Monday, July 10, 2017

2017 Transnational Law Summer Institute Call for Applications: "Inequality: Reproduction, Alienation, Intervention"



It is my great pleasure to pass along this 2017 Transnational Law Summer Institute Call for Applications: "Inequality: Reproduction, Alienation, Intervention."  The theme deals with issues of widening economic inequality on the global plane, but also aims to foster broad-ranging inquiry confronting the production and reproduction of inequality in many settings and modes, with a focus on both the past and our present day.
 
The Summer Institute will be hosted at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and take place 3-8 December 2017. It is co-hosted by The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London, and UNSW Law School, UNSW Sydney, as is an interdisciplinary workshop on transnational law and global governance, scholarly publishing and networking, teaching and critical pedagogy. Judging from past TLSI events, this will be an excellent and profoundly engaging event. 
 
My complements to both institutions and especially to Fleur Johns, Professor, Associate Dean (Research), University of New South Wales and Peer Zumbansen, Transnational Law Institute Director, Professor, Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London, for putting this together. 
 
The Call for Applications follows along with useful links.   HERE for further information and to apply. HERE for a video. HERE for the Program.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Valuing Labor in the Academy--Considering the Problem of Pricing the Production of Faculty and Administrative Outputs in the University and the Suggestion of an Alternative Approach

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)


The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article in which it described some ranges of compensation for the top executive officers of public universities (Dan Bauman, Executive Compensation at Public Colleges Rises by 5%, With Texas Leading the Way, Chronicle of Higher Education 27 June 2017).  To no one's surprise, the news was big. . . bigger . . . and more! Beyond the presidents of two Texas universities compensated in excess of $1 Million, the article noted 
The average pay of public-college leaders, including those who served partial years, was roughly $464,000 in 2016. Among presidents who served the whole year, average pay was slightly more than $521,000. Leaders who served full years at institutions surveyed in both 2015 and 2016 saw a pay increase of 5.2 percent. (Dan Bauman, Executive Compensation at Public Colleges Rises by 5%, With Texas Leading the Way,supra). 
Most of these stories--along with stories of high pay for "star" academics and less for everyone else is justified either because of the inescapable workings of wage labor markets or because of the unique characteristics of the job or the person filling it.

Yet all of these methods--and the focus of pay generally, tends to focus on the individual.  Indeed, the personality of labor appears always to be bound up in the individual.  That is quite distinct from other forms of factors in the production of university wealth.  For other input factors, the general tendency is to understand them as a function of productive force--that is the relative cost of the factor relative to the quantity and quality of the production to which it contributes.

This post considers the problem of the valuation of labor in the university and suggests a possible approach to a usable measure of the value of labor production that makes it easier to treat together the productive value of administrative and faculty production.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

In the Battle for Control of the Contested Spaces of Speech Within the Business of the Academy: The Trinity College AAUP Chapter Statement on the Suspension of Prof Williams

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)



As is well known by now, the contests over control of the "spaces" for "speech" have become much more heated over the course of the last several years. There have been any number of high profile (and by that I mean cases where national media have deemed the events of sufficient interest to report) events in which the social media statements of faculty, as well as the efforts of faculty to speak at academic institutions, have been the subject of agitation and threats.  The events have targeted people of all political views and appear to suggest the intensification of campaigns not just for control of the borderlands of "acceptable" speech but also to regulate not its contents (directly) but the consequences of its use.  To that end the conflation of the ideal of the university as a place for discourse of all sorts is increasingly bumping up against the realities of markets for educational services (and the business of education) with respect to which speech is part of the production of income for institutions. But also changing are the frameworks of academic speech culture that once served to discipline the scope and manner of faculty speech within a common culture of academic speech that has long been shattered  and whose shards increasingly sting their targets. Universities have responded to these increasingly conflicting demands in quite distinct ways (see, e.g., here, here, here, here).  The academy has finally come face to face with the end product of the revolution in academia that began in the second half of the 20th century to the three strands of academic life--the university as an institution, the ideal of the university and the role and place of faculty within both. 

The line drawing between speech, faculty speech cultures, and the business of education have become more risky as individuals (students, other faculty, administrators, and outsider stakeholders among others) have intensified the nature of their responses to speech.  Where once speech was countered by (more) speech, today the most effective (in terms of getting results including drawing media attention) now speech tends to be countered by physical acts and threats. The most powerful speakers today wrap themselves within the emotive and physical power of the mob and of the threat of the use of physical force. These trends ought to be greatly lamented.  And one ought to be troubled by the increasing propensity to back counterspeech with physical acts is likely to dramatically change the shape of the dynamics of discussion about the speech of academics (and others int he academy) in years to come. Yet, perhaps, as culture itself becomes a political objective, it might well be expected that the issues around speech of these sorts no longer are mere matters internal to the university but are now important aspects of larger political battles affecting society. And that also substantially changes both the context in which speech debates may be had.  This is not new--recall earlier periods of substantial political instability in the United States and elsewhere where academic speech became more sensitive as a political matter.  But historical resonance does not necessarily suggest either response or outcome in the peculiar contemporary context.  

One already gets a sense of this, as well as of the increasing irrelevance of traditional patterns of discussion of speech and speech rights within the academy in the latest manifestation of the new emerging pattern of the battle over speech and the power to control it. And it is not clear that the traditionally based responses of academics (see, e.g., Targeted Online Harassment of Faculty,”) are sufficient in the face of substantial changes in the nature and context in which these issues now arise.  Hank Reichman, posted on the AAUP's Academe Blog posted:
The following statement on the suspension of Professor Johnny Williams was issued by the Executive Committee of the Trinity College AAUP chapter. This morning Inside Higher Ed reports that “Williams said he was told by a dean that he was taking leave whether he wanted to or not, and that Trinity made its decision in ‘the best interest of the college, not for my family and me.’ It’s ‘not in the interest of safeguarding academic freedom and free speech,’ he added. ‘It is my hope the administration corrects its course’.’”
To read the statement click here and see below along with the brief statement of the University suspending Professor Williams.

For an update as of July 14, 2017--HERE.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Call for Papers: 42nd Annual Meeting of the Semiotic Society of America; 25-29 October 2015 Puebla, Mexico


I am happy to pass along a call for papers to what in the past has been a very exciting conference.  This year the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Semiotic Society of America will be held 25-29 October in Puebla, Mexico. I hope those interested int he subject will consider submitting a proposal.  The 2017 Conference program committee was chaired by a Penn State colleague, Deborah Eicher-Catt. The call for papers (in English and Spanish) follows. 



Sunday, June 18, 2017

AAUP Action on Censure: U of Illinois and Phillips Community College Removed from Censure List; Spalding U and Community College of Aurora Added


 
The AAUP has recently taken action on censure.   
Delegates to the 103rd annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors voted today to remove the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas from the AAUP’s list of administrations censured for violating principles and standards of academic freedom. The vote recognized that both institutions had successfully amended problematic policies and addressed the conditions that had brought about the original censure. Delegates also voted to impose censure on Spalding University (Kentucky) and the Community College of Aurora (Colorado), based on investigations conducted this year that revealed serious departures from principles and standards of academic freedom at those institutions. (Here)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Scholars and Educators for Open Travel to Cuba: A Letter to President Donald Trump



We are on the eve of an important and necessary event-  The Conference on Prosperity and Security promises an important engagement with Central America.
 Regional presidents, U.S. Cabinet members, the vice president and top Mexican officials will meet in Miami this week to take on some of the most vexing problems plaguing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the battered countries of Central America’s Northern Triangle.

Drug trafficking, gang violence and other criminality have taken their toll, resulting in 50,000 murders over the past three years in the Northern Triangle, and that insecurity — combined with widespread corruption and lack of economic opportunities and development — has contributed to a massive outflow of the countries’ residents. Most of them have ended up in the United States.

The Conference on Prosperity and Security, set for Thursday and Friday, is being convened by both the United States and Mexico, a country crisscrossed by drug trafficking, organized crime and people smuggling routes. (Fixing Central America is the focus of high-level Miami summit).

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article155658824.html#storylink=cpy
Even conservatives and exponents of the new "America First" initiative view this effort as important (See, e.g., here). Yet on the eve of an important Central American Summit, it appears that the 45th President intends to make public an announcement that has been rumored to be focused on undoing the opening up policies of the 44th President. 
If President Donald Trump outlines his new Cuba policy in Miami on Friday, it could upstage a Central American conference that is bringing regional presidents and Mexican and U.S. Cabinet members to town this week.

Among steps Trump is reportedly considering are limiting travel by Americans to the island and restricting American companies’ ability to do business with entities controlled by the Cuban military. Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the only two local Republican members of Congress who backed Trump, have been pushing the president to roll back the opening by then-President Barack Obama. (Trump’s announcement on Cuba could clash with Central American summit).

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article155767424.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article155767424.html#storylink=cpy
To the extent that is is the result of measured considerations of state and ultimately for the benefit of the people of the United States undertaken without undo harm to the people of Cuba, one can understand (if not agree) with the specific measures undertaken.  It would be a great pity, and a derogation of the obligation that our officials owe this Republic,  if instead the policy change would be based on a a need to "repay" political favors or to satisfy the sad vision of a part of the Cuban immigrant community that is, in its own way as stuck on December 31, 1958, as the Cuban regime may be stuck on January 1, 1959 (e.g., here). Indeed, members of the President's party also share a concern about reversing course on Cuba without good reason (e.g., here). And it is not clear how the shift in Cuba policy will impact our relations with other Latin American states--nor the extent to which this was considered.  One worries because, at least with respect to multilateral relations, the President has adopted a piecemeal approach that might increase the likelihood of failing to anticipate consequences of policies adopted in one state on others int he region--much less on internal constituencies (e.g., here and here). 

There are substantial implications should the 45th President indulge the impulse to undo policy (if only to distance himself from his predecessor--a no-principles basis for policy, to be sure, but one not uncommon even for beloved former Presidents of this Republic). One of the most important and immediate may be on the production of knowledge and academic exchange.  It is with that in mind that a group of scholars have written the President urging him to reconsider any possible consideration of the sport of policy roll back that might undo the opening up to Cuba in effect since 2015. The letter, Scholars and Educators for Open Travel to Cuba: A Letter to President Donald Trump, follows.  The letter has been republished by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When Universities Fail to Manage Abuse of Administrative Discretion the Courts Will Increasingly be Asked to Fill that Role

(Pix credit HERE)


I have been writing about the transformation of university governance from a rules based system to one in which rules are created to define increasingly broad ambit of administrative discretion (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).  This widening of administrative discretion appears most pronounced at the middle tiers of university administration--at the level of university deans and unit chancellors. It appears to evidence two profoundly important trends.  The first is to shift effective governance power from faculty-dean collective governance models to a more hierarchical system in which middle manager deans reserve the authority to initiate and drive policy formation as well as implementation. The second is to change the character of accountability that manages to produce an expanding field of decisions that are effectively beyond the power of anyone (but perhaps the provost) to review. The result is a growing area of decision making authority in which deans may act with impunity. 

Impunity within an organization, of course, creates a legitimacy vacuum in the operation of an institution.  In the United States, at least for the moment, such structures without legitimate structures of accountability may expose themselves to the accountability structures of the state.  Generally that seepage of accountability out of the institution tends to wind up in the courts. And so, increasingly, one begins to observe a curious trend--the increasing willingness (necessity) of faculty (and eventually staff that is not unionized) to seek in the courts the protection (in the general law) of protection against abuse of discretion

This trend should be alarming.  It suggests institutional decay, at least with respect to the core structures of internal legitimacy, that once were more central to the operation of the university.  More specifically, as the university abandons effective remedial structures, individuals will seek remedies form more authoritative institutions. People may be excused for scoffing at the notion that impunity in administrative decision making (abandonment of effective remedy and failure to oversee administrative discretion based governance), and even at the very idea of the need for an effective abuse of discretion standard itself within structures of university rule systems.  They will be excused for finding implausible the suggestion that in the absence of effective university governance, its own stakeholders will seek "workarounds," and some sort of vindication, outside the structures of the university and its own administrative machinery. My sense, however, is that while initial efforts are likely to be rejected--the trend toward turning to the courts will only intensify as the transformation of the university becomes more pronounced (and as its structures become more hierarchical and impunity enhancing discretion based). 

The most telling evidence of these trends, and of the likelihood of the development of a judicially constructed standard for policing administrative abuse of discretion in the university, does not occur when these efforts are undertaken by faculty at lower ranked universities. It does start to have significant potential to affect the remedial structures of university governance when members of the university elite themselves begin to seek the protection of the courts. It is in this context that the lawsuit (filed March 23, 2017) against the Columbia University Law School (and its dean, Gillian Lester, Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law)  by one of its more prominent members (George P. Fletcher, Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence).

This post includes some of the documents emerging from that lawsuit as well as a nice description of the issues recently posted by Paul L. Caron to his Tax Prof Blog.  The university's motion to dismiss the lawsuit provides an excellent gauge of the current position of "management," one that invokes incredulity at the notion of a faculty member running off to the courts in a fit of pique. But that incredulity, given the way the facts are described, ought not detract from a more dispassionate institutional analysis. Whether or not Professor Fletcher prevails, the case itself is another piece of evidence of the growing institutional failures of the emerging university discretionary governance model to adequately deal internally with the exercise and management of administrative discretion.  Professor Fletcher is likely not the last member of an elite institution to seek remedies where he can, and one day--sooner than institutions and their administrators may anticipate-- the courts will supply the remedial structures that universities increasingly fail to provide. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Internship Opportunities at Foundation for Law and International Affairs



I am happy to pass along an internship opportunity at the Foundation for Law and International Affairs (FLIA), with which I am associated
The Foundation for Law and International Affairs (FLIA) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization mandated to promote academic and public discourse at the intersection of law and international affairs. The core vision of FLIA is to promote international cooperation and public dialogue through the development of new ideas and collaboration with various academic, governmental and civil actors. . . . Our mission is to facilitate international scholarly activities, conduct high quality, independent research and policy analysis, engage in public education and awareness-building programs, as well as amplify the voice of the rising generation.
The internship announcement follows.


Friday, April 28, 2017

"Insulting or Defaming Religion" and the University--A Story of Christus Ranae

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

One of the more interesting trends in the management by universities of the spaces within which discourse and engagement is supposed to occur, are issues revolving around religion.  That management, of course, is always subject to whatever is fashionable among the managerial classes at the university and those they serve.  Yet universities also serve, when it suits, the ideals they are constantly invoking in their efforts to compete effectively in the market for student (as input commodities to generate revenue) and output markets (enterprises willing to hire the commodities produced. In the U.K. many universities appear to have moved the line of management from expression to the protection not just of sensibilities but of the integrity of the belief systems of religious institutions themselves. (See, e.g., here "London South Bank University's Code of Practice for Freedom of Speech, which warns students that one definition of an 'unlawful meeting' is one "at which there is a likelihood that the speaker(s) may… commit blasphemy"").  How might that be approached in the United States (e.g., here and here)?

This post provides a brief discussion that frames the issue and an example of the sort of mundane events that may trigger more profound discussion.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Call for Papers: Dickinson Law School--"Balancing the First Amendment With Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education"


I am happy to pass along a call for papers to what looks like an exciting conference in the works at Penn State's Dickinson Law School.  Please consider attending and, better yet, submitting a proposal, whatever your views on the subject. The issues are current and quite contentious; the solutions will tend to shape the way we understand ourselves as a nation of people guided by fair  norms expressed through law.

The Conference concept note and proposal submission information follows: