Myths About Faculty Unions: #6

“We don’t need a union: we have shared governance.”

“Shared governance” means that faculty, students, and administration shape decisions affecting the educational and research missions of the university. Shared governance gives faculty the major and definitive role in academic decision making at the level of the department and school, and in the Academic Senate.

While a union and collective bargaining would strengthen shared governance, and the roles of a union and the Academic Senate may overlap, the two organizations would not and cannot play identical roles.

Only the Senate can define and approve academic programs, such as majors, minors or master’s or doctoral degrees. Only the Senate can evaluate the intellectual strength and validity of research initiatives, such as centers or institutes.

On the other hand, the Senate does not have any say about wages, benefits, workloads, staffing levels, hiring initiatives, health and safety, working environments, contracts or notices of appointment. A union can negotiate these issues in collective bargaining for a contract. All of these very much affect the quality of education and research on our campus. A union can lobby for increased public spending on higher education, and for improved faculty benefits. The Senate cannot do this.

The Campus Faculty Association has a long history of activism in the UIUC Academic Senate, and many CFA members have been or currently are senators. We see our concerns and goals―especially the goal of academic excellence―as consonant with those of the Senate.