Loon-tastic. Where's @docfreeride? RT @CackleofRad: Sexual harassment training is an attempt to brow-beat the tenured.http://clarissasblog.com/2011/09/06/who-has-the-power-to-refuse/
The post linked in the tweet contains some interesting tidbits:
I wanted to call your attention to the story of Dr. Alexander McPherson who resisted the attempts of the University of California Irvine to take the mandatory sexual harassment training:
“I have consistently refused to take such training on the grounds that the adoption of the requirement was a naked political act by the state that offended my sensibilities, violated my rights as a tenured professor, impugned my character and cast a shadow of suspicion on my reputation and career,” McPherson said.
“I consider my refusal an act of civil disobedience. I even offered to go to jail if the university persisted in persecuting me for my refusal. We Scots are very stubborn in matters of this sort.”
It’s so good to hear that such things still take place. Normally, at every campus I have visited or heard of, the most beaten down, brown-nosing, terrified folks who are ready to kiss ass of every minor administrator are not the tenure-track faculty, the adjuncts, the instructors, the grad students, or the secretarial staff. It’s the tenured profs. It’s as if the moment you got tenure, you somehow immediately learned to tremble in the presence of any minuscule administrative pseudo-authority. I have no idea why that is but I have gotten used to the fact that any resistance even to the greatest act of stupidity on campus will not come from tenured people. ...
Every year, I am forced to take the so-called “ethics training” that teaches me in the most condescending way you can imagine not to accept bribes, not to divert university funding to my relatives, and not to steal office supplies. So I know where McPherson’s outrage is coming from.
I'm a little pinched for time at the moment (it being the first instructional day after a long holiday weekend) and thus will have to postpone a deeper and more nuanced consideration of the constellation of issues raised by the post. But, if I can channel the advice-nurse from our pediatrician's office, here's a quick identification of some of those issues, and my shooting-from-the-hip response to some of them:
What to say about required faculty training in safety, ethics, sexual harassment (and how not to do it), etc.?
It's fair to say that faculty, among other employees, frequently grumble about such training. Many feel (and not without cause) that the training they are required to complete (whether in a face-to-face meeting in a conference room or by way of an online module with a quiz) focuses on stuff that should be pretty obvious to anyone who is paying attention. And, given the obviousness of much of the content, it would not be surprising to find that some of the people delivering it did so in a condescending manner (because it could be challenging not to be condescending to a grown-up who didn't know better than to accept bribes or to demand sex for good grades or what have you).
But, it's not clear that the obviousness of the content or the seeming pointlessness of the task raises it to the level of an attack on one's academic freedom. Without something like a positive argument, I'm not persuaded by the claim that mandatory training violates anyone's rights or impugns his character any more than having to turn in grades by the grade-filing deadline or having to take roll on Census Day does.
And, the mere fact that ethics training, or safety training, or sexual harassment avoidance training is delivered in a stupid way that is likely not to engage faculty productively in being ethical or safe or non-harass-y does not mean that faculty have no need for training in these areas. Arguably, the fact that a handful of faculty members each year will be caught doing unethical stuff, or sexually harassing their students or colleagues, or running labs that are death-traps, suggests that such training would be really helpful -- if not to the wrongdoers, then to their colleagues, supervisors, and underlings looking for effective ways to respond to the wrongdoing. It just needs to be good training.
Are tenured faculty more cowardly in the face of administrative edicts, and if so, why the heck don't they put on their Big Professor Pants and stand up to the stupid edicts?
I would love to see some actual empirical data to support the claim that the tenured professoriate are the biggest chickens in the academic pecking order. This has not been my experience of things (especially in a department with many senior colleagues who will go to the mat for their students and colleagues and department on a fairly regular basis).
But, in the absence of clear data one way or another, let me suggest that the underlying phenomena that might be observed in a coarse-grained manner as "taking a stand" or "folding like a card table" could be more complicated. For example, an apparently spineless tenured faculty member who doesn't publicly protest the annual ethics training may:
- Be collecting actual data on the effectiveness of the training currently in place, in order to build a stronger argument to the administration for abandoning this training and/or replacing it with more effective training.
- Be involved in ongoing discussions with administrators about the effectiveness of this training, and/or the size of the burden it puts on the faculty to complete it -- and may be reasonably confident that the administrators with the power to change the training requirement will be most receptive to such one-on-one engagement rather than public defiance.
- Be picking her battles, having judged the required ethics training far less onerous than (for example) the new course assessment regime or paperwork requirement for ordering lab supplies or what have you; fighting all the battles you could fight in an academic workplace can use you up right quick.
- Be of the opinion that actually, the existing ethics training, while imperfect, is doing some good (and that the people who seem to be making the biggest stink about it are actually the ones who seem most inclined to cut a corner or two when it serves their interests) -- in other words, she may disagree with you that this is a site of administrative inhumanity to faculty, and thus be disinclined to protest it.
It's also worth noting that, at least on campuses where administrators have been chosen from the ranks of the faculty, tenured faculty may be more likely to know the administrators from their time in the faculty. This makes it harder to regard administrators as pure evil in a suit. Dealing with folks you know to be human beings with commitments to the self-same institutions and principles you value sometimes requires some finesse. -- and using some finesse when dealing with an administrator does not make you that administrator's lapdog.
Finally, at least some tenured faculty may be casing the administrative joint, figuring out how they might bring about lasting change for the better from the inside. Flipping the bird to the existing administration might take that option off the table.