March 11, 2013

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UUP members play key role at AFT higher ed conference

uupdate 3-11-13 ALT

A handful of UUP members—including VP for Professionals Philippe Abraham, left, and Estela Rivero of UAlbany, center—traveled to San Diego March 8-10 for the AFT’s Higher Education Issues Conference “Confronting the ‘New Normal:’ Union Driven Solutions for the Future of Higher Education.”

The UUPers joined their higher education colleagues from across the country to participate in more than two dozen workshops and forums on topics ranging from organizing community coalitions and developing legislative strategies, to the future of online education and following career opportunities.

The UUPers also put the finishing touches on a new AFT Quality Agenda for Higher Education. The agenda—which the AFT will promote on the national level once complete—includes a foreword outlining the challenges that are the “new normal.” Among them are decades of states’ disinvestment in public higher education, onerous student debt, and a push toward a business model for higher education that puts profits ahead of quality. Similar agendas are being prepared for each of AFT’s constituency groups.

UUPers share their expertise

Two UUP members were workshop presenters. Abraham, a member of the AFT’s Higher Education Program and Policy Council, moderated a panel on managing day-to-day work, stress and career.

AFT Teacher Preparation Task Force member and Cortland UUPer Bill Buxton outlined the recommendations in the AFT report on teacher preparation, “Raising the Bar” .The December 2012 report calls for academic rigor and a high-quality student teaching experience to ensure that teachers are prepared for their first day in the classroom. The recommendations stand in stark contrast to current policy proposals that would evaluate teacher prep programs based on the test scores of the K-12 students taught by a program’s graduates.

“What is critical about this report is that it gives us a seat at the table,” said Buxton, a member of UUP’s statewide Teacher Education Task Force. “The AFT recognizes that (aligning and evaluating teacher education) is not a simple task. But it is critical we engage in this discussion."

Rivero, a psychologist and director of UAlbany’s Counseling Center, offered strategies to combat the work-related stress stemming from the expectation that professionals will stay connected to work constantly via computer, smart phone or tablet.

“Technology—having the world at your fingertips—may be efficient, but it is also one of the hidden stressors,” Rivero said. “If you can’t turn it off, it intrudes into your life and causes an overload of stress.”

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