Teachers Union Thinks It Blocked Online Classes...But It Didn't

from the acted-like-assclowns-to-boot dept

I've always struggled with the concept of unions and collective bargaining. The realist in me knows the history of employment in the early days of this country and how woefully employers treated their people. Early labor unions also had a heavy hand in social reforms for ideals like free public education. Yay, unions! On the other hand, we're all aware of the stories of waste and corruption among big union leadership, the inefficiencies they create in the workforce, and the potentially detrimental effects on the economic competitiveness of America in a global marketplace. Damn you, evil unions!

And so it's under this same conflicted backdrop that I read what SD sent in, a story about the University of California's teachers' union gleefully celebrating the blocking of online courses. More specifically, the union is saying the language in the contract would allow them to block any online course that would result in lessening employment statistics for the school's lecturers, which make up a hefty percentage of the teaching force. Let's tackle a couple of things relating to this story.

First, examine some words from Bob Samuels, President of the union and possible jerky-quote-producing-android-automaton:
 “We feel that we could stop almost any online program through this contract. We feel we got something that the university didn’t really understand."
The article goes on to note:
"And stop it they would. Regardless of any data administrators trot out to argue that students learn just as well online as they do in the classroom, the union would do whatever it could to block the university from moving courses online if it decides the move would make life worse for lecturers, says Samuels."
Now, perhaps you're like me and any time you hear someone say something that so clearly dismisses anyone else's well-being aside from their own, your brain shuts down your ears for fear that your entire faith in the basic providence of humanity would be vanquished in an angry mind-fire. So let me break this down for you. Samuels, President of a union of teachers, is saying that they'll block online courses regardless of any evidence as to their efficacy if it results in even one less lecturer on campus. Learning? Rising costs in education for students? Technological progress? Unimportant, fools! This is where I think back to the union leaders of old, who pushed for social reforms effecting those outside their union members, and wonder where it all went wrong.

(Fun side note: Samuels recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post suggesting that we forgo Obama and the Tea Party in favor on an online activist party. WHAT!!??? And put all those businesses that spring up around both the Obama campaign and Tea Party rallies out of work!!?? You know who disagrees with Bob Samuels? Bob Samuels!)

And here's the really fun part. The University reviewed the langauge Samuels is referring to and promptly chuckled something close to, "what the duck is he talking about?"
“They do not have the power to block the university from implementing new online programs,” says Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for the Office of the President. The most the [union’s] bargaining unit could do,” Klein says, “is provide written notice saying, ‘We don’t like this.’ ”
I think what's most amazing to me in all of this is that apparently there aren't any Public Relations teachers willing to give Samuels a hand. If you want to gain public support for limiting online classes, it's possible. You come out with some kind of study or research suggesting the benefit of lecturers to the actual education process, you make your argument to the school and the public, and we find out who wins. What you don't do is misinterpret legal language in a contract as saying you have power you don't and then gleefully provide quotes in articles that essentially amount to, "We got one over on a higher education institution and now they can kiss our collectively bargaining asses."

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  1. icon
    SD (profile), 15 Oct 2011 @ 1:01am

    Re: I think what he means by lectureres losing jobs

    That sounds similar to an on-campus scenario where an undergraduate course with a few hundred students is taught by a TA or TF. Besides grading essays and the like, anything that a professor is "overqualified" to do can be automated or passed off to someone else no matter where the class is taught.

    The real problem with a union or a school blocking the expansion of online classes is that it's just not competitive. There are students who work, live out of state or live abroad that can't attend in person. There's also students who go to on-campus classes and wish they were somewhere else. Some of them end up dropping out. If one school doesn't embrace online classes their decision won't stop another school from doing it.

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