I received the following letters in response to this post on individual and collective interests. The first shows how a collective identity requires a forum for sharing our experiences; the second provides an idea of how to act upon that information, to approach the upcoming years, given the possibility of a new contract:
* * *
I was really surprised (though should not have been) to see comments on your blog from profs across the province with similar issues and concerns to mine. Of course we all see things slightly differently, but the similarities would be so supportive to know about.
Within our institutions we collaborate with such a small number of colleagues and students, but to know that indeed there are teachers across the province who feel like I do I think would make some of the burden easier to carry.
* * *
First, with respect to self interests. I think . . . we vote based on what is best for ourselves, now or in the future. But we can have a better or clearer understanding of what is in our best interests if we understand the community of which we are a part. And of course this sense of belonging to a community comes from hearing the stories of our colleagues.
I think many of my colleagues at my college were persuaded to reject the vote when our union president forwarded an email from a professor who teaches in the apprenticeship program. This professor wrote about his own modified workload arragement and how — before the union local made an agreement with the college — he used to have to teach more than 30 hours in a week. Our current memorandum of understanding limits such arrangements to a maximum of 25 hours per week. He expressed his worry that accepting the offer will mean the college will be able to revert back to its old ways of scheduling him.
I think his story had some asking, “what if that happens to me?” (self-interest) but I also think some thought, “I don’t think that would happen to me, but I would hate for someone else to get stuck with that kind of workload”. I think some of my colleagues may have voted to reject the offer out of collective interests.
Whether it was out of self- or collective interest, I am pretty certain his story was persuasive in getting some faculty to reject the offer. This is my second point. We will have a difficult time when we negotiate our next collective agreement. The colleges have learned how to generate fear and will use all they learned this time to hammer away at our collective interests next time. I believe that our preparations for the 2012 negotations need to begin immediately.
One strategy that we are going to start at my college is the creation of a blog where faculty can write about what is not working for them under the new contract. What do modified workload arrangements really look like? How voluntary are they? How much collaboration and collegiality is happening with their Deans? By collecting these stories for the next couple of years, we will have the data we need to persuade our faculty what is in their best interests, individually and collectively.
So, thank you for this blog. I believe it has, over the past few weeks, played a key role in fostering a sense of community amongst college faculty. I was thrilled to hear that you got 20000 hits the day of the vote. I think that may be evidence that we yearn for a sense of community. I encourage faculty at other colleges to collect their stories of work life under this new contract. We will need them when the time comes to negotiate again.