Number 7 – October 23, 2020

A publication for faculty, campus staff, and students by the independent
Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus

Statement on Solidarity in the Crisis 
 

The only way for us to fight against job cuts and higher workloads is to fight together. Contingent faculty have to stand with students, rank-and-file union members, and the working-class community on and around the Temple campus to say no to austerity: The budget will not be balanced on our backs!

The Crisis Deepens

As RAFT predicted from its beginning in early 2020, higher ed is facing a historic crisis. Enrollments are falling nationally in the wake of the pandemic and economic shutdown, while schools careen wildly between reopening campuses for the sake of money and then inevitably closing amid massive outbreaks of the coronavirus. 

Temple is no different. It opened its campus in the fall semester, in radical neglect of the health of campus workers, students, and surrounding communities. Humiliated, the administrators closed it a week later — but obviously only because of terrible publicity and the constant pressure from the RAFT Caucus, which dragged TAUP leadership kicking and screaming into the fight to close down Temple. Now Temple administrators are reporting an enrollment crisis and, with it, measures to secure their bottom line — at the expense of the workers and students. Managers are announcing layoffs of adjuncts, and increased course caps have already been instituted in some departments to lay the groundwork for the reduced staffing of classes.  

The administration’s strategy for cost-cutting will result in the further adjunctification of the faculty. First, they will decimate the ranks of current adjuncts, who by definition are flexible, disposable labor, and raise course caps. Then, NTT (full-time non-tenure track) contracts will not be renewed and course caps will be further raised. Finally, the administration will fill in the gaps with new adjunct labor — continuing down the road of further precarization of academic labor).

And yet our TAUP leadership constantly repeats the mantra, “There’s nothing we can do for you; this is all perfectly in line with the contract.” 

No winning without militant solidarity

The futures of adjuncts and NTTs are linked, and the austerity plans TU has for faculty hang on what happens to these teachers. Contingent faculty have to band together and fight for themselves — and compel the TAUP leadership to support us. In other words, the fight against Temple’s austerity program means linking the struggles of all contingent teachers against lay-offs and increased course sizes. 

But we can’t win without a militant approach. It is a huge battle in non-crisis times to win minor concessions for university workers. Now — in the midst of a world-historic economic breakdown, we can’t win concessions with anything short of a struggle that uses every tactic available: rolling, mini-, and longer strikes; slow-downs and sickouts; and so on. We can only win by committing to and planning to use the primary weapon of all labor against the bosses: refusing to work. We already know the administration is playing hardball. It’s time to respond in kind.

But we also can’t win without the right allies.  

So far, the fight against precarious teaching work at universities has almost only been fought in the narrow confines of trade unionism — with adjuncts in their own separate unions, or combined with other teachers like NTTs and tenured and tenure-track faculty. But not a single one has successfully fought back precarity with real job security and benefits — let alone really challenged the power of the corporate management of universities.  

Now, amid an economic crisis second only to the Great Depression, this narrow trade-union approach is more doomed than ever. Instead, contingent faculty have to ally with those parts of Temple’s working class who have the greatest interest in fundamentally challenging the power of the corporate administrators — creating a class-wide approach to organizing with: 

  • The constantly displaced and attacked, majority-Black surrounding working-class community. This community has borne the brunt of the most aggressive and deadly repression, under the thumb of the brutal TUPD, the largest campus police force in the nation, alongside the PPD. People in the neighboring neighborhoods have been treated like enemies in Temple’s drive to gentrify and were completely forgotten in Temple’s stubborn move to reopen. The working-class people of North Philly have already been part of the most important struggle against Temple’s neoliberal expansion, that of the Stadium Stompers coalition, which successfully stopped the building of yet another multi-million-dollar real estate project.
  • The students, who are treated as mere cash cows by the university, were told to return to campus despite the fact that a Covid-19 outbreak was completely predictable. Students were crammed into larger classes, exposed to coronavirus, and then sent home again when the campus invariably had to be closed. We’ve seen the power of students developing in the anti-cop struggle over the summer of 2020. The student-faculty-alumni collaboration, the Temple Coalition for Change, although a new organization, has already won concessions, including $1 million for anti-racist initiatives by the administration and the elimination of the TU donation to the Philadelphia Police Foundation. Continuing this struggle against Temple’s use and support of the white supremacist police is key not only to solidarity with students but to depriving the university of one of its most direct weapons against the surrounding community and any potential strikes and pickets on-campus. 
  • The rank and file of the other campus unions. This doesn’t mean the performative gestures of TAUP’s leaders, who criminally signed a “no strike” clause in the contract, forbidding any real solidarity actions with other workers on campus. Instead, it means that a crucial task for faculty and student struggles is forming committees of agitation and action with Temple’s security guards, janitors, office workers, and others. 

A world to win

Nothing short of this militant, broad-based — that is, class struggle — unionizing can fight off austerity. But far more, this kind of struggle makes it possible to fundamentally change the balance of power on campus, away from the campus masters in administration and towards students, workers, and the surrounding working-class community.  

This kind of class-based approach could actually enable us to fight for a racially representative faculty and student body — something our union has long failed to do, and something the administration has no intent on doing. It could enable us to transform Temple into a truly public institution for the good of people instead of just more cash and more real estate projects. And it could allow for the creation of a new model of struggle for higher ed.

September 5, 2020

A publication for faculty, campus staff, and students by the independent
Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus

Hello Comrades!

We know everyone is going through it these days, and we know it’s been made worse by Temple Administration’s unwillingness to do what is necessary to protect the lives of ourselves, our colleagues, and our communities. In the days before Labor Day (as the U.S. celebrates it, unlike the rest of the world), we are committed to fighting for our rights and dignity and to making and sharing resources to support that fight! Here are some ideas:

First, reach out to your colleagues in RAFT and beyond to share what’s going on with you and to hear what’s up with others (if you have the bandwidth to do so)! Solidarity, including venting and kvetching, is super important! These times are showing that we are all we have.

Second, RAFT is co-sponsoring a socially-distanced Labor Day solidarity rally to support sanitation workers and other front-line workers. The rally is at 10:00 am at City Hall on Monday, 9/7. More information is available here. Please support this event if you are able!

Beyond that, there’s lots more to be involved in, and it can be restoring as well as commitment of our energies. On that note: we wanted to let you know about the Scholar Strike, which is not necessarily a labor action per se, but which is a way to actively show that we, right here where we are in our jobs, are supporting Black Lives Matter and condemn police violence, racialized violence, racism, and white supremacy. Dr. Anthea Butler, inspired by the WNBA and NBA, asked if professional athletes can step back and speak out; why can’t we? Drs. Butler and Kevin Gannon wrote an open letter summarizing their idea: “Scholar Strike is a day of action/teach-in/social justice advocacy happening on September 8-9 2020.” On these days, they are helping organize a variety of ways to participate, up to and including stopping work, but also participating in teach-ins, working “to rule” or other things. It was written up in Inside Higher Ed, but their own letter summarizing the idea is here, and if you want to sign up to support (on a list that will not be made public), you can sign up here

Many teachers and academic workers across the country are also standing up for their labor rights — and their lives — right now, and also need our support. One way is simply to use social media to express solidarity and generate awareness; a relevant hashtag is #DemandSafeSchools, which works for us and to support others too, like the United Teachers Federation (@UFT), the New York City teachers’ union, who may be authorizing a strike to protect their lives and those of students, students’ families, and the community. 

And as we call for schools and states to shift priorities away from private profit and towards community needs, we can also do that by supporting the encampments of houseless people that are facing eviction by the city (again). The city has refused to support the residents in finding permanent housing despite the Philadelphia Housing Authority having about 5,000 vacant properties. The city’s choice to send cops against poor people has to stop. There’s a rally Sunday, 9/6 at 5PM at City Hall to demand #PhillyHousingNow, and the eviction date is Wednesday (9/9) if you feel like hitting the streets again! To get more info and updates about the encampment, follow @campjtd on Instagram.

In addition, while Temple has announced that most classes will remain online for the rest of the fall semester, there are still many concerns about Temple’s handling of the COVID outbreak:

  • Faculty who teach classes deemed “essential” are required to continue teaching in person;
  • Many students may choose to stay on campus and continue spreading the virus among their classmates, Temple’s essential employees, and our North Philadelphia neighbors;
  • In some schools, administrators have dramatically increased caps on class size to accommodate the increased demand for online classes without hiring more employees. Some instructors are teaching classes nearly twice as large as those they signed up to teach, with no increase in pay or promise of reprieve; 
  • Temple’s policy on who owns the recordings and other materials for teaching in the online courses we are teaching is contradictory and unclear, and possibly in conflict with the AAUP/AFT’s Principles and Standards for a Higher Education Response to COVID-19

As Temple continually argues for austerity while continuing to pay the largest campus police force in the U.S, the call to #defundtupd is more relevant than ever. This overpolicing of Temple’s campus and the surrounding neighborhood is unnecessary and harmful, especially considering that TUPD has a documented history of racist policing, reported in articles like this. Follow @defundtupd on twitter or instagram and support better priorities in the Temple budget!

We need to continue holding Temple accountable for its actions. This is more effective and safer for all of us if we do it collectively. If you’re not already on RAFT’s discussion list and you want to be, email raftcaucus@gmail.com asking to be added. If you are, keep an eye out for upcoming meetings where you can help plan our next steps!


 
Sign our RAFT list of demands here

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Why “Defund the Police”?

July 25, 2020

A PDF version of this bulletin can be read and downloaded here. To read RAFT’s full list of demands, click here.

What we mean when we say “defund the police” 

RAFT’s demand to defund the police is focused first and foremost on Temple administration taking the funds it currently channels into the Philadelphia Police and armed Temple Police, in any form, and reallocating those funds to education, student care, and rebuilding Temple’s damaged relationship with the surrounding North Philadelphia community.


Why you should support this demand

While it’s true that “defund the police” has become a rallying cry in the past few weeks, and universities across the country have been reacting by breaking their financial ties with metropolitan police departments, RAFT has explicitly set racial justice as a priority from its inception in March 2020. The recent turmoil in the US demonstrates that RAFT’s racial justice stance reflects a broader, simmering public opinion. Indeed, “defund the police” has become a mainstream demand. 

Furthermore, our demand to defund the police is inextricably linked to the rest of the RAFT demands. According to the most recent available data, Temple has the largest campus police force in the United States. The money that is spent training and maintaining that force could be reallocated to improving education for students by, for example, retaining adjunct jobs and investing in services that support students and the community. 

Most importantly, this issue is directly connected to the current struggles of contingent faculty – as well as students and other colleagues (not to mention the communities of North Philadelphia). Many of our students, colleagues, and neighbors are harassed by police and, in fact, find that their presence is a cause of insecurity, not safety. If students and faculty of color are under surveillance and under siege, that directly affects their ability to learn and to teach. For many faculty and students, especially those of color, police violence is a workplace and education safety issue. The broader community of North Philadelphia is also subject to abuse by police.

Ultimately, you should support this demand not because it seeks to ameliorate some abstract historical tension, but because it has a direct and immediate effect on the health and academic careers of your students and colleagues.


Do police make us safer?

In our conversations with students, it is clear that many are afraid of the police. Students who are sexually assaulted often do not want to involve campus police because they are harassed by those very same officers. Students of color are afraid to go through Temple student services for fear that their case may end up in the hands of the police. And yet we have seen how the Temple Police are ready when there’s a need to protect private property or the reputation of the university. Regardless of what the intentions of any individual officer might be, there is a culture and history that shape the way the police function as an institution.

We believe there are several layers to this. First, the police are increasingly militarized, and officers are indoctrinated to see people, especially in communities of color, as a potential threat. Second, at the same time that militarization of the police and overfunded police departments have become the norm over the last few decades – further entrenching the institution’s historical function of disciplining communities of color – “trickle down” economic policies and draconian cuts to public services and resources have devastated communities. Homelessness is criminalized, and drug addiction is treated as a crime rather than a public health issue. Vulnerable communities are made more vulnerable when resources are cut, then criminalized and over-policed for their vulnerability.

It is therefore the lack of resources and services that lead to high crime rates (for a given definition of “crime”), and police presence will only make these communities even more insecure because – third – in the absence of services and resources, we expect the police to respond to countless situations they are ill-equipped to handle. We expect them to do the work of social workers, counsellors, health care professionals, and many other kinds of specialists without any of the necessary training. And instead of sending them to the scene prepared for that kind of work, we send them to the scene with a gun, plus the fear that they will be attacked, plus the knowledge that they are practically immune if they do end up killing someone. These expectations are not only not fair to vulnerable communities that are over-policed and under-serviced; they are not fair to those individual police officers who genuinely want to protect people.

Finally, whatever are the stated goals of police departments, the reality is that they function to protect and preserve the status quo. There is a long history of white supremacist policing in Philadelphia,1 from as early as 1838 when white Philadelphians, with the tacit approval of the Committee on Police, burned down Pennsylvania Hall to stop an interracial meeting of abolitionists; to the racist policies of former police commissioner and mayor Frank Rizzo; and beyond. In 1964, tensions in North Philadelphia boiled over in response to police brutality against communities of color. In 1985, eleven people – including five children – were killed when police bombed a residential city street in West Philadelphia in an attempt to target the Black activist collective MOVE. Police attacked West Philadelphia again on May 31, 2020, essentially gassing an entire neighborhood.

In 1998, as police departments across the country were benefiting from the Clinton administration’s increased federal funds for police, the Committee of Seventy described the PPD as a “military-like organization” in the very first sentence of its overview of the department. In 2010, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a class action lawsuit over the PPD’s racist stop and frisk practices. CompStat, the statistical management tool used by the PPD to track crime, has been shown in the NYPD to have shaped the evolution of the police department into a machine that deliberately, explicitly, and systematically targets young black men in particular neighborhoods. In most police departments it’s not even safe for police officers, who may fear for their lives – their own comrades failing to rescue them from a dangerous situation, for example –  if they dare to speak up when they witness abuse.2 And, incidentally, increased militarization doesn’t keep police safe, either.

When you have a picture of the history from the beginning to the present all in one snapshot, it becomes easier to see how attempted reforms have done little to change the character and function of the institution. Ever since the Clinton administration, police departments across the country, including the PPD, have become more and more militarized as a result of “tough on crime” and “law and order” policies.3 And yet this has failed to make anyone any safer. In many cities and neighborhoods, the police have the character of an occupying force rather than the provider of a service to the community.

We’ve seen in recent weeks how the Philadelphia Police respond to peaceful protest, and we’ve seen an officer’s willingness to lie about his motivation for brutally beating a Temple engineering student. We’ve also seen countless examples of how quick police officers are to use pepper spray, unprovoked – including on an independent journalist and Temple graduate. Again, this is not a unique exigency of the current moment. Looking specifically at TUPD, two former Temple Police officers sued the university in 2018 for racial discrimination within the force. That same year, two former Temple police officers were sentenced for beating a woman to death in 2016.

There is a lack of transparency around the reports and operations of Temple Police, even vis-à-vis the PPD itself, and arrest rates by TUPD soar in the surrounding community compared to on-campus arrests. In 2017, Temple Police allegedly held a local high school student at gunpoint as part of a stop-and-frisk operation.

Many assert that the presence of a police force makes the campus and the community safe – but safe for whom? Safe from whom?


Temple’s ties to the Philadelphia Police Foundation

On June 26, President Englert sent out this uncharacteristically brief message:

In the past, Temple has provided a small amount of support to the Philadelphia Police Foundation through charitable donations. Upon review and community input, we have decided that the university will no longer provide this support.

Instead, Temple will reallocate these funds to support social justice programs at the university.

This shows how effective pressure put on the administration by student and alumni activists, and their allies in the community and among faculty, can be. The social media campaigns of student organizations and the open letters and petitions they circulated were immensely powerful. Englert’s message also came two days after the University of Pennsylvania made the same move, and not long after Englert’s June 7 email, which stated that despite demands from students and alumni to cut ties with the PPD, “We do not believe that doing so would be in the best interest of Temple students, faculty and staff, and our neighbors in the surrounding community.” 

Englert’s June 26 message thus appears to be a promising capitulation to the demands of students, alumni, faculty, and members of the community. At the same time, the brevity and timing of the message is concerning and raises many questions. What about Temple’s continued ties with the Philadelphia Police Department, referenced in Englert’s June 7 email? Will William T. Bergman, Vice President for Public Affairs at Temple, continue to sit on the board of the PPF?4 What about the Temple Police, whose sworn officers are trained by the PPD? What exactly is meant by “social justice programs”? And will Englert’s retirement void these messages, or will the Board of Trustees stand by them once a new President is selected? 

The Temple Police are basically an arm of the PPD. So as long as they exist, Temple is still funding policing in Philadelphia. We feel that President Englert’s June 26 message is an attempt to pacify us and put a halt to continued pressure on the administration. They want to avoid a fight, and to see the issue put to rest with minimal concessions on their part. We should not be placated by this gesture.

As of June 25, before Englert’s announcement, Temple University and Temple Health were two major partners of the Philadelphia Police Foundation (PPF). Patrick O’Connor, the former Chair of Temple’s Board of Trustees (until 2019) also sits on the board of the Philadelphia Police Foundation, which could help to explain why Temple has had such a close relationship with the PPF for so many years. According to the PPF website, the Foundation has raised nearly $1.5 million for the Philadelphia Police Department over the last three years, thanks to partners like Temple.5 This money has gone to pay for new long guns for the SWAT unit, ballistic helmets for the elite tactical SWAT unit, drones, and intelligence software, among other things.

Temple’s proposed budget for 2019-2020 includes $27.5 million for “campus safety,” a line that is not itemized any further. To put that dollar amount into some perspective, it is $10 million more than the entire budget for the College of Education. Yet there is no transparency on what exactly “campus safety” entails.

Perhaps most importantly, the one question that is consistently not addressed is why does Temple have these relationships with the police in the first place?


What should replace the police?

On a short-term, more superficial level, it should be clear by now that the money Temple spends on policing every year could be put toward job security for contingent faculty, or health benefits, or student services, or for underfunded departments like Africology. The current RCM budget model is not an excuse for failing to do the latter.

On a deeper level, the concept behind “defund the police” is that public safety and security are not guaranteed by policing and incarceration, but rather work to undermine it. Public safety and security, for everyone, requires investment in affordable housing, mental health services, social services, and civilian community interventions. We do not need the police to round up homeless people or arrest them for recycling too many aluminum cans. We do not need the police to terrorize children by disciplining or arresting them in their schools. We do not need police to stop and frisk local high school students. We do not need police with guns to show up to any situation that can be dealt with through peaceful means.

The cuts in services and social welfare that began in the 1980s continue to limit people’s choices and contribute to insecurity, which in turn has justified increases in police budgets to control what are seen as “crime-ridden” neighborhoods. But it is the lack of social safety nets, not the lack of police, that cause an increase in the type of crime that police on the street are asked to respond to. We believe that one of the most important aspects of the “defund the police” demand is not to simply limit funding to police, but to immediately reallocate that money to more appropriate programs and services that will help people rather than criminalize their existence.

For Temple, those reallocated funds could be put toward student services that are lacking, such as Tuttleman Counseling Services, the Cherry Pantry, Title IX, and Disability Services. In many ways the university is a microcosm of society – the police are expected to handle crises of all kinds, while the services that actually specialize in handling those crises languish. In terms of President Englert’s statement that “Temple will reallocate these funds to support social justice programs at the university,” RAFT supports the demands of the Temple Law Students for Equitable Responses to COVID-19 in their petition, including the demand to “Create a committee of community members, students and professors to determine which programs to support” with the reallocated funds.

We intend to elaborate on some of our visions for care and accountability in a post-police world in a future bulletin – but the above paragraphs provide a general idea of what we think that would initially look like.


Let’s demand that Temple live up to its stated ideals and defund the police

As part of its mission as a public university, one of Temple’s three ideals is “promoting service and engagement throughout Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the nation and the world.” The President of the University is supposed to work “closely with faculty, administrators, trustees, students and alumni to set the university’s goals and uphold its mission.” Temple claims to be an “essential resource to the surrounding community” and that it “remains a beacon of public service, social activism and community engagement.”

We therefore call on the Board of Trustees and the administration to ensure that Temple live up to these claims, and to its own mission statement. And make no mistake, actions will speak louder than words or empty gestures. As Rafael Walker, assistant professor of English at Baruch College in New York, wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

What universities can do to console their communities in the wake of tragedies is to explain what concrete steps they have taken in ensuring that these tragedies do not happen again. They should detail their commitments not to abstractions but to real groups of people and real departments and programs, in the form of allocations of finances and personnel.

As an educational institution, education should be Temple’s top priority – not policing. 


Organizations, petitions, and letters endorsed by RAFT

The Temple University Coalition for Change

Student-led Open Letter Demanding Temple University Withdraw Sponsorship to the Philadelphia Police Fund

Law Students for Equitable Responses to COVID-19 petition: Temple University, Defund Temple Police Department and Cut Ties with PPD (and its accompanying full letter to President Englert)

Africology Graduate Students’ letter to President Englert

Student-led petition for students and alumni to Boycott & Withhold Funds to Temple Until it Stops Funding the PPD

Defund TUPD


Notes
  1. See: Alexander Elkins, “‘At Once Judge, Jury, and Executioner’: Rioting and Policing in Philadelphia, 1838-1964,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, Spring 2014; and “Special Report: Black and Blue,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 2020.
  2. For more on this, listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of “The Crime Machine” by the podcast Reply All.
  3. See also the film The 13th on Netflix or on YouTube.
  4. See this web archive of the PPF website page listing its Board of Directors: https://web.archive.org/web/20191213204651/https://phillypolicefoundation.org/about/. Here he goes by the informal moniker “Bill” and is listed as Vice President & Chief of Staff, Office of the President.
  5. See this web archive of the PPF website page about its partners and what its partners’ donation money is spent on: https://web.archive.org/web/20191130222636/https://phillypolicefoundation.org/. Apparently, around June 13, the entire PPF website was taken down and every page replaced by a letter expressing outrage at the killing of George Floyd, outrage at attacks on police, and the declaration that policing must “get it right.” Also on this page is a statement of the PPF mission and an appeal for donations: https://phillypolicefoundation.org/. We still do not know how much of that $1.5 million was contributed by Temple.

Number 5 – June 22, 2020

A publication for faculty, campus staff, and students by the independent
Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus

I. Temple, Cut All Ties with the Philadelphia Police!
 
Can we empower ourselves without attacking the powers that be? Can we fight for autonomy at work without dismantling the hierarchies that keep all workers pliable and profitable? No! We succeed only by destroying—in concert with others—white supremacy, patriarchy, the wage system, imperialism, whatever they use to preserve the existing order. RAFT will never restrict its struggle to the workplace proper. RAFT will conjugate the fight for our jobs and better working conditions with Black Liberation struggles, decolonization movements, Indigenous struggles, and the struggles of any oppressed community seeking self-determination. 
 
Of course, it’s far from clear what it would mean to conjugate our struggle with the struggles of others. Come experiment with us! If anything, RAFT is a space for working out in practice, always provisionally, what it might mean to bind our liberation to the liberation of all. This much is clear: we fight to make Temple a tuition-free, truly public university. We also fight to divest totally from the PPD and abolish it outright.
 
There’s no grasping the dynamics of worker exploitation without grasping how capitalism relies upon the production and preservation of racial hierarchies. RAFT sees the connections between police brutality, racism, inadequate healthcare, worker exploitation, and imperialist violence. Part of our work as a radical caucus is to re-center the labor struggle: no more can it neglect the struggles against all forms of oppression.
 
We can’t fight for ourselves and the working class as a whole without fighting the State’s perpetuation of racism and racist violence. That means abolishing the police.
 
II. Temple’s Response and TAUP’s Response
 
Temple’s Administration is not listening to the uprising. Nor is it listening to its students, alumni, workers, or the community. All are clear: divest from the PPD. Students are tired of navigating (in their words) a “militarized” campus—to say nothing of navigating a city besieged by a militarized PPD. 
 
TAUP is not listening to the uprising. We need to abolish the police and expel police unions from the labor movement; we demand that TAUP and AFT adopt these demands. To call for “reform” is to capitulate in advance. Should we let the State define the horizon of possibility? Do we ask the ruling class to reform that which secures their advantage? Why would they ever listen to us?
 
We stand with our students’ demand: sever all ties; defund the police. If Temple’s Administration is serious about advocating “for antiracist policies at the local, state and federal levels,” it can start by divesting from the PPD. Or did the Administration mean to “advocate” in speech only, never in deed?
 
III. Plan for Fall
 
Were any of you consulted about the “plan for fall”? Neither were we! This is exactly what needs to change. It’s our health that’s at risk. Is it right that we have no say? Why can’t we decide democratically what to do? If we want to have control in our workplace, we must confront the forces bent on controlling us.  
 
 
Please join our next General Meeting on Friday, 06/26 at 3:00 on Zoom to discuss the fight for racial justice in our union.


 
Sign our RAFT list of demands here

Like us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RAFTCaucus/

And follow us on twitter: https://twitter.com/RAFTcaucus

Number 4 – June 4, 2020

A publication for faculty, campus staff, and students by the independent
Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus

RAFT is a caucus in the union for Temple faculty, librarians, and academic professionals, TAUP, and it is committed to the practice of democracy and rank-and-file mobilization across our campus. Our goal is to build a stronger union at Temple now, defend our jobs, and fight for better working conditions for all. We want all Temple workers to be rehired next year.

RAFT stands in solidarity with the protesters in the fight against racism and police violence. We stand in solidarity with all workers and the oppressed here and around the world in the struggle against exploitation and injustice.

Support our statement of solidarity with the protesters and our call to defund the police!

Temple has recently declared that the university will open in the fall. The administration took this step without the consent of workers and students. It is completely unclear how the measures put in place (such as social distancing) can be implemented, given that many of the classrooms are small and people have to use elevators to move around. It is also unclear how people can be expected to risk their and their families’s lives by returning to work. We do not want to be forced to go back to campus if it is not safe for everyone.

Please join us to discuss the situation at our next general meeting, and read the report below about our last general meeting. 

Next General Meeting: Friday, 06/12 3:00PM

Visit our website: https://raftcaucus.org/

Like us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RAFTCaucus/

And follow us on twitter: https://twitter.com/RAFTcaucus

The Rank-and-File Caucus at Temple (RAFT) held its first general meeting on May 14. In this Zoom call that included 40+ people, the discussion centered on how to organize higher education workers in the current crisis and beyond. The focus in smaller groups was on the austerity measures that universities such as CUNY, the University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins have already put in place, on the situation at Temple, and on the fear of adjuncts losing their positions starting in the fall. 

The contributions during the meeting were animated — not surprising given the fact that the university “asked” the union to give up the recently negotiated wage increase as soon as the shelter-in-place measure was in effect. Some adjunct faculty in Temple’s College of Liberal Arts have already had their classes taken away. 

The most pressing issue right now is the looming threat to adjunct jobs. What happens if Temple decides to follow CUNY’s example and terminate all adjuncts before fall enrollments are even complete? What are we going to do? How can we prevent that from happening? It is clear that we need to strategize together, and we need to do that now. We demand: Rehire everybody!

Another central concern was health and safety. As we face the re-opening of the economy and Temple’s plan to return to campus in the fall, we want our employer to prioritize the wellbeing of teachers, staff, and students over more tuition dollars. Nobody should be forced to return to campus unless those working and learning at our school agree that it is safe to do so. No re-opening without the consent of faculty and all fellow workers! Faculty should not feel under pressure to return to conditions they understand as possibly unsafe in order to keep their jobs. Such policies are also ageist and ableist.

If there is a decrease in enrollment, and it is by no means clear that there will be, then now is the time to reduce class sizes permanently. Smaller classes means better education. This is particularly urgent in an online environment but true for all classes. 

At the same time, all faculty, librarians, and staff must be retained. In this time of crisis, it is unconscionable for universities to undertake to fire contingent faculty, the most exploited workforce in higher ed. Faculty who “refuse” to teach an in-person class (out of concern for their health) should have the option to teach online—and be eligible still for unemployment benefits. Paid sick leave for all Temple workers unable to work!

Other major concerns that were raised in the meeting include questions about:

  • Intellectual property: Why are we being asked to record our zoom sessions?
  • Compensation for extra work and extra costs: Why should the costs of the additional labor involved in the transition to online and the “operational costs” incurred through working from home: childcare, electricity, technology, etc. be offloaded on us? 
  • Drift toward all-online teaching: Will classes be permanently moved online? The administration has inquired about which classes could be taught without any face-to-face contact, which suggests that there are plans to drastically increase online-only course offerings after the pandemic, which we do not see as being in the interest of the students.

There were also discussions about RAFT and TAUP. Questions that came up included:

  • How can RAFT wage a better fight than has been the case for adjuncts and NTTs? If the last contract has not effectively wrested any real concessions from the university, how can we increase our strength as a union through and after the crisis? How can we foster an atmosphere in the union that resists the divide-and-conquer strategy of the administration? How can we build solidarity among adjuncts, NTTs, TTs, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates?
  • What can TAUP do better in the way of defending its members against exploitation and attacks from the administration? What can our caucus do, for example, by drawing on the experiences and expertise of other caucuses in other unions, such as the WE Caucus in the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers? 
  • How can we democratize TAUP through rank-and-file organizing? And how will RAFT work with the elected leadership of TAUP to pursue our common goals?

Beyond these immediate and urgent concerns, the RAFT meeting confirmed that Temple faculty want job security for everyone, especially adjuncts, who currently have none. The Ph.D. requirement for full-time positions should be lifted, and adjuncts should be given real consideration in applications for full-time positions. Adjuncts should not be prevented from teaching more than two classes per semester. Workload reduction, shared governance, and transparency with regard to the university’s finances are critically necessary, but we cannot wait for the board or the administration to give them to us; we must organize collectively and demand them.

We want a university that truly cares about the quality of the education it offers, about its students, and about its workers. Temple has received $28 million stimulus money to benefit its students. We feel this time of transition and risk is the time for the university to protect its entire community going forward and to strengthen our ties to one another. 

Join us at our next meeting, and organize with us this summer. We want your ideas and your input. 

Email us: raftcaucus@gmail.com

Statement of Solidarity with #justiceforgeorgefloyd

June 3, 2020

Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus is in solidarity with the protest movement that has erupted around the country to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and all victims of police violence. 

Systems of higher education have long produced and protected white supremacy and settler colonialism implicated in police violence. As workers at Temple University, which has its own history of perpetuating oppression and suffering of Black and Brown people, we have a responsibility to end white supremacy and to create a university that serves the common good. 

We are committed to political education and direct action in fighting racial capitalism. We are committed to the struggle of oppressed, Black and Brown, Indigenous, poor, and working-class people who take to the streets in fear and rage, in mourning and healing. We are committed to anti-racist, anti-capitalist, abolitionist education.

As union members, we are in solidarity with workers using their power and refusing to collaborate with police to further terrorize those protesting. We believe that organized labor must address its relationship to police and the protection of private property. Unions everywhere must denounce the violent repression of the protestors and condemn the police, which serve our employers’ interests, not ours.

We call on Temple University to withdraw its partnership with the Philadelphia Police Foundation and stop raising money for the city’s militarized police force. And we call for the city of Philadelphia to defund the police and invest in public health and essential city services to improve the conditions of the people. 

In solidarity and struggle,

Members of RAFT Caucus
https://raftcaucus.org/

Number 3 – May 5, 2020

A publication for faculty, campus staff, and students by the independent
Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus

Temple has more than enough money to pay us and pay us well

Temple University is a wealthy institution. Its annual operating expenses are ~$1.3 billion (excluding “patient care”); it’s been generating a nice annual “profit” (of ~$100 million). Not bad, for a non-profit institution!

You’d be forgiven, however, for not considering it wealthy. After all, you know how it treats its workers. There’s a tension at Temple’s core: those who generate its value are not valued themselves. But for the administration this “contradiction” poses no problem. Indeed, they would heighten it further: threatening us with pay-cuts and termination; refusing to extend “benefits”; “negotiating” a terrible contract; forcing us to do more with less.

Yes, the administration is taking a 10-20% “pay-cut” (excluding bonuses). But what is 10% of an obscene salary? What’s the difference between ~$670,000 and ~$530,000, when you factor in the “extra” annual compensation of ~$200,000? President Englert and his baker’s dozen of vice presidents make ~$6.8 million (collectively). No one comes to Temple because of the administration! And yet the administration has job security, benefits, and more-than-adequate compensation. Why can’t we say the same for all faculty and staff?

Austerity is a choice. Temple has more than enough money to pay us and pay us well. Temple’s administration demands a 5% budget cut (2019-2020 budget was ~$1.3 billion, 5% of which is ~$64 million). It’s absurd for the administration to claim that it can no longer afford those whose work enriches Temple. There are options other than austerity. Here’s what we propose:

  1. Use the endowment! In 2016, Temple’s “endowment” exceeded $500 million. Presently, it seems to be valued at ~$650 million. On the model of the “Fox Fund,” TU workers should manage democratically all of the endowment. If they can give students partial control of the endowment, they can give workers total control of it. Why should anyone other than us control it? Temple also has an “Emergency Fund.” Does this seem like an “emergency” to you all? Let’s use that fund to ensure that no one is fired.
  2. Temple is receiving $28 million from the CARES Act. By law, 50% of it must benefit students. What better way to “benefit students” than to retain all presently-employed faculty, whether full-time or part-time? What better way to benefit students than to compensate adequately faculty and staff? Temple is “freezing tuition” for next year (in-state tuition is ~$16,000, out-of-state tuition ~$29,000). This is not enough. Why has the administration been increasing tuition? Why indeed, if not to pad a surplus which (surprise!) never seems to “trickle down” to students or workers? We would not only lower tuition but (eventually) abolish it outright. In sum, half of the $28 million should be used to lower tuition, the other half to give raises to all faculty and staff.
  3. The combined budgets of the offices of the president, the provost, the vice president, CFO, and Treasurer is ~$37 million (CLA’s budget is ~$78 million). How can they justify their budget, if all they can cook up is austerity? Here’s an idea: slash all administrative compensation by 90% (saving ~$6 million). Then slash the budgets of the above offices by two-thirds. Along with the CARES Act, this will make up for the entire “budget shortfall” and leave extra for worker raises.

That’s how to run a public university! For more, visit our website.

And please take our short survey on job security concerns and organizing possibilities during this crisis!

Finally, reach out to RAFT to get involved!

Number 2 – April 20, 2020

A publication for faculty, campus staff, and students by the independent
Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus

The administration’s plan is austerity

Is this the right time to fight for better working conditions at Temple? RAFT says Yes! We believe that now is the time to defend ourselves against intensifying exploitation and to demand necessary changes. In the face of the current crisis, the administration has a plan: austerity. Besides sacrificing our lives and livelihoods for “the bottom line,” the ruling class would use this crisis to seize more power. Do we have to accept that? Can we refuse together the logic of austerity? We can—so long as we stand in solidarity with one another and with workers everywhere.

We won’t let them use this crisis to exploit us further. We demand:

  • no wage cuts, no layoffs, no furloughs;
  • job security, sick leave, and health benefits;
  • extra pay for extra work (compensation for online transition);
  • smaller classes (which will help us to teach effectively online);
  • honor the contract (vote No on any changes to the current contract);
  • any cuts must affect administrative salaries and expenditures only.

We’re pleased that TAUP leaders seem to agree with most of these demands. You may ask: “But RAFT, what can I do to make everyone agree with your demands?” Great question! Join us!

The most vulnerable have been hit the hardest by this crisis. This is no accident. When the market demands a sacrifice, the ruling class offers up those who can afford least to resist. Universities are no different. In the coming months, we expect assaults on all workers but especially on the most precariously-employed amongst us: maintenance staff, adjunct faculty, administrative workers. We cannot let this happen. Together, we can fight for better working conditions for all.

As we approach summer session and the fall semester, we expect the administration to try to negotiate with our union. They will demand that we give up something to help everyone “weather the storm.” Having expressed appreciation for the “great job” transitioning online (read: free labor), the administration will give us the “choice” between forgoing long-overdue raises or accepting outright wage-cuts and lay-offs. How generous!

RAFT says: “This is a false choice; we reject these premises.” The university has enough money not only to continue to employ us all but to pay us what we deserve—no more poverty wages for “contingent” faculty. RAFT opposes concessions of any kind. No to all forms of blackmail! We will not “choose” between wage-cuts for full-time faculty or layoffs for adjunct faculty.

Our new contract must remain binding. We must not only defend the extremely modest gains made but continue to fight for all the members of our union, especially, of course, for part-time faculty whose deplorable treatment at this school was not helped in any way by the new contract. Future bulletins will detail our ideas about what can be done. Come share your own ideas with us, and help us make Temple University a place where learning and workers come first!

Number 1 – April 8, 2020

A publication for faculty, staff, and students by the independent
Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus

Must every crisis benefit the bosses? Will faculty, campus staff, and students have to pay for this one? No! Now is the time to organize in defense of our common interests as Temple workers and students against the university’s administrators.

Those in charge often use crises to impose austerity measures and undermine working conditions. Temple is no exception. For many, conditions are already unbearable because of low wages and a lack of health benefits, child-care, and job security. Yet President Englert is now demanding 5% spending cuts across the board. The cuts could mean layoffs, increased class sizes, and tuition hikes.

The president’s call for cuts comes after Temple’s administrators and managers forced some workers to keep coming to work far longer than necessary, needlessly endangering them. In fact, the Office of Business Services demanded that on-campus vendors keep paying rent even after the transition to online classes, thus adding pressure to keep workers reporting to campus. And administrators foisted extra, unpaid work on faculty and embroiled students in chaos with very little time to prepare for the transition online. Does the administration live in such “rarefied climes” that they could be ignorant of these struggles? Or do they have such contempt for us that they couldn’t care less? Either way, we have a problem!

We need to be ready. Now is the time to organize for the kind of university we want — and to fight back against the cuts and layoffs looming on the horizon. 

We believe Temple has the resources to weather this crisis without harming our community of students, teachers, and workers. In full support of TAUP’s and TUGSA’s requests, we also put forth the following immediate demands:

  • No lay-offs or furloughs!
  • Paid sick leave for all Temple workers!
  • Additional pay for additional work!
  • Smaller classes, especially online! 

All workers, all students are in this together; all of us are under attack from the bosses; all of us need a university that works for us. Now is the time for all of our coworkers and students to organize democratic committees, in every department and section of campus, to fight against the cuts, including preparing to slow, disrupt, or stop our work. 

And now is the time to join the Rank-and-File Caucus to combine our power.