Newsletter of the George Washington University Faculty Association
In this issue:
- Fall Colloquium
- A Win on Health Benefits for 2017
- GWUFA Speaks on Tech in Classrooms, Provost Listens
- Shared Governance in the University Presidential Search
GWUFA Fall Colloquium on the Governance of the University
On October 11, 2016, GWUFA hosted the first of several colloquia that will be held over the course of the 2016-17 academic year in order to discuss the relationship of university governance to the wider social-political structures in which we, the faculty, operate both as academic experts and as public intellectuals.
Christopher Britt Arredondo, Associate Professor of Spanish and a member of the GWUFA Steering Committee, presented a brief talk in which he outlined a humanist critique of the administrative culture of the university and proposed intellectual trespass as a new, albeit informal, foundation for shared governance.
According to Professor Britt, the university has ceased to be a place where the many forms of knowledge generated by research are brought together. Instead, we are confronted today by the consequences of bureaucratic micro-specialization. Chief among these is the fragmentation of human intelligence and the replacement of well-rounded intellectuals with specialized academic experts. Our educational system has abandoned the objectives of an all-around education capable of harmonizing the acquisition of technical and scientific knowledge with the emotional and intellectual development of the entire person. It has turned its back on the humanist project for a reflexive, global, and theoretical understanding of our social, political, and historical reality. What is called for is an awakening of the life of knowledge, and a resuscitation and expansion of enlightenment through the reintegration of humanistic and technical knowledge: an action for scientific and humanistic intellectuals, which constitutes participation in the governance of both our universities and our democracies.
Following the presentation, there was plenty of time for discussion. Much of it focused on the development of a platform for GWUFA that would be informed by a renewed sense of the university as a place for reflection where the many are turned into one, affirming the underlying unity of knowledge, nature, and community.
GWUFA’s Spring Colloquium will pick up on these issues — stay tuned for details.
GWUFA Advocates for Better Health Care Benefits
There is both good news and bad news in the benefits changes announced by GW for 2017. The good news is that the changes could have been far worse. GW’s Human Resources staff proposed raising the out-of-pocket maximum per family on the high-deductible health plan from $6,850 to $10,000, but after vociferous protests by GWUFA members of GW’s Benefits Advisory Committee, the limit was adjusted to $7,150 instead. GW also proposed raising the co-pay to visit a specialist for employees on the PPO plans from $50 to $65, but GWUFA opposition resulted in that co-pay remaining unchanged at $50.
There is, however, more bad news than good. The current “Medium PPO” plan is, for all intents and purposes, being eliminated. This is especially bad news for employees who liked seeing some out-of-network doctors (faculty will now have to run up more than $2,000 in out-of-network bills before the PPO plan will pay any benefits at all). Even in network, the cost of seeing a physician will increase, as GW is raising the co-pay for primary care office visits by 20%. And the monthly premium for the 47% of employees already on the GW Basic PPO plan will increase next year by 10%. So while things could have become far worse but for GWUFA vigilance, in terms of co-pays, deductibles, out-of-network coverage, and out-of-pocket maximums, GW’s medical insurance plans remain woefully subpar.
GWUFA will continue to fight to defend and improve benefits at GW. You can help by telling your colleagues about GWUFA and wearing your GWUFA button on campus to show our strength.
Technology Issues in Classrooms: Solved
This fall, many faculty were dismayed to find themselves teaching in classrooms that had inadequate technological capacity. GWUFA created a form for faculty to report their specific concerns and presented the information directly to the Provost’s office. We spoke and they listened. The Provost’s office stepped in and got every issue fixed.
This is yet another reminder that GWUFA advocates on your behalf to improve our working conditions, which improves students’ learning conditions. Join us!
The Next GW President
The Board of Trustees made it very clear in a series of Town Hall meetings this fall that they–and they alone–will select our next president. They are working in consultation with an appointed Search Committee that includes no faculty of color, only one woman faculty member, and no faculty from the humanities or social sciences. (Seriously!) The Board is also working with a search firm that costs the university hundreds of thousands of dollars, but GW will not reveal exactly how much we are paying or what services we are getting. The lack of transparency and faculty input on every aspect of this process has prompted outrage.
In GW’s last Presidential search in 2007, faculty elected the voting members of the actual search committee. When asked to state the rationale for skirting this procedure this year and selecting rather than electing a search committee, Search Committee Chair Madeleine Jacobs offered only that the Board “had its reasons.” In the face of widespread faculty discontent, the Board ultimately relented and created an ad hoc, partially elected “Faculty Consultative Committee.” The role of this committee, though, is limited to providing feedback on the job description but not on the selection of finalists for the position. Our representatives on this committee have stressed the need for communication and transparency, and relayed faculty concerns over GW’s increasing bureaucracy, fragmentation, and dysfunction.
If these search procedures were isolated incidents, they would be bad enough. We know, though, that they are part of an ongoing trend that demonstrates contempt for, or ignorance of, principles of shared governance fundamental to a research university. Our faculty must speak up, with a heterogeneous but united voice, to demand participation in the consequential decisions at the university. We must refuse to be silenced! Lend your voice to the effort by joining GWUFA and passing word of the association on to at least one of your colleagues.
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