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union forum slides

2/23/2012: I’ve had requests for Michael Raymer’s slides from the union forum. He sent them along, 4 pages, here, with this explanation:

My Conclusions from the Data:

There is an undeniable inverse correlation between tenure-track faculty (TTF) unionization and average school quality. (Presence of union correlates to lower ranking.)

Of course, causality is not indicated. Does low quality lead to unions, or do unions lead to low quality, or neither?

The question we should ask ourselves:

If UO wants to strive to increase its quality, should it associate itself with the top schools, the vast majority of which are not TTF unionized? Or with the lower-tier schools, where nearly all of the unions exist?

I’m happy to post more figures/links/data if people send them to me. Slide 1:


  1. Michael Raymer 02/24/2012

    My Conclusions from the Data:

    There is an undeniable inverse correlation between tenure-track faculty (TTF) unionization and average school quality. (Presence of union correlates to lower ranking.)

    Of course, causality is not indicated. Does low quality lead to unions, or do unions lead to low quality, or neither?

    The question we should ask ourselves:

    If UO wants to strive to increase its quality, should it associate itself with the top schools, the vast majority of which are not TTF unionized? Or with the lower-tier schools, where nearly all of the unions exist?

    • Anonymous 02/24/2012

      I’m pretty skeptical of unionization, but in the name of intellectual rigor I have to say I don’t find these particular data very convincing. There are lots of 3rd variables to consider, some of which are already pretty well known. For example, private universities are blocked from having faculty unions (NLRB v. Yeshiva), and privates have a number of advantages that allow them to do better on rankings. I realize private vs. public doesn’t account for everything on this figure, but it’s a pretty potent example of how such correlations might be undiagnostic. (And by similar logic, we want to “associate with” top-tier schools, shouldn’t we abandon our public mission and go private?)

    • Michael Raymer 02/25/2012

      Note that every point on the horizontal axis is one school, whether called out by a name box or not. So this is a large data set, that is, every school (318) ranked or listed unranked by US News and World Report. You can find their complete rank list easily online (although it is not searchable).

  2. Anonymous 02/24/2012

    Dog says

    I am not sure this plot does anything more than illustrate what we already know;
    The UO does not place well on the X-axis by this agency. I seriously doubt
    that if Harvard got unionized, they would migrate towards larger numbers on
    the X-axis. The only thing I would conclude that if X > 50, the higher the probability that a union forms but the existence of a union, I don’t believe,
    determines your position on the X-axis.

    If the UO wants to increase its quality then it needs to

    a) get more graduate students
    b) build better classrooms
    c) have smaller classes
    d) start moving toward more interdisciplinary undergrad degree programs
    e) greatly improve its faculty-to-student ratio (no matter how you count it)

    if the union can facilitate these 5 points, that would be great.

    • Anonymous 02/24/2012

      This comparison also fails to take into account the fact that tenure-related faculty at private colleges and universities cannot unionize, whether they want to or not, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva (1980). So let’s compare institutions that are comparable, and exclude Harvard, Northwestern, and Duke from the listing.

    • Anonymous 02/25/2012

      I’ll agree with the importance of the points mentioned, although I think “d” is underway both inside established departments and in new programs. (Some of those are really vehicles for pulling tuition money away from established faculty units, but I digress.) A union could present faculty demands on the other issues but their remit really covers faculty pay and working conditions so you’d have to couch it in those terms. Student needs, even as we identify them, get sacrificed early and often whether or not there’s a union.

      Regarding grad students: we don’t need more of them, we need better funding (higher levels and more fellowship support) so we can get the best grads to actually come here. That will build a better research profile, but that requires investment, and there we have not only administrative resistance but additional problems concerning the need to bring the GTFF in on the discussions. Right now there’s plenty of push to get more grad students, but the intent is (speaking from English here) to use them as cheap creators of tuition dollars (the WR course sequence) and work them like adjuncts to the very limit of the GTFF contract. At the same time so many grads come in, without any concomitant increase in quality via University investment in faculty and resources, that the value of the degree on the job market rapidly falls.

    • Anonymous 02/25/2012

      dog says

      given that our grad student participation is down at 13%, way below
      the Carnegie I research university threshold of 20% and well below
      the average of 30% for top flight research universities (e.g. UW,
      Michigan, etc) we do actually need more and having more fellowhip
      support would help.

      Disqualification of Carnegie I status actually precludes the UO from
      participating in certain grant programs.

    • Anonymous 03/01/2012

      Point taken–I’d been thinking more in the local backyard and not across the UO as I ought. But dog is as so often the case right–we need the funds to do either. If we had that, we could have more grads AND effectively better support. But it will be harder to expand numbers before quality I suspect, and both may turn on institutional support PERIOD.

  3. Anonymous 02/24/2012

    The idea that UO should “associate itself with the top schools” by *refraining* from some action — in this case, establishing a union — makes no sense in the absence of any credible proposals to improve our quality. Now that the New Partnership is dead, there are no such proposals, nothing to get Dog’s 5 points done, or anything else for that matter.

  4. Anonymous 02/24/2012

    Wow – finally some hard data. I’ll pass on the union.

    • Anonymous 02/24/2012

      Really hard data? I’m kind of amazed that intellectuals accept data that claims no causality as hard proof. Very scientific!

  5. Anonymous 02/24/2012

    I think this correlation analysis is “stupid statistics.” Yes, there MIGHT be a causation. But there was no evidence presented of causation, just a correlation. And the data set is tiny. This is like graphing which excellent Universities have more than 50% out of state students. There can be a dozen reasons for why a university has more or fewer students from out of state. Just off the top of my head there is marketing, location, state policies on enrollment, AND excellent academic programs that weigh into whether a non-local student attends a University.

  6. Anonymous 02/24/2012

    If one track down when the schools unionized, and data from the chronicle, I will construct credible counterfactual estimates of the effect of unionization on salary profiles.

  7. Anonymous 02/24/2012

    First off, I’m suspicious of anything published by USN&WR. Usually simplified for their lower-end
    readers. More data is needed, like faculty/student ratios, funding per student, graduate programs
    and enrollment, sponsored research funding, faculty salaries, faculty support, dept rankings, entrance
    standards, facilities, etc. I suspect that several of the schools on the far right are lacking in these
    key metrics. In other words, poorly supported. And years of poor support led to a faculty union. Sort
    of a last gasp by those faculty that didn’t bail out after all else failed to improve the situation over
    the years. And thus we can see UO’s future in that graph, unless something major happens to reverse
    course. Look at it this way: If funding and governance are good, faculty and staff treated right,
    including above average pay and benefits, then who would want to unionize? I sure wouldn’t. But at UO
    we’ve heard the same old line for over 30-years about the administration improving salaries. Instead,
    we’ve seen the retirement benefits head south and the pay remains below par while the JH people
    reward themselves with monthly beamer payments, UO paid family vacations to away football games,
    retirement golden parachutes, extraordinary raises, etc. Not to mention all the shenanigans related
    to Athletics.

  8. Anonymous 02/24/2012

    After granting that the data shows nothing at all about causation, Professor Raymer suggests that UO can “improve its quality” by “associat[ing] itself with the top schools” by not unionizing. This smuggles an assumption about causation back in with no evidence whatsoever. The tacit assumption that United Academics doesn’t care about quality is entirely unjustified.

    The data in the graph are questionable as well. The U.S. News rankings are pretty dubious, and it’s worth noting that since the Yeshiva University Supreme Court decision of 1980, most major private university full-time faculty don’t have the legal right to organize and bargain collectively. Moreover, many states severely restrict collective bargaining for public employees, so many state university faculties don’t have the liberty to choose collective bargaining.

    I hope our faculty recognizes the advantages of collective bargaining, an enhanced voice in Salem and an added stakeholder in determining the direction of the University of Oregon and in enhancing its quality.

    • Anonymous 02/25/2012

      Rereading the initial post here, it appears that “anonymous,” not Michael Raymer, is the author of the comments about “associating ourselves” with higher-ranked schools by rejecting collective bargaining. As the author of the above post, my apologies to Professor Raymer for associating him with the questionable logic in the remarks under his slide.

    • Michael Raymer 02/25/2012

      Actually, I think you were correct the first time. I did post the comment both above and below the slide, referring as “My Conclusions from the Data.” I stated it as a rhetorical question, “If UO wants to strive to increase its quality, should it associate itself with the top schools, the vast majority of which are not TTF unionized? Or with the lower-tier schools, where nearly all of the unions exist?” I wanted to leave it open to more careful analysis, as posters here have done admirably. But, knowing where I stand on the issue (opposed), one can guess how I answer the question.

      Note that if you click on the link, you get all four slides, which contain much more information than the cropped slide above.

  9. Anonymous 02/25/2012

    As someone who has first-hand experience of Rutgers’ AAUP-AFT chapter, the union may be one of the few reasons why the university has remained as highly ranked as it is. The union served as a bulwark against administration attempts to sidestep faculty governance and faculty voice against the move to ever greater numbers of adjunct faculty, assured that grad students (the only unit where they are part of the same union as faculty) got raises to a living wage, and generally fought against administrative fiat. It wasn’t perfect–administrators still found ways around it, and have done incredible damage to the research mission of the university by attacking whatever funding wasn’t shielded from them–but it could have been so very, very much worse. It may yet go south, if Chris Christie gets his way, but union membership did pretty well by us.

    I agree that “USN&WR Rankings” are suspect as a measure. Even if one accepts them as useful, you have to define which ranking you’re talking about. It varies from program to program. As for the public vs. private issue, that’s also a valid one to consider; they’re not under the same strictures regarding unionization. What is it about a union that people think will somehow bar faculty from doing good research, from getting grants, and from defending standards for teaching and research? The only argument with any water that I’ve heard is that it will somehow “poison our working relationship with the administration and the OUS.” But we’re already under rule by fiat and open mismanagement from that angle, without any meaningful voice to oppose it, so the alternative is apparently to ignore the poisoning already going on. Unionization won’t magically fix everything (it still takes work, after all) but if it gives just a little pause to the Pernsteiners of the world, I’ll pay those dues and happily so.

  10. Anonymous 02/27/2012

    Yikes, so, this is what happens when you have a research university without a statistics department.

    • Anonymous 02/28/2012

      Statistical Dog says

      The RaymerGram is a qualitative visual representation of how schools
      separate in the USN&WR Rankings – that’s it. There is nothing there you can
      do statistics on. I do plan to make some diagrams that you can do statistics on.

    • Anonymous 02/28/2012

      Isn’t the point that we’re looking for association between predictors and school quality? The whole sad joke of the Raymer/Keyes diagram is picking a variable at random to display correlation rather than building a model from an honest analysis over a rich data set.

      Once you start associating with statisticians, your whole world view changes.

      (and god forbid you ever use the word random incorrectly!)

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