We do not want to be the ivory tower: Professors need to have job experience in the areas they teach

Currently, our Teacher Education Department has a search for a science educator tenure track professor.  The California State University Dominguez Hills Faculty Affairs Department (personnel for faculty) has informed us that the search committee may not require an applicant for that position to have taught science in the US to be a professor of teacher education for science instruction.  For the last couple of years, we have requested that they approve our posting for a science educator with the requirement that the applicant needs to have taught for 3 years. They won’t. Here’s why that is a bad idea.

Here’s the rationale:

  1. Experience is an essential component of knowing how to do something.  Why would we hire a person who is not an expert in their area? 
  2. A professor without experience in K-12 US schools would not have credibility to the students.  One of our current professors has impressed on us that  her teaching in Nigeria did not prepare her to teach teacher candidates in the US.  The university is already known to be the ‘ivory tower’ because too many times, classes do not address real world problems. This new policy of prohibiting the requirement for applicants of tenure track jobs to have experience teaching will increase the students’ perceptions that what professors teach does not reflect what teachers need to teach.
  3. More experience means more expertise. It also seems that a person who has taught 10 years or so should be given weight on their application for the wisdom they have experienced in schools.  Schools cycle through different waves of teaching methods, policies, state standards, textbooks, trade books, and management systems over 10 year’s time and someone with that experience would be more credible and more helpful to teacher candidates that they teach.
  4. Finally, those with lots of experience teaching have an intuitive understanding of classroom contexts and can advise teacher candidates in a much more complex and grounded way.

Addressing arguments against:

  1. The fear of having to hire someone is a straw man argument.  Requiring 3 years of teaching to be a teacher educator does not exclude or discriminate against Green Card Residents or non-residents of the United States.  My wife who is now 60 years old was a Green Card holder for 37 years and never had to answer any questions about her status during the interview process when being hired in the public schools or in the CSU.  It also doesn’t exclude non-residents and citizens of other countries.  Now there will be some extra steps employers and non-residents/citizens need to take to get the right visa, but it doesn’t exclude them.  You might have hear of someone who challenges the process as being exclusionary and then we end up with a professor we don’t want, but it is much more objectionable to be stuck with professors who have experience in the areas they have to be experts in.
  2. Our understanding is that we might have to go through an audit if we get flagged on requiring that a professor have experience in the area in which they are teaching.  Bring on the audit.  Again, it’s preferable to stand on principles as faculty and staff at Dominguez Hills have always done rather than sink into mediocrity. 
  3. I would hate for the public to find out that we cannot require professors have experience in the jobs they are preparing candidates for.  We will lose credibility among students and in the general public if they were to find this out.  In contrast, we will gain credibility if we challenge this notion.

Please let me know if you think professors should have classroom teaching experience in US schools in order to be considered to be professors of teacher education.

Timing is Everything in CSU/CFA Negotiations – A Path Forward

Essentially negotiations start 18 months into the process.

Real negotiation starts when the CSU administration thinks the CFA has leverage. In the first 18 months of negotiation, without an impasse or threat of mediation, or job actions, the CSU will stall. So the path forward is to only expect progress after the two or three months after the impasse and set a date and prepare for job actions that increase in time and severity over the next 6 months or so. Don’t misunderstand. You have to poll members, plan a strategy, and set goals, but you most likely won’t see any progress until you have leverage. The idea behind the information and job actions campaign is that when the administration sees that the longer they stall, the more severe and frequent the job actions will be….and they will likely provide better offers earlier and then increase them as long as we hold out. But you can’t organize job actions until well after to the impasse.

Job actions should be creative and increasing in severity and frequency as time passes. Here’s an example:

  1. Starting with week 1, we don’t read or answer email and no meetings on Fridays until we get a contract. It’s our writing day and we have to focus.
  2. Starts week 3, rolling strike at one campus for one day. The next week two other campuses using different days. The following week, three other campuses.
  3. Starting week 6, no professor is available for meetings on any day.
  4. Starting week 8, our demand for increase in the General Salary Increase goes up 1% for every year negotiated for every week we go without contract.
  5. Week 9, professors are encouraged to teach remotely all classes unless there is a rolling strike that day. (You can teach up to 5 classes remotely in a face to face class.)
  6. Week 12, the rolling strike that has no classes one day a week, becomes no classes two different days a week.

And so on. If it’s planned in advance the administration will try to settle early. For faculty, it’s better to keep planning and waiting. So the time to plan has to happen fast because we are only allowed to plan a month or two after the impasse. So the example above is not what we plan to do. It’s meant only for illustration of what a plan of increased CFA expectations and actions might look like.

WHAT NOT TO DO ON THE PATH FORWARD

Don’t whine and complain that the administration has too many employees (they do), gets too much money (they do), or don’t respect faculty (well…). You can point it out and make fun of it, just don’t whine. They are in a ‘rich guy & gal’s club’ with the Trustees of the CSU. The trustees need the rock hard loyalty of the presidents and vice presidents. Other administrators are expected to be disinterested. It is essentially a bribe. I am not saying I am above it or that it’s not complicated. I’m just calling it what it is. If upper level administrators violate that loyalty rule, they will not stay for long and lower level administrators will not move up. Simple. Don’t ask for their loyalty. It’s like giving them administrator poison and saying, “if you love us, you will poison yourself.”

Don’t act unprofessionally. Dress professionally. T-shirts were always a bad idea. Do you wear t-shirts when you teach? Well, some people do and maybe it seems cool or counter-cultural to college students who are used to shirt and tie high school teachers. When you express your views, look good, look attractive. Have some dignity.

Secondly, don’t expect to have large crowds of people marching and chanting with you. This is the information age. Let’s get the message out with social media and with some comedy & creativity like the style of The Onion, John Oliver or Trevor Noah. Professors like well thought out arguments-not signs. Do not go into the president’s office with a sign. That implies bullying. That is not who we are.

Third, don’t be frustrated or upset at what the administration does unless it’s illegal or immoral. We are all adults and we know how this goes. Just remember those injustices and during the polling before negotiation describe what happened. Then set out out a very general plan for job actions. (You can’t plan or organize job actions until a month or two after the impasse.)

So the path forward, is to negotiate, but don’t expect the CSU to bring a good offer. Every negotiation is the same. The CSU stalls, gives low ball offers, and is “unprepared” to negotiate for the first 18 months. The purpose of that stalling is to reframe negotiations as starting a year later and thus not having to pay a cost of living increase that first year (like in our last contract). The second purpose is to make the faculty a little more frantic that we are not going to get a good contract (again, like in our last contract). Then when a little more is offered, then out of desperation, the faculty will accept that little increase (like this past year when we took the offer of 4% guaranteed COLA for 4 contract years when inflation was 5.7-7% and growing). Our strategy then was people are tired of waiting, let’s “put some money in their pockets.” We need to have patience and start the real negotiation when we have leverage. CFA describes the process here.

You probably have heard that in the next 8 months (March 2023?), the CFA will begin negotiations for the 2023-2024 part of our 4 year contract. Real negotiations will begin 18-20 months later. We need to declare an impasse as soon as possible. In November 2024, real negotiation will begin and we need to be thinking about cool job actions in the spring of 2025.

Prepare to be shocked!

So when administration low balls, arrives unprepared, and is not ready to discuss the different part of the contract, just pour your favorite drink in your coffee cup and relax. No meaningful negotiation will go on. If you want to read more about some failings of the last contract, read my previous posts in criticalliteries.net. Let’s not dwell on the past. Let’s learn from it. If there is any thing we learned from the past negotiations, it’s that we need to extend that time a month or two after impasse and use our leverage to get a better contract. That is the path forward.

A Path Forward on the Negotiation of a CFA-CSU Contract

Current inflation is 8.5%, but our increase is only 3%.

First of all, I do not have a degree is Labor Studies and all of my understanding about contracts comes from my 45 years as an educator. I hope that some people will respond to this post and inform me about ways that my thinking can be improved. I also want to say that the CSU-CFA contract is unique and probably different from other negotiation settings.

So over the last 24 years, I have noticed a similar tactic by the CSU. The CSU administration comes in unprepared when negotiations start and for the first 18 months. They discuss several of the less important issues. They always come in with low ball offers and essentially very little change. That period lasts about 22 months. During that time the negotiating team reports to the CFA members frustration at the CSU indifference and lack of a decent offer. During the last 6 months of that 22 month period, the mediator will find that the CSU offer is too low and the faculty continue to work without a contract. At that point the faculty are allowed by law to do a job action such as rotating strikes on different campuses or eventually declare a date that the CFA will strike. So in this last contract, the CSU offered of 2% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) total over 3 years.

  1. In the 2020-2021 year we received $3500 COVID money that was not added to the base pay. That’s like nothing because we were owed that from the federal government already. The money flowed through the state. That should have been on top of COLA. Police got it. Doctors and nurses got it. Schools, the unemployed, and small businesses got it. California received $14,000 per capita. Professors got $3500 and no COLA. Since the $3500 is not added to the base pay, it does not increase the future earnings. So if you are 35 years old and will work for another 30 years, retire at 65 and then live off your pension for 30 years until 95 years old, that $3500 averages out to $58 dollars per year. So nothing. And we will have to pay taxes on the increased national debt that is generated by COVID. However, if the CSU were to have offered 1% COLA for an $80,000 salary, that equals $800 per year for a total of $48,000 over 60 years. During that year, inflation was 2% so a normal COLA would be $96,000. $96,000 vs. $3500. We got scammed. (I know the math is not perfect.) The path forward is recover that 2% in the next negotiations.
  2. In the 2021-2022 year, we received 4% and the inflation at that time was 5.7%. Now it’s 8.5%. So we lost between 2.7% and 4.5% adjusted for inflation. Step increases are something workers get for longevity so they should not be calculated in the increase. No increases were given for those who have gone through their steps. Also, those promoted would receive 9% increase. That used to be 7%. That happens once or twice in a career. The path forward is to recover the 3% or 4% lost to inflation.
  3. We will get 3% this year (2022-2023), but inflation is 8.5%. The path forward to to recover the 5.5% in the next negotiations.
  4. In 2023-2024, negotiations will open up again and you can expect the CSU to stall for the first 18 months giving a low ball offer. It’s what they always do. The problem is that since we are under contract until 5/2024 and so we have no leverage to impose job actions. Mediation might start in November of 2024. Without a contract, the CFA will hurry to accept any offer to “put money in the hands of the professors.” The other problem is that the state budget will be drastically down because the state will lose all of the federal COVID money. Professors will look at that and deduct that the state has a tight budget. We need to tighten our belts as well and accept less. In February of 2025, the CSU will offer something and we will take it. No. Let’s not do that. The path forward is to insist on a 11.5% increase that we lost due to inflation over the during the first 3 years of the contract. Then ask for COLA for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 year.

So, this path forward does not compensate professors for the 17% we lost to inflation in the previous 20 years; however, it does help professors afford cost of living increase in housing, food, childcare, vehicules, and other costs. We don’t want more money. We just want to keep up with inflation.

More of the path forward.

OK now how to do that. First of all, the CFA representative have to stop intimidating professors who have a diverse point of view. Let’s allow for freedom of thought without intimidation. If you have an argument, make it! No personal attacks. I am not some kind of negative person or angry. I just want a fair contract that is adjusted for inflation.

Paid CFA representatives should take on one additional university and more money needs to be spent on a statistic person who points out the historical inequity of salaries between:

  1. the CSU administration and the professors,
  2. the cost of living in California, stories of assistant professors and their struggle,
  3. the difference between other public employees in California with a Ph.D
  4. and our current pay, and the difference between other private employees in California with a Ph.D. and our current pay.

Then we need someone who can do design and marketing to get information out to our professors and the public in general in easy to understand ways. Right now, professors are trusting the CFA (bad idea) and attracted to shiny objects instead of solid arguments. We also have to find a way to let different perspectives on the contract to be heard. Currently, the CFA is the only organization that puts out information and then they do not allow others to see the email addresses of other faculty members in their own college, university or other universities. My mother left East Germany when only one point of view was allowed. We pay a lot of money in dues and the services we get from the CFA are inadequate.

Also, we have to stop whining about how bad the CSU is. They are just doing their job in negotiations. Now let’s do our job. As long as we accept their bad offers, it’s our own fault.

You want social equity? This is the path forward.

P.S. I expect that the CSU and CFA will try to suppress these ideas. We need to get them out. So please respond to these ideas by adding or by pointing out fallacies of logic.