MLA post-mortem: the NYU emergency resolution debacle, part two
I’ll start by lifting the remarks of my friend and former colleague Cary Nelson out of the comments section of the previous post, and letting him kick things off here:
When the MLA Executive Council agreed to make a statement supporting the NYU grad employees before—after kicking and screaming—they accepted my argument that it was unnecessary to give the NYU administration a chance to reply because the administration had already explained its anti-union policy and tried to justify it in public. In other words, MLA was not commenting on mute events. Both sides had repeatedly elaborated their positions in print. That is one rational model for a context in which emergency resolutions are acceptable—in which both parties have articulated their positions. It should have worked for the Del Assembly this December.
Ah, I do miss Cary. And I regret that our periods of service on the Executive Council overlapped by only one year, 2002. “MLA was not commenting on mute events”: quite true. The proposers of the NYU emergency resolution were saying more or less the same thing when they pointed to NYU President John Sexton’s November 28 email and said, “here’s NYU’s response, folks. You don’t need anything more than this; here’s Sexton himself, in his own words, threatening union members with loss of stipends.”
But there are two important differences between the speech act Cary persuaded the EC to perform, and the speech act contemplated (but never carried out) by the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee last month. One: the EC was not operating by means of the resolution process, which is, as many have noted, cumbersome and still under construction. In a roundabout way, Cary reinforces my point (thanks, m’fren’!) about why it’s easier to bring urgent matters to the EC, even if it involves some kicking and screaming on the part of individual Council members. The EC can make a statement about an issue—with regard to the crisis at NYU, or with regard to graduate employees in general—simply by discussing it around the table and voting in favor, and then asking one or two of its members to draft the statement. That’s what we did in our February 2004 meeting, when we opposed HR 3077, which called for a Federal “advisory board” (made up entirely of political appointees) that would have the power to oversee all Title VI international studies programs (and even, in the original language of the bill, to investigate the “activities” of individual grant recipients, whatever “activities” might mean). Which brings me to number two: the EC was not dealing, as was the DAOC, with a specific set of charges brought before them by one party to a labor dispute. It was, instead, making a statement of general principle, which is actually an easier thing to do. To repeat a point from yesterday’s post, the fact that I believe those charges are true is irrelevant to the procedure called for by the MLA constitution, namely, the determination of whether those charges merit a response from the party so charged.
However, having said all that, I return to something else I said yesterday, namely: I believe the first resolution, which spoke of the NYU administration’s threats and reprisals, was the kind of thing that merited a response (I’ll say plenty more about that in a moment, when I get to Cynthia Young’s argument about Yale in 1995-96). But the revised resolution, which simply noted that NYU had recognized and then de-recognized the union and that there was now a strike in progress, and asked the MLA to reaffirm the right of graduate students to form unions, seemed to me to be stating facts about which there could be no meaningful dispute. Other people disagreed with me, in good faith, believing that at minimum NYU might be asked why it de-recognized the union and whether it recognized the strike as a strike as a result. But I thought that because the resolution narrated the recent history of the dispute at NYU without touching on the question of threats of reprisal, there wasn’t anything substantive for NYU to reply to. In that case, then, I would agree completely with Cary that the MLA was not commenting on mute events, and that it would be appropriate to say something like, “there is a strike at NYU. It is a distinctive strike, in that it involves a union that was once recognized but now is not. The MLA supports graduate student unionization and urges all universities to bargain with graduate employee organizations in good faith.”
Now let me deal with two meta-issues that frame this entire thing. First: why take this matter to the Delegate Assembly at all? Second: if such matters are to be brought before the Delegate Assembly, how can we avoid another procedural train wreck like this one?
First question first. As I’ve argued before, the strategy of taking urgent matters to the EC has some advantages, insofar as the EC meets three times a year (in two-day sessions) whereas the DA meets only once a year for an afternoon. Furthermore, if it’s an issue about which the EC is not in session but is unanimous (as was the case with the Cuban scholars’ visas and the University of Southern Mississippi in 2004), then the only delay in a collective EC response involves the length of time it takes for Council members to reply to email. And—I’m going to put this one in boldface italics, because it is apparently so little-known—any MLA member can ask the EC to put an item on the EC’s meeting agenda. The item won’t necessarily appear on the agenda, if it turns out that it falls under another committee’s purview: for example, last year someone contacted me and asked the EC to address the growing problem of unethical job offers, one version of which involves asking candidates to propose their starting salaries and then making the offer contingent on a successful salary proposal. (I have now heard of four different universities engaging in this. You can see, I imagine, that it amounts to a competitive low-bidding system for academic positions.) The MLA staff suggested that this one be referred to the Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities rather than the EC, and that’s where it is right now. But it is simply not true that the EC is some kind of remote Council of Elders who can only be addressed by very august MLA members who have slaughtered a chicken before appearing in our presence. If you want the EC to take up a question, all you gotta do is ask.
However, as Bill Mullen (and others) have argued, this strategy has its down side. Procedurally, it bypasses the Delegate Assembly, which is the larger and more representative body; and politically, it prevents issues from being debated in public on the floor of the DA (where they can be covered by Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education and anyone else who wants to subject him- or herself to a four- or five-hour meeting in a hotel ballroom). Time and again over the last two years, people have said to me, “it’s all very well and good that the EC did these things, but we never knew about it.” This always makes me sigh. “Sigh,” I sigh, “we report these things in the MLA newsletter, and of course the minutes of the EC meetings are available in PMLA.” Don’t get me started on how many MLA members actually read the announcements in the newsletter or the EC minutes in PMLA. Suffice it to say that when we announced our pony giveaway program in fall 2003, we only had two takers. (No, there wasn’t really a pony giveaway program. But somebody ought to announce one in the newsletter this year, just to see if anyone’s paying attention.) And then there’s the argument—as one person phrased it at the 2004 convention—that it’s all very well and good for the EC to write to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to protest the denial of visas to Cuban scholars, but it’s not as if Secretary Powell ever wrote back, or reversed his position as a result of our protest. “Ah, well then,” I thought at the time. “If it’s effectiveness you want on that score, then DA resolutions and EC actions are in a dead heat. No Cabinet official has ever replied to either one.” Actually, I found that argument especially astonishing for another reason: overwhelmingly, the reason people bring resolutions and motions before the DA is not to build support for their enactment into federal law, but to ask their disciplinary organization, the Modern Language Association, to go on record as being for or against X. No expects the DA to pass a resolution calling for the repeal of the Patriot Act (which we did in 2003) and then go out and repeal the Patriot Act. It seems unreasonable to expect that the EC would be any more effective on that front.
But I agree that public debate is to be valued as a good in itself, particularly when it involves matters that affect the entire profession. That’s one of the reasons the DAOC enacted yet another reform, the “open discussion” period of the DA meeting. This year we set two topics for discussion: one, service expectations, and two, contingent labor. Next year we’ve proposed (get this!) “activism and the MLA,” and the DAOC will take suggestions for the other topic.
And this brings me to Cynthia Young’s argument that DA actions on resolutions don’t really have to wait (as I’d claimed) eight to eleven months to have an effect. Though she didn’t use these words, Young argued that DA actions can have a powerful perlocutionary effect in and of themselves, and she pointed to the 1995 DA vote censuring the Yale administration for its response to the GESO grade strike. Speaking on the DA floor, she said—and I won’t quote her directly, for fear of getting the exact phrasing wrong—that she vividly remembers Yale professor Peter Brooks running up and down the aisles of the DA ten years ago, trying to stop the passage of the emergency resolution on Yale, so don’t even try to claim that these votes don’t take effect for another year or so.
She was right, of course. The 1995 vote was bitter and dramatic, and Yale fought it—kicking and screaming, one might say. It marked a kind of watershed for the MLA, especially since the organization was still reeling from the previous year’s disastrous Bennington vote, and many people in the association believed we had no business taking action in response to crises at individual institutions. I thought about Cynthia’s remark the rest of the evening of December 29, not least because she was one of the leaders of that strike, and Cary and I worked with GESO from afar in those days. And much later in the evening, after I’d dined with Janet and some friends and then stopped by Walter Benn Michaels’s party in honor of Jerry Graff’s election to the post of MLA second vice president (which means he’ll serve as president in 2008), it finally occurred to me why people—but especially union organizers and their supporters—invest so much hope in the Delegate Assembly meeting. The 1995 Yale vote was something like the MLA’s version of the Tennis Court Oath: it not only rebuked Yale specifically (at the time, administrators were threatening to expel strikers from their graduate programs, and especially dedicated faculty members were turning in their own teaching assistants for disciplinary hearings, as Sara Suleri-Goodyear did with Cynthia Young herself) but served notice to the entire ancien régime that the MLA would, from this point on, take a far more active stance with regard to labor issues in the profession. Before 1995, nothing; after 1995, thanks chiefly to the Graduate Student Caucus (led by Marc Bousquet) and Cary Nelson, a series of resolutions culminating in the annus mirabilis of 1999, when the organization passed almost a dozen resolutions and motions on academic labor, from a resolution supporting the “right of all academic employees—full- and part-time faculty members, graduate employees, and support staff—to engage in collective bargaining” to a motion asking the MLA to conduct a comprehensive survey of wages throughout the profession and to issue a report (which was completed during Cary’s tenure on the Council, as he helped to finish the job he and the GSC began in 1999) recommending, among other things, minimum per-course wages for part-time faculty.
But the 1995 vote had other consequences, as well. Most immediately, it led the MLA to publish a twelve-page booklet written by four Yale faculty members, and to distribute the booklet the entire membership in February 1996. Four months later, I wrote an essay for Social Text in response to that booklet (and to the Yale crisis more generally), and if you’ll forgive my quoting myself at length, here’s what I thought at the time (speaking, of course, only for myself on this one):
If ever an institutional crisis demanded the attention of professional organizations like the MLA, this is it. But the MLA’s response to the strike at Yale has been somewhat less than encouraging. Six weeks after the Delegate Assembly passed the resolution censuring Yale in December 1995, the MLA conducted its mass mailing of the letters of Homans, Patterson et al., introducing its twelve-page document with the words, “we write to initiate a new procedure” (1). The chief purpose of the mailing was to circulate to the MLA membership the views of Yale faculty opposed to GESO, the grade strike, and the resolution. No views sympathetic to GESO were included. In subsequent communications, the rationale for the mailing became clear: the GESO forces had had their say during the MLA convention, and, according to Margaret Homans, Yale faculty had not been able to respond sufficiently to the resolution at the time it was proposed: “if the MLA sees itself as representing and honoring diversity of opinion,” Homans wrote, “the process by which the resolution was pushed through gives the lie to that claim” (10). (Homans and Brooks were both present at the Delegate Assembly, though Homans’ letter does not indicate as much.) The MLA staff dutifully investigated the charges that the resolution had been improperly introduced, and found, in the words of executive director Phyllis Franklin, that “the assembly’s action was valid” (1). So much for Homans’ precarious sense of proper procedure. Nevertheless, the mailing itself quite clearly seems to accept Homans’ charge that “diversity of opinion” was not honored at the convention; no other explanation will account for the MLA’s curious decision not to seek opinions sympathetic to GESO for the purposes of the mailing. As a result, the claims of Yale faculty were allowed to stand utterly uncontested—including Homans’ unsubstantiated and grossly misleading “procedural” complaints that “the most basic standards of evidence were not adhered to in the formulation of the resolution” (regarding the status of faculty as “replacement workers") and that “the resolution violates several of legal counsel’s criteria for acceptable resolutions: it is factually erroneous, slanderous, and personally motivated” (10).
(The full essay is available in .pdf form right here, and hey, while we’re revisiting the 1995-96 Yale strike, I can’t help reminding my friends at the Baffler that this was the essay their magazine called “wildly misguided,” full of “blindspots” that testify to the “notorious academic misapprehension of ‘real world’ relations of power,” in the course of accusing me and other pro-union faculty and graduate students of writing for the special Social Text issue on Yale partly in order to pad our résumés. No fooling! As if I somehow enhanced my chances of being hired at Yale with that essay. Suffice it to say that the Baffler has had better moments. As have I: my response to the Baffler essay was so thoroughly pissed off that it wound up being probably the least rhetorically effective thing I’ve ever written.)
Now, I happen to think the Yale booklet presented anti-GESO faculty in quite a poor light, and may paradoxically have helped to win passage of the emergency resolution when it eventually went out to the full membership for a vote later in 1996 (the vote in favor, when it was finally taken, was overwhelming). But the immediate point is this: the 1995 Delegate Assembly vote did, in fact, precipitate a crisis in the MLA, and the pro-Yale booklet was the association’s first response (a “new procedure,” indeed). And perhaps that stunning DA vote has served as the model for pro-union MLA action ever since: you want to snap people to attention, you want to get administrators up and running, you bring an emergency resolution to the floor of the Delegate Assembly. That’s just how it’s done. Perhaps that’s what was going on with the 2001 Yale resolution as well, the one that was withdrawn by its proposers after the Delegate Assembly had approved it—which, as I mentioned yesterday, was one of the things that led the EC and the DAOC to conclude that the emergency resolution process simply had to be remedied so as to allow named parties to reply to charges brought against them.
So, at long last, what is to be done? Two things, I think.
If I’m right that the 1995 Yale vote serves as a model for what people wanted this year in response to the NYU strike, and that the strategy of asking the EC for action is deemed inadequate partly for that reason, then union members and their supporters should get in touch with the DAOC as far in advance of the convention as possible. The list of members is right here, though of course you should note that everyone whose term concluded in 2005 (including mine) is no longer on the committee (the list will be updated to reflect recent elections). The timing of the NYU strike (like that of the Yale strike) was unfortunate for MLA procedures, because it began two weeks after the October meeting of the EC and DAOC, and could only be addressed by means of an emergency resolution. The trick in such cases, then, lies in getting resolution proposers and DAOC members (with the advice of the parliamentarian, who, by the way, is quite rigorous and unflinchingly fair) to hammer out language that will make it to the DA floor without—and I can’t stress this part strongly enough—having to be redrafted on the fly at the convention itself. Again, I apologize to GSOC for suggesting resolution language that would have put the MLA in the position of voting on whether to reaffirm previous actions. I think that prohibition came as news to most members of the DAOC, actually, but still, we could have avoided that impasse with a little more lead time.
Alternatively (this is still thing one), proposers could have drafted a statement in support of GSOC in advance of the strike, before the MLA’s October 1 deadline for resolutions. (Or, for that matter, proposers could have come up with a motion calling on the MLA to censure NYU. What’s the difference between a resolution and a motion, you ask? Good question! A resolution is an expression of sentiment; a motion calls on the MLA to do something. Resolutions are limited to one hundred words in length; motions aren’t.) Although such a resolution obviously wouldn’t have had the chance to address President Sexton’s November 28 email (with all it entailed), it could have asked the MLA to support the right of GSOC to bargain collectively with NYU despite the NLRB’s 2004 ruling; after all, the MLA is already on record, in Motion 2004-1, as being opposed to the NLRB ruling and committed to reversing it. My point is simply that as matters now stand, an emergency resolution offered to the DAOC at the Open Hearing, 24 hours before the DA meeting, has by far the least likely chance of getting the job done. The more lead time you give us, the more options we’ll (and you’ll) have.
The second thing is a bit broader. As I suggested yesterday, the jury is still out on the question of whether emergency resolutions can name individuals and institutions in such a way that a response is required and can be submitted to the DAOC so as to give the DAOC time to ask for such a response. As it is now written, the amended MLA constitution clearly implies that if the DAOC determines that a response is required, the resolution is out of order; it doesn’t say, although it conceivably could, that if a response is required, the DAOC should allow the party two weeks’ (or more, or less) time for a response. The result is that we have some members who believe (again, in good faith) that emergency resolutions should never be able to name individual parties, and some members who believe that the MLA should be able to name individual parties if those parties are given the opportunity to represent their positions to the DA. The DAOC (and the EC, and the MLA in general) needs to decide which way to go on this, and I imagine it would be useful for them to hear from MLA members who have opinions on the subject. I’ll start: I think the MLA should not permit resolutions (of the ordinary or emergency variety) to be brought to the DA that involve specific allegations against parties who have not been given the chance to address those allegations. But I believe that the recent amendment to the constitution was not intended to prevent the Delegate Assembly from responding to all institutional crises that occur between October 1 and December 28; in NYU’s case, since the MLA is already on record in support of unionization, it should be possible in principle for the MLA’s elected representatives to say so in the public forum of the Assembly. It therefore seems to me that the “named party” amendment should be further amended to allow the DAOC to request a response from a named party within two weeks or so, if, say, an emergency resolution comes in by December 1.
Just my opinion.
Beyond that, it seems to me that the association needs to consider the question of precisely what kind of “named parties” we can respond to in any forum. NYU and Yale labor disputes are one thing; allegations about the conversion of multi-year contracts to shorter-term contracts at UC-Davis are quite another. Despite the fact that I oppose such conversions, I can tell you that I spent two months of my life trying to figure out whether Davis was doing what that resolution (in all its various incarnations) said it was doing (including calling the AAUP to determine the legal status of a specific claim made by a committee writing on a related matter), and was unable to. I’ve since come to the conclusion that the MLA just doesn’t have the investigative apparatus it needs for such things. We can issue ethical guidelines and statements of principle, and we can protest when universities are in clear violation of these things (as Southern Mississippi was), but with the UC-Davis thing (and a couple of others I won’t mention), it seems to me that what resolution proposers really want is something like the AAUP censure mechanism, which is something that disciplinary organizations are often particularly ill-equipped to wield. On that front, look forward to my upcoming post on the AAUP, perhaps early next week. And in the meantime, join the AAUP.
One penultimate point: back to the role of the MLA Executive Council. I was repeatedly asked, during the convention, why anyone should have to ask the EC to take action. If the association already supports unionization, and there is a labor dispute involving unionization, shouldn’t the MLA simply have an immediate response? Shouldn’t the EC take it upon itself to issue a letter of some kind to NYU, as it did to Colin Powell? The only answer I have to this, aside from “well, yes, ideally,” is that Council members are human, and most of them are pretty busy humans. Even when we took unilateral action (with regard to the Senate, the State Department, and Southern Miss), we did so because concerned members had brought those matters to our attention. And while I apologize personally for not responding more actively to the NYU strike, I don’t want to see an issue this important degenerate into mutual incomprehension. There was a bit of back-and-forth at the convention, consisting partly of “well, you never asked” and “but you never offered” (that was the angry mode) and partly of “I’m sorry we didn’t offer” and “I’m sorry we didn’t ask” (that was the conciliatory mode). In the future, while I think it would be great for the EC to act on its own in response to academic labor disputes, I think it’s best for everyone to operate on the assumption that interested parties should bring such disputes to the Council’s attention.
And finally, for any of you who might have wondered why this humble blog would have been taken over by 9000 words on MLA protocols and procedures: I do beg your pardon for the extraordinary dryness and prolixity of these past two days. But the MLA is a large organization (with over 30,000 members), and it contains many of my friends, some of whom are still on the DAOC and EC, and some of whom are active supporters of GSOC at NYU. Because I’ve just completed my four-year team on the DAOC and EC, and because that term ended so badly, I thought I’d offer these two posts as a form of institutional memory and as suggestions for fixing what didn’t work. At the very least, I hope I’ve answered Scott Kaufman’s question as to why I would have made time to meet with him and John Holbo and Amardeep Singh after the Delegate Assembly adjourned: for quite apart from the fact that I was looking forward to meeting fellow bloggers for all the bloggy reasons Scott suggests, it was a very welcome break from a great deal of MLA business as usual.
I don’t want to belabor some points that may be glaringly obvious to most of the readers here, however i do think there is great value in this narrative presentation and subsequent discussion for those of us well outside the MLA’s purview on these matters (and i may not provide my comment in great clarity either for which i am sorry).
Before i retired, i served a few years as president of my local chapter of the state education association (faculty level, not grad student--i am still serving in a retired capacity). Such unions and associations have significant power politically and socially to improve the quality of the educational systems/insitution and that of those who work in relation to them. (The following is the unclear part) “We” manifest this power predominantly in language, in terms of by-laws, resolutions, procedures, public statements, regulations, lobbying, and so forth in order to generate the best contract language possible. There are a number of “professional associations” that provide support and guidance for their members that have varying degrees of interest in the outcome of contract negotiations etc. WE (referring to union[s]) don’t necessarily always follow the advice provided, but do pay attention to actions taken collectively by the PA’s (resolutions etc) particularly from those at the national and international level.
The MLA, as least for myself and my close association colleagues, represents a powerful presence because it has modelled structures and rules for procedures and debates (especially outside the legal realms) as well as for carefully drafting resolutions et al. Because of its by-laws, the MLA is open to a great diversity of disciplines within a university system, unlike say the AHA, the various APA’s, APS, et al. This can manifest political presence, albeit on some campuses more than others. Thus the MLA is regarded with much esteem by educators and administrators alike, and as such, its discussions and processes garner more outside attention than the others, which of course are no less important.
Anyway, what i am trying to say is that Michael’s posts and the open discussions are important, not only to MLA members and NYU grad students, but also to a surprisingly large network of unions and associations around the US composed of thousands of members. Few in our society consider (okay some do with great fear) that there are large unions composed almost entirely of graduate degree holding members w/ associations and locals made up of Ph.D. holders. We need to use the power, and use it well and wisely. Thank you Michael for making every effort in that regard.Posted by on 01/05 at 06:33 PM
"Because I’ve just completed my four-year team on the DAOC and EC, and because that term ended so badly, I thought I’d offer these two posts as a form of institutional memory and as suggestions for fixing what didn’t work.”
Your term didn’t end badly. As an undergrad, I’m glad none of my TAs continued to strike after Dec 5th, and I’m a French major. I’m glad the MLA took no action on this matter because it’s an internal dispute that our university will slowly resolve for itself. Shaming people doesn’t work: especially when they don’t have anything to be ashamed of. Go work in an S/M dungeon if shaming people is your kink. (You know who you are, faculty democracy).
Suggestions for fixing what didn’t work: stay out of issues not within the MLA’s jurisdiction. Colin Powell, Somalia, Cuba, and the Patriot Act are all sovereign agents and countries. NYU’s a private university, so thank you vry much but we do not want to buy your candy this year. (Or any other year).Posted by on 01/05 at 07:10 PM
I appreciate your thorough analysis of what I thought was a bad situation. I am a member of the Delegate Assembly and I thought the debate was shortened in a very arbitrary manner.
The President (?) did a very poor job all meeting long. She made her feelings known during the break when she talked to the Parliamentarian too close to the microphone. I wish more people had heard her complain about those non-DA members “behind the ropes” who were taking too much of our precious time on an issue the majority of the MLA doesn’t support.
More hockey in your blog.Posted by on 01/05 at 07:36 PM
Wow. So, I take it that grad school is not on the agenda for you.
Speaking of masochism ... I thought academia already was an S&M dungeon.Posted by on 01/05 at 07:52 PM
Wait. Is the Patriot Act a sovereign agent or a country? I’m so confused. . .Posted by on 01/05 at 08:28 PM
I don’t know yet about grad school. It’s on my radar.
What’s not on my agenda is having my education disrupted by selfish professors who don’t care how their antics affect me. My friends applying for grad schools have had their chances jeopardized by members of faculty democracy who are threatening to hold back their grades.
Academia is not supposed to be about humiliating those who don’t agree with you, or who don’t support you. I’m glad the MLA had the good sense to curb the latest dungeon-drama fantasy of those who brought the resolutin in the meeting. Why else would you bring a ‘last minute’ resolution to the MLA: so that NYU could not respond. They knew the union was kapputz in August!!
The faculty democracy people don’t attend senate meetings, then cry that they have no voice. They mischaracterize every communication that happens at NYU, and try to make our school look negative. Get off your butts and take an active role in BUILDING community for a change, instead of expecting people like Berube to clean up your community-wrecking incompetence.Posted by on 01/05 at 08:43 PM
NYU Student: It doesn’t matter whether NYU is public or private. It employs some of our members, as professors and graduate students, and they should obviously be able to speak on professional matters through their professional association. Somalia is, indeed, out of our jurisdiction, as I’ve argued on the DA floor with regard to a resolution that called for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Patriot Act, particularly Section 215, bears directly on every scholar working in the United States. Likewise, when the State Department refuses visas to scholars who are planning to attend scholarly meetings in the United States, that’s clearly relevant to the business of a scholarly organization. And pretty clearly inimical to the ideals of a free society, too.
ctf, I have to admit I don’t even know the rules for time limits on discussion by nonmembers, and was as surprised as anyone by the cutoff of debate. But the parliamentarian does deserve some credit for trying to find a way to extend discussion even though the meeting no longer had a quorum (her suggestion, you’ll recall, was that the quorum was 70, so if 36 people voted to extend debate, debate could be extended. The vote narrowly failed, 33-1). As for the chair’s sense that the majority of the MLA does not support GSOC, permit me to say that I believe she is quite wrong about that. Every resolution on unionization that has been put before the full membership, from 1996 to the present, has passed by a wide margin.Posted by Michael on 01/05 at 08:48 PM
Okay, I agree that NYU members of the MLA should be able to speak their opinions at your meetings. But I don’t think this means that the MLA should be put on the spot and be asked to “censure” our school. I would like to “censure” certain people who use class time to tell us about why we should support their union (History professors will remian nameless here, but you know who you are). And they’re not the greatest teachers, either.
I support a lot of the same things you support: I want the Iraq war to end, and want troops to come home asap. I don’t like the Patriot Act, either, though I don’t see how a group of professors will be able to stamp it out if Congress wants it. I hope Congress will not extend the Patriot Act this year.
That’s all I will say. Just try to understand that a lot of us feel strongly like it’s time to move past the strike. We’ve had it. I want to learn history, not why I should support the union.
I supported the union for the first month, and they showed me how much they care by making so much noise in the library that I couldn/t study.Posted by on 01/05 at 09:27 PM
NYU student: know that your TAs returned on Dec. 5 not because they were ready to “move past” the strike, but because they were (in the instance of people in the French Dept., for example) frightened of losing their visa as a result of losing their teaching stipend. I’m sorry that you were “glad” they returned under those circumstances.
GSOC and the strike have the support of many undergrads at NYU, however the purpose of the strike is not to win that support--the purpose is to force the NYU administration to bargain in good faith with GSOC. To that end, it’s a sign of the strike’s effectiveness that you and your friends have “had it” with the strike and want it to end. Strikes are polarizing and they are meant to disrupt business as usual. GSOC wants the strike to end too, but we won’t end it until the NYU administration agrees to bargain. If you really want the strike to end, help get a negotiation between NYU and GSOC started.Posted by on 01/05 at 11:13 PM
Read your own website and decide if international students have anything to fear by remaining on strike. As usual, you put out misinformation and expect us all to feel sorry for you.
You guys didn’t even disrupt business as usual; you were just annoying. Most classes went on as normal, many TAs kept working, and the only thing that really happened was improved elevator service in Silver Center. Sadly, that is the one thing I will miss about the strike. I will not help get a negotiation started between NYU and GSOC. My goodwill towards your group is 100% gone.
Gail Szenes, director of NYU’s Office of International Students and Scholars, has already gone on record in the 11.03.05 Washington Square News debunking the rumor that international students could face deportation if they strike. Szenes said, “As long as the international students don’t engage in any illegal activities, they should be fine.” http://www.nyunews.com.
International students have the same rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association as US citizens. Picketing, rallies, leafleting and demonstrations are legal activities, which are protected for international students in the US on student visas.
International students at numerous other universities, including Columbia, Yale, University of California, and UMass have participated in strikes, and there has been no impact on their visa status.Posted by on 01/05 at 11:57 PM
When all else fails, consult the instruction manual . . . the rules for debate are in every MLA delegate’s packet and in the Delegate Assembly Bylaws.
Article VI, section D3: “A maximum of ten minutes during the discussion of each main motion and five minutes during the discussion of each amendment will be allocated to members of the association who are not delegates.”
The Delegate Assembly meeting has a section for observers. If the delegates want to vote to give more time to the observers to debate, they can do so. As Michael noted, too many delegates had already left before the vote to extend debate by non-delegates was taken.
Why? Many delegates say they leave the assembly precisely when the observer section’s interests “take over” the agenda. Others say they leave when the cocktail hour arrives. In either event, delegates vote with their feet: when the meeting takes a direction they feel they no longer have a stake in, they leave.Posted by on 01/06 at 08:20 AM
Ah yes, Article VI, section D3. I confess I skipped that one, having never attended the Delegate Assembly as a nonmember. Thanks, simetrias. And while we’re talking about instruction manuals, I have to confess that I also skipped the section of the Subaru manual that deals with fuses (on the grounds that I would turn over all electrical matters to the experts), and now look where that’s gotten me.Posted by Michael on 01/06 at 08:34 AM
The threat to international students wasn’t that they’d be deported for demonstrating, it was that they would not be allowed back into the country because they couldn’t prove how they’d maintain themselves financially. The threat may or may not have been remote, but many of them felt it intensely and that’s why most of them returned to work.
Once again, being on strike isn’t about gaining your goodwill. The more unhappy people are on campus, the more pressure it creates.Posted by on 01/06 at 09:34 AM
I’m not unhappy. I love NYU.
Next semester, to make sure I don’t have to work with striking TAs or their supportive professors, I’m using the faculty democracy website in order to pick my classes.
Anyone on the list of faculty democracy members is off my list of professors. i won’t have to deal with moving off-campus or listening to their strike-related thoughts in case there’s another strike, and they won’t have to deal with the embarrassing situation of having people disagree with them in class.
We will all be very happy. Those who want to strike can keep striking. That’s your right. I don’t want international students not to strike; my worse TA was an international student, so it would be ok with me if he went back on strike.Posted by on 01/06 at 10:11 AM
Why? Many delegates say they leave the assembly precisely when the observer section’s interests “take over” the agenda. Others say they leave when the cocktail hour arrives. In either event, delegates vote with their feet: when the meeting takes a direction they feel they no longer have a stake in, they leave.
Sad commentary on the self-absorption of the profession, in a way.
As such, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt the MLA to spend some time thinking about literacy issues in Somalia or across the African continent.
Academic cocktail parties. <Yawn>Posted by on 01/06 at 12:50 PM
I wanted to clarify my DA remarks about the Yale Grade Strike resolution of 1995. I was responding to the argument that a DA resolution opposing the NYU administration’s unconscionable actions would be “ineffective” because of the 7-8 month time delay involved in awaiting the results of an MLA membership vote. In disagreeing with this view I meant to suggest that the following ripple effects occur:
1) From the moment that DA debate begins, those who are opposed to a particular resolution because of their perceived stake in the matter, e.g. Peter Brooks in the 1995 case, begin scurrying around to marshall support. In that instance, the more Brooks defended Yale’s anti-union actions, the more people on the floor of the DA were appalled and perhaps swayed to the Yale grad union’s position. These debates inevitably extended beyond the DA to the larger membership as various participants and witnesses reported on the proceedings. [In particular, I remember Brooks trying to stop the vote by calling quorum, which prompted several DA members to run around collecting other DA members so that the resolution could be voted on. A good story if ever the DA produced one.]
2) After the resolution’s passage, Brooks etal. (Yale English Dept. faculty in this case) complained about the resolution and felt compelled to respond to it. The sense that their primary professional organization could vehemently rebuke their actions hit at their sense of self-righteousness. This led to even wider debate and dialogue as they reported to their friends and colleagues about the DA resolution.
3) Then, as Michael said, Homans and others put together an anti-union apologia that was then circulated to the entire MLA membership. Though it was intended to bolster their position, it had the exact opposite impact, no doubt prompting some to vote for the resolution who might have otherwise abstained or voted against it;
4) All of the above had the effect of widening knowledge of and support for the Yale grade strike, prompting national involvement from faculty and leading to things such as the _Social Text_ strike dossier issue. I cannot emphasize enough the impact this had on the strikers at Yale, particularly at a juncture that was about as bleak as any during my Yale graduate experience.
All of these things occurred before the resolution was voted on by the full membership. In seems to me that the primary benefit of the DA resolution was its ability to spark debate, disseminate the Yale strike news more widely, and pressure otherwise “untouchable” faculty at Yale by serving notice that graduate students at Yale would not, as many anti-union faculty suggested, ruin their future careers by engaging in union activism. As a grad student at the time who faced disciplinary action for participating in the grade strike, it meant a lot to recognize that the majority of the profession, at least it seemed that way to me, did not resemble the Yale faculty and administration, indeed that the Yale faculty was sadly out of step with the times.
There are obvious limitations to the DA resolution route and going that route does not, by any means, preclude going to the EC first or as well. In the instance of the NYU strike, I regret, as does Michael, that we were not able to make such an intervention in this case.Posted by on 01/06 at 01:10 PM
Thanks for the good laugh NYU student. Better keep taking those history classes. Let me suggest something involving the 19th Century and labour relations.
Hope your well-thumbed Adam Smith bible (NeoCon edition, of course) close to the bedside.
And no, NYU isn’t there to serve your every whim and fancy.Posted by Sweatshop Boy on 01/06 at 01:30 PM
NYU Student, if grad. school is in fact on your horizon, then I hope you are financially independent and that you will have no need for insitutional (monetary) support. I’m not trying to be sarcastic here—others are better at that than I. Grad. students are woefully underpaid—and when they’re teaching your class, the apprentice model is moot. Worse for you, however, are your prospects beyond grad. school. Keep in mind that French Depts. are being scaled back, and French scholars are not in particualrly high demand these days, save for language isntruction. But then most language instructors are employed within an enforced part-time or casual category—i.e. about 1/4th the salary of a tenure track faculty member, no benefits, no job security, and ever increasing and inescapable stigma accruing to one with each passing semester, which makes ever harder to get out of the adjunct pool. Oh, and the work load, which is so resolutely underpaid is the same as, and often more than that of the tenure-track brethren.
Yes, it’s a rosey future indeed.Posted by on 01/06 at 01:55 PM
my head hurts:
NYU STUDENT: “I want to learn history, not why I should support the union.”
sigh. i can lead them to the books, but i can’t make them READ.Posted by on 01/06 at 02:14 PM
Why do people think that just because I want my professors to stay on topic during class (ie: teaching the subjects and textbooks they put on their syllabus, which have nothing to do with labor or unions), that I want them to “serve my every whim and fancy?”
Like I said before, I supported the strikers at first. I’m not a neo-con though of course it must be reassuring for down-trodden sweatshop boys to think so. I’m simply someone who wants what my parents paid for: an education, and not someone’s crock-pot sermons. If unions were the topic on my history course, I would be glad to know more about them. In fact, I am thinking about taking a course on the history of collective action next semester, but the professor is pro-union, so I may have to drop it.
I’m not against unions, just against having my classes turned into puppet theatre--with me and my peers as the puppets. To the librarian whose head hurts: take an aspirin. I can find my own books, thanks.Posted by on 01/06 at 02:39 PM
Thanks for expanding on your comments on the DA floor, Cynthia. You’re right about those ripple effects, and I didn’t mean to suggest that a DA vote was completely ineffective (though I think I wound up suggesting precisely that). I’d meant simply to point out to people unfamiliar with the process that the DA vote does not constitute an official MLA action; it has to go through two more stages, and there are other, faster ways to get the MLA to go on official record in support of GSOC. Though, as you note, those other ways lose the public-pedagogy aspect of a DA debate.
Fortunately, I think, the Yale strike changed the conditions for academic labor actions. The NYU strike has been national news for almost two months; by contrast, when I wrote an essay on Yale for the Nation in January 1996, they held it for a couple of weeks to see what would happen to GESO. (In other words, it was never published.) And the message that union activism will not ruin graduate students’ careers has been heard by graduate students nationwide.
So I think the message that was probably most urgent this December wasn’t the news of the strike itself; it was the news of NYU’s threatened reprisals. That news couldn’t be written into an emergency resolution, but it could certainly have been discussed on the floor if a resolution had made it to the floor. And in retrospect, I’m just agonized about how much easier that could have been.
To wit: I noted on the GSOC website that the College Art Association has come out in favor of the strikers. The article is dated December 16. “Jeez,” I thought, “how’d the CAA manage that? They meet in February.” Well, simple: they met last February and came up with a “strongly worded statement on collective bargaining rights for graduate students, drafted by Yale University’s Robert S. Slifkin and adopted by the organization’s 13,000 members on Feb. 18, 2005, [that] condemns the Bush Administration- controlled National Labor Relations Board decision that graduate students cannot legally organize.” If we’d (and I’d) been on the ball about this, the MLA could have considered a timely resolution, submitted before October 1, concurring with the CAA statement and urging all private universities that had recognized their graduate employee unions under the NLRB’s 2000 ruling to negotiate contracts with those unions in good faith. Next time, when there’s a looming labor dispute, let’s all get together on it well in advance of the MLA convention.Posted by on 01/06 at 02:45 PM
I don’t want to hear some NYU class-climber prating on about what the “parents paid for.” I prefer to have those future middle-management sycophants telling me how their parents didn’t work their middle-class fingers to the bone just to fetch my dry cleaning or be fired.
MUCH better!Posted by Yale Student on 01/06 at 03:27 PM
I agree with you Michael. The reprisals are the main issue at NYU. I also agree that the climate has changed considerably since 1995 in part because of the public pedagogy enabled by the DA fight. I was struck by the _Nation_ article on NYU happening in such a timely fashion so it’s interesting to hear that they killed your earlier piece.Posted by on 01/06 at 03:46 PM
Not to be ungrateful to you for your actions in writing this and as detailed through out, but all the blame for this debacle belongs squarely to the MLA. There is a little bit of blaming the victim in citing GSOC for failing to anticipate the depths to which Sexton would sink in his treatment of them. Whatever the compromise on the wording of the resolution may indicate, the desire for a resolution of support was clearly motivated by the draconian reprisals that he proposed so late. Clearly, it was Sexton, if it was anyone, who manipulated this process by issuing such a threat when he did. Further, I don’t see how GSOC could have been aware of how potentially convoluted the process of asking for a resolution of support could become given the lack of awareness about parliamentary issues. GSOC can’t be faulted for not knowing the organization, or its procedures, better than its own members.
But that really is beside the point. The point is that MLA failed in recognizing the situatedness of the discourse that it might get itself involved in when presented with requests for resolutions. If Cary is right that events are not mute, the flip side is that any statement, regardless of content, invites a response. Discourse is not possible otherwise. In this sense, the DAOC’s determining whether or not a response is required isn’t about the response but rather whether or not it is factually correct (or enough information is available to establish) or exposes the organization to liability. Or at least it should have been had the language of the rule been more specific. As it is...well, no need to belabor the obvious.
Statements such as those the MLA was asked to make here are important, both as actions that can intervene and as demonstration of the organization’s commitment to the principles it claims to stand for. They are not pointless, futile, or inevitably doomed to dissipate in the maze of structural apparatuses. At least not as long there are people who are committed to instantiating them as living action, something which brings with it the recognition that there are other actions besides resolutions that need to be pursued. The language of the rule should specify what sort of responses could stop an emergency resolution from proceeding and provide some criteria for deciding whether such obtains. As at least some of these would involve issues of liability, the DAOC might look to decisions of the EC for a body of precedent.Posted by on 01/06 at 03:50 PM
Tom’s response strikes me as a bit disingenuous. It was not the GSOC per se, but rather NYU professors affiliated with the AAUP, who tried to initiate this ‘emergency resolution.’ GSOC might not be aware of the protocals of the MLA, but their supporting professors can’t use ignorance as an excuse. They have the same obligations to familiarize themselves with, and follow, the MLA’s procedures as everyone else. It’s plain laziness on their parts, or they were simply expecting everyone to jump on board and agree. Remember that assuming makes an ass out of you and me....
Secondly, what exactly are the “depths” of Sexton’s treatment? He’s extended the deadline for people to go back to work; he’s offered university loans to those who can’t afford to continue at NYU without their stipends; he’s agreed to work with the graduate students’ senate *and* former GSOC members to address TA and GA concerns about housing, contracts, stipends, health care, and other issues. What is so horrible about his responses to the strike? People have asked him to do a lot more than he has in terms of “punishing” the strikers.
It seems there is a fundamental blindness plaguing the majority of people on this blog. You didn’t get a union at Yale, and you are not likely to get a union at NYU. Why not face your own failures to deal with reality? The fact that the MLA *did not* make a statement, for whatever complex web of reasons, says a lot. It says to me that the Chair is perhaps right: there is simply not enough support for this initiative.
And as for the Nation and Social Text reporting on labor issues, it’s like Dick Cheney saying he heard in the New York Times that there are nuclear weapons programs in Iraq.Posted by on 01/06 at 04:42 PM
There is a little bit of blaming the victim in citing GSOC for failing to anticipate the depths to which Sexton would sink in his treatment of them.
With all due respect, Tom, I didn’t do anything of the kind. I said that either (a) we could have considered a timely pre-October 1 resolution consisting of a general statement of support for GSOC, and then discussed Sexton’s threats of reprisal on the floor of the DA in support of the resolution, or (b) we could have contacted GSOC after the November 28 email became news, to see if we could put together a resolution that either (b1) cleared the “named party” hurdle or (b2) gave the DAOC time to seek a response from NYU. And personally, I agree that because I knew about the situation at NYU and about MLA procedures, I should have responded more quickly and effectively.Posted by Michael on 01/06 at 04:54 PM
Cynthia, one further clarification. It was indeed very good to see the Nation respond to NYU so quickly, and their eventual coverage of the Yale crisis was quite good. The reason they eventually killed my piece (actually, a series of pieces, because I kept updating the thing with each new development) was that they wanted to wait until after the disciplinary hearings, then until after GESO’s response to Yale’s ultimatum, then . . . and then the strike was over, and they thought there was no more story. (I still have the 1300-word essay sitting on a dusty shelf in my hard drive.)
Jen, your various misstatements of fact begin in the second sentence, but you know, I’m too weary at the moment to parse them all. So please do stop by the GSOC homepage for a quick refresher on whether, in fact, graduate students had “gotten” a union at NYU.Posted by Michael on 01/06 at 05:11 PM
Please don’t take me the wrong way Michael. I mean no disrespect. I do not mean to impugn you personally and I offer my sincere apologies for any implication to that effect as I do not intend it. But if “we” refers to MLA alone, which the context would seem to indicate and which is pretty clear for (b) and its dependents, than you can’t really fault GSOC for not doing what MLA, in your own words, should have done. Now, whether GSOC should have thought to organize statements of support in advance is, it seems to me, a different issue than what MLA should have done. It is a failure on their part, no doubt. And while it is a necessary condition to producing this debacle, in and of itself it is not sufficient to produce it. It is rather the state of the MLA rule here that was both necessary and sufficient. It need not have been GSOC and NYU to cause a situation like this after all.
My concern here is not so much to lay blame. In that respect, my original statement was poorly worded and I offer my apologies to any and all concerned. But I do want to understand where and what went wrong and, if possible, prevent such from happening again. I accept that in the narrative of this event, GSOC had a role to play. But I insist that in the final analysis, fault does not lie with them. And by saying that, I want to reiterate that I do not mean to single any person or persons in MLA out. If it lies anywhere, fault lies with the ambiguity that inheres in what it means to invite a response.
And Jen, you might try the infinitive (to assume) rather than the gerund because assuming only makes an ass out of “u.”Posted by on 01/06 at 06:13 PM
I do want to understand where and what went wrong and, if possible, prevent such from happening again. I accept that in the narrative of this event, GSOC had a role to play. But I insist that in the final analysis, fault does not lie with them.
Me too, on both counts. Thanks.Posted by on 01/06 at 06:19 PM
I feel a lot of pain on this blog. Do not cry for the past, but pray for the future. I pray for you all, and ask you to join me in a novena that will help you succeed in your future endeavors.
Say ten hail Marys and the Apostles’ Creed, send this message to ten friends, and you will have a union in the new year.
MariaPosted by on 01/06 at 06:46 PM
In the spirit of another thread on this site, I haven’t got time for the prayin’. Rim shot please.Posted by on 01/06 at 07:09 PM
If you haven’t got time for the praying, then you will have no recognized union. God doesn’t have time for those who do not make time for him (or her).
May god bless you and keep you.Posted by on 01/06 at 07:17 PM
Thanks to Michael for these superb posts. Ironically (in the good irony way), his highlighting the nitty-gritty of MLA protocols and constitutional gaps give me hope for the future. I wish the lost opportunity for an NYU resolution hadn’t played out, but it did; but now a lot more people know about procedural issues, access to EC agenda-setting, and that eyebrow-raising October 1 deadline. The association’s constitution indeed can be amended, and the opportunity for more salutory “ripple effect events” will increase.
And even more briefly, I have to say that hyperlinks rock.Posted by on 01/06 at 07:25 PM
As a member of ‘Faculty Democracy’ (FD), a faculty group of over 200 NYU staff, concerned with issues of governance (see http://www.facultydemocracy.org for details) mentioned in these comments, I wanted to correct one or two statements, in case anyone is still reading out there.
There is no FD policy on grading. Some faculty have taken the position that they will not replace striking student labor by filing grades for TAs who are still on strike. At the same time, all of those people have said that they will notify students individually of their grades and file grades in cases of need, such as financial aid or grad school applications. FD organized a teach-in about the strike attended by over 400 students and all of us care about our students’ opinions: which are by now highly divided and divisive following Sexton’s punitive actions. And that’s why class time is being devoted to the strike on a campus that was literally built on the ruins of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.
What’s “so horrible about Sexton’s actions”? No university in a dispute with striking students has withheld stipends. Students who have been on strike for 6 weeks are having an entire semester’s stipend withheld. Any GA who misses any class without being “authorized” will lose their entire stipend next semester. What’s so wrong with that? Strikers lose their pay, right? Except that the whole point of the NYU/Bush NLRB case is that students * are not* employees but in effect apprentices who have no labor rights. If they are not employees how can they be losing stipends for not working? And offering interest-generating loans to make up for the loss is worthy of Cheney himself in its deviousness.
So it was something of a shame that MLA procedural rules didn’t allow for a vote of support, which, contrary to some views here, would have made a lot of difference in Washington Square: but thanks for all the coverage!!Posted by on 01/06 at 10:02 PM
None of my own grades have been withheld, but it’s simply the hostility of threats made by FD that bothers me. The threats about grades are idle, because the university will ensure that grades are awarded on transcripts, even if they are P/F.
You can educate people all you want, but only 33 undergrads signed up for the Undergraduates in Solidarity movement by the end of the semester. I know a lot more people were supportive early on, before we were threatened and lectured by people who seem to think we care (or should care) about supporting the strike. This says something awful about your tactics; you are driving supporters away because people think you guys are ridiculous.
I’m not saying this to start more conversation; I’m just saying this to give you a true picture of how undergraduates now perceive your support of the striking grads. I don’t care if the strikers are workers or apprentices. I don’t care if they teach or strike. I am just going to work with faculty who don’t support the strike, and report any TAs who don’t show up for their classes to the Dean. I don’t like doing that, but it’s tough love.
I doubt the university will actually cut anyone;s funding; you just won’t be recognized as a union, even if you have the MLA and the United Nations and Greenpeace on your side. But don’t feel bad, because you can always be a union in your own minds.Posted by on 01/06 at 11:28 PM
"I’m just saying this to give you a true picture of how undergraduates now perceive your support.”
That should be in the singular. “Student,” not “students.” After all, you are only one person, even if you are an entire student body “in your own minds.”
Go look at how many people come to this blog voluntarily and read even the longest, driest posts about rules and such and compare it with your “readership.” Before you go about throwing public tantrums, you might want to consider just how silly you look--at least to the people who have visited this site over 2 millon times, that is.Posted by DocMara on 01/07 at 06:08 PM
I guess you are not clued into the fact that by virtue of my posting here, people who read this blog also become my audience. The same 2 million people who come to this site voluntarily are also now my “readership.” Even you, silly.
I think you look pretty stupid writing to fight with an undergraduate. If you’re really a “doc” then you should probably be preparing for classes or working on a manuscript, rather than trying to show off your grammatical wisdom in this forum.
But even you might appreciate how popular I seem to be on this blog; many of Michael Berube’s readers have been responding directly to me, rather than, say--to you! What do you make of that, Einstein? Maybe it’s because I add an uncommon breath of fresh air here? Maybe it’s because I actualy challenge you to think outside the box? Maybe people just think I’m a nice person?
You don’t have to trust me on the sentiments of NYU undergrads; if you don’t think I share a lot in common with others, check out the WSN comments that people leave after articles. And check out the reality that no one is doing what the strikers want: going to their rallies, not crossing picket lines, not ratting on our TAs. We are rats and proud of it! Squeak.Posted by on 01/07 at 07:23 PM
No, you’re wrong about just about everything.
Nobody knows you or your name. Just because Dr. Berube is gracious enough not to strike your post doesn’t mean you get “credit” for his loyal readers. You can count the half dozen or so responses to your ramblings as “your share.”
Yes, many people DO heckle village idots. Not that YOU are the village idiot, mind you.Posted by DocMara on 01/07 at 08:42 PM
I’m not interested in fame. I just want people to know that there are a lot of us who oppose the strike for good reasons. I don’t even oppose the strike; I just oppose having my class time wasted on account of teachers who think they have the right or responsibility to “educate” us about it in class. I would never advocate somethign like the Academic Bill of Rights before this weekend, but now I am starting to think it may not be such a bad idea. There is a place for preaching unions, and I think the “Teach-In” was that place--not class time that should be spent on other things.
I counted the responses to my posts, and there are 12 (if you count the one from Professor Mirzoeff that vaguely addresses my posts about his group). That is one-third of the posts that have been posted here. If you count my own, then we are probably looking at two-thirds.Posted by on 01/07 at 09:50 PM
Comment 39 has been edited for content. Any further comments in the vein of the deleted paragraph will be deleted altogether.Posted by on 01/07 at 10:04 PM
I appreciate Michael Berube’s efforts to explain why the Emergency Resolution in support of NYU strikers was ruled void. My comments are in partial response to his posts and in partial response to comments made in response to his posts:
1) The proposers of the Emergency Resolution followed the MLA Constitution and Bylaws to the letter. They gathered the necessary number of signatures on the resolution (25) from MLA members to present it to the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee at the Open Hearing the day before the Delegate Assembly as required by MLA bylaws. They presented supporting documentation for the Resolution, including a link to President Sexton’s letter explaining the NYU position on the strike. Both the original and revised Resolutions did name NYU as the location of the student strike. This was not a violation of MLA Constitution or Bylaws.
2) As to Michael’s suggestion for proposing Emergency Resolutions, citing his earlier post:
“The trick in such cases, then, lies in getting resolution proposers and DAOC members (with the advice of the parliamentarian, who, by the way, is quite rigorous and unflinchingly fair) to hammer out language that will make it to the DA floor without—and I can’t stress this part strongly enough—having to be redrafted on the fly at the convention itself.”
While I understand the impetus for this suggestion, if followed it would put the DAOC in the position of not only pre-approving but drafting Emergency Resolutions. The Delegate Assembly Bylaws have been established to provide opportunity for MLA members to be the agents of motions and resolutions. This proposal could tip the scale further away from democratic process in the DA.
3) The sitting MLA President who presides over Delegate Assembly meetings should be well-versed in the MLA Bylaws and Constitution as well as parliamentary procedure and Roberts Rules of Order. This would help the deliberations process which did not always goes smoothly in Washington despite the efforts of the Parliamentarian and other MLA officers. At the least this contributed to the frustrations of those seeking a fair hearing on motions and resolutions.
BillPosted by on 01/10 at 12:42 PM
Thanks, Bill. Good to hear from you. I have only one point of disagreement, but it’s a substantial one:
While I understand the impetus for this suggestion, if followed it would put the DAOC in the position of not only pre-approving but drafting Emergency Resolutions. The Delegate Assembly Bylaws have been established to provide opportunity for MLA members to be the agents of motions and resolutions. This proposal could tip the scale further away from democratic process in the DA.
I honestly don’t see how the DAOC would wind up in the position of drafting resolutions. All I was asking for is a heads up and a consultation.
My sense is that over the years, resolution proposers have come to see the DAOC and EC primarily as blocking figures, and maybe that dynamic is at work here. But I suggested that proposers of Emergency Resolutions get in touch with the DAOC ahead of time so that we can advise them about potential problems and consult with the parliamentarian in order to bring resolutions to the floor instead of blocking them in committee on procedural grounds. If you support the democratic process of the DA, then, it makes sense to draft resolutions that will get to the floor. That doesn’t mean the DAOC gets to draft the things. I suggest only that the DAOC be consulted ahead of time so that the resolution can go forward.
As for whether the DAOC is the “pre-approver” of emergency resolutions, well, the MLA Constitution says as much when it bars resolutions that name parties in such a way that, in the determination of the committee, a response from the named party must be sought. With a little lead time, you and we could possibly have worked out language that named NYU and supported GSOC but did not require a response from the NYU administration; as it was, the DAOC wound up heatedly debating the issue throughout the late afternoon of the last day before the DA meeting. In the future I hope we can do better.Posted by Michael on 01/10 at 06:03 PM
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