Todd Eberly, of whom I am barely an acquaintance but through his writing and colleagues I know to be a smart and aware professor, has written a commentary that is simply outrageous for its red herring arguments, points that are distracting and casuistic. In his op-ed, “Gov. Wes Moore, help higher-ed faculty and grad students unionize at Maryland’s public schools” (May 3), he writes of the importance of “academic freedom and independence in institutions of higher learning” and tenure because it limits state control of curriculum choices, choices that are driven by “political influence.” All of this leads to his central point: to stop “orthodoxy” in the classroom, unionization is necessary.
He submits that faculty governance is rarely effective as another reason not to unionize. I taught at Towson University for almost 50 years, and for 41 of those years I was on a most material Academic Senate, a senate whose decisions, liberal though they generally were, were almost never flouted by the administration and that is, I am told, generally the case at others as well.
Is Professor Eberly unaware of the singular authoritarianism that inhabits public colleges and universities? It is the anti-conservatism that is often completely unaddressed by public colleges and universities.
In a Jan. 11, 2016, article in The Washington Post, “The dramatic shift among college professors that’s hurting students’ education,” it was argued that “If you’ve spent time in a college or university any time in the past quarter-century you probably aren’t surprised to hear that professors have become strikingly more liberal.” In 1990, as the article notes, according to survey data by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 42% of professors identified as “liberal” or “far-left.” By 2014, that number had jumped to 60%.
I can tell you that by 2023, and particularly in social sciences and humanities, these figures finding anti-conservatism and pro-progressivism have increased precipitously. The left-wing ethic dominates the academy, and unionization can only increase that dominance.
— Richard E. Vatz, Towson
The writer is retired from Towson University where he was the longest serving member of the Academic Senate (1979-2020).
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