Sunday, January 13, 2008

Our Strike

I haven't really addressed the on going university strike, mostly because I am not really good a numbers and economic models. Hence, it's hard for me to say which offer is better or worse. As I write, though, the sides are arguing for and against injunctions to force us back to work for two weeks (i.e. till the official end of the first semester). So, perhaps, in light of this article, I should offer a few observations:

1) Higher education in Israel has taken a budgetary beating for a decade. We have had no raises (either COLor real) in all that time. Budget lines for new hires have disappeared. This has been most noticeable in the Humanities and Social Sciences. ALL new money (even if slated for the latter) has gone to the sexy 'hard sciences.' In my department, for example, thee has been only one new hire in three years and he's also the youngest lecturer, aged 46!

2) The issue is not only salaries, but support for research. I'll share a small example. The library at Bar Ilan subscribes to JSTOR I and II. The problem is that JSTOR III has most of the more critical journals relating to religion and Jewish Studies. When I asked about expanding the JSTOR subscription, I was told 'No Money.' (Needless to say Bar Ilan raises money based on the excellence of its Jewish Studies faculty, which really is excellent, and is the only address in Israel for some fields e.g. History of Halakhah.)

3) The press is presenting us as pampered ingrates. Yes, we teach between 6-8 hours a week. However, anyone who knows anything about academia knows that: a) guiding graduate students takes up many many hours of time b) research and writing are also time consuming c) tenured faculty sit on endless numbers of committees. So we put in our hours, believe me.
The joke is that because of the meagre pay, we need second and third jobs. That, obviously, interferes with or ability to fulfill our primary jobs well. This is especially egregious in the non-hard sciences. The mathematicians and scientists can always consult and come out way ahead.

4) The real victims are the adjuncts and junior faculty who work for slave wages and getno benefits. Their light should have been part of our struggle. They are silent, because they can be fired.

This strike has impacted my family from both directions. In addition to me, one son had his MA delayed and my daughter had her first semester (about which she was so very excited) destroyed. So, it's important not to demonize us lecturers. We know the score, better than anyone.


Anonymous said...

You are striking because you want more money (see Ben Chorin's post). Nothing wrong with that, if you can get it.

I have a hard time believing that Yehuda Galinsky is 46 years old. Want to double-check that?

Menachem Butler said...

"(Needless to say Bar Ilan raises money based on the excellence of its Jewish Studies faculty, which really is excellent, and is the only address in Israel for some fields e.g. History of Halakhah.)"

Surely there are other institutions in Israel which study the History of Halakhah; perhaps, even, without the ideological slant that Bar-Ilan has on the subject.

Nachum said...

Wow. I wish I could go on strike.

Most of us can't, you know. If we're not happy with our jobs, we have to, um, look for a new one- or even a new profession.

What a quaint idea.

aiwac said...

The nastiness and cynicism that is just oozing out of every comment here is a nice demonstration of why so many people hate talkback comments.

They say chivalry died; apparently so did common decency and mentshkeit.

What a shame.

nachumj said...

it seems to me that one test of the efficacy of a strike is to consider the replacement senario.
if all the profs were to retire; overnight, every last one of them would be replaced with relatively competant candidates, happy to have the job at that pay level and work load. try that with nurses and you see why no one is rushing to end this thing.
i write this even though my own daughter's year has been destroyed by the strike, it's hard to justify.
the junior faculty on the other hand ......

Anonymous said...

Maybe the solution is for Bar Ilan and the others to wean themselves off of public support... there's this great thing, it's called an "endownment".

Maybe the central control of this system - from the prices charged to students through to the details of curriculum and staff salaries -are also part of the problem, and responsible for the apparichic/civil servant slant of the proposed solutions - and the dean's strategy.

Maybe the government's sitting tight will get these folks to start thinking about other strategies... like endownment building and a real market approach to both costs and pricing.

tmeishar said...

hmmm...your attempts to justify the strike by displaying just how bad the situation offers no comfort to the student. i can tell you from personal experience that this strike has (even though it's over) completely ruined my first year of university. not to mention the fact that it has further lowered the morale of students - both israeli and anglo - by making them question how to survive a country which is constantly bombarded by strikes from every disgruntled professional. and of course, now that the strike is over, i feel significantly less respect for my professors than i ever would have previously. i sit in classes thinking, "this person just ruined the last semester for me."
i think the negative far outweighed the psoitives on this one.