Editorial: A strike by UC academic workers would tarnish the prestigious university system’s image
by Gary Burtless, Chronicle of Higher Education | November 26, 2016 | 9:00 AM
A striking worker in UC’s Academic Senate walks down a hallway in a lobby of UC Berkeley’s Union Building during a demonstration in Berkeley on Nov. 16, 2016.
Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
The past couple of weeks have witnessed unprecedented faculty and staff activism against a contract between the University and its academic employees. In response, University President Janet Napolitano ordered the Academic Senate to suspend negotiations for a new contract in a matter of days — a move that sparked outrage from a wide variety of different constituencies and ignited a renewed debate about the role of the University in a society that remains fundamentally divided between those who value the University’s role as an institution of higher education and those who do not.
The stakes for our University reach far beyond its academic workers who are at the heart of the contract dispute. The University’s reputation rests on its ability to attract students, maintain its brand, and earn high rankings. In short, the University’s ability to thrive is dependent on its ability to attract students, and as a public institution, the Academic Senate — as the bargaining body for the University’s academic employees — is the institution’s most important means to that end.
The contract dispute at UC has revealed the extent to which faculty and staff at many state universities, as well as at private universities, do not perceive their institutions of higher education in the same way that faculty and staff at public institutions do. While it’s hard to generalize about the state of the University’s relationship with the broader community, at many private universities, faculty and staff have taken on the role of the public when it comes to the University’s role. At many private universities, faculty and staff