Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hey Joe, I Thought That You Were Dead

Today is election day, and N and I are going to go down and vote together for what I think may be the second time in our lives. I mean, we both vote a lot, but not together, since for years we were registered in different places. I love voting, but for the last decade or so, election day has been a source of great anxiety, because I always feel like things like civil rights, women's right to choose and peace are hanging in the balance. N and I live in one of those states where three congressional districts could flip to the Dems, and maybe a Senate seat (although I don't think so.) The only critical ballot we will cast will be for the Senate, since our progressive Congressperson will win in a landslide (s/he didn't even bother to put up signs until day before yesterday, and has spent all of hir time stumping for others.) Our airhead Republican governor should win in a landslide too, but s/he is probably the only Republican candidate at the state level who will. So I will spend tonight gripped by PBS's election coverage, with another eye on the computer to see what races CNN is calling.

Do you think I can write at the same time? (Just kidding!)

Since all politics is local, I have other news to report. The faculty at Zenith is very grumpy right now because of our low, low pay and diminishing benefits. We have also suffered under somewhat autocratic leadership for the last few years, and then those people, sensing that they had failed to implement their draconian programs with much effectiveness - or perhaps responding to the fact that others had sensed it - resigned abruptly, and were replaced by flacks drawn from the Zenith faculty and administration who are trying to pick the pieces up. So there are multiple searches going on, there is basically no leadership, and meanwhile life is supposed to go on as usual. On top of all this, one of my colleagues discovered that the Provost had been altering the faculty regulations without telling anyone, and according to the rules, the faculty is supposed to approve altering its own regulations. In other words, when a new book came out, some things would just be different. How did my colleague, let's call her Dr. Victorian, know this? Because she trusts no one and compared the new pages, word for word, with the old pages. And, as it usually turns out, she is right more than half the time that you should trust no one.

One of the things that had been changed is that Zenith no longer pays its share of TIAA while we are on unpaid leave. And those of us on unpaid leave had never been notified of this fact.

Now, as it turns out the Provost did all sorts of ugly things, some of them only a week before s/he left town, but that is another story that may or may not get told another day. But in response to these things, and to the fact that the committee system seems to be strangling under administration-sponsored busy work and faculty apathy, we have formed a rump group, which gets more people to its meetings than any faculty meeting ever did. The excellent Dr. Victorian is on the steering committee (having never served on any major committee, because like many women she is considered TOO DIFFICULT by the reasonable people who run things), and she brought in an AAUP organizer, and as it turns out, there are fifteen of us who are already AAUP members (including your Dr. Radical) and you only need seven to form a chapter. So we are going to do it (I think maybe my speech about the free lawyers who helped me during my recent Unfortunate Events helped. Academics love things that are free -- free books, free plane rides to conferences, free legal advice.....). But even without that, it was an exciting meeting because finally I think we are going to do something. And just like Professor Bill W tells his alcoholic friends: Yo Peeps, the first step is to admit that you are powerless as an individual.

The great thing about an AAUP chapter is that it functions like a union, which we are not allowed to have, because of the Yeshiva decision. Or rather, we can have one, but we can't be certified by the government and so if we act as a union they can fire our butts. Whereas the AAUP, when the university does something screwy like cutting our benefits without telling us, comes in and shames them publicly, which places like Zenith fear far more than a job action, since in the latter case, our Very Privileged students and their Helicopter Parents will get into the action and accuse us of not taking care of our responsibilities as educators. Remember the GESO strike at Yale, where the TA's withheld grades for a week or two? You would have thought the next generation of lawyers had been banished to beauty school. So this is to be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, having former university presidents and provosts come in to shake down your own administration sounds like a very satisfying scenario indeed. It also addresses the doubts of many of my colleagues who seem to think that "professionals" don't need unions, and that if you join the United Auto Workers (like Miss B has) you will actually BE an auto worker, or people will think you are, and maybe send your job to Tennessee or Mexico.

So as you can see, it is only Tuesday, and my life as a citizen is starting with a bang. Oh, and by the way, if the Dems do not win this election? Do not mourn. Organize.

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