Kirstein Only Full-time Faculty Member Named in St Xavier’s Appeal of NLRB Pro-Adjunct Ruling

As previously blogged, St Xavier University is appealing the NLRB regional office in Chicago’s decision to assert jurisdiction in the union organising efforts of adjunct faculty. St Xavier’s appeal is formally titled: “Saint Xavier University’s Request for Review of the Regional Director’s Decision and Direction of Election.” The case number is 13-RC-22025 and was filed June 9, 2011 CE. As mentioned in my previous blog, when I was under cross from the university attorney, I was asked about a conversation I had with S. Sue Sanders concerning the Medallion Ceremony that is explained in both that post and below as cited in their formal appeal. I found it interesting that I am the only full-time faculty member at Saint Xavier University who is named in their quest to overturn the NLRB ruling. This despite my lack of engagement with this issue until I received a subpoena some seventeen hours or so before I arrived at the hearing.

César Chávez: epic figure who fought heroically to organise Mexican-American agricultural workers into the United Farm Workers in California. Roman Catholics have a rich and storied tradition of supporting organised labour.

I do not recall asking anyone to “rewrite” anything. So that is just wrong. I probably suggested a reconsidering of the agenda but did not know it was “written” as if it were a script. I do recall as I testified that some faculty felt the ceremony lacked diversity and ecumenism given the disparate religious traditions or non-traditions on our campus. We have faculty and students from various religious backgrounds in which a sizeable number are not Roman Catholic. Neither students nor faculty are required to be Roman Catholic on this campus. The campus is non-creedal. No creed or faith is required for any member except possibly the president given Ex Corde Ecclesiae’s preferencing the Roman Catholic orientation of a Catholic university’s president.

I did not attempt to distance myself from the comments I heard from some faculty who attended the ceremony and others who do not attend due to a sense of alienation from the religiosity of the occasion. I dispute the university’s contention that faculty are “expected to attend.” That is not the case. We are invited. We are asked if we wish to reserve a cap and gown in our size and academic specialty. We are not ordered to attend; there is no contractual obligation to attend; there is no collective bargaining agreement proviso that requires us to attend. Every announcement that I have seen is an “invitation” and not a mandate or order to attend.

The conversation as I testified was collegial and respectful. While I would have preferred another topic with a Sister of Mercy nun in her office on our campus, I feel that any issue of an ethical or moral nature can be discussed with senior officials if it is relevant, respectful and related to mission. In fact at the end of the conversation, S. Sue said she “would take it before the cabinet or leadership team.” I can’t recall the specific phrase but it was clear she decided to communicate my concerns to the president’s inner circle. I do not know if they were or not but I was led to believe that the raising of this issue would be communicated to other senior officials of the university.

From SXU’s appeal:

“The university hosts a Medallion Ceremony each year, during which it welcomes new students and presents them with a medallion and a prayer book. Faculty are expected to attend the Ceremony and wear their academic robes. Several university leaders, including the President, the Vice President for University Mission and Heritage, and a member of the faculty, speak at the ceremony. For the past several years, as part of the Ceremony, Sister Sue Sanders, R.S.M., has explained the University’s Catholic tradition, its Sisters of Mercy heritage, and the significance of the medallion to the new students. The medallion has the university’s seal and motto on the front, and a quote from the Constitutions (sic) of Sisters of Mercy on the back. One full time faculty member, Peter N. Kirstein, recently reported to Sister Sue Sanders, R.S.M., the University Secretary and Vice President for University Mission and Heritage, that other faculty had told him that they found the Medallion ceremony to be “excessively religious.” He suggested she re-write (sic) parts of the ceremony to make it less religious. {p. 24: pagination references to the transcript are deleted, emphasis added, my complete name included.}

For those who are somewhat unfamiliar with certain terms I produce a little glossary:

Adjuncts: They are generally highly trained and skilled academicians who are hired on a per-course basis. They are not tenure track and generally are at will employees without any job security or benefits. They are the most exploited of any class of instructors in post-secondary education. On many campuses they have organised into unions with collective bargaining rights. At Columbia College, Roosevelt University, Illinois State and Northeastern Illinois University they have either formed their own unions or are a component of a larger faculty union.

NLRB: During the glorious New Deal of the 1930s, the coming of age of unionisation emerged. Section 7 (a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, declared unconstitutional in the Schechter case of 1935, was briefly labour’s magna carta. Then the epic National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935 that gave workers the right to join a union, to engage in collective bargaining and the right to organise without retaliation. The act established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to conduct elections for union representation and adjudicate unfair labour practice complaints. 1935 was the same year as the passage of the Social Security Act! In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted that required in certain jobs time and a half be paid for overtime, a minimum wage and limits on child labour in interstate commerce.

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