April 4, 2011

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Members ‘make a difference’ at AFT Higher Ed conference


A dozen UUPers joined more than 400 of their higher education colleagues from across the country April 1-3 at the AFT Higher Education Issues Conference. The aptly named conference, titled “Making a Difference Every Day: Our Work, Our Students, Our Union,” focused on a number of issues confronting higher education. At the same time, it made clear that faculty and staff are crucial to their students’ educational and economic future.

Six UUPers—including Jen Drake of Cortland, above—had lead roles during the three-day conference in Philadelphia, serving as moderators or as panelists covering the role of professionals in student success, academic diversity, and bullying.

UUP President Phil Smith moderated the opening plenary session on confronting the fiscal and political crises in the states.

“We have an American public that has been fed a line that public employee pensions and other hard-fought union benefits are to blame for their problems,” said Smith, an AFT vice president. “America faces real economic and fiscal challenges. Our opponents—now in power— have chosen not to try to solve these problems, but to use their opportunity to destroy us where they can, and to exert as many concessions as possible where they can’t.”

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said the “extremist, radical right will fail in its attempt to divide us,” if for no other reason than the attacks are based on lies. She said that most people understand that “collective bargaining is about jobs, about a voice at work, and about a way to make bad jobs good and good jobs better. They know that a voice in the workplace is the key to a better life.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten echoed Smith and Shuler, and called on the union to “turn moment into a movement.”

Here’s how other UUPers made a difference at the conference:

* Panelists Jamie Dangler of Cortland and Charles Callahan III of Brockport discussed the growing gap between a diverse student population and the diversity of the faculty who teach them. The panel stressed the important role higher ed unions can play in improving the gender, racial and ethnic diversity of faculty, with the goal of enhancing the educational experience of their students.

* UUP VP for Professionals John Marino moderated a panel on the increased reliance on professionals to achieve student success. UUP delegate Drake facilitated small-group discussions on, 1) strategies to ensure student success and, 2) how the union can promote student values and support their needs.

* UUPer Joel Neuman of New Paltz, an associate professor of management and organizational behavior, shared his expertise on the hows and whys behind bullying. The panel also discussed how unions can institute policies to protect members from bullies.

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