Unionization would garner much-needed attention from state officials and administrators

Some years ago, I taught at a public university in which the faculty was unionized. That union formed because many years of experience had demonstrated that formal obeisance toward shared governance meant little. 

Resolutions by the faculty senate were routinely ignored and its recommendations vetoed. Unless we organized ourselves into a union, we realized neither state officials, the trustees nor appointed administrators were going to pay much, if any, attention to what the faculty (or our students) wanted or needed. The same is true at the University of Illinois. 

At the state level, we have faced a bipartisan attack on our hard-won pensions and a chronic dwindling of financial support for the university — causing, among other things, student tuition to soar. The proportion of faculty with job security shrinks; meanwhile, the number of those without it (and with strikingly smaller salaries and benefits) grows apace. Also growing is the number of well-paid campus administrators, as well as the ratio of students to full-time faculty. 

It’s long past time for the University of Illinois’ faculty to recognize the seriousness of the situation and take the only step that can enable us to turn things around — join the union!

Bruce Levine, James G. Randall distinguished professor of history