While our part-time colleagues reach out to their colleagues as the election approaches, so too will the BU administration. As you may already know, the administration has taken an anti-union position and maintains an anti-union website, despite these practices being condemned by prominent alumni. [Click on the preceding link to read what alumni have said on this subject.] At a recent Faculty Council meeting, Provost Jean Morrison announced that the Administration has no legal obligation to be neutral. We believe that, in view of BU’s neglect of part-time faculty, it should welcome collective bargaining and is under a moral obligation to take a neutral stance.Many full-time BU faculty support unionization for our part-time colleagues who, despite being well-qualified, lack decent pay, job security, and bargaining power, and many of whom are excluded from BU benefits. We see union representation as especially important for the many adjuncts who lack full-time jobs and depend for their livelihood on part-time appointments because they are hired for only a course or two at a time.We should tell the adjunct professors that we support them and want the BU administration to be neutral. I plan to bring up the issue in the Faculty Council and I ask that you contact your college’s Faculty Council representatives (see the list of all of the council members) to urge the BU administration to allow the adjunct professors to make this decision for themselves, without fear of retaliation or intimidation.
Sincerely,David LyonsProfessor of Law and PhilosophyBoston University* * *I had intended the preceding to be the entire posting for this page, until I received the following email in my in-box this afternoon. It is from someone else associated with the attempt to secure basic employment rights for part-time and adjunct faculty members. Like the email from Prof. Lyons, it speaks for itself.
—R.C.Hi Professor Carney,My name is Meg Tiley, and I am an alum of the School of Social Work. I have been working with your Part-time colleagues for the past year on their effort to form their union.Throughout this process, the Boston University Administration has attempted to dissuade adjunct professors from organizing by spreading misinformation about the process of forming a union and warning them about the “many unknowns,” the “uncertain,” and a “third party.”Whether or not you are in favor of collective bargaining for BU’s Part-time Faculty, they should be given the opportunity to make this choice for themselves, free from pressure or implied threats from the Boston University Administration.Tomorrow afternoon, Professor David Lyons has added this important topic to the agenda of the meeting of the Faculty Council. I’m writing to you today to ask you to contact your representatives on the Faculty Council and urge them to speak up in support of Boston University Administration taking a fully neutral stance toward adjunct unionization. Included at the end of this message is an email which you can send to your Faculty Council Representative. Please feel free to send it as is, or adapt it to your particular position, College, Department, or perspective.Dear _________________________,I’m writing to you in support of the right of the Part-time Faculty of Boston University to hold their union election free from pressure and persuasion of the Boston University Administration.Whether or not you are in favor of collective bargaining for BU’s Part-time Faculty, they should be given the opportunity to make this choice for themselves - without interference from the people in whose hands their job security ultimately rests.Professor David Lyons has added this important topic to the agenda of the meeting of the Faculty Council schedule for tomorrow, December 2nd. I am asking that you speak up in support of neutrality on the part of the Boston University Administration in regards to the adjuncts’ union organizing efforts.Thank you,____________
I think it's fair to say that between Prof. Lyons’ and Ms. Tiley’s emails, any faculty member thinking of working at Boston University has their answer to the question of how the university administration treats its faculty members. I hope a word to the wise is sufficient. Beware. I didn’t have the benefit of this kind of information when I accepted the offer BU made to me. Be forewarned. Be wiser than I was. — Ray Carney