Oregon Philosophy Faculty Removed from Courses (Updated)

“One by one, objecting faculty members are being removed as instructors of record for classes that they teach with graduate teaching fellows or classes taught by GTFs that the department supervises” reports The Register Guard.  As Oregon University’s graduate student teaching fellows strike (previously) continues, the university’s administration is now engaging in acts faculty believe will “usurp faculty authority over academic matters” and targeting faculty who have been supportive of the students and refusing to go along with the administration’s plans to assign grades to students based on work graded prior to the strike.

The administration removed Bonnie Mann, chairwoman of the philosophy department, as one of the instructors of record for seven classes. The seven classes — with a combined 226 undergraduate students — were taught by graduate teaching fellows, Mann said. The GTFs taught classes in seven different niche areas, ranging from the Philosophy of Love and Sex to Environmental Philosophy.

“That meant that when the strike started we had seven courses with no teachers at all,” Mann said. The university required Mann and other department heads to either enter grades for the students based on work done before Dec. 1, or else hire somebody else to do the grading.

“Utterly irresponsible in either case,” Mann asserted. “There’s no way on Earth, even if I had been willing to, that I would be able to familiarize myself with all that course material and do any sort of responsible job grading these students,” she said.

Hiring wasn’t practical either. “Who in the hell am I going to hire? No. 1, we don’t have a lot of people with Ph.Ds in philosophy running around Eugene. We just don’t…”

A dozen department heads, including Mann, said they wouldn’t enter grades on that basis. The University Senate earlier this month voted in opposition to such a plan. One professor dubbed the university’s plan the “Wizard of Oz” strategy, Mann said. “Oh, you want to give the students a diploma without giving them a brain — a grade without an education?”…

“We were taken off and only an associate dean remains, which means an administrator, who does not even have a degree in philosophy, is grading 200-and-some philosophy students on the basis of grading records that had been left to her,” Mann said…

Mann said she is philosophically opposed to doing what she considers “strike-breaking work.” In a letter to undergraduates explaining her refusal to enter grades, Mann explained that she is one of seven children of a Boise Cascade millworker, whose plant unionized in an extremely risky and volatile process when she was 10 years old.

University officials quizzed her repeatedly on her refusal to enter grades, which she eventually discovered was laying the groundwork for the administration to take disciplinary action against her, Mann contends.

“What I imagine is that I’ll be fired from my position as department head,” she said. “In fact, I think that’s very likely.”

The rest of the story is here. (Thanks to Kate Norlock for the pointer.) Meanwhile, over 200 people have signed the open letter from University of Oregon assistant professor of philosophy Mark Alfano. An account of the strike and the reasoning for it is provided by paleontology PhD student Meaghan Emery here. And there’s also a petition supporting the striking students on Move On.

UPDATE (12/10/14): According to a comment below from University of Oregon associate professor of philosophy C. Koopman, the strike has ended and the administration has made a major concession. Details will be posted as they become available.

UPDATE 2 (12/10/14): The GTFF has posted a letter on its Facebook page (copy available here) which reports that a tentative agreement has been reached between the students and the administration that involves raises and the creation of a Graduate Student Assistance Fund available to students facing financial challenges owing to illness, injury, or adding children to families, overseen by a committee of graduate students.

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