Confusion as a Strike-Breaking Tactic

“Provide students with the following options:

  • Forgo the final and take the grade they had going into the final.
  • Take the final, but receive an “X” (missing grade), until such time that finals can be graded”

-Academic Affairs, early November, 2014

“In cases where there is not sufficient information to assign a final grade, the X grade will need to be used and the impacts of those grade will need to be addressed on a case by case basis.”
-Academic Continuity Plan, November 14, 2014

“Is an X grade a viable strategy during the strike? No. The registrar’s office places an X in a student’s record when no grade is recorded by the instructor. In earlier stages of preparation, we believed that X grades might be a viable solution; however, upon further investigation with the registrar and financial aid staff, we determined that that is not the case.”
-Academic Affairs, November 21, 2014

During a strike situation, sowing confusion is a tactic that employers typically use to redirect anger at a union for disrupting the normally placid workplace. It appears our administration has chosen to deploy this tactic in their conflict with the GTFF. Despite knowing since last May that a GTF strike is a real possibility, the administration, at this late date, still cannot answer the basic question of how grading will be handled if the GTFs are not at work during finals. After a month of telling the campus the ‘X’ grade is the best option, suddenly the administration has announced that it is not a viable option, but have offered in its place “solutions” that verge on educational malpractice and that threaten the professional integrity of many of our colleagues. Combined with the late and dubious claim that any grade other than a standard letter grade might cause undergraduates difficulties, they are clearly hoping frustrated faculty will decide to go ahead and volunteer to grade papers, projects, and finals.

It is unfortunate that the administration has chosen to pursue a strategy that puts faculty in the middle of this situation. The campus is caught up in confrontation and brinksmanship. Regardless of where anyone stands on the issues between the GTFF and the administration, we all have right to expect our administration to provide creative leadership in these difficult times. We are not getting this leadership from our colleagues in Johnson Hall. Instead, it seems leadership of the strike planning and this larger confrontation has been placed into the hands of an “Academic Continuity Team.” To date, the Academic Continuity Team has pressured department heads and program directors to enlist their faculty in the fight against the GTFF. They have announced plans to dilute and degrade our academic standards. And they have chosen to use faculty as their primary strike-breaking weapon.

Again, we believe these actions are as deliberate as they are regrettable. Evidently, the administration decisions have put the faculty in the middle of this conflict, problematizing our relationship with our graduate students. This is unacceptable.

We call on our colleagues in Johnson Hall to provide creative leadership by doing what it takes to resolve the conflict. The administration team has consistently said that they are rejecting the GTFF proposals on principle. We do not understand how the principle of denying GTFs paid leave can be more important to them than ensuring that our students’ performance is evaluated fully and appropriately, not by “assistants,” but by the professors and graduate fellows who know them and their work best.

Finding ourselves in this lamentable middle-ground position, United Academics is ready to work with both parties to find a reasonable solution to this stand-off. We believe that there is a solution to be found and that no problem is so intractable that it cannot be resolved. We invite both sides to contact President Michael Dreiling if they are ready and willing to explore a compromise that will ensure that our campus moves on peacefully and harmoniously. We will keep you updated on these efforts.


Posted in Allies.