Recently, a YouTube-suggested video resonated with me. The video was a reaction to an article about a New York school that shared controversial resources with parents. One of those resources challenged parents to think critically about where they stand with respect to social-justice reform. In this piece, I challenge PASSHE faculty to consider where we stand with respect to labor relations. This year, many campuses have dealt with retrenchments and two planned consolidation efforts. I encourage each of us to reflect on how we respond and act to these and other, very important matters.
To aid in this reflection, I modified a theory proposed by Dr. Barnor Hesse, an associate professor of African-American studies, political science and sociology at Northwestern University. I refer to the proposed model as “8 Identities of Union Faculty,” similar to his theory’s original name. The eight identities range from administrative supremacist to administrative abolitionist, which differ in their perceptions and actions toward administration. Despite the strong inferences that might be drawn from the category names, I will avoid introducing any value and instead emphasize the characteristics that define them.
An administrative supremacist is a faculty member who values, preserves, and recognizes management’s ability to make actions that impact faculty. They feel that administrators have the right, due to their role, to manage the university as they see fit. This faculty member views shared governance as a courtesy and only to inform faculty of eventual or intended plans. Promises or predictions from management are perceived as guarantees.
The second category is an administrative voyeurism, which is reserved for a faculty member who wouldn’t challenge a member of administration. They are likely the recipient of unique benefits, either financial, professional, or social. While this faculty member does have an independent opinion about administrative doings, this faculty member desires the favors received from managers. As a result, they see value in administration having greater control of decision-making at the institution.
A faculty member who would only challenge administration behind closed doors or in the presence of like-minded others is referred to as administrative privilege. These individuals will not speak out publicly against administration. The mere threat of being perceived as standing with faculty on a tense issue, might initiate a desire or behavior to regain favor from administrators. This individual might engage in tremendous amounts of dissonance to preserve their public persona of supporting both parties yet failing to support faculty issues publicly.
Faculty who are sympathetic to a set of faculty issues but remain quiet in crucial moments are referred to as administrative benefit. While this person might critique administration, they feel that most actions are somehow justifiable. That is, if only faculty knew exactly what institutional demands or needs were considered. The belief that managements’ decisions are justified can be sustained in the absence of supportive information or in the presence of indisputable information to the contrary.
An administrative confessional is a faculty member who establishes professional relationships with management — permitting more access with administrators than their colleagues. These individuals use their increased exposure to management to positively influence them on soft topics. Such an individual might communicate faculty concerns using words that imply a faculty consensus; they may or may not agree with the confessions shared but consistently feel the need to create distance between their concerns and those of the collective faculty. This individual will not sabotage their colleagues in these actions.
Faculty who are considered administrative critical display behaviors that are visible to others. Such a person is willing to criticize administrative agendas publicly and devotes effort to enforce the boundaries that protect the collective bargaining agreement. Learning about administrative practices that are inappropriate usually results in some form of protest. This individual believes that there is strength in the union, solidarity, and transparency. They are keenly aware of actions that might threaten union strength.
An administrative traitor is a faculty member who refuses complicity at all levels that threaten the union. It might appear that they respond to all issues and violations with the same heightened level of urgency. Observers might feel that these faculty overreact to small issues. However, they understand the slippery slope when permitting administration liberties without local agreements. Such faculty play an essential role in maintaining boundaries between administrative desires and faculty rights.
Finally, the administrative abolitionist is an individual who holds an influential rank at the institution. This person values the role of the professor and will use their influence to identify, address, change, or eliminate policies that cause conflict between parties. Despite valuing and advocating for faculty, they expect that faculty adhere to their professional responsibilities. These individuals are necessary for creating and sustaining systemic change.
I share this model to promote reflective thinking on this matter. I feel that it has great potential and utility. I argue that some faculty members may not even know where they stand on this spectrum. These categories might also be fluid. As a psychologist, I also wish to emphasize that this model is descriptive, and it places faculty members into categories. I challenge readers to consider where you and your colleagues fall on this spectrum. In the future, I hope to address these issues through conversations, surveys, and research. I invite feedback from colleagues systemwide. Please also be on the lookout for forthcoming attempts to better understand ourselves on this matter. Future communications will be accompanied by the following hashtag: #8FacultyIdentities
Cheyney University associate professor of psychology