Wednesday, March 08, 2006
When Students Strike Back -- Some Reactions
As Michael noted over at Discourse.net, and in light of the response by the UM law school faculty to the UNICCO strike (my own thoughts on which I previously posted about here), we held a town meeting today at the law school to provide a forum for students and faculty alike to air their concerns and questions about the strike, the law school's response, and the ramifications of both for the law school community. (The town hall followed a very interesting panel put together by UM law students about the substantive issues behind the strike, which included representatives from UNICCO, the SEIU, and the UM faculty, but, pointedly, _not_ the UM administration.)
Although I was not surprised at the town hall by the substance of the comments made by some of the students, several of whom spoke out against holding classes off campus, I must confess to being taken aback at the vitriol and unabashed animosity that pervaded their remarks. One of the first students to speak, reading a statement represented to be on behalf of a "large group of students," suggested that we, the faculty, were using the cover of the strike to force our own political agendas on our students; that we have shown callousness and unprofessionalism in our response; that we have a contractual obligation to show up when our classes are scheduled and at their scheduled location, and to teach them what they've signed up to take, regardless of any supervening factors; that we have no right to "take sides" in this debate (and are doing so), let alone foist our opinions upon them; and, perhaps most surprisingly (at least to me), that those members of the faculty who have moved class off campus (e.g., me and a small but significant group of my colleagues) should be sanctioned, either by docking their pay, taking away their sabbaticals, or terminating them, for fundamentally disregarding and otherwise neglecting their professional obligation to their students.
There was more, too, and I'm not doing justice to the breadth of the statement (although I believe I'm accurately portraying its tone), but what I've described above is what stuck with me.
Granted, a lot of this was previewed in the extensive comments to my last strike-related post. But I can't do justice to the tone -- to the extent to which the student was suggesting that we've betrayed him and his colleagues, and our responsibilities to them, by even thinking about having class off campus, let alone actually doing so.
There is a lot to be said in response. Much of it was said (some by me; some by my colleagues; some by other students) at the town hall. There are only a few points (okay, five) that I want to make here, if for no other reason than I've always thought writing is a good way to struggle with important issues, and to make sure I'm not way out on the edge with my own thoughts:
First: I have absolutely no problem with students who express their opinion that they disagree with a professor's decision to hold class off campus. It is not only their right; it is their obligation to speak up, and to provide an accurate representation to the professor of what they think and reasonably believe. I asked my own students, when this whole mess started, to share their thoughts with me, and was heartened both by the number who responded, and the responses of those who disagreed with me, but were willing to support my decision.
Second: I don't think that any professor who decides to hold class off campus makes that decision lightly, or with even the slightest disregard to their obligations vis-a-vis the students. As I noted at the town hall, it's entirely _because_ of how seriously we take our obligations that we even _hold_ class off campus. As has been noted here and elsewhere, the best way to show support using the classroom -- and to disrupt the daily goings-on of the University, with potentially pecuniary consequences for the University -- is to not have class at all. Yes, it is virtually impossible to hold class off campus without somehow inconveniencing the students. I accept that. I respect that students, all things being equal, would prefer not to be inconvenienced. We all would. But as inconvenient as it is to have class a mile or two from school, I can't even begin to imagine how inconvenient it is for the workers on the picket line, who are foregoing an already paltry paycheck because of what they believe in (and what many, like me, believe they are entitled to). I only wish I had that kind of courage.
Which leads me to third: Yes, having class off campus is, one way or the other, showing some modicum of support for the strike. I don't disagree with that, either. But it is simply not forcing our political agenda on the students. If, at that off-campus class, we spent the entire time extolling the virtues of organized labor, bemoaning the failures of UNICCO, and otherwise berating the response of the University administration, then, I think, we would be introducing our political views into the classroom. I object, however, to the notion that merely moving the class is, itself, requiring our students to adhere, especially because the faculty have effectively agreed that no student will be punished for missing an off-campus class, and have undertaken Herculean efforts to audio- or video-record every off-campus class and make the recordings widely accessible to all students. Indeed, if anything, this whole mess has prompted more dissent on the UM campus than I've seen since I got here. I just cannot accept that that's a bad thing. I'll come back to this shortly.
Fourth: We all care incredibly deeply about our students. We would not be in this profession if we didn't. And, for the most part, I think we all deeply respect our students, and the importance of our obligations to them. But our obligation is _as_ teachers. Students are here to learn from us. To learn civil procedure and contracts and property and torts, to be sure, but also to learn about advocacy and the American legal system. I do not think, and cannot accept, that we are betraying our educational mission simply by having class off campus. If anything, we are using our proverbial microphone to teach more than just the black-letter law that students can get out of the casebook. We are contextualizing it. And at a University that refuses to require its contractors to pay a living wage to its employees, we are teaching our students about dissent, a lesson they are using, quite effectively, against us.
Fifth, finally, and, I think, most importantly: We, like our students, are members of a community. That community does not consist merely of students and faculty. If it did, we would be teaching in the dark, in piles of filth, and handing out mimeograph copies of our incoherent, handwritten notes. What I think I object to in the vitriolic nature of the students' remarks is the implicit assumption that these workers are not part of our community. My responsibility to students is only part of my larger responsibility to the University of Miami, as an academic community and as an institution. As such, I also am responsible to and for the workers who allow me to teach, and who facilitate the means by which I do so. What these students would have us do is treat our responsibility to them as completely overriding and indeed subverting our responsibility to the community as a whole. This I cannot do. True, I was not hired to bring social justice to the University of Miami, nor is that my goal. Nevertheless, my responsibility to the community includes acting in a way that I believe will make our community as a whole a better one, especially in a law school where we are purportedly teaching our students how to advocate on behalf of those unable to advocate for themselves.
Let me briefly reiterate: I don't mind the fact of the dissent, or even the substance thereof. What I object to is the insinuation that (1) I don't care about my students; (2) I am depriving them of their education by holding class off campus; and (3) my only obligation as a member of the faculty of the University of Miami is to my students. To put it as simply as I can: It's not that we don't care about our students; it's that we don't just care about our students.
And so, I'm stuck, in the end, with Martin Luther's aphorism, quoted today by one of my colleagues: "Here I stand. I can do no other."
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» When Labor Strikes Come to Law School from Workplace Prof Blog
Steve Vladeck over at PrawfsBlawg and Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net are both in the midst of dealing with a labor strike at the University of Miami School of Law. Both have decided to move classes off campus out of respect [Read More]
Tracked on Mar 8, 2006 11:21:27 AM
"As such, I also am responsible to and for the workers who allow me to teach, and who facilitate the means by which I do so."
It's not the workers who allow you to teach, it's you and the students who allow the workers to work.
"What I object to is the insinuation that (1) I don't care about my students"
And just who do you think is going to bear the costs of higher janitor wages and healthcare? Students are the ones who are going to take the hit, whether it comes in the form of higher tuition/fees or reduced services.
Posted by: anon23433 | Mar 7, 2006 11:50:29 PM
Thank you for making my point about vitriol. I think that the statement that it's "[me] and the students who allow the workers to work" demonstrates a lack of respect for the workers themselves, who do the kind of work that neither I, nor I imagine you, would ever want to do in our worst nightmares. How is it, in your view, that we "allow the workers to work"? Because we could afford _not_ to have janitorial staff?
Even taking your comment at more than its face value, do you honestly believe that employers have no responsibility to their workers? Do you oppose health care, maternity leave, and OSHA regulations? Our only responsibility is to pay them (and not well, at that)?
And even notwithstanding that, I think it's just not true that the "cost" of paying these people a living wage will necessarily be passed on to the students. I, for one, would gladly sign a resolution/petition committing to a partial pay cut, and even if only a minority of my colleagues would join me, there are plenty of other places from which a University in the midst of a successful BILLION (with a "B") dollar capital campaign can find the $5 million (with an "M") it would take.
(See Michael's post at Discourse on this).
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 7, 2006 11:59:00 PM
I am deeply heartened and grateful for Professor Vladeck's comments. One thing that has shocked and disturbed me as a current law student is the depth of many my classmates' self-involvement. Something about the law school environment, or some broader undercurrent in American society, or maybe just their personalities, has them convinced that anything that even minimally affects _their_ perception of what will maximize their success in law school is an outrage, and that he who has caused this should be drawn and quartered. This approach to their education, and to life, makes them painfully short-sighted, and disinterested in the larger community - that does include workers - of which they are a part. This is a shame, and constitutes much more of a loss for them than the slight they perceive to have been dealt.
Three cheers for those brave enough to stand up for the notion that we have a stake in each others' successes and failures. Three cheers for those who understand education goes beyond the textbook. And to those students who are so incredibly angry, a request: use that hour when the class moved by your "selfish" professor is meeting to go to the picket line, and talk to a worker who is marching on it. Ask them about their children's education. And then think some more about yours.
Posted by: Liza | Mar 8, 2006 12:03:08 AM
It sounds to me as if some of your students also wish you had the courage of the strikers. In their view--an entirely reasonable one, it seems to me--you should feel free to honor the strike, even to participate in it. What you shouldn't do, on their view, is enforce their participation in it, as a way of avoiding any consequence to you.
I'm wondering what classes are like at UM, if attendance isn't necessary and can be replaced by an audio/video recording.
And I wonder if the use of the "proverbial microphone" is consistent with the insistence that you're not forcing a political agenda on to your students.
I wonder who would think that the power relations in the classroom of a law school are such that a professor's speech could ever be construed as "dissent".
I don't see why the dissenting students' complaint should be understood as an insistence that only students matter (or should matter) to you. The disagreement, it seems to me, could come from a disagreement about the merits of the strike (if the strike isn't reasonable, then honoring it at the expense of your students isn't reasonable), from a disagreement about the harms inflicted by the alternate arrangements (even if honoring the strike in some circumstances might be appropriate, if it imposes significant burdens on students (or on some set of students), that might change the calculus), or from a simple prioritization of one constituency over another (if you owe more to your students than you do to your co-employees, then, in most circumstances where they conflict, you should honor your obligations to students over your obligations to co-employees).
Posted by: anon | Mar 8, 2006 12:06:57 AM
Anon -- I take your points, especially the last one. Would that I wish it were so, most of the comments today were prefaced with "I support the workers, but..." I do not think, and have no reason to believe, that there is widespread disapproval among our students with the substance of the strike, although I freely confess to relying only on anecdotal evidence. Instead, I take the substance of what those who are speaking the loudest are saying to be that we must prioritize them (the students) over the workers.
But here's the thing: I don't disagree with that. Prioritizing the students over the workers is why I hold class off campus, as opposed to not holding class.
As for your point about imposing political views, I do not think I am forcing my students to respect the strike and the metaphorical (and metaphysical) picket line. They are free to cross the picket line any other time, and find other ways of showing support for UNICCO and the University. But if they wish to attend my class, I will not make them cross the picket line. I still do not accept that that is "forcing my political views" on my students. It is, at most, _demonstrating_ my views in an expressive way, in much the same fashion as the small purple SEIU buttton I'm wearing.
And if my students still think I'm proselytizing, let them say so. They are free to, and indeed, I would hope they would feel comfortable telling me of their objections. What I have heard, to this point, is only the objections of those who are not in my class. I'm hard pressed to see how, from afar, they are in a position to tell me what I am and am not doing.
I've gone on too long, but I also want to address the notion that, by moving class off campus, I am "avoiding any consequence to [me]." I'm doing a pretty bad job of that, if so... I am happy to defend my decision, and to engage with those who would object (such as yourself, I gather). But the notion that what I've done so far is to avoid "any consequence to [me]" belies the very nature of the dialogue that I am trying very much to participate in.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 8, 2006 12:22:42 AM
"It is, at most, _demonstrating_ my views in an expressive way, in much the same fashion as the small purple SEIU buttton I'm wearing."
But they are not at all the same. It takes no special effort for anyone else to view your button (or lack of a button). But the "demonstration" of which you speak requires special effort by your students. They have to go out of their way, spend extra time. And it appears that you minimized that concern out of existence. It seems quite real to me.
Maybe your position is still "worth" it; but not without acknowledging that your "expression" is much more than mere expression. It imposes something on students.
Posted by: Ross Cheit | Mar 8, 2006 12:37:43 AM
Fair enough. But my point was not that having class off campus and wearing an SEIU button are the same thing. My point was that both are expressions of my support for the workers, but not by any means the forcing of my views upon my students. To the contrary, I try very hard _not_ to convince students of why I'm doing what I'm doing, but only to make sure they _understand_ why I'm doing what I'm doing. They remain absolutely free to disagree.
I absolutely and unequivocally accept, as I wrote in the post, that having class off campus is an inconvenience to the students, and, in your words, "imposes something on [them]." Respectfully, I just don't think that the "something" to which you refer is my politics.
But even if it is, that doesn't justify the venom and reckless disregard for civility with which some students have been criticizing those faculty, like me, who have made this agonizing decision.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 8, 2006 12:44:08 AM
Well, put it this way: if your politics were different, you wouldn't be imposing those costs on the students. So I think that your politics are obviously the reason for imposing these costs. I agree completely, though, that none of this justifies the venom. That's very sad.
Posted by: Ross Cheit | Mar 8, 2006 7:24:47 AM
I don't think that it necessary follows that if a professor's "politics were different, [he/she] wouldn't be imposing those costs on the students.” This sentiment actually underscores an interesting issue for the picket lines generally. At a minimum, holding class on campus would impose costs on student who felt obliged not to cross a picket line. There is an argument that maintaining the status quo (teaching and attending class without regard to the picket line) is somehow apolitical. But this seems to me to be a bit of a head-in-the-sand approach.
Much of this discussion and other earlier comments regarding the effect of holding off-campus classes seem to me a tacit argument of another issue: whether ANYONE's choice to cross a picket line should be seen as a show of support for management (or anti-worker). Clearly, many people feel it should not be seen in this manner. But the reality is that it is seen as anti-worker. Whether is should be is a different discussion. A valid and legitimate discussion, but a different discussion.
There are certainly legitimate reasons against viewing a picket line crossed by anyone as support of management because, as such, it makes any outcome “political” in some manner. That is, in part, why picket lines can be effective. Perhaps it would be more accurate of the politics of “crossing a picket line” to limit the political aspect to the actions of replacement workers or current workers who choose not to participate in the strikes. Regardless, though, that is not how it is, and thus the picket line has forced upon many unwilling participants a “political” decision. Choosing to hold classes as normal may be motivated largely by a feeling that political support for the workers simply does not trump other obligations. Nonetheless, while this may not be overt support of management, it is still political in that it indicates a hierarchy of values. Again, this can certainly be a valid and moral decision – it simply has some political implications.
Perhaps much of the vitriol comes from the fact that a picket line, when it must be crossed (or not), forces people to take sides. Some people apparently can’t take sides without being angry about it. It is unfortunate when people of differing views cannot have civil and respectful discussions about their differences without assigning a sense of immorality or underhandedness to those with opposing beliefs. Not everyone of differing views is an enemy. Often, we are all on the same team, but sometimes we see the world differently. I just don’t see why that is so often viewed by a vocal minority as such a bad thing.
Posted by: WaveLaw | Mar 8, 2006 9:03:47 AM
While I appreciate your obviously sincere concern as expressed in your posts, I'd be pretty irate if I were a student. The problem isn't inconvenience, in reality. The problem, in short, is that you're advantaging those who agree with your politics, or are willing to swallow their beliefs, over those who believe otherwise and feel themselves unable to attend your class. It's not good enough to say that you've taped all the classes, or are distributing notes. Unless you believe that being in a seminar environment adds no value, the promise that students avoiding the class will suffer no consequences is an empty one. Even worse, this is a prime example of the art of making others suffer for your beliefs. Clearly, continuing to teach, albeit off campus, allow you to extend your action longer than you might otherwise, because it lets you plausibly argue to your colleagues that your students aren't suffering. As others have said, the principled thing to do from my perspective was to have cancelled class, equalized the situation between those who agree with you and those who don't, and taken whatever consequences arose from refusing to teach. The solution you've chosen, obviously in good faith, leaves your dissenting students in a tough position.
Posted by: R | Mar 8, 2006 9:27:54 AM
Students are unbelievable in their capacity to complain. In order to attend Professor Vladeck's seminar, students merely need to walk or drive less than a mile from the campus to the building where he is holding class. UM is a commuter school anyhow! Parking is far more difficult on campus than off. Really -- why would a student be justified in being "irate" for having to attend class less than a mile from where it normally takes place? It just makes no sense to me. They are not being forced to drive to Orlando or even Fort Lauderdale.
The very miniscule "inconvenience" to students is so clearly outweighed in my mind by a professor's ability to show support for the workers and to accommodate students who would otherwise not attend class on campus due to the strike.
Posted by: Lindsay | Mar 8, 2006 9:45:05 AM
R -- The consequences of cancelling class, however, would have redounded to the students, on whose behalf we certify to the ABA that they've attended X # of classes for Y # of minutes. Punishing students by potentially undermining their ability to graduate is, for me, a bridge too far.
I continue to reject the idea that holding class off campus is "advantaging those who agree with [my]politics, or are willing to swallow their beliefs, over those who believe otherwise and feel themselves unable to attend your class." First, it's just as _inconvenient_ for those who won't cross the picket line to come to class off campus as it is for those who would. They may just mind it less. Second, as I've explained above, I just do not accept how attending an off campus class requires a dissenting student to _suppress_ their dissent.
And with all due respect, to say, as you do, that I'm making the students "suffer for [my] beliefs" is to marginalize the very real suffering motivating this strike in the first place. If this is what students think is "suffering," we haven't taught them very much, after all.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 8, 2006 10:03:00 AM
Let me briefly reiterate: I don't mind the fact of the dissent, or even the substance thereof. What I object to is the insinuation that (1) I don't care about my students; (2) I am depriving them of their education by holding class off campus; and (3) my only obligation as a member of the faculty of the University of Miami is to my students. To put it as simply as I can: It's not that we don't care about our students; it's that we don't just care about our students.
Very clearly said.
Well, put it this way: if your politics were different, you wouldn't be imposing those costs on the students. So I think that your politics are obviously the reason for imposing these costs. I agree completely, though, that none of this justifies the venom. That's very sad.
pretty much captures the rest of it.
I guess the real question is whether professors are humans or just social constructs.
Interesting series of discussions.
Posted by: Stephen M (Ethesis) | Mar 8, 2006 10:04:49 AM
I'm a tenured professor at another law school and have no idea about the merits of this dispute, but I have to think that it would be pretty remarkable to inconvenience all of my students by arranging classes off campus just because I personally supported a particular cause and wanted to express that support. Surely a professor can express political views without incoveniencing the students we are here to serve: It seems unfair to make our issue their problem.
Imagine a professor scheduling classess off-campus to express his displeasure at the University's affirmative action policy, or its refusal to hire a particular professor. It would come off as incredibly arrogant -- message: "Students just aren't that important compared to my personal political agenda" -- and probably annoys students who see the issue differently. To the extent Professor Vladeck's message is "Yes, that's right: students really *aren't* that important, and they're gonna have to deal with it," a little anger from students bearing the brunt of the decision doesn't seem so surprising.
Posted by: lawprof | Mar 8, 2006 10:20:58 AM
Wait -- this is at the University of Miami?! I thought UM was Minnesota, where walking a mile each way to class in the winter might be seen as a nontrivial inconvenience. Miami? That's different! Now I'm starting to think that the virulent objections are not about inconvenience.
Oh, and I definitely like the idea that professors are supposedly role models. If we never take actions based on our beliefs, what message does *that* send to students? It also sends a political message--one that favors the status quo.
Posted by: Ross Cheit | Mar 8, 2006 10:21:22 AM
"they say in harlan county, there are not neutrals there..."
Steve, stick to your guns. As you've noted, there is simply no way to remain "neutral." Too bad, but that's often true in life: you just have to make the best choice you can. I think you've made the right one. And ppart of doing what is right is being willing to take flak for it. Good for you.
Posted by: lawprof | Mar 8, 2006 10:27:31 AM
First, it's just as _inconvenient_ for those who won't cross the picket line to come to class off campus as it is for those who would. They may just mind it less
I don't see how I could have been clearer in saying that convenience had nothing to do with my reaction. The thing could be 100 yards off campus and make no difference to me, at least. The point is that moving is a political statement, which I need not support.
Second, as I've explained above, I just do not accept how attending an off campus class requires a dissenting student to _suppress_ their dissent.
Well, you'll disagree, but to be entirely clear, it requires a dissenting student to suppress their dissent because showing up at class helps the people supporting the strike. Your position would be more difficult if you couldn't hold class off campus because, as you say, you'd be jeopardizing your students' chances at graduation. Showing up helps you, and unless you think your efforts are pointless, helps the strike.
And with all due respect, to say, as you do, that I'm making the students "suffer for [my] beliefs" is to marginalize the very real suffering motivating this strike in the first place. If this is what students think is "suffering," we haven't taught them very much, after all.
This is kind of a non sequitor, don't you think? I'm not equalizing the workers' suffering, whatever it turns out to be, and the students' suffering. Using a word that has the virtue of also being useful to describe what the workers are purportedly experiencing obviously doesn't mean that I view the two experiences as equally bad.
In any case, the causes of your students' anger aren't particularly mysterious. I'd think most people who didn't happen to agree with you would feel the same way, even if they sympathized with the strike, and I'm a little puzzled why you think they're being unreasonable.
Posted by: R | Mar 8, 2006 10:29:27 AM
Oh, and I definitely like the idea that professors are supposedly role models. If we never take actions based on our beliefs, what message does *that* send to students? It also sends a political message--one that favors the status quo.
I suspect Ross only feels this way to the extent that "our beliefs" are more liberal than the status quo. Presumably he doesn't want professors to take actions to object to affirmative action or anything "political" like that. The status quo in academia is liberal -- should professors be fighting that liberal status quo, too?
Posted by: Sarah Adler | Mar 8, 2006 10:32:08 AM
Lawprof -- I take your point, but I hope I'm not saying that students "*aren't* that important." I'm trying to say that, as important as they are, there are other important responsibilities I have as a member of the community. Respectfully, I'm not sure I accept the analogy to affirmative action or professor hiring. The very act of holding class _on_ campus here would be to force a position upon my students that I am uncomfortable with. And, as my previous comments hopefully indicate, it's not that I'm not uncomfortable to the extent that holding class off campus might have the same effect on other students; it's that I think that discomfort pales in comparison to the other relevant considerations.
And Ross -- it's 75 here today. Although that might not make it less inconvenient, given Miami traffic... :-)
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 8, 2006 10:32:27 AM
Forgive me for sounding too much like a law student here, but I think the key question is - what is the harm? As I see it, there are three potential harms to students from moving classes off campus: (1) process; (2) inconvenience; and (3) being forced to make some kind of statement. First, process concerns - if a professor acts with complete disregard to his/her students, students have reason to be upset. How to respond to a strike is a significant decision and should not be made lightly or without student input. Although I have no idea what every U of M law professor did, Prof. Vladeck indicated that he emailed all of his students to ask for their opinions and ultimately made a decision that took their concerns into account. He asked for input and made his reasoning transparent. Thus, the students (hopefully) could respect and understand his decision. Second, with respect to inconvenience, a professor has to make sure that any decision does not hamper the students' ability to learn. So, a professor shouldn't hold class a distance away or in a venue unsuitable size-wise or environment-wise for the class. By holding class close to campus, in a place with adequate parking, and in a venue large enough and comfortable enough for the class, Prof. Vladeck seems to have satisfied that criteria. Should the venue prove unsuitable to some or all students, Prof. Vladeck should try to make accommodations. Third, professors should not force their politics on their students. Prof. Vladeck would certainly be out of line in requiring his students to spend time on the picket line, wear buttons, or otherwise show support. But he'd also be forcing them to make a statement if he kept classes on campus and required those who supported the strike to choose between going to class (and crossing the picket lines) or skipping and maintaining their loyalty to the strikers. By holding class off campus, the only statement students make is that they want to learn - the same decision a student makes every day in deciding whether to go to class or sleep in or do something else. The action of not crossing the picket line is not a political statement. If students wish to protest the strike, they can do so without Prof. Vladeck's help by crossing the picket line, protesting the strike, complaining on this blog, etc.
Posted by: J | Mar 8, 2006 10:34:13 AM
Strikes suck. There is no question about it. They are specifically designed to inconvenience the people who would use the services of the party being picketed. In a society where the balance of power so favors the employer, the disruption of a strike is one of the few tools workers have to make their voices heard, their power felt. They literally draw a line, and force everyone around them to stand on one side or the other of it.
Because of the line-in-the-sand nature of strikes, there is no way to remain neutral in one, and all of the students who are faulting Professor Vladeck for not remaining neutral don't seem to understand that, or at least to be willing to admit it. They would seem to advance their side (presumably pro-crossing the picket line) as the neutral one simply because it pretends to maintain the status quo. But the status quo is, in fact, disrupted, and the decision to disrupt it is one that is entirely out of the hands of all faculty and students.
The fact is that holding classes on campus, holding them off campus, and not holding them at all are all decisions that have consequences and that state a political point of view - and that put students in a difficult position. I commend Vladeck for using this opportunity to foster dialogue and thought about workers’ rights instead of entrenching himself in a position that, given the explicitly disruptive nature of strikes, could never be utterly neutral, fair, and just.
Posted by: abi | Mar 8, 2006 10:35:53 AM
R -- I guess we're talking past each other. As I've said, I accept that, to some degree, holding class off campus is at least some kind of statement. Where I disagree is the extent to which holding class off campus is forcing my politics on my students. I don't know that anyone would understand a _student_ showing up for an off-campus class to be a particularly supportive move, as compared to a professor moving the class in the first place. I can't imagine it's not understood that students aren't necessarily doing what they would do if they had complete volition here.
As for your last point, I guess I just expect more out of my students than you would. I would hope that they'd understand and respect, even if they don't agree with, my decision, particularly where, as here, I've gone to such lengths to involve them in the decisionmaking process and to share my thoughts with them at every turn. I have done nothing but try to be as transparent as possible, and in return have been accused (not by _my_ students, mind you), of showing callous disregard for the students about whom I've spent so much time stressing. And these same students are wholly oblivious to the plight of those whom they encounter on a daily basis as fellow members of their community. I guess _that's_ what I find so surprising, for better or worse.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 8, 2006 10:37:57 AM
We are talking past each other, but I thought I'd try to explain to you why someone could feel put out and angry as a result of your decision, because it seems clear that the students at the forum hadn't articulated their position in a way you felt was reasonable. The above is the best I can do, I guess, without writing something more extensive. To be clear, I don't think you're being evil. But in your students' place, I wouldn't have been happy with the solution you chose. I'll be interested to read how this eventually resolves, if you will post it.
Posted by: R | Mar 8, 2006 10:44:01 AM
I wonder why you are so willing to put words in my mouth. I actually support the idea that professors are models in the abstract, not for particular causes. The last time that I testified at the legislature in my state, for your information, it was for causes my liberal studetns would certainly label conservative. Time to check your own biases and assumptions, Sarah.
Posted by: Ross Cheit | Mar 8, 2006 10:47:08 AM
R -- Thanks, and I will... And it's not the objections I find unreasonable; it's their tenor and tone, which I took as somewhat unfair and disrespectful. But I'm very concerned about the extent to which I'm understanding the other side here, and to the extent anyone thinks I'm bringing this upon myself, well, I need to hear that, too.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 8, 2006 10:48:47 AM
Steve, I have no dog in this hunt, but I was rather struck by the opening of your post, which discussed a "very interesting" panel organized by UM students, which preceded the town hall meeting, that discussed the substantive issues behind the strike and that "pointedly" excluded representatives of the university administration. Were opponents of the strike represented on the panel? Is it possible, I ask sincerely, that the degree of heat behind the strike opponents' remarks at the town hall was motivated in part by the (apparent -- I wasn't there, of course, and am just going by your description) prior exclusion of that point of view on the panel; or that the heated views of the students were only surprising because they had hitherto been obscured? To the extent the discussion of the strike has taken place largely in exclusive deliberative enclaves, isn't it likely that each side is going to polarize in the nature and intensity of their views? Best, Paul
Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Mar 8, 2006 11:06:56 AM
The University was invited to the panel and declined to attend, furnishing a written statement instead.
There were opponents of the strike represented on the panel.
There has been no effort to silence or exclude the voices of those who oppose the strike.
Posted by: Lindsay | Mar 8, 2006 11:14:37 AM
You're doing the right thing in the right way. I and many of my colleagues were faced with a very real threat of a strike at our school earlier this year, and we resolved to do exactly what you did. Substantively, I think that the post by J pretty much nailed all the arguments why you've done the right thing. I would only add this has obviously become a teaching opportunity (or "teachable moment" as some used to call it), especially for a labor law prof.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 11:33:21 AM
I guess I just expect more out of my students than you would. I would hope that they'd understand and respect, even if they don't agree with, my decision, particularly where, as here, I've gone to such lengths to involve them in the decisionmaking process and to share my thoughts with them at every turn. I have done nothing but try to be as transparent as possible, and in return have been accused (not by _my_ students, mind you), of showing callous disregard for the students about whom I've spent so much time stressing. And these same students are wholly oblivious to the plight of those whom they encounter on a daily basis as fellow members of their community.
Steve, I have the sense that you're making two assumptions that are quite questionable, and that suggest a bit of denial at work here. First, you assume that "going to such lengths to involve students in the decisionmaking process" somehow validates your personal decision. You have to take responsibility for your decision: It's your decision, not their decision.
Second, you also assume that the strikers are right, and students are "bad" if they don't agree ("Bad" in the sense of oblivious to the plight of others, which presumably is meant to be a bad thing). That's just you being political: You have personal political views, and you're letting your personal politics run the show. You might be so confident that your political views are correct that you don't mind elevating them to the status of objective reality, and not just opinion. But you have to realize what's happening: You're being a political actor making political choices, and people who disagree with your politics are going to find that quite objectionable. (Of course, you will be a hero to those who happen to share your political views -- that's how political decisions tend to work.)
Posted by: lawprof | Mar 8, 2006 11:38:37 AM
I appreciate Lindsay's clarification, and would note that Steve also clarified the passage in an email to me.
Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Mar 8, 2006 11:50:34 AM
"I can't imagine it's not understood that students aren't necessarily doing what they would do if they had complete volition here."
Wouldn't that apply equally to those students who would like you to move the class?
Posted by: anon | Mar 8, 2006 1:13:04 PM
Lawprof -- I absolutely respect the right of anyone affiliated with this whole mess (or not, for that matter), to disagree with the substance of the strike, and to argue for why the workers shouldn't (a) organize, and/or (b) be paid a living wage. That I would vehemently disagree with such an argument doesn't alter my willingness to entertain it.
But that's not how things are being phrased on campus. The students whose vitriol motivated this post in the first place are not opposed to the substance of the strike, but only to how I (and those other colleagues who have moved class off campus) have decided to respond. And I respect that, too. What I don't respect is the assumption, by these students, that I am motivated by base politics and my own agenda. Sure, my political agenda is not completely severable here, but that's just not the same thing.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 8, 2006 1:51:01 PM
I appreciate your response. My suggestion is that if you step back a bit, you might conclude that this assumption by your student critics is more justified than you presently think. Just a thought.
Posted by: lawprof | Mar 8, 2006 2:01:00 PM
If I were in your class, I would show up for class every day in the appointed place at the appointed time and stare at the wall for an hour. My sympathy for management is every bit as strong as your sympathy for the workers.
I think the only question here is which has greater expressive value: continuing to hold class on campus and crossing the picket line or moving class elsewhere. It seems obvious to me that it's the latter.
Posted by: FXKLM | Mar 8, 2006 2:22:34 PM
First, to cross or not cross a picket line has equal expressive value. As was discussed in the previous thread, to cross aids the employer, to not cross aids the striking workers, and the sum of these decisions often dictate the success or failure of a strike.
Second, pro-management students should consider Prof. Vladeck's second point above. His approach really is a compromise. The traditional response by union-sympathetic workers at a struck employer is BOTH (i) not crossing the picket line, AND (ii) not performing any work for the employer. Prof. Vladeck is still performing his work for the employer (and providing service to students in what seems to be a very accessible manner). Calls for sanctions against professors who choose this compromise seems no more than extremist rhetoric.
Finally, I want to pick up on Prof. Vladeck's fifth point. Students, faculty, and workers are part of a community, and it's worth reminding folks of that. If students have studied the facts and the positions of both management and the union and have come out supporting management, that's fine (although isn't it true that a precipitating incident of the strike was a contractor firing/discriminating against union workers in violation of the NLRA?). But to the extent folks haven't thought this through, or thought through how and why customers, co-workers, members of a community, etc. behave certain ways during strikes, again, this is a good teaching opportunity.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 2:48:14 PM
I've faced the same dilemma teaching at law school, and never tried to rationalize the issue as not imposing my choice upon students, or as having my cake, eating it too, and giving the students a win-win.
Either way, whether I hold the class as scheduled, or hold it elsehwere, I necessarily forced my choice on the students. So I had to decide what duty took priority. As a teacher, I felt my duty to students took top priority. We held the class as scheduled for those students who wanted to cross the picket line, and then held the class again in a way that didn't cross the line, so that those students didn't have to cross the picket.
Steve, I appreciate your efforts to be fair, but your will be forcing others to pay costs for your choice. Rather than try to explain that away, you should embrace that fact and either justify it or not. Also, you shouldn't be subject to venom, but rather only to criticism by some students.
Posted by: been there | Mar 8, 2006 3:01:22 PM
Joe Slater writes:
Calls for sanctions against professors who choose this compromise seems no more than extremist rhetoric.
Professor Slater, isn't this argument just empty rhetoric? You're trying to bring sympathy to Vladeck's position by casting it as a compromise, and then trying to position critics as unreasonable people who reject compromises. I don't think it works. Of course, I suppose every position in life is a compromise: I only drove 80 mph in a 50mph zone to work today because I was compromising between the speed limit and my car's maximum speed. But I think we should be able to take responsibility for positions rather than pass them off as beyond sanction because they are less extreme than they could be.
Posted by: Sarah Adler | Mar 8, 2006 3:12:45 PM
Steve V. wrote: I think that the statement that it's "[me] and the students who allow the workers to work" demonstrates a lack of respect for the workers themselves, who do the kind of work that neither I, nor I imagine you, would ever want to do in our worst nightmares. How is it, in your view, that we "allow the workers to work"? Because we could afford _not_ to have janitorial staff?
A few weeks ago, we had a plumber fixing things in our house. When he finished, he said, “Thank you for giving me work. I appreciate your business.”
Unwashed masses often show spectacular economic sophistication.
Posted by: Kate Litvak | Mar 8, 2006 3:13:20 PM
While I agree that either crossing or not crossing is a political/moral choice, what, exactly, are the "costs" that are being imposed on students here? Having to go to a different location, less than a mile away? Those "costs" seem negligible. Making a student that supports management somehow appear to not support management? One would have the analogous problem with pro-union students if going to class required crossing a picket line. Again, the "strong" union position would be "don't teach." If that were true here, then we would be talking about some real or potential "costs." But that's not true here.
I know a number of law profs. at a number of schools who have rescheduled classes for reasons ranging from illness to religious reasons to wanting to attend certain conferences or other professional opportunities. Does such rescheduling impose "costs" on students that deserve criticism?
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 3:14:51 PM
Do you really think that moving a class off campus to a reasonably convenient alternative location deserves the serious professional sanctions that Prof. Vladeck described, such as docked pay, taking away sabbaticals, or forced resignation? If so, I would be interested in why you think so. Because I do indeed think that's extremist rhetoric. And my reasoning for that is indeed in part because Prof. Vladeck's position is a compromise: he is still teaching classes; he's just moving the venue a bit. Law profs. often reschedule classes for various reasons. Should such profs. be forced to resign or be denied significant benefits? Finally, I don't think your "I could be driving 80 mph" hypo is analogous. Co-workers routinely honor the picket lines of striking workers (and do no work), and in a number of cases have a legally enforceable right to do so.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 3:21:17 PM
You identify the key point when you say "One would have the analogous problem with pro-union students if going to class required crossing a picket line."
There is no win-win-win here for the pro-union prof, the pro-management students, and the pro-union students. All three cannot prevail, as your own comment proves. But you can pick two of three, publicly defend your choice, and then not pretend that it's winners all around.
I chose "prof loses." If another prof picks "pro-union students lose," or "pro-management students lose," then the prof shouldn't pretend that she/he didn't pick who the loser. Belly up to the bar and defend the choice.
Posted by: been there | Mar 8, 2006 3:31:08 PM
Maybe I'm just dense, but I don't get this whole "crossing the picket line" business. (Of course, I come from a right-to-work state and am pretty young, so forgive the ignorance). To me, you are making a statement crossing the line if you are helping the management break the strike (to use some pro-union language; I'm trying to be agnostic on the merits here). For example, going in a store and buying a product despite cashiers picketing outside would be crossing the picket line. So too would be going in as a replacement worker. But simply going in and using a room doesn't strike me as "crossing the line" in any but the most literal sense.
Now, if you hired Merry Maids to come in and clean your office, then yeah, I would say that action is making a statement. But merely going in and having class, the way I see it, neither helps nor hurts the workers (if anything, it seems like it hurts their cause, since it decreases the need for their services for the time). Maybe I'm just totally wrong about these things and don't get the symbolism, or whatever, but I really don't see still having class in the building as making a statement against the union (which you seem to imply).
Sorry if you've covered this elsewhere, or if your greater experience with unions and workers' law makes this seem obvious to you, but if having class in the building doesn't hurt the workers, why should they care if you "cross" or not?
Posted by: Chris | Mar 8, 2006 3:43:27 PM
We do agree on that point. But I don't think Steve V. or I or anybody defending Steve V.'s position has said, "winners all around." And I think Steve V. in this thread, and more importantly, in his discussions with his students, has bellied up to the bar, as you say.
And I still say that for students, the "costs" of moving the location of a class 3/4 of a mile or so are not great. Again, such "costs" are less than the costs law profs. not infrequently impose on students by rescheduling classes to different dates and times. So I'm not sure how much the pro-management students have really lost.
Indeed, one could argue that it's a bigger "loss" for a pro-union student to be forced to cross a picket line to attend a class than it is for a pro-management student to not have an opportunity to cross a picket line during the time that class meets. The pro-union student wants to avoid crossing the line entirely; the pro-management student who wants to cross the line to make a statement will have other opportunities.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 3:43:42 PM
Forgive the multiple postings (well, that horse may have left the barn, but ...) Re-reading your post, I'm not sure what you mean when you say: "I chose 'prof loses.'" Isn't the point on which we agree that some students would have some (arguably minimal) loss either way? What's the "prof. loses" option, and whatever it is, doesn't it require some students to lose too?
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 3:52:34 PM
Wow. Is Kate Litvak for real?
Kate -- Ann Coulter called. She wants her personality back.
Posted by: Lindsay | Mar 8, 2006 4:00:21 PM
I appreciate your thoughtful comments and patient responses.
First, I found Steve's explanation to be one where he explains to the losers that they didn't really lose after all, or barely lost, or lost something that doesn't really count.
If, OTOH, Steve really does communicate to the losing students, "I've decided that you get the short end and here is why ..." then we're probably not disagreeing. But I doubt it.
I'm not hearing anyone say to the losing faction "you tell me you find it inconvenient but I've decided you are wrong about that or have decided to discount your views because ...." And more importantly, I am not hearing anyone say to the losing faction, "you say you don't want to honor a picket line but I have decided to discount that view to zero because ...." I am guessing that there aren't a lot of attractive to finish that sentence, but there are some candid ways to do it.
As for my solution, there was a solid, unified block of students who said they wanted to undertake inconvenience as a show of support to the union, and a group that said they didn't. For the latter, I held the class as scheduled. For the former, I let them pick the time and place to hold a duplicate class.
Posted by: been there | Mar 8, 2006 4:15:35 PM
Thanks for the explanation. As to your first point, about what Steve and his students said to each other, Steve is obviously the person to ask. It's still my opinion that the "losing" students in Steve's scenario really aren't losing much, for the reasons I've already listed. But I'm all for a full, open discussion of that between the prof. and the students on that point.
Second, I owe you an apology because you already had described what your "prof. loses" scenario was in an earlier thread, and I failed to put 2 and 2 together. I wouldn't criticize you for doing it that way, but I still wouldn't criticize Steve for doing it the way he's done it. And again, if that situation ever happens to me -- and it came very, very close to happening here a month or so ago -- I would make the choice Steve made. And I would try to belly up to the bar, as you suggest.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 4:23:16 PM
Thanks. Please indulge me here. When you tell the losing students "you say you don't want to honor a picket line but I have decided to discount that view to zero because ..." how will you finish the sentence?
"Because I'm the boss and my politics govern"?
"Because, leaving my views aside, opposition to unions objectively weighs less than support of unions"?
"Because you're not really opposed to unions, you're just saying that"?
"Because if you were more enlightened you'd hold the opposite view"?
The reality is that there isn't any way to finish that sentence without deeply offending some reasonable students. I believe that a failure to grasp that reality is why Steve and others can't understand the persistent negative reactions to his choice, and why the rationalizations are so long, convoluted, and unsatisfying. So, just belly up to the bar with a short and sweet explanation!
Posted by: been there | Mar 8, 2006 4:41:49 PM
What I would say would depend on what my students would say, who was striking, and why they were striking. But on the likely assumption that I wouldn't cross the picket line, I would say some combination of what I've already said. I don't think it's much of a burden to pro-management students to meet at an alternative site. Again, it's less of a burden than the not-infrequent practice of law profs. rescheduling classes on different times and dates. Nor is it depriving them of their ability to cross picket lines at other times, multiple other times, any time other than the time my class is meeting. On the other hand, I don't want to cross a picket line, and neither do (presumably) a significant number of students in my class. And so, I'm making the choice to teach off-campus.
I really find it hard to credit the notion that even students who strongly support management or dislike the union are burdened in any significant way, assuming I can find -- and I would -- a reasonably close, alternative site. Again, they can cross the picket line and sing pro-management songs to their heart's content any other time apart from when my class is meeting.
Frankly, I think the stronger critique of my position is the "so if you're so pro union, why don't you just cancel classes and put more pressure on the employer"?
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 4:53:38 PM
P.S. I really need to stop multiple posting, but .... Of course I would try to explain to my students why I felt it was an important value for me and others not to cross picket lines. I would try to do that, however, in a way that made it clear that I wouldn't retaliate against them for feeling differently.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 8, 2006 4:58:16 PM
Joseph Slater writes:
Do you really think that moving a class off campus to a reasonably convenient alternative location deserves the serious professional sanctions that Prof. Vladeck described, such as docked pay, taking away sabbaticals, or forced resignation? If so, I would be interested in why you think so. Because I do indeed think that's extremist rhetoric.
I think it entirely depends on the circumstances, and I would need to know more details to say with any certainty.
Posted by: Sarah Adler | Mar 8, 2006 4:58:29 PM
One more comment for Professor Slater: I also think it's unfortunate to invoke the "extremist rhetoric" line because it shuts down dialogue. The students are powerless, and are trying to come up with a way that they can influence the environment run by the powerful professors. The powerful shouldn't dismiss the powerless by simply calling their arguments "extremist."
Posted by: Sarah Adler | Mar 8, 2006 5:04:17 PM
Thanks. But, with respect, you didn't offer any explanation of why your political values trump their political values. You're still ducking the question. That's not "bellying up to the bar." That's the equivocating that causes the strong negative reactions.
I suspect that the reason you are reluctant to answer the question directly is because every answer will be very unattractive to say aloud. IMHO, the only coherent answer is "because I'm the prof and I have the power to choose my values over yours." Coherent, but not attractive.
Posted by: been there | Mar 8, 2006 5:08:24 PM
eek, now I've done it too. I see you did in fact give a much longer answer of what you'd say. I'd boil down that long answer to "I've weighed your concerns and I've decided yours weigh less than mine."
But, and this is the last time I'll repeat myself (sorry!), I find the longer answers to be dodging the real answers -- and so do the students who are so upset.
Posted by: been there | Mar 8, 2006 5:17:50 PM
Wow -- I go to one meeting, and have like 22 new comments to think about.
Two quick thoughts:
First, Michael's weighed in over at Discourse, and I think his latest thoughts, worth reading in their own right, only further highlight some of the points I made in the initial post about we, the professors, and how we feel about our students and our community.
Second, and just to clarify what I already thought was clear, I had both an electronic and an in-class discussion amongst my students concerning the strike. In the initial electronic conversation, I explained what I viewed as the dilemma I was faced with (which is largely reflected in my first strike post). Once I decided to hold class off campus anyway, we spent the first 15-20 minutes of the first off-campus class discussing the strike, my response thereto, and my students' feelings.
As for what message I sent, and what message was received, I basically told my students that I didn't think I had a choice that would not redound negatively to _somebody_, and that I chose what, from my perspective, would have the least "harm." Of course, that decision is based on my own personal understanding of harm, and my students may well have assessed the situation differently. My point, though, is not to tell those students who don't support the strike that "they've lost, and here's why"; my point is to tell them that they're free to express their lack of support for the strike, but will have to do so either by attending class off-campus, and sharing their views with me and the class, or not attending class, either of which is their right.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 8, 2006 5:56:01 PM
I'm joining the party a little late, but I'm surprised to see Prof. Vladeck make the following statements:
For the record, I am one of his students and told him that I didn't care where class was (and I still don't). However, I feel the need to respond to these points as I think they are not accurate.
"First, it's just as _inconvenient_ for those who won't cross the picket line to come to class off campus as it is for those who would. They may just mind it less."
This is not correct. The students who choose to support the strike by not going to campus make an affirmative choice to bear the costs associated with that decision. This is a classic opportunity cost. The students who do not support the strike, however, have to make a choice: they either take the inferior alternative of missing class or they are forced to pay the costs of having class off campus. This cost paid by students not supporting the strike is not an opportunity cost, it is a tax because they were not given an effective choice whereas the students who do support the strike were given a choice (they had to weigh their beliefs against the costs). So you are correct, it is no less incovenient from a physical actions standpoint for either student, however this dodges the real issue that it shifts the costs to the students who do not support the strike and is therefore, arguably, more inconvenient for the student who does not support the strike.
"Second, as I've explained above, I just do not accept how attending an off campus class requires a dissenting student to _suppress_ their dissent."
I feel this is wrong as well. You've shifted the viewpoint to one of this: crossing the picket line once is bad for supporters but not crossing the picket line once is not bad for non-supporters. I do not think this is accurate, what about hte student who is so anti-strike that they feel the need to wear a UNICCO button and be on campus every time they are supposed to be for class in order to protest? This student does have to suppress their dissent to attend your class.
And for the comment about Minnesota and Miami...being from Minnesota I'd much rather crawl a mile through a blizard in a pair of boxers than drive a mile in Miami...I think my chances of survival are about equal either way...
Posted by: Barsk | Mar 9, 2006 10:52:41 AM
I'm all for polite discourse, and I agree that profs. should be sensitive to the "powerful vs. powerless" dynamic vis-a-vis students. But substantively, I still feel that calling for a professor's resignation or other truly significant sanction for moving a class to a convenient alternative site is ... well ... if "extremist rhetoric" is too harsh, how about "greatly disproportionate response" or "unjustified"?
Also -- and this applies to Been There too -- I'm suprised that nobody has addressed my point about professors cancelling and rescheduling class meetings for other reasons. I've rescheduled a class, for example, because I didn't want to teach on Yom Kippur. I have colleagues and I know folks at other schools who have rescheduled classes in order to attend conferences. Finding new times and dates is a bigger inconvenience for students than moving a class a few blocks. Is my rescheduling a class originally slated to meet on Yom Kippur me forcing my religious preferences on students such that I should be sanctioned? Is Professor Q's rescheduling a class so that she can attend a big Federalist Society conference her forcing her political preferences on students such that she should be sanctioned?
I appreciate the dialogue because it's allowed me to clarify my thinking on the matter. Here's what I would tell my students. First, there is a long tradition among those sympathetic to workers and labor unions of not crossing picket lines, and this is a core moral value for such folks. I would explain in detail why I -- and others -- feel that way. For the sake of relative brevity, I won't recount all those arguments here, but they would certainly include the sorts of things Steve V. says he told his students, including his point about living in a community and valuing the work and lives of others. As a labor law professor, I would consider this a teaching moment.
But OK, even after I've said my piece, let's assume not everyone is going to agree with me. I would stress that I understand that, and that nobody would be penalized in terms of grades for taking an opposing position. So what are my options? As you say, somebody is going to be burdened in some way no matter what I do. Here's why I think the balance of options favors the solution Steve came up with: moving the class to a convenient alternative spot.
Option 1. The burden involved in having the class in a place that requires students to cross a picket line is that both I and a certain group of students would be violating a deeply held moral/political/economic belief, namely that one does not cross picket lines period, or at least that one does not cross picket lines when one supports a particular strike.
Option 2. The burden involved in holding a class at a convenient alternative spot is that students ... have to walk/drive a few extra blocks and/or that those students can't FOR THE 90 MINUTES MY CLASS MEETS, show support to management by crossing a picket line. This seems like a pretty light burden, again one that is often exceeded by professors who reschedule classes for any of a host of reasons.
Option 2. The burden involved in your solution, teaching two meetings of the same class, one off campus and one on campus, involves a burden to me. But I believe the burden to me in teaching the same class twice plus the burden of crossing a picket line when it violates my deeply held beliefs to do so is greater than the burden of students walking a few extra blocks and not crossing a picket line for 90 minutes. Also, to the extent my decision not to teach on campus sends a message to the employer that things won't be "as normal" during a strike, at the margins, me teaching on campus aids the position of the employer and undercuts the position of the union.
At the end of the day, I believe I have the right to decide that Option 2 involves the least total amount of burden, just as I have the right to decide that the burden to me (and some students) of teaching on Yom Kippur is greater than the burden (to a majority of my students) of rescheduling class meetings that fell on that day. These are not decisions done lightly or on a whim, and I would make that clear.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 9, 2006 11:03:24 AM
Argh, the second "option 2" should be "option 3" ....
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 9, 2006 11:06:32 AM
As a student I have an alternate position that I would like to comment on. Should I decide not to cross the picket line because of a certain belief OR should I decide not to attend off-campus classes because I do not want to support your statement doesn't matter. I feel if I do not attend class, I am at a disadvantage compared to the other students academically. There is such pressure to do better than your classmates that it comes down to a battle on whether to honor your convictions or to ignore them and attend class to get better grades. I know the classes are taped but, personally, I don't think I learn as much via videotape as when I am in class and can interact with the professor. This quandry occurs no matter which "side" of the strike you are on.
Posted by: student | Mar 9, 2006 11:10:35 AM
"Student" -- I think your quandary is only a quandary if you believe, as, I take it, "Barsk" does, that to attend an off-campus class is to support the fact that I am holding class off campus. I'm not sure I accept that, for reasons I've explained in some of the earlier comments...
But I also want to respond to "Barsk." First, thanks for writing. Second, you, yourself, agree that the difference isn't convenience; its opportunity cost. It simply isn't less inconvenient for those who support having class off campus; it's an inconvenience that they are likely to _mind_ less. Given how things have been framed by the most outspoken critics of me and my colleagues, I think this is a distinction worth a difference.
Second, as your post (and your e-mail) makes abundantly clear, I am not suppressing dissent. As to your point about the pro-UNICCO student who can't spend the two hours during class on campus, subverting the picket line, and otherwise lauding the virtues of a $6.40/hr wage, I guess you're right, and I concede the point. But I have yet to encounter such a student, and would gladly excuse that student from class.
What bothers me, what continues to bother me, and what no one has yet satisfactorily responded to, from my perspective, is the notion that the students who are the most upset, who are the angriest, and who are complaining the loudest actually _support_ the substance of the strike. It's not that they'd rather spend those two hours counter-picketing; it's that they'd rather the strike not be their problem, and they object to the extent that we, their professors, have forced them to confront it. And _that's_ what I find so upsetting.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 9, 2006 11:26:28 AM
Thanks. Note that your second option entails either (1) "my decision not to cross a picket line has more weight, objectively, than your decision to cross a picket line" or (2) "my decision not to cross a picket line has more weight, in this professor's subjective view, than your decision to cross a picket line." I would urge you to say it directly to the students.
Offering an analogy to classes cancelled for non-controversial reasons dodges the issue of whether we will give the pro-management students' choices the same weight we give to the pro-union students' choices. In other words, you're using two different yardsticks: a choice not to cross a picket line is morally significant, but a student's specific choice to cross a picket line has no more significance than a routine rescheduling.
The deeper implication of using two standards is to reduce the significance of the pro-union students' choices. Once you're rendered the act of crossing a picket to the status of a routine rescheduling of a class you've taken the moral sting out of the decision to cross or not cross.
Suppose a pro-union student meets a picket crosser in the cafeteria and begins to debate the issue. The picket cross can say, "hey, it was clearly explained to all of us that while your choice not to cross a picket had great moral significance, my choice to cross a picket is a trivial choice brushed lightly aside. So get off my back."
Posted by: been there | Mar 9, 2006 11:26:54 AM
Two responses. First -- and this is the point that my dialogue with you has helped clarify for me -- I think it's more of a moral burden to make a pro-union person cross a picket line than it is to keep a pro-management person from crossing a picket line for the 90 minutes that my class meets. Because the principle for pro-union folks is "don't cross the line, period." Me holding a class at the normal spot forces a violation of that principle. Me holding a class in an alternative spot only prevents a student from crossing a picket line for the 90 minutes my class meets only. That student is free to cross at any other time. So the harm to the pro-union student is greater, if I teach at the normal place, than the harm to the pro-management student if I teach at a convenient alternative site.
I would certainly be willing to say that, in addition to what I've already said I would say, to my students. Does that constitute "bellying up to the bar"? If not, I would certainly be willing to say, at the end of the day, "my moral principle that I won't cross a picket line is determining here, just like my moral principle that I won't teach on Yom Kippur."
Second, my point about other reasons to reschedule class is meant to illustrate a few things. Again, I don't teach on Yom Kippur due to deeply held beliefs. These are beliefs a majority of my students don't specifically share. That seems at least somewhat analogous to me. Two, this illustrates the relatively light "burden" being imposed on pro-managmeent students in this case. The burden of rescheduling is greater.
As to your two students meeting in the bar, the pro union student could say that she has a core value not to cross picket lines and the professor shares that value. The anti-union student, I hope, would understand that he had multiple other opportunities to cross the picket line. The anti-union student would also know that I don't share his perspective. But I've had great experiences teaching students that don't share my perspective, and I flatter myself that students that don't share my perspective have had good experiences in my classes.
At the end of the day, the anti-union student would know that my feelings about unions were causing him to attend class at a different site. Just like various Christian students know that my religious beliefs have caused them to attend class at a different time and day than normally scheduled. I do this sort of thing very rarely, only for what I consider very good reason, and I haven't had a problem with it.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 9, 2006 11:49:22 AM
Thanks again for what has been an enjoyable discussion. Your proffered explanation "observing a picket is like observing Yom Kippur" is a candid and complete explanation. It does entail, "and I'm the one whose views govern," but you certainly would be direct and candid with the students.
I could be wrong but your other explanation seems to suffer from a significant fallacy. You argue that picket crossers could support management on other days and in other ways, so their choice to cross a picket weighs less than the choice not to cross. But, of course, that same argument cuts equally well in the other direction: union supporters can refuse to cross on other days and show support in other ways, too.
The whole idea of a picket is to confront the community with a morally signficant choice: cross or don't cross. To get the result you want, you destroy that vital aspect of picketing. You assert that the choice to cross is morally insignificant so long as there is some other way to show management support. But you thereby implicitly assert that the decision not to cross is morally insignificant as well so long as other union support can be taken. Why not just accept the logic of the picket and leave the choice a morally signficant one for everybody, evertime they face that choice? I would think a pro-union person would adopt that position. The choice really matters, and it matters each time you face it.
One way out of that logical dilemma is to say that the pro-union position simply weighs more and they should never compromise with partial measures, and that the pro-management position simply weighs less and they should be required to compromise with partial measures. But, while coherent, I don't think that's convincing for anyone.
Posted by: been there | Mar 9, 2006 12:55:25 PM
I think that the moral principle for pro-union folks is "never cross." I think the moral principle for pro-management folks is *not* "cross at every hour, on the hour." So I think it's more of a burden on pro-union folks to make them cross once than it is a burden on pro-management folks to have a 90 minute window in which I'm teaching in a place that doesn't allow them to cross during that window.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 9, 2006 1:01:49 PM
As a student at UM (and a former student of Professor Vladeck's), I'd like to weigh in on a few things concerning the strike:
I completely agree with Prof. Vladeck that the most disturbing thing about the strike has not been the students that feel strongly pro-strike or anti-strike: it has been the students who are just annoyed or irritated by it, not because of any inconvenience (which is understandable), but because they don't see why they should care about it.
Last week, at the very beginning of the strike, one of my professors opened class with a small discussion on the strike to solicit students' responses and suggestions on whether to continue to hold class. Several students were not aware that there even _was_ a strike, but one student made a comment that made me flinch: "No offense, or anything, but why should we really care? This is just about _janitors_, right?". It wasn't said with any malice or rudeness; it was just utter self-centeredness, and I think that it's a sentiment that is, sadly, shared by more than a few of my classmates.
Other views that I've heard include the ideas that the janitors could just "go get a different job", or "go to night school to be eligible for a better career", and so on and so forth. It really terrifies me to think that these people might be future politicians or judges.
I feel strongly that law school (and any form of higher education, for that matter), is an opportunity for me to become more aware of the social constructs that define our world. Professors serve as guides and mentors in this process. I enjoy having professors and classmates whose political views run the continuum between liberal and conservative, because I think that it fosters an atmosphere of debate and teaches everyone a little something about "the other side" along the way.
I am learning a lot from the teachers who have chosen to hold classes off-campus or to hold taped lectures: how to stand up for what you think is right and how to lessen the negative impact of your actions on those who disagree with you.
That alone is worth all three years of tuition....which at the University of Miami is an awful lot.
Posted by: Katrina | Mar 9, 2006 2:19:38 PM
I don’t think it’s sufficient simply to say that students who are irritated by the inconvenience of the strike are self-centered. Yes, they are, but what’s behind it? First, I think this strike throws into stark relief how out touch many UM Law students are with real life. A school with an average entering age of 24 of necessity means that few UM law students have worked for any substantial length of time. If one has worked in the world for a while, he or she can much more easily see and sympathize with the lousy deal these janitors have and why they want to make better lives for themselves in the only way they can. Students who have never had to worry about health insurance, retirement security or cost of living adjustments simply can’t relate to the situation these janitors face.
At the same time, the overwhelming majority of UM Law students came of age in a time when both major political parties simply abandoned economic security issues. The Democratic Party – the traditional voice of working people – has turned away from that decades-old concern to a startling decree in favor of neoliberal economics, free trade and social issues. Even the most politically engaged students at UM Law will have been exposed to endless discussions about abortion rights or gay rights, but virtually none on pocketbook issues, such as the minimum wage, the right to join a union or retirement security. In our era, one really has to search out sources that discuss such issues in any detail and, to be charitable, most UM law students haven’t done that. Additionally, and no less importantly, the steep decline of the labor movement to a point where its unions represent only 8% of private sector workers means that labor's issue are simply not lodged in the national consciousness in the way they once were.
I’ve heard many comments, such as “Well, they’re janitors and they chose to do that,” or “Why can’t they just go do something else?” I even heard one student say “That’s what the market prices their services to be.” Aside from being distressing, such comments arise from ignorance. But what does the law school do to combat that ignorance? Almost from the moment one enters UM Law School, there is a thoroughgoing emphasis on individual achievement and inner directed methods of assessment, i.e. final exams, Socratic method, class rankings, your summer job, etc…At the same time, few professors provide any context at all for what the law means in the grand sweep of society. Finally, the fact that UM Law has no meaningful public interest program – except a smattering of UM scholars and the Alfieri Center -- means that there is no natural constituency of students who are plugged in to issues such as workers’ rights.
Some of these issues are in the control of the law school, and some are not, but it’s not enough to diagnose UM law students as self-centered and leave it at that.
Posted by: Lou | Mar 9, 2006 3:21:39 PM
In response, I completely agree with your analysis (except for your discussion of the law school's contribution to this behavior, because, as a 1L, I don't know enough about that yet to comment), but I want to make one clarification to my earlier comment:
The students who feel they are inconvenienced aren't (by definition, at least) self-centered. I think that all students have an absolute right to be annoyed or inconvenienced by the strike, just as those who support the strike have an absolute right to do so.
My issue is with the students who fit your description (who may or may not also feel inconvenienced, but that is a lesser issue here): the students who are out of touch with the realities of socio-economics.
Posted by: Katrina | Mar 9, 2006 5:16:12 PM
So Professor Vladeck is upset with the vitriol that the irresponsible actions of a handful of "limousine liberal" professors has generated? Time to step out from behind the ivy-covered walls and face reality, Professor! When faculty members ignore the duty for which they were hired (for those faculty members who can't figure this out without assistance, here's a clue - it's "TEACHING STUDENTS"), can they really still have a reasonable expectation that students/alumni/members of the general public could or should have any respect for them? Is there any other industry besides academia where workers could get away with these petulant displays? "Sorry, boss, I won't be in today - I'll be working from the Dodgers spring training game in Vero Beach in order to protest the wages made by railyard workers in Tuscany, Italy." Please! Presumably, you went into this profession in order to teach students. Maybe since you've been hired you've had occasion to reconsider the wisdom of your decision, and you are using the sideshow created by this "labor action" as a diversion in order to express your dissatisfaction with your career choice. Stop taking this dissatisfaction out on your students, who have come here to learn from you and not to be bullied by you, and start doing what you should be doing - teaching students in a normal, responsible manner.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 9, 2006 6:09:55 PM
There are absolutely no professors "bullying" their students about the strike.
Maybe you should take time away from YOUR vitriol and figure out what's really been going on instead of just slinging around insults while you conveniently remain anonymous.
Posted by: Katrina | Mar 9, 2006 6:15:18 PM
Slinging around insults? Perhaps the truth is striking a little close to home, eh? I entirely respect Professor Vladeck's right to take sides in this dispute and to have opinions regarding it. What I cannot in good faith condone is being conscripted against my will to the political, economic, religious, and social views of any professor who chooses to be derelict in their duty and hold class off-campus, as there is simply no excuse for this behavior by a serious law professor at a serious institution.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 9, 2006 6:22:16 PM
Now We Know:
You say: When faculty members ignore the duty for which they were hired (for those faculty members who can't figure this out without assistance, here's a clue - it's "TEACHING STUDENTS") ...
As I understand it, Prof. Vladeck is continuing to teach students. He's simply teaching at an alternative venue.
You then say: Is there any other industry besides academia where workers could get away with these petulant displays? "Sorry, boss, I won't be in today - I'll be working from the Dodgers spring training game in Vero Beach in order to protest the wages made by railyard workers in Tuscany, Italy."
Actually, many workers in many industries have the legal right to honor the picket lines of their co-workers, even to the point of performing no labor for the employer. Check out relevant labor law rules for sympathy strikes, refusing to cross picket lines at the employer where you work, etc. Prof. Vladeck is not going that far; he is still providing labor for the employer.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Mar 9, 2006 6:37:41 PM
Classes being held off-campus in facilities unfit to house a dog do not, in my opinion, constitute "teaching at an alternative venue." A scuba diving instructor who opts to hold their class on a football field is not "teaching at an alternative venue" - they are not doing the job which they were hired to do. As for relevant labor laws, I certainly do not hold myself out to be an expert in this, or indeed, any specific area of the law (precisely why, I might note, I am here to learn in the first place). I do find it intriguing that you reference the legal right of workers to honor the picket lines of their "co-workers". The way I see it, the striking workers (or, more properly, the minority of workers who are taking part in this strike) are not "co-workers" of the law school professors. I fail to see how there is any privity of contract between a contractor's employees and the employees of the institution which has contracted with the contractor. However, to belabor this aspect of the dispute is to obfuscate the real issue here - that is, the professors abrogating their duty to teach students. I do not doubt that the labor dispute will be resolved in some manner at some point in time. But the labor dispute is not the issue here, and folks here at UM would do well to recognize the true issue before proceeding down the slippery slope of addressing it.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 9, 2006 6:48:35 PM
"Now We Know":
First, thank you for your seething hatred. I think a number of my colleagues didn't understand the depth of feeling among people, and if you are one of our students, well, you're what motivated this post in the first place.
I don't understand where such hatred comes from, and I wish I did. I don't understand any of my students to be saying that, by holding class off-campus (in a venue, mind you, that are more than fit to "house a dog"), I'm not teaching them. And I don't understand why you go to class if you're not interested in learning anything beyond what's in the book. And I don't understand why you don't think that the people who clean up after you aren't part of your community. And I don't understand how I am "abrogating my duty to teach students." Have any of my students told you as much? Are any of your professors not teaching you? Do you learn MORE in 209, or 309, than you do in other places?
What's really bothering you, "Now We Know"? I don't understand, and I want to. Because even though I don't like your vitriol and your anger, even though, for the first time since I got here, I'm wondering if I made the right decision, even though I think you have an awfully narrow view of "teaching," and separate from that, of respecting your peers and your teachers, part of my job is to listen to it, and try to respond to it. All I see here, though, is undirected, unexplained hatred.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 9, 2006 6:57:14 PM
Prof. Vladeck, I'd be interested in your response to FXKLM (Mar 8, 2006 2:22:34 PM) about students who would persist in showing up at the regularly scheduled time and place.
Posted by: billb | Mar 9, 2006 7:30:38 PM
I'm sorry that you see fit to interpret my comments as "seething hatred". Apparently, we're all so wed to our casebooks that we can't read unabridged opinions and interpret them correctly without the assistance of the casebook editor. I do not harbor "undirected, unexplained hatred" toward you or any other faculty member. On the contrary, I applaud people for taking a stand, one way or the other, and not giving in to the seemingly widespread disease of apathy. It's a wonderful thing to live in a country where we have the right to express different viewpoints on a variety of topics, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
By holding class off-campus, you are insisting that students have the benefit of your lectures/Socratic dialogue in a facility that is simply substandard, and is not designed to be a classroom. There are plenty of students who have complained that some of the off-campus facilities are simply not up to par - no light, no ventilation, no electricity, etc. Do you mean to tell me that this is an acceptable classroom facility? If so, why don't we turn the electricity off when (or if) we return to campus, since, in your estimation, this is not a necessity. While we're at it, we could also remove all desks as well. After all, computers aren't called "LAPtops" for nothing, right? There is a reason CLASSES are held in CLASSROOMS, and I would have hoped that you could have grasped this. In continuing to hold classes in facilities such as these, in my opinion, you, and your colleagues, are abrogating your duty to teach students. This is not hatred - this is the expression of an opinion. If you are permitted to have an opinion, should I not be as well? I don't see a need to resort to ad hominem attacks, and I don't see why you view my opinions in this light.
"I don't understand why you go to class if you're not interested in learning anything beyond what's in the book": Here, you are missing the boat entirely. I go to class PRECISELY because I am interested in learning things beyond what's in the book. If I weren't interested in the live exchange of ideas, I wouldn't go to class. Actually, I would just enroll in an online learning program and save myself about 30,000 dollars a year. I enjoy the classroom experience, but I am denied the full benefit of this experience when professors insist on holding classes off-campus. My professors are NOT teaching when they hold classes off-campus - they are shirking their responsibilities precisely by NOT teaching me and not providing me with an acceptable environment geared towards the learning experience when this environment is available, and is being supported by my tuition money. Rooms 209 and 309 offer something that churches, women's clubs, football fields, Port-O-Sans, etc. do not offer - they are CLASSROOMS. What a novel idea - to hold class in a classroom! By golly, what will they think of next?
Again, I hope that you can see fit to respect the rights of students to have their own opinions, as we respect your right to have your own opinion. What we do not respect is your claimed right to make a statement at the expense of our education. I have no "vitriol", nor am I angry at you on a personal level. Do I question your judgment? Absolutely. Do I believe that you do not have the students' best interests at heart? Unquestionably. Do I respect your right to have your own opinion, and do I respect you by virtue of the fact that you are a professor? Absolutely. My view is not "narrow" in the least, but if this is the way that you choose to interpret it, then this whole fracas has blinded you and your colleagues more than you realize.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 9, 2006 7:59:43 PM
Now We Know:
Since you seem so focused on your legal education, I will try to put this in legal terms for you.
(1) Consider your payment of tuition in exchange for a legal education as a contract. Absolutely no court would hold that changing the location of a class constitutes a "total breach" of contract because the location is not a "material term" of your contract with the university. In fact, I would argue that many students are estopped from arguing that a change in location constitutes a breach at all, since when the weather is nice, my students BEG me to teach outdoors in the bricks.
(2) Let us move on to the law of evidence. You seem to be basing your assertions concerning the relocated classrooms on hearsay -- "plenty of students" have complained that relocated classrooms have "no light, no ventilation, no electricity." As you might recall from evidence, the point of the prohibition on hearsay is that it is presumed to be lacking in credibility. I think it safe to say that your assertions of what other students have said about the relocated classrooms lack credibility. I am sure that the parishioners of the church where most of the classes off-campus are being held would certainly be interested to hear that their tithes will need to be raised this year to pay for "light" and "electricity." (Incidentally, your complaints about the off-campus classrooms raise an interesting point -- without the workers to clean your classrooms, would you really want to have class in 209 or 309, sitting up to your knees in trash and scum?)
(3) One of your complaints (and, to be fair, the only major complaint I have personally heard about the church where classes are being held) is that it lacks sufficient outlets for the use of laptops. Here, we move to constitutional law, and the absence of a "right to laptops in the classroom." There is no such right. Many professors outlaw the use of laptops in the classroom completely -- having to take notes by hand will prepare you (a) for the bar exam, as many states do not provide unlimited use of the laptop for persons taking the bar, and (b) for legal practice in the real world, where most courts prohibit attorneys from bringing computers into the courtroom. If a professor can prohibit you from using a laptop in its entirety, certainly a professor can limit your use of a laptop by means of fewer outlets.
After this little lesson in the law, hopefully you, at least, can feel like a first-tier law student, albeit in a "second-tier school."
Posted by: Lindsay Harrison | Mar 9, 2006 9:16:28 PM
To address your comments as you have labeled them:
(1) NO court would hold that the university was breaching its contract? That's a pretty broad stroke, don't you think? I'm not sure I buy into your analysis that the powers of prognostication are that accurate when it comes to what any given court will say regarding a given set of circumstances. Additionally, because YOUR students "beg" you to teach in [sic] the bricks does not mean that EVERY student wishes to attend class in non-classroom locations.
(2) My assertions of what others have said do not, in fact, lack credibility. Actually, should this situation lead to legal action being taken against the university (a course of action that, while I don't necessarily support it, certainly has more than a little merit), there are plenty of students who would be happy to offer direct testimony regarding the substandard conditions of the replacement facilities. While I was not aware that the church where most of the off-campus classes are being held subjects their congregants to tithes (I thought that only applied to Mormons and Muslims, but then again, I'm not attending a school of divinity so it may affect Roman Catholics as well), I can say after personal observation that this so-called facility is indeed sans light, electricity, suitable acoustics, and the normal accompaniment of classroom supplies (e.g. blackboard, dry erase markers, desks, etc.). Rooms 209 and/or 309 would be far preferable to the off-campus facilities - especially since they ARE being cleaned, despite the "strike".
3. I don't recall ever having claimed a constitutional right to use a laptop in class, and I wholeheartedly respect a professor's right to ban such use as they see fit. However, in the present circumstances, professors are not banning laptop use per se. What they are doing instead is making students travel off-campus (without regard to students' disabilities and/or lack of personal transportation), enter a house of worship belonging to a faith to which students do not necessarily subscribe, and subjecting them to antediluvian conditions. This should be considered a first-rate education? Forgive me if I disagree, but I thought the days of studying law by candlelight in a log cabin were common during President Lincoln's time, not in modern-day America.
BTW - I cannot take credit for the reference to Miami as a "second-tier school". This honor properly belongs to U.S. News and World Report, whose law school rankings have fairly consistently placed Miami in the lower half of the second tier for quite a few years now.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 9, 2006 9:38:24 PM
Now we know:
If you think that any court would entertain a student's lawsuit against the university for breach of contract because his or her professors moved classes off-campus during a strike, perhaps we have done an insufficient job of educating you about contract law (and labor law, for that matter).
Now we know, indeed.
Posted by: Lindsay Harrison | Mar 9, 2006 10:07:11 PM
"Now We Know":
To accuse a professor of abrogating his duty to his students is a rather serious charge, and is not, respectfully, just your expression of your opinion (which, I agree with you, you otherwise have a right to, and to explicate here). Rather, by suggesting that I don't have _my_ students' best interests at heart, you are telling me what _my_ motive and intent are. And with all due respect, that's not the same thing as telling me that (and why) you disagree with my decision to hold class off campus.
This fracas hasn't blinded me to anything. Indeed, it's opened my eyes to the ability of our students to see everything in absolute terms measured solely by their own convenience. Are some of the off-campus facilities imperfect? Without question. If they weren't, we'd teach there all the time. But this isn't only about you, "Now We Know," and it isn't only about the environs in which your class occurs. What about your fellow students, who would rather sit in a darker hall with poorer ventilation because that is one of the ways they can support those who live lives without these bare necessities as a permanent fixture? Is your viewpoint more important than theirs? Does your comfort and ability to access the internet during class supersede their desire to support those whom you would just as quickly walk past on your way to an air-conditioned classroom? Indeed, have you spoken to a majority of your classmates, or just those who think everyone is here for their benefit? As I told my seminar, if most of them wanted to go back on campus, I would. Don't assume, because you're inconvenienced, that we, your professors, are oblivious and uncaring. But don't assume, either, that everyone shares your view just because you do.
The last thing I would want is for this to be personal. My last response to you was motivated by what I perceived to be a very personal attack on me, and to the extent you didn't mean it, I apologize for responding in kind. Don't ever doubt my respect for your right to disagree. But don't, in the process, disrespect me and my fellow colleagues by assuming that you understand us, and why we're doing what we're doing. We're not always right, but that sure as hell ain't for lack of trying.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 9, 2006 10:09:53 PM
P.S. To see a video of the comment that started all of this, go to this webpage, and open "Part I" from the town hall meeting. The comment starts 21:30 into the video.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 9, 2006 10:19:53 PM
Professor Vladeck, I agree with you that either decision would impose a burden on some students, but the solution seems fairly clear: Let your students vote on the issue (off campus or on). Why wouldn't that accomodate most of the issues you mention?
Posted by: anon2 | Mar 9, 2006 10:29:32 PM
Anon2 -- My students overwhelmingly supported my decision, if not the basis thereof.
As for FXKLM, being absent from my class is excused. If you want to spend those two hours sitting in the classroom, staring at the wall, as the old white guy says in "Coming to America," "it's a free country."
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 9, 2006 10:32:13 PM
"Now We Know"...
See the thing about words, is that they can come off certain ways in how you string them together. You are allowed to voice your opinion. That is what is so great about the USA. HOWEVER, when you use bold and capitalized letters, I THINK you mean to come off like a HATE-filled student. Come on, "Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School" is the name you use instead of your own. This just shows the level of your awful anger and the bile that you effuse. If you don't have electricity, light or ventilation as you previously stated, you should speak to Dean Lynch immediately. I think you aren't being truthful but if you are, the Dean would NEVER allow this.
The classroom is not the ONLY place to learn. When we engage with others outside of the classroom, we continue to learn. Internships are all about learning and these do not happen in a class of 200.
You even started with --So Professor Vladeck is upset with the vitriol that the irresponsible actions of a handful of "limousine liberal" professors has generated? Time to step out from behind the ivy-covered walls and face reality, Professor!---
Jeez... I feel the animosity and hate coming off that post in waves. It comes across like a little, silly kid's "Na-nanny-boo-boo". Unfortunately when students post such posts as you have, WE ALL LOOK BAD at the school. Other professors reading this will wonder at the anger/disrespect/animosity/hate that students show towards others, (1)professors who are guides in the learning process and (2)students who will one day be their collegues.
You also state--- My professors are NOT teaching when they hold classes off-campus - they are shirking their responsibilities precisely by NOT teaching me and not providing me with an acceptable environment geared towards the learning experience when this environment is available, and is being supported by my tuition money. Rooms 209 and 309 offer something that churches, women's clubs, football fields, Port-O-Sans, etc. do not offer - they are CLASSROOMS. What a novel idea - to hold class in a classroom! By golly, what will they think of next?-----
Ok so..."Port-O-Sans", "By golly", "What a novel idea". You really want to hold on that "no hate" thing. If you read other posts here, students and profs who DISAGREE with Prof. Vladeck still show the respect that all lawyers and future lawyers should have. Jeezzz... for that matter HUMAN BEINGS should have. You can express yourself without resulting to an utter disrespectful, hate-filled TONE, (YES SIR), TONE of your statements here.
Here's what I will do. I'll show some other students on campus your posts and ask them what they think of them. I'll even ask some undergrads. I'll get back to the Blog with the results.
Finally, you state ---Do I believe that you do not have the students' best interests at heart? Unquestionably. Do I respect your right to have your own opinion, and do I respect you by virtue of the fact that you are a professor? Absolutely.--------
You, Madam or Sir, do not know Professor Vladeck. We, the students, are absolutely the reason why he is here. He does not have to teach here my friend. If you knew him or even talked to him you would realize the extent of the lies you espouse. You do not RESPECT him in anyway because all you have done here besides show the ugly side of the students at Miami is to disrespect a Great prof who has been respectful to you and your "opinion". You don't respect anyones rights but that's ok. You may tell me your name in school(since you are anon here and I'm not) and I'll be happy to take note.
Posted by: Nneka | Mar 9, 2006 10:52:06 PM
When I saw this blog post last night, I thought Prof. Vladeck was completely 100% in the wrong and that it reflected poorly to make a blog post like this about a student's remarks.
I just saw the video, and I now not only 100% support Prof. Vladeck, but I'm amazed he didn't go further in his initial post.
The student who made those remarks was *way* out of line, and while I disagree with Prof. Vladeck's decision about holding class off-campus, the people criticizing Prof. Vladeck for how he's treated this student really need to watch this video.
Posted by: Anthony | Mar 9, 2006 11:03:32 PM
Thank you for making my point as eloquently as anyone could. You concede that the off-campus facilities are "imperfect". As such, the overall educational experience that professors COULD be providing their students is NOT being provided. In this respect, professors ARE abrogating their duty to their students. You are also correct that this IS a serious charge. As such, you might reconsider the extreme, palpable, negative impact you are having on the education of those students who have sacrificed so much to get here in order to expose themselves to a proper legal education.
I do not maintain that my point of view is the only one, or is more important or valid than anyone else's. However, by imposing your political, economic, social and religious views upon your students, you are forcing those for whom the strike is not the center of their existence to make a "choice", which is not really a choice at all. I do not maintain that I am speaking for all students. I am speaking for me, and in my opinion, that is important enough. I do not feel that I am receiving as optimal an educational experience as I could, and should, be receiving because of the substandard off-campus facilities. I wholeheartedly disagree with professors' decisions to hold classes off-campus because I feel it directly impacts the quality of my education, and does not help in the least the "cause" that it purportedly seeks to help.
I do not presume to understand you or your colleagues, nor would I even begin to attempt to try. We have a fundamental difference of opinion about what constitutes a legal education. I do not mean to impugn your intent or motive in any way. However, the RESULT of your actions is pretty easy to evaluate.
Additionally, I resent your comment that my opinion is motivated solely by my own convenience. There are MANY issues which contribute to the error of the professors' ways, in my opinion. Some of these are:
(1) The decision to hold classes off-campus, even while knowing that the facilities are substandard and unfit for classroom instruction, does not provide students with the best learning environment in which professors can impart their knowledge to their students.
(2) Not all students have personal transportation, and getting to and from campus is extremely inconvenient.
(3) There are some students who resent being forced to adopt a political viewpoint regarding the labor dispute that they have no interest in adopting. We are being used as pawns in a political game, against our will.
(4) There are some students who resent being forced to attend classes in a religious institution. This is, in no uncertain terms, being proselytized - plain and simple.
(5) There are some students who feel that their tuition money - part of which undoubtedly is used to maintain the law school campus facilities - is being wasted when these facilities are allowed to remain dormant, although physically present and available.
(6) Some students have physical and/or learning disabilities, and it is extremely inconvenient for them to be forced to go to class off-campus in facilities that are not designed to accommodate them.
Does this sound like I am motivated solely by personal convenience? The only absolutist viewpoint is the one being expressed by the professors. As a matter of fact, there is one professor (that I know of, anyway) that DID take a vote (overwhelmingly in favor of remaining on campus), only to disregard the results and move off-campus anyway. Welcome to the return of "democracy" - USSR-style.
I sincerely hope that you and your colleagues see fit to reconsider the impact of your decision, especially since this dispute may well carry on for the rest of the semester and beyond. I also hope that you can appreciate the deep divides that this dispute has caused in the campus community - divides that will not soon be healed, unfortunately.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 9, 2006 11:07:22 PM
I'm sorry you cannot appreciate the fact that I do respect Professor Vladeck's right to have his own opinion regarding this whole scenario. Unfortunately, you do not seem to have the same respect for those who express opinions diametrically opposed to your own. This intolerance is surprising, especially given the relatively open, intellectual environment of an institution of higher learning.
If you construed my tone as being disrespectful or hateful in any way, please know that you have entirely misinterpreted the meaning of my posts. Might I suggest that being a little more open-minded might suit you. In that way, perhaps we can maintain (or, more accurately, restore) some civility in this situation, so that the healing process can begin before the work dispute is even settled.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 9, 2006 11:20:33 PM
I think that's a pretty glib response to what I think is a valid response to your position. Does your excuse of the absences get the student around the ABA's attendance requirements? Are your students who miss class also excused from the material you're covering when it comes times for the exam? If the answers are "no" then your excuse is really no excuse at all.
I think you and your like-minded (and like-acting) colleagues have taken a pretty self-serving position on the strike. If you believe that the strike is justified, you should have the courage of your convictions and cancel your classes outright for the duration of the strike or oppose the move. This is the only way to help the striking workers. Moving class off campus only serves to inflame the passions of your students that oppose the strike. University management isn't affected in the least by your actions. It serves as no motivation to bring the strike to a quicker end. The law school can live without its janitors for quite some time, but it can't function at all without its faculty.
Your position only manages to highlight your apparent but ineffective support for the striking workers. You, and the students who support your position, get to pat yourselves on the back for helping the working man, but as long as you continue to teach, they aren't receiving an ounce of useful support. It's all a lot of puffery as far as I can tell.
Posted by: billb | Mar 9, 2006 11:36:50 PM
After seeing the video, I agree wholeheartedly with Anthony's comments above. I do not feel that Professor Vladeck made the right choice by moving his classes off-campus, but the student who gave that speech at the "town hall" meeting deserved Prof. Vladeck's criticism.
Posted by: CL | Mar 9, 2006 11:38:00 PM
"Now We Know"
This past post of yours -"Now We Know Why" is much more respectful. Do you see the difference? You should go back and read your first and second post. They were awful. I respect EVERYONES right to have their opinion no matter what. You maybe or maybe not surprised at what people have told me to MY FACE and I respect what they have had to say and them all at the same time.
I AM GLAD THAT I MISINTERPRETED your comments to the Professor. I would hate to think that others (possibly all over this globe) are reading those comments and coming away from them shaking their heads. Sir or Madam, I am one of the most OPEN-MINDED persons I know (except when it comes to unprotected sex) OR that you will ever meet.
SOME of what you have said IS NOT DIAMETRICALLY opposed to my views. I actually agree with SOME of the "substance" of what you espouse. Go back and re-read my post. I DO NOT AGREE WITH "THE WAY/MANNER" IN WHICH YOU DID IT SIR. There was no need for (what I perceived as HATRED) the "tone" of your comments. It makes us all look backwards here. Like we can't even occupy the same space and be civil.
You stated--- I'm sorry you cannot appreciate the fact that I do respect Professor Vladeck's right to have his own opinion regarding this whole scenario. Unfortunately, you do not seem to have the same respect for those who express opinions diametrically opposed to your own. This intolerance is surprising, especially given the relatively open, intellectual environment of an institution of higher learning.----
NWKW- Your latter posts do show MORE CIVILITY AND RESPECT toward Prof. V and I applaud you for taking time to cool down. I have used my real name hear and if you know who I am (BTW there is only one Nneka in Coral Gables), you would be very hard pressed to refer to me in anyway as "intolerant". Just the opposite. Your last statement is exactly what I have been telling people (other students, alumni, undergrads, friends, and family elsewhere). I choose not to believe that you are not being sarcastic because I don't get that vibe.
I just suggest that you watch the way in which you use your words and how you string them together. Your previous posts are diametically different in TONE from the latter ones.
I thank you for being civil and allowing for continued discussion.
Posted by: Nneka | Mar 9, 2006 11:43:55 PM
"Now We Know":
I'm not sure if it's worth it to respond at this point, given how deeply entrenched your views appear to be. But, I'll try, because I really do respect and appreciate your willingness to share your opinion.
You say that there are many issues contributing to your opinion, not just convenience (even though your second point in support thereof is convenience).
First, you say that we're not providing the best learning environment. I never said it was the best. In fact, I dare say that none of the classrooms at UM are my idea of the "best learning environment." Are your classes substantively inferior off campus, or just your disposition toward them? I taught last semester in A110. That room sucked--er, was not my idea of the ideal learning environment. Are my students entitled to a partial refund?
Second, I am Jewish, and cannot understand _any_ scenario wherein having class in a church is religiously offensive or proselytizing (at least to my religion). But, I'm not there, so I can only speculate. I'm sure that if a student were religiously offended, any of my colleagues would gladly accomodate that. This strikes me as grasping at straws, and using religion as a crutch.
Third, I've already responded like 26 times to your "pawns in a political game" point. What about the student who could not fathom crossing the picket line? If they're not a pawn in the "political game" of on-campus classes, how are you, here? Is there really a neutral solution here? At bottom, strikes make it inconvenient to have classes on campus for those who support the strike, and off-campus for those who don't. Why is the inconvenience to you more important?
Fourth, as to your tuition argument, I respectfully suggest that your tuition goes toward your education generally, and not your education at x time in y classroom for z minutes. If we gave you that kind of control over your tuition dollars, well, there'd be no Center for Ethics and Public Service, no elements class, no grades in LRW (wait, maybe you're on to something)... we don't charge by the pound.
As to the disability point, again, I think you're appropriating a very serious and worrisome eventuality. I have absolutely no doubt that a student who is in need of physical accomodation would go through proper channels and receive those accomodations. Are you aware of any case to the contrary, or is this more of the fictional parade of horribles that you're using to cover the extent to which you're really upset about how this impacts you?
Look: I think that this has gotten way out of hand, in no small part because I really don't think that you understand what it would mean to lots of other people to have class _on_ campus. I don't disagree with you that having class off campus is significantly inconvenient for many, is not the best learning environment, and is otherwise an imperfect solution to a messy problem. But you proceed on the assumption that everything would be hunky dory if class were on campus. While that may be true for you, it is not true for many other people, including those you can't (or don't) see.
I don't know how to say this any better. I'm really not oblivious to the extent to which this situation has made your life difficult. I just believe that there is a lot more going on here than you.
I would encourage you, just as I would encourage anyone who disagrees with me, to further explore this with me in person. I may not have all of the answers. I may not be able to convince you. But please don't think that I don't care. I'm only devoting so much energy to this because I do.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 9, 2006 11:48:41 PM
"I think you and your like-minded (and like-acting) colleagues have taken a pretty self-serving position on the strike. If you believe that the strike is justified, you should have the courage of your convictions and cancel your classes outright for the duration of the strike or oppose the move. . . . The law school can live without its janitors for quite some time, but it can't function at all without its faculty."
I really think the original post responds to this, but I'll try again. If, as "Now You Know" claims, I didn't care about my students, I _would_ cancel class. I wouldn't show up for work. I wouldn't write letters of recommendation. I'd pick up a sign and join the picket line. But I _do_ care about my students, and have decided, with their help, mind you, that this is the best compromise. Just as it was a compromise for me to cross the picket line Tuesday to attend the town hall meeting. This is not about absolutes. It's about balancing your professional responsibilities with your personal feelings. It's only if I cancelled my classes that I think "Now You Know" and his friends would be right -- that I really had abdicated my responsibilities as a teacher. True, that would more likely have an effect on the University, but it would also redound to the negative for my students in a way that I can't, and won't, accept.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 9, 2006 11:54:06 PM
Wow. I attend another law school and have had both liberal and conservative professors. One of the things I really appreciate about my professors is that regardless of their political leanings they are willing to recognize the reality of the situation and call a spade a spade.
Professor Vladeck obviously does not. "Been there" is 100% correct in the above posts. Professor Vladeck needs to face reality and recognize that he is distinctly imposing costs and disadvantaging any students who feel strongly pro-management. He may be rightly skeptical that any of these students exist, but if they do his actions are clearly to their great disadvantage. Professors do have a duty to express and support their beliefs, but they should also acknowlege the realities and consequences of their actions. Professor Vladeck has chosen his beliefs to the serious detriment of some of his students and as such deserves any consequences that may follow.
These type of actions reinforce the negative and intollerant liberal steroetypes prevelant in Academia (the Summers situation is another excellent example of this...)
Posted by: passerby | Mar 10, 2006 12:01:04 AM
I never said that a court would necessarily entertain an action for breach of contract against the university. As a matter of fact, I believe that I said that I personally did not support legal action against the school. However, as I'm sure you can appreciate, a complaint should properly address all possible causes of action at the outset, if only to avoid the troublesome amendment process. Anyone contemplating legal action against the university would, I am certain, conduct a full pre-filing investigation to ascertain the legitimacy of all allegations and legal bases. My response to your comment (1) was simply in response to the ease with which you predicted what NO court ANYWHERE would EVER do under ANY circumstances. Given the proper legal contentions and a skilled advocate, I believe that there are many arguments which could be made relevant to a given fact pattern.
I admit that words can be taken out of context and in ways in which the "speaker" did not intend them to be "heard". I, personally, as I believe I have made patently clear, do not harbor any hatred towards Professor Vladeck or any professor, for that matter. My initial posts were designed, perhaps in more of a "ruffling the feathers" manner than in retrospect I might have intended, to make the professors realize that of course there are those on campus who are harboring feelings of ill will towards them. The decision to hold classes off-campus is not one which some students are taking lightly, and there are some who, for better or worse, will inevitably question the professors' motivations, commitment, etc. As for my own personal feelings, as I think I've expressed, I do not believe that the decision to hold classes off-campus was a wise one, for a variety of reasons. I sincerely hope that these professors reconsider their decisions. However, I do not think any less of any of them as human beings, professors, or - dare I say - colleagues by virtue of the fact that they are doing something of which I wholeheartedly disapprove.
I appreciate your airing your views as well, and perhaps someday I shall see fit to introduce myself to you on campus. For now, however, I prefer to remain anonymous so as to spare myself any possible reprisals from professors who disagree with myself and others who feel that holding classes off-campus is a poor decision. My thanks to you as well for taking the time to air your own views, as I believe that this is important when a controversy such as the present one is tearing our campus apart.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 10, 2006 12:01:08 AM
(Sorry I didn't get to post this in your other thread. This one seems to have taken off, so once more into the breach...)
I understand your explanation, Prof. Vladek, but I don't think it's a useful compromise. It doesn't help the striking workers (it doesn't hurt them the way crossing the line would, but it certainly doesn't help), and it hurts at least some of your students to the benefit of the others. I understand that you're trying to balance your sincere desire not to cross with the interests of your students (some who would cross and some who wouldn't). I guess I just don't find your particular course of action compelling or satisfactory. In my mind, strikes are about absolutes. Not crossing the picket line is an absolute. Striking itself is an absolute (we won't work until our demands are met, etc.).
Not crossing the line, but still doing your job, (equally attending class) serves only an empty symbolic purpose. That's fine behavior for an uninvolved party (like Kerry refusing to cross in Boston at the U.S. Conference of Mayors) who wants to lend symbolic and well publicized support to a group that he can't support directly, but your involvement with the janitor's employer (direct or through a contractor) makes it incumbent upon you to lend more than just symbolic support. You even admit yourself that you're willing to cross under the right circumstances! When the mechanics strike and pilots refuse to cross, that's support! What a tough decision it must be for those pilots who care about getting their passengers to their destinations!
How many of your like-minded colleagues and students would it take to stop the strike in a week by cancelling class/refusing to attend? Is it worth it? Don't the janitors deserve a living wage?
(I hope you take the sarcasm in the good-natured way that it's intended. I say (write) these things light-heartedly.)
Posted by: billb | Mar 10, 2006 12:27:47 AM
Are my views any more entrenched than your own, or those of your colleagues? I believe that I've been over the top in my defense of your right to hold your views, as, in your own way, you have been of mine. However, I must still continue to question the sagacity of having classes off-campus, as I believe that the negatives caused by this decision far outweigh the modicum of positive energy that is created by such a choice.
First, I did not say that UM's facilities were perfect. But, as I'm sure you would admit, they are classrooms, which were designed, and have functioned and continue to function, as classrooms. Given the choice between a classroom with lighting, air conditioning, desks, electricity, blackboards, dry erase markers, voice amplification, overhead projectors, etc. and a dark, poorly ventilated, ill-equipped (for a class session, anyway) church, I fail to see how the choice is not crystal clear.
Second, I am not grasping at straws, or using religion as a crutch. There are students who find being forced to attend class in a church (feel free to substitute temple, mosque, meeting house, etc.) offensive. These students are indirectly supporting a religion to which they do not subscribe. And I do consider this to be proselytization when donations to the church are solicited. If someone wants to give money to a church, that is their business. But when these donations are solicited from law students simply trying to get an education and not wishing to be converted to a particular way of thinking, there is a problem. This situation has been addressed with individual professors and with Dean Lynch, and it has not been resolved. But I am certainly open to suggestions from the professors or the administration as to how this might be addressed so as not to turn UM into a sectarian institution.
Third, it is my belief that students who choose not to cross the picket line should bear the brunt of their decision. This is an opportunity cost of electing to pursue one course of action, and forego another. Students that wish to continue attending class on a regular schedule are being forced to make a choice, which is not really a choice at all (go to class or suffer the consequences during the final exam). We have not done anything to warrant being painted into such a corner. If students wish to express their views by not attending class, so be it, and I support them for taking a stand. But those who expect to come to class as we have been all year should not be forced to make a choice when we have not brought this decision upon ourselves.
Fourth, I agree that my tuition money goes towards my education in general. However, I don't believe that I am receiving this education when my classes are moved off-campus to substandard facilities. I am paying for a service - I am not even receiving a close facsimile of what I have a right to expect.
As to the disability argument, I resent your casting this as a parade of horribles. There ARE disabled students who are having major issues with classes being held off-campus. This HAS been brought to the attention of Dean Lynch and individual professors, and the response has universally been that if classes are being held off-campus, we are "excused" from attending those classes. However, since they are being held off-campus and not under the auspices of the university, no accommodation can be provided by the university for transportation to or from these classes for students with disabilities, and no accommodation can be made in these faux "classrooms" to accommodate students with learning disabilities, since the university has no control over these last-minute, replacement spaces. Forgive me for interpreting this response, or lack thereof, as being sensitive to the concerns of disabled students.
I'm truly sorry that you find it necessary to cast my opinion (while first nominally supporting my right to have it) as being selfish. I might say the same about the professors who have made the decision to move classes off-campus. I thought the point of this blog was to air views related to the off-campus class situation, and to do so with a spirit of collegiality. If indeed I've characterized this correctly, I believe that you are violating this in word and deed. My point is merely to disagree with your chosen course of action. I never dreamed that expressing an opinion about the quality of education I'm receiving would be considered selfish, and I'm saddened to think that this is how a respected professor would view it.
As I stated to Nneka, above, I prefer to remain anonymous so as to avoid the inevitable faculty reprisals. You may think that no such reprisals would take place, but, as your last post's characterization of my motives and state of mind clearly demonstrates, they already have.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 10, 2006 12:29:27 AM
You're indirectly supporting another religion simply by being in that church, temple or mosque? What? Am I missing something here? Please explain: a.) how that is offensive; and b.) how that is supporting a religion different from one's own.
Posted by: Lou | Mar 10, 2006 12:41:32 AM
There are some for whom it is offensive to be in a room and, above the professor's head, is Christ on the cross. What can I say - religion is a very personal thing, and while I personally have no beef with any of the teachings of the major Western religions (Peace, Love Thy Neighbor, etc.), I can certainly understand how someone might feel uncomfortable taking their shoes off and entering a mosque, and so on. The indirect support comes in a variety of ways. First, one's presence, against their will, in a house of worship, lends indirectly to the support of an established religion. Second, the fact that university dollars, from tuition money, are being paid to religious sects in order to secure the use of their facilities offends those who do not wish to support an established religion with their hard-earned money. Finally, when students are directly solicited for donations when entering a religious facility, even if they choose not to donate, this is obviously an uncomfortable position in which to find oneself.
I realize that this strike probably took most, if not all, of us by surprise, but it would have been far more considerate of those professors who decided to hold class off-campus to choose a more neutral location.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 10, 2006 12:49:10 AM
"Now We Know":
This will be my last response to you on this thread. Feel free to have the last word, or not, but you say a couple of things in your last post that I felt compelled to respond to.
First: I still believe that you are conflating your opinion with my motives. You equate the inconvenience to you of having class off campus with the convenience to my views of having class off campus. But, as I've said time and again, it's not just about you, and it's not just about me. There are lots of other people out there, and they have thoughts, too. I don't know if a majority of your classmates support having class on campus. All I know is that my students supported my decision, and that, for now, is all I care about.
Second: I'm just not going to respond to the religion point. If someone is actively soliciting for donations in the church where your class is, during class, I find that somewhat objectionable. Short of that, I continue to see no problem here.
Third: Respectfully, students who won't cross the picket line have just as much "not brought this decision upon [them]selves" either, unless you think the strike was their idea.
Fourth: I guess I just don't think of ventilation and access to electrical outlets as material aspects of education, as compared to the substance of the class. Otherwise, those days last fall when we didn't have air conditioning must have been really bothersome, and not just uncomfortable, for you...
Finally, on the disability point: You are right to be critical of me here. I haven't heard of any such incidents, but that is by no means to say none have taken place, and I do apologize for insinuating that this was a fabrication. And if you are one of the students who has been affected, all the more so. I wouldn't dare belittle the difficulties that students requiring special accomodation encounter on a daily basis, even when circumstances are at their best.
But it's "accomodation" that is at the core of our disagreement. Because I see my responsibility as including the accomodation of students who won't cross the picket line. I accept and respect that you see my responsibility differently. Just put yourself in my shoes for a second: If a majority of your students favored holding class off campus, and if you yourself would prefer not to cross the picket line, what would you do?
I'm not trying to assail your motives or your state of mind. This all started with you saying the following: "Do I question your judgment? Absolutely. Do I believe that you do not have the students' best interests at heart? Unquestionably." My point has only been, and continues to only be, that there's a fine line between having your own opinion and telling me how to do my job.
As for your "reprisals" point, let me be crystal clear: I hold no hard feelings toward you, and hope that you will decide to sit in on one of my classes so you can see, firsthand, how much I care about all of my students, and how hard I try to accomodate all of them. Until then, I guess you'll just have to be left to your conclusion, based purely on what I've written here, that I lack judgment and don't have my students' best interests at heart.
Needless to say, I relish the opportunity to prove you wrong.
Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Mar 10, 2006 1:04:10 AM
I will accept your invitation to have "the last word", as it were. The long and short of it is that I believe it is of the utmost importance to make sure that professors realize just how disruptive holding classes off-campus truly is, and how significantly this practice is affecting (in a negative way) our education. In your mind, you are doing the right thing. You are entitled to your opinion. In my opinion, and, I submit, in the opinion of quite a few others, your decision, while in your mind the correct one, was not the best way to handle the situation. To use the labor dispute as a vehicle through which to express your views on a variety of subjects (some, like possible dissatisfaction with career choice, having nothing to do with the labor dispute itself) while subjecting your students to significant hardships is a travesty, in my opinion. But, as I've conceded, you are a professor and, as in any dictatorship, the person in the position of power is the one who ultimately gets to make the final decision to which all must conform (or not, to their own peril).
You believe you are taking your students' interests to heart. I respectfully disagree, because I don't think you truly understand the hardships that your actions are creating for a vast majority of students. However, as stated ad nauseam earlier, you are entitled to pursue whatever course of action you see fit, and to justify it in your mind in any manner that makes you feel comfortable.
I do not question the fact that you are a personable individual. I do not question the fact that you are a bright attorney. I do not question the fact that you grace this institution with your presence on the faculty. I do question whether you are pursuing the best course of action in response to the strike, and the one that will least impact the fewest students possible.
Posted by: Now We Know Why Miami Is a Second-Tier School | Mar 10, 2006 1:14:32 AM
Posted by: Steve Vladeck is a Marxist TTT | Mar 10, 2006 1:29:13 AM
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