California AAUP tackles strategies to strengthen faculty organizations

The California Conference of the American Association of University Professors held its annual meeting last weekend where long-time CFA leader Elizabeth Hoffman gave a keynote.

Hoffman, who taught in the CSU throughout the historic development of the faculty’s union, related how CFA built the kind of unity among California State University faculty that could get better contracts, better teaching conditions and a better public university overall.

In a conversation after her talk, which was titled “Organizing & Equity in a Two-Tier System: The Experience of the California Faculty System,” Hoffman said she had wanted to “cover some of the strategies and tactics CFA used to build a unified union with the power to protect a stable faculty workforce and protect academic freedom for our profession.”

Hoffman herself is a retired CSU Lecturer, a job category known nationally as “contingent faculty” and which recently has been the subject of unprecedented scrutiny by a Congressional committee and the news media.

One of the vexing difficulties for the faculty on some campuses is building common cause among tenure-line and contingent faculty. Hoffman recounted a new vision initiated in CFA during the late 1990s.

Hoffman said CFA began to articulate for the faculty a different kind of higher ed union, one that is “based upon the democratic role that professors must play in assuring the highest quality of education for all of America’s citizens, especially the many first-generation college students. This broader vision of unionism required attempting to create one big union that could address concerns faced by a broad range of employees.”

Among other events at the AAUP California meeting, Bob Samuels presented on “Making Public Education Free.” Samuels, who teaches at UC San Diego, has on the same topic a recently released book and a working paper circulated by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education.

The meeting held at Santa Clara University included faculty from all three segments of California public higher ed as well as from private universities.