Thursday, 26 July 2007

Letter from tenured U of S Professor on the Labour Studies Program

On March 5, 2007 I received the letter below from a long service member of the U of S Faculty employed in the College of Commerce. It was jointly addressed to me, and to the Dean of the College of Commerce. I have removed the author's name for obvious reasons.

Grant and Larry,

I understand that discussions about the status of the Labour Studies Program are proceeding. As someone with an interest in the Program, I would like to offer my observations.

Two matters merit attention. First, it is standard practice for labour education programs to recognize the sensitivities and focus upon the needs of organized workers. Labour education programs treat labour as a legitimate denizen of pluralistic democratic societies with unique characteristics. Labour education is distinct from adult education. The industrial relations climate in Saskatchewan necessitates barring managers from labour education programs in order to avoid chilling the classroom environment. The Institute for Labour and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois, where I studied, had and presumably has separate labour and management extension programs-- similar material, two audiences. This reflects that reality of what is necessary to make labour education programs work. Harvard’s labour education program is also exclusively for trade unionists. These university-based programs and many like them have operated successfully without being attacked for contravening a conveniently contrived university accessibility “principle”. In fact, the raison d’etre of such programs is to include a group in society which otherwise would not be served by a university. This is no different than the University of Saskatchewan’s commendable outreach programs on behalf of aboriginal people. Issues of non-aboriginal exclusion are not raised in that case.

President Hubich argues for continuation of a successful program which serves labour and 20+ year partnership with the University. Without a doubt, admitting managers into labour studies classes would scuttle the program. Labour, the program’s faculty and central administration all know this.

Second, why has this program come under attack rather than being a source of pride for the University? The SFL’s position seems to be that the problem is with the University’s central administration rather than the College of Commerce. In fact, the central administration, in transforming the University from the “people’s university” to a corporate university, has as a matter of an anti-union corporate policy targeted the Labour Studies Program. The claim of principle-based action is bogus. As noted, more distinguished universities than this one cultivate relationships with labour. The University’s stand reflects a deeply held anti-union animus and ideology, not high academic principle.

This policy is broadly reflected in the University’s poor relationships with USFA and CUPE; the curious fact that the only managers who have actually sought admission to the Labour Studies Program work in the central administration of the University of Saskatchewan; the irregularities having to do with filling an industrial relations faculty position in the Department of IROB which have seen the central administration twice withdraw the position and only approve a hiring with attached conditions which are questionable or at least irregular; the high turnover within the University’s own once highly respected and experienced professional industrial relations staff; and the University’s planning document on outreach and engagement which calls for departmentally-based outreach programs but pointedly ignores IROB’s/Commerce’s Labour Studies Program.

Nothing other than unvarnished anti-unionism explains why the central administration would attack a highly successful, low budget, low profile program which is designed to serve the educational needs of the labour community. This antipathy runs so strongly that the central administration seems willing to court political meddling in the affairs of the University and a public battle which will besmirch the reputation of the University in labour circles for a generation in order to undermine a labour-friendly program. President Hubich is correct in concluding that Dean Isaac is not empowered to reach a settlement labour could accept. The problem is not at the operating unit level but in the central administration.

I make these observations as one who helped to found and has taught in the program as well as one who has studied the province’s industrial relations for 30 years. It is with sadness that I share these thoughts. In the province which, under Tommy Douglas’ leadership, pioneered labour rights and at a publicly-funded university where President MacKinnon’s predecessors welcomed labour to campus, this is a sorry state of affairs. If this struggle continues to broaden, I feel it will be incumbent upon me go public with my views supporting organized labour’s modest request.

name withheld, PhD
Professor of Industrial Relations

11 comments:

Spiffy said...

Kudos to this professor for sending this letter and for the courage to go public on this issue. Shame on the persons who are pushing to pull this valuable program.

Anonymous said...

Obviously he didn't go public enough to leave his name on this blog. Let's see it Larry.

Anonymous said...

Without even getting into the details - I would think that Larry should sit back and realize what a good opportunity this is for Saskatchewan. If you start complaining, then don't be surprised when investors find other places to donate too. It's disturbing that you would even stir the pot without looking at what has been granted to the University as a whole. There has been more progress and sucess in the last year then any "Relations Political Jackass" has made the whole time he was there. I am glad to see their is new money, new attitudes and new opportunities for the people kof Sask.

Anonymous said...

Look at the big picture Larry

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hubich did not withhold my name at my behest.

Kurt Wetzel, PhD
Professor of Industrial Relations

Larry Hubich said...

I notice that Dr. Wetzel has declared his authorship of the letter.

I did not feel it was my place to make that declaration and hence posted the letter with the notation "name withheld".

Perhaps the other anonymous posters would be prepared to declare their identities.

Thanks to all for participating in this blog.

Anonymous said...

Dear SFL and President Larry Hubich,

As a U of S Alumnus I found it most disconcerting to hear about the move to eliminate the U of S Labour Studies program.

To me it is a backing off an essential principle of being a public university and serving those interests who since its inception have paid for a public university. All the big "philanthropic" donations do not make up for the millions upon millions spent on the university by the workers, farmers and other non corporate producers of wealth in Saskatchewan.

The U of S talks about itself being a peoples university, and wanting to reach out beyond the walls of the university . The Labour Studies program has been exemplary in reaching out to, and involving citizens who do not normally have access to the resources and knowledge of a university.

Thank you for speaking out on this critical issue.

Sincerely,

Don Kossick
U of S Alumnus, Regina Campus.

Larry Hubich said...

Dr. Wetzel makes a couple of very important points respecting this matter and he makes them very well:

"...it is standard practice for labour education programs to recognize the sensitivities and focus upon the needs of organized workers. Labour education programs treat labour as a legitimate denizen of pluralistic democratic societies with unique characteristics."

"In fact, the raison d’etre of such programs is to include a group in society which otherwise would not be served by a university."

I say, there is a way of accommodating those who want a similar type of class, but are not currently in a union. That is to create one for them. We have absolutely no objection to that, in fact we support the U of S doing so.

Wetzel points out: "The Institute for Labour and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois, where I studied, had and presumably has separate labour and management extension programs-- similar material, two audiences."

The concept of a university based Labour Studies Program acknowledges that there is a significant power imbalance between bosses and workers. When a boss is in the room there is a chill on discussion from those participants who are not bosses. It is as simple as that.

For 20+ years, the U of S Labour Studies Program has existed, and it has graduated a few hundred students in that 20 year period. Hardly an onerous offering by a university with the capacity of graduating thousands of students per year across a multitude of faculties.

Students in Labour Studies take one evening class once a week for 16 weeks each semester, until they aquire enough credits to get a certificate. The students are all working people who for the most part hold down full-time jobs. Many have families, and are trying to balance the challenges of working full-time jobs and raising children. These workers do not have the ability to attend "traditional" university for a number of very valid reasons.

And just to reiterate a point raised - the only time anyone who was not a union member ever tried to get into the Labour Studies Program was when two management people from the U of S Administration sought to enroll. Coincidence? I think not.

The fact of the matter is other students are NOT clamouring to get into this "evening" class. For those interested, the College of Commerce has many other classes in Industrial Relations, Human Resource Management, etc., etc.

As Wetzel also points out, "These university-based programs and many like them have operated successfully without being attacked for contravening a conveniently contrived university accessibility “principle”".

Let's have the U of S offer an identical program and set of classes, for all of those people who want to take the class but are not union members. I think that would present a great opportunity to educate others about trade unionism. I'd be delighted to attend as a guest lecturer from time to time.

Anonymous said...

You're speaking out of both sides of your mouth Larry.

I think the U of S should implement your rules in every college.

No unionists in management classes. We need to share secrets as how to bust unions, don't we?

No sick people in the medical college.

No people with misdemeanors in the college of law and so on.

Larry, you and your pals Kossick and Wetzel are EXACTLY what's wrong with Saskatchewan.

Wetzel's PhD means absolutely nothing if he can't grasp the simple concepts of reason and logic.

But all is well on the horizon... The emphasis on individual intellectual property as a means to earn a living now and in the future means that this class will all but be a footnote in history on the way NOT to run a society.

Good luck Comrades...

Rhonda Heisler said...

As a a Labour Studies Program alumni, a graduate of the U. of S, a long term employee at the U. of S, a CUPE Local 1975 member and now a CUPE Service Representative, I've witnessed first hand the impact of the administration's "chilling effect" on my own local's members and on certain members of the Faculty Association.

It is from this perspective that I am adamant this program should remain sponsored by trade unions and open only to trade unionists.

Repression of unions in Saskatchewan by business lobbies, institutions and the media is continual and relentless. We hunger for safe access to an accredited institution that promotes freedom of speech, an alternative way of thinking and learning apart from the status quo.

The integrity and focus of this critical program will undoubtedly become diluted into just another industrial relations program by participation of management types and others who comprise the dominant culture and ideology.

If inclusiveness is the real issue with the Program, then abolition of other pesky barriers to higher education, such as tuition fees and entrance requirements, should now be in order.

At best, the guise of inclusiveness is yet another avenue for this strictly corporate minded administration to impose the Integrated Planning priorities onto our program.

But I fear the worst. That "inclusivenes" is double speak for the final solution- total abolishment of the Program.

Rhonda Heisler

Anonymous said...

Larry,

Why didn't you guys take 11 million out of your NDP campaign fund and name the University after one of your unions?

Typical leftist whining.

"We didn't think of it, so nobody should be able to do it"