During a lovely extended weekend in April 2019, I had the opportunity to glimpse the future of higher education in the USA and found it will be ever-changing, challenging, and educational. I note that I do not prefer higher education as a term. There was a time that I would only say post-secondary education. I will go with the flow and use the term higher education, with some reservations.
The Future of Public Higher Education in Connecticut conference at Central Connecticut State University on Friday, April 5, 2019
This conference, the fifth organized by the Faculty Advisory Council to the Board of Regents of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, featured a morning keynote speaker, Christopher Newfield, Professor of Literature and American Studies in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, as the afternoon keynote speaker.
Professor Newfield’s impressions on the conference are posted at
In his keynote, Newfield described how the restructuring of universities rarely reach student first goals. There may be some cost-saving initially but the structures grow back. Each time he mentioned this issue, the audience responded with cheers.
In his blog, be also discussed Congresswoman Hayes’ presentation. Newfield’s blog contains a link to Congresswoman’s Hayes’ presentation that highlights her emotional connections to education. It was features photos of several faculty, including Dr. Tanya Moorehead from the Education, and students. The blog ends with a summary of the conference that calls for “a full reframing of higher ed along public good lines.”
I attended a presentation by Rick Hornung and Nicolas Simon on When A Plus Becomes A Minus and A Denial Turns into Acceptance: How the Topsy-Turvy Process of ParentPLUS Loans Effect College Students from Low Income Familes. Two Eastern Connecticut students spoke of their own challenges with financial aid and the value of studying on a campus not in their community.
Nikki McCary and Kathy Taylor from Naugatuck Valley Community College spoke about their efforts in Linking Social Justice Issues across Disciplines in another session. Participants generated a list of social justice issues that could easily be multi-disciplinary.
The conference offered small group discussions on diverse topics – part-time faculty issues, the future of the liberal arts, teaching, contemplative practices, open pedagogy, disability services, service-learning, resilience, creating family-friendly campuses, student food insecurity, veteran support, – over 40 break-out sessions. The conference closed with a discussion of the future of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities and the efforts of the Reluctant Warriors petitioners to preserve shared governance in the system.
I joined Lyndsey Lanagan-Leitzel and Niti Pandey at this conference on collective bargaining at the CUNY Graduate Center, across from The Empire State Building. There were also faculty and staff from the UCONN AAUP chapter and colleagues from Western Connecticut State University in attendance. Here’s a photo of Lyndsey and Niti with Paul Filson, CSU-AAUP Director of Union Organization between sessions at the conference.
I attended the following sessions. Below them are my “sound bite” memories of the sessions:
Workshop for Academic Labor: Membership Mobilization and Collective Bargaining in an Open Shop Environment with Penny Lewis, Associate Professor of Labor Studies, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and PSC Vice President Senior Colleges, Jennifer Eagan, President, California Faculty Association, Rudy Fichtenbaum, President, AAUP, Noeleen McIlvenna, Professor of History, Contract Administration Officer, AAUP at Wright State University, Ken Mash, President, APSCUF, Kathryn Morton, Communications Director, APSCUF, Bruce Nissen, is active in the United Faculty of Florida, chairs the union’s statewide Contract Enforcement Committee and is a retired labor educator, and Kim Cook, Extension Associate Faculty, Cornell ILR. (attendance at this workshop is limited to labor representatives and union members).
This session was over-subscribed due to the use of an online registration system. The conference made use of Socio, a pretty effective software program that allowed from session registration, announcements, document archives, exhibitor and presenters lists, search engine for participants, one’s own conference schedule, and a conference map. My memories of this session included that Rudy Fichtenbaum, President, AAUP, spoke of the January-February 2019 Wright State University faculty strike – at 20 days one of the longest in academic faculty history. Bruce Nissen from the United Faculty of Florida recounted the history of academic labor organization in Florida in a “right to work” state.
This session continued with break out sessions. I attended a session on effective uses of social media by Kenneth M. Mash, president, Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, and Kathryn Morton, APSCUF communications director.
On Monday, April 8 included the Plenary Presentation: The History of Right to Work from the First Gilded Age to Janus with Cedric de Leon, Director and Associate Professor, UMass Amherst Labor Center, Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago, Chad E. Pearson, Professor of History, Collin College, and Sophia Z. Lee, Professor of Law and History, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Presenter and Moderator.
After some technical challenges with the microphones in the conference auditorium, that we noticed from the breakout room, this session presenters discussed the history of “right to work” and challenges to labor organization in the United States. The history included the Johnson County (Wyoming Range) War, and Hollywood Director Cecil B. DeMille and his support of National Right to Work Committee.
Workshop by SUNY SAIL Institute: Discovering My Leadership Voice with Scott Vinciguerra, Leadership Development Associate, SUNY Strategic and Academic Innovative Leadership Institute.
A takeaway from this interactive session was a group dynamics exercise that would be interesting to use with our students. We were presented with the code on the right and asked to form groups of three or four. We were asked as a group to develop a method to remember this code and to be able to use it to decode a message. It was an interesting ice-breaker for introductions and leadership in a small group.
Paul Krugman presented the conference Keynote: Market Power and Wage Stagnation.
The Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York spoke about the history of wage stagnation on the USA economy and on academic labor.
Panel: Progressive State Responses to Janus with Hon. Linda Greenstein, New Jersey State Senator, ReNika Moore, New York Attorney General’s Office Labor Bureau Chief, Maryann Parker, SEIU Associate General Counsel, Nancy Walker, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office Chief Deputy Attorney General, Fair Labor Section, and Terri Gerstein, American Constitution Society and Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program, Moderator.
Connecticut was considered to be one of 9 progressive states. Terry Gerstein shared this General Guidance from CT Attorney General George Jepsen –
“Connecticut has a long and important tradition of supporting the
organized labor movement and the fundamental right of workers to
organize. Public sector employees play a crucial role in
communities across Connecticut. Each day they work hard to
ensure public safety, to protect public health, to educate our
children and to provide other critical services to our residents.”
“Employees who are nonmembers and paying agency fees as of
June 27, 2018 may choose to become a voluntary dues-paying
member by contacting the union that serves as the exclusive
representative…” (from https://portal.ct.gov/AG/General/Guidance_on_Janus).
Steven Greenhouse spoke on Teachers and Other Workers: New Strategies for Progress at a conference reception on Monday, April 8th.
The veteran New York Times labor report also spoke about “The Challenges Facing America’s Workers and Labor Unions”.
Panel: Mending Fences and Building Bridges: A Labor-Management Dialogue on Cultural and Institutional Change with Daniel Greenstein, Chancellor, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Kenneth Mash, President, Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, and Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, Moderator.
This friendly conversation between the Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System and the President of the system’s faculty association illustrated the differing goals of the administration and faculty. A case in point, a financial challenges of a small state college, presented the conflict between state economics and the role of higher education for upper mobility.
Panel: Legal Issues in Higher Education: Annual Review of Court and Administrative Developments with Natasha Baker, Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP, Beth Margolis, Gladstein Reif & Meginniss LLP, Aaron Nisenson, Senior Counsel, AAUP, and Michael Loconto, College Counsel, Curry College, Moderator.
This annual review highlights current law cases, including developments in discrimination issues, collective bargaining, the effects of the Janus decision on faculty recruitment, and immigration issues.
PS: I would recommend that others consider attending this annual conference on collective bargaining next early Spring. This year, the CSU-AAUP delegation stayed at the The James New York NoMad in mid-town New York City. There was time to walk around the city before the sessions. Here I am before The Vessel, a new structure in Hudson Yards. We were near Curry Hill and the Flatiron neighbor and a walk from Grand Central Station. Please let me know if you have any questions on these notes. There were several supportive documents that I would be happy to share. Please contact me at email@example.com.