(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)
I have been suggesting that shared governance in the modern American university is failing. That failure is a function of fundamental changes in social expectations of universities, in the effect of the changes in the composition of university faculties (introducing a class element to labor structures), in the reactionary response of faculties unreasonably holding on to past ideals now effectively abandoned, and to university administrators eager to reject the classical model of collaborative governance in favor of the (more efficient) hierarchical corporate model of diffused governance in which accountability becomes easier to avoid.
These changes appear to move the university to the adoption of 20th century corporate factory models of administration and operation. And the consequence of the adoption of that form will have an inevitable consequence for labor--the move toward unionization of a "deprofessionalized" cadres of knowledge workers seeking to protect their interests against exploitation by the operators of learning factories. These effects are now quite visible among the most elite American universities. The contingent and fixed term faculty at the University of Chicago have now begun a process that might lead to the unionization of their ranks (Maudlyne Ihejirika, University of Chicago's nontenured faculty file to unionize, Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 29, 2015) (portions reproduced below).
This post considers the inevitable move toward unionization and suggests that it may point to a radical change in the nature of the university and its abandonment of a collaborative for an adversarial model of governance. It suggests the way these changes may point to the need to restructure the operations and objectives of faculty governance institutions in this new administrative and operational climate.