Being and consciousness in academe

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sun Dec 17 13:22:40 MST 2000

Lou wrote:

>You might find this hard to believe but these perfectly amiable men, around
>my age, were citing Nietzsche every chance they got. Where did that come
>from, I wondered? Rising to the challenge, I cited Marx right back at them.
>When one of the professors hyped an assigned book "The Control Revolution"
>as an essential guide to understanding "modernity", I wrote up a stinging
>critique like the kind I post frequently on the Internet which I passed out
>at class. The other students, mostly in their 20s and desperate for good
>grades, looked at me like I had two heads. Nobody had ever challenged
>professors like me before.

My students, however, challenge me often, sometimes in a productive
fashion, asking good questions to develop discussion; at other times,
with an intention of derailing discussion, disrupting class, etc.
99.99% of the times, all my students are far to the right of me, as
you can imagine.  For instance, in one of the courses several years
ago, half the students walked out from the classroom when I showed a
documentary called _The Celluloid Closet_ in a section for discussion
of representation of sexuality.  Questions of sexuality tend to upset
many students (much more than discussion of Marx, etc.), and similar
problems have happened to many of my colleagues who broach them in

Most left-wing teachers -- especially un-tenured ones at conservative
schools -- unfortunately have to be weary of not only administrators
_but also_ conservative students & their parents who might have
ideological reasons to go against us as well.  Luckily, I've never
had any right-wing student enroll in my class specifically to take my
job away from me, as in the case of Michael Hoover:

At 8:45 PM -0500 12/16/00, Michael Hoover wrote:
>I've been publicly red-baited twice, first time by right-wing students
>affiliated with Accuracy in Academia assigned to take my class in order
>to monitor content, I was adjunct as local state university and these
>people went to academic dean and local news media in attempt to have me
>removed in middle of term...second time was after I'd been hired full-
>time at community college but didn't have tenure, I was brought before
>academic vice-prez on word of a "colleague" and crime: I
>used Michael Parenti's _Sword & Dollar_, marxist critique of US foreign
>policy in one of my courses..

Moreover, as I have discussed the question of power relations between
teachers and students with my colleagues who are either left-wing,
queer, female, black, Latino, Asian, or foreign nationals, it has
become clear to me that conservative students are more likely to
challenge & cause problems for us than teachers who are not socially
and/or ideologically "marked" like we are.  In short, the power
relations in academia are not as simple as you imply, with teachers
always being the powerful & authoritative ones.

The practice of "student evaluations" is often used by administrators
to control left-wing teachers, so we won't deviate too much into the
direction of "political advocacy" in class.

During the recent strike of union workers at the Ohio State
University (about which I posted here many times), the president,
provosts, & deans put pressure upon department chairs to threaten
teachers & graduate students who practiced or even expressed
solidarity with the striking workers:

>Date: Mon, 08 May 2000 11:13:56 -0400
>Reply-To: lee.89 at
>Sender: owner-engrad at
>From: Valerie Lee <lee.89 at>
>To: engrad at
>Cc: engfac at
>Subject: Class Cancellations
>X-Sender: vlee at
>X-Priority: 1 (Highest)
>To All GTAs:
>Important Reminder:
>It has come to my attention that some of you have told your classes
>that you will not be meeting until the strike is over. Some students
>in "cancelled" classes have requested that their money for the
>quarter be refunded. I would like to remind you of what your
>responsibility is:
>As a GTA, you have signed a contract saying that you will fulfill a
>specific responsibility. It is a breach of the contract to tell
>your students that you will not be meeting with them. Additionally,
>you should not move your class to another location, unless every
>student in that class agrees to such a move. If even one student
>objects, you should not move the course.
>Some of you have found useful ways to incorporate the issues of the
>strike into your class discussions. Fine. Others have taken
>actions that may jeopardize their reappointments. Let's work
>together on these issues.
>  Valerie Lee
>  Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of English
>  Professor, Department of Women's Studies
>  The Ohio State University
>  164 West 17th Avenue
>  Columbus, Ohio 43210-1370
>  (614)292-6735

The management employed students as scabs, too, while at the same
time sending letters to _all_ the students, asking them to report to
the deans the teachers who discussed the strike "in an inappropriate
fashion."  Remember my press release & my friend Keith Kilty's open


May 9, 2000, Columbus, Ohio

For more info, contact Yoshie Furuhashi (at 614-299-3313 /
furuhashi.1 at or Mark D. Stansbery (at 614-252-9255 /
walk at

OSU Teaches the Art of Scabbing

Since the beginning of the strike of Communications Workers of
America Local 4501 (a union of about 2,000 service and skilled-trade
workers) on May 1, a new subject has been added to the general
education curriculum of the Ohio State University: the Art of

For instance, finding it difficult to replace striking campus bus
drivers by temporary workers, the OSU is teaching its own students
how to scab.  Sarah Blouch, director of Transportation and Parking
Services, proudly proclaims: "Our students have been the backbone of
our [bus] service" (Paul S. Rovnak, "Students Preserve OSU Bus
Service," _The Lantern_ 8 May 2000).  According to Blouch, "the
student drivers are working more than 60 hours a week" (Rovnak).  How
the practice of using students as overworked and inexperienced scab
drivers and thus compromising the safety of bus riders and
pedestrians alike is to be made compatible with the management's
professed goal of keeping "the University functioning in a safe,
healthful, and educationally sound manner" (as President William E.
Kirwan and Provost Edward J. Ray put it in a letter sent to non-union
staff) is left unexplained.  While parcel delivery workers are
honoring the CWA picket lines, the Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese is
"making use of its work-study students by having them hand deliver"
campus mail (Davina K. Wilkins, "Faculty, Staff Pick Up Slack During
Strike," _The Lantern_ 8 May, 2000).

On top of the fact that some students are being exploited and
overworked as scabs, _all_ OSU students are instructed to serve as
agents of management surveillance.  From the beginning of the strike,
hundreds of faculty, lecturers, and teaching assistants have taken a
symbolic action of solidarity with the strikers, teaching classes on
the Oval, in Bricker Hall (where the sit-in in support of CWA workers
has continued since April 26), and at other alternative locations,
instead in normal classrooms cleaned and maintained by scabs.
Dismayed by the solidarity expressed by rebellious professors and
graduate students, President Kirwan and Provost Ray write in a letter
to students: "[Y]ou should expect all of your classes to meet in a
normal fashion, focusing on the subject matter that is outlined in
course syllabi.  If you feel that your instructors are not respecting
your right to the education for which you have registered and paid,
please contact Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Martha
Garland at 292-5881, garland.1 at, or Vice Provost and Dean of
the Graduate School Susan Huntington at 292-6031,
huntington.1 at" (the letter is available at In essence, the
letter encourages students to report to the deans any instructor who
refuses to cross the picket lines or even discusses the strike in

Threats of management retaliation against strike supporters who take
public actions while on the job are sometimes explicit.  Untenured
faculty and graduate students are especially made to feel vulnerable.
In a message to e-lists for English faculty and graduate students,
Professor Valerie Lee, Vice-Chair of the Department of English, warns
GTAs that not only canceling classes but also even moving classes to
alternative locations are prohibited (in contrast to a resolution
passed by the Council of Graduate Students, which supports the right
of graduate students to hold classes outside, as long as the syllabi
are followed and the academic quality of the classes unaffected).
Professor Lee ends her message by reminding GTAs that their jobs may
be in danger: "Some of you...have taken actions that may jeopardize
their reappointments" (posted on engrad at &
engfac at, dated Mon, 08 May 2000 11:13:56

Undeterred and defiant, faculty and graduate students are moving
forward to organize a day of work stoppage and teach-in at Bricker
Hall, to be held in conjunction with a labor rally, where a huge
turn-out of unionists and supporters is expected on Thursday, May 11.
The scheduled events for May 11 are as follows:

Š 9 AM-11AM, Teach-In
Š 11 AM-noon, Labor Rally for CWA, Local 4501 (speakers and
participants from AAUP, AFL-CIO, the Afrikan Student Union, CWA,
Greenpeace, NAACP, Teamsters, and other student, faculty, and labor
Š 3 PM, Meetings (for faculty, graduate students, undergrads, and
other supporters from the University and community).

Flyers for the work stoppage and teach-in quote Frederick Douglass:
"Without a struggle, there can be no progress."


Subject: An AAUP Member's Letter of Protest to OSU President Kirwan
Cc: meisenscher at, aneilrallin at

Communications Workers of America Local 4501, a union of about 2,000
service and skilled-trade employees of the Ohio State University, has
been on strike since May 1.  The student & faculty sit-in in support
of Local 4501, which began on April 26, is still continuing, and
today is the 14th day of the sit-in.

On May 8, President William Kirwan and Provost Edward Ray issued
letters to faculty, staff, students, and parents:
Message to faculty:
Message to staff:
Message to students:
Message to parents:

Kirwan & Ray's letters threaten union-busting as well as make thinly
veiled threats against instructors who support the strikers.

The forwarded message below is one of the letters written in protest
against the OSU administration's use of scabs and infringement upon
academic freedom.

Yoshie Furuhashi
<furuhashi.1 at>

Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 15:38:08 -0400
To: Kirwan.1 at
From: "Keith M. Kilty" <kkilty at>
Subject: Your "Message from the President"

Dear President Kirwan,

I am concerned about some of your remarks in your "Message from the
President," dated May 7, 2000, as well as the implications of some of
your statements for a just and equitable resolution to the current
crisis at the Ohio State University.

While you indicate that you respect our rights to express our
opinions, you do so within the context of a veiled threat.  How can
you possibly lecture any of us on how we should teach our students or
what we should teach them or where we should teach, when in fact you
probably know very little about what most of us teach?  I sincerely
hope you are familiar with the principle of academic freedom.  As a
member of AAUP and chair of the OSU/AAUP Committee A, you can rest
assured that I take the matter of academic freedom very seriously.
In fact, it is respect for academic freedom that makes the great
institutions of higher education in this country as great as they are.

Unfortunately, you have not supported that principle, or the general
principle of freedom of speech, all that well in your tenure at OSU,
as evidenced by the Yassar Arafat fiasco in your first year here.  I
encourage you to reconsider your remarks and to make it very clear to
the faculty and staff and students that you do indeed respect
academic freedom and the rights of faculty and instructors to teach
what they believe is right to teach.

I am also concerned about your remarks on "restoring normalcy in
campus services."  You have indicated that you are hiring scabs. That
is outrageous.  Is your goal to break the union?  That seems to be
the direction of your policies.  You could easily resolve this matter
by calling for further talks and presenting a fair and equitable
proposal to the union.  Then there would be no need for you to hire
so-called temporary workers.  There is also the matter of calling on
the working staff, including student workers, to assume
responsibilities for which they are not responsible.  The Lantern
presented information today showing that various clerical and
secretarial staff are now performing custodial services.  Are these
individuals actually freely volunteering to do so?  I find that hard
to believe.  Many people are fearful of their futures here and will
do what supervisors supposedly "ask," rather than risk facing direct
or indirect sanctions.  I am aware of a number of situations where
individuals feel they must perform tasks that they do not want to,
but feel that they have no choice.  That is blatant coercion and
exploitation - immoral actions that disgrace this fine institution.

That leads me to a final concern, and that is your stated commitment
to diversity.  I find any commitment on your part to diversity hard
to believe, in light of the people you are prepared to exploit and
oppress - namely, the workers in CWA, many of whom are women and
people of color.  This is a terrible situation for OSU, one that
little by little is becoming more known throughout the country.  I
saw a message concerning the strike and concerns about racial
overtones just today on one of the listserves to which I belong. The
longer you allow this situation to continue, the greater attention
will be paid to the racist and sexist implications of University
policies.  This is especially true in light of the fact that the
draft diversity plan you presented recently is toothless rhetoric
without substance, as the critiques of it by many groups here,
including OSU/AAUP and various minority organizations, have
indicated.  If you are committed to diversity, then why are you
prepared to exploit minorities with your labor policies?

Where are you leading the Ohio State University?  Into the
twenty-first century?  Or back to the depths of nineteenth century?
The exploitative and paternalistic labor practices you endorse are
not going to lead to a positive outcome for this situation.  It is
time now for you to show the OSU community - faculty, students,
staff, parents, alumni - that you can lead.  Instead of putting the
onus on the CWA, you should be taking positive steps to negotiate a


Keith M. Kilty
Professor of Social Work and Chair, Committee A, OSU/AAUP

       Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute
            rejection of authority.

                         - Thomas Huxley
Keith Kilty
kkilty at



More information about the Marxism mailing list