Universities have become increasingly corporatized, and the significant expansion of university administration has seriously eroded faculty authority to control or make effective recommendations about university policy.
That is one of the central arguments in an amicus brief submitted by the AAUP urging the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to uphold the National Labor Relation Board’s determination that non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Southern California are not managerial employees and are therefore eligible to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act.
This case arose when Service Employees International Union filed a petition to represent non-tenure-track full-time and part-time faculty in the USC Roski School of Art and Design.
The administration objected to the petition, arguing that the faculty were managers according to the precedent of the US Supreme Court’s 1980 ruling in NLRB v. Yeshiva University. But the labor relations board concluded that USC had not proven that the non-tenure-track faculty actually exercise control or make effective recommendations about policies that affect the university as a whole. After the faculty voted for the union, the NLRB ordered USC to collectively bargain. USC appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Institutional changes over the past few decades have led to increased top-down management of the university by the growing ranks of administrators, as well as the rapid expansion of non-tenure track faculty positions. The result has been a system wherein rather than relying on faculty expertise, growing ranks of administrators increasingly make unilateral decisions on university policies and programs, often influenced by considerations of external market forces and revenue generation.
Some stunning stats from the brief:
- Between 1976 and 2015, the number of full-time executives and managers in higher education grew by 140 percent.
- Conversely, the number of full-time and tenure-track positions has plummeted, with lower-wage non-tenure track faculty making up 70 percent of all faculty positions. This is nearly the reverse of the proportions in 1969, when 78 percent of faculty positions were tenured and tenure-track.
- From 1976 to 2011, the number of full-time non-faculty professional positions increased by 366 percent overall, with growth of 558 percent in that category at private institutions.
In supporting the collective bargaining rights of non-tenure-track faculty at USC, the AAUP brief challenges the “paper authority” that universities attribute to faculty without granting them actual authority in university policy-making. You can read the full brief here.
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