URGENT: Support Job Security for College Teachers
Response to article on South Asia search
i lend you my name


Dear Friends and Supporters,

Once again, thank you for your support of me personally, and worker's rights and Lecturer's Policy Reform. There is good reason for optimism, for my future and for policy reform. Please beware of taking "the Administration" as a monolith. The University, and its representatives, speak with many voices.

What happened? What next? Did we lose, or are we winning? If the latter, how can we claim our victory? Can I share in this victory, or will I be shunted aside? These are good questions, for me and for us all. The truth is, I don't know, for sure, and you will get an incomplete picture from anyone you ask. One way to find out might be to litigate, but only the lawyers would benefit, and we might not get at "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," in any case. Washington University is changing, and people, especially mid-level administrators and program chairs, are trying to hang onto their pieces of turf, their little fiefs, by any means necessary. I am not sure I want to know exactly what happened.

In Autumn 2004 I was given some pointed "political advice" not to talk to the Deans, then in Spring 2006 I was invited to "cook up something" and become an Assistant Dean! I was invited to teach even more courses in University College and Summer School, and continue my work with student clubs, perhaps taking a dormitory staff position to do so. Taking this advice, I went directly to my students for support, as is natural for a college teacher. I believed this was what I was being asked to do. Even now, when my courses are no longer listed by University College nor approved for the Summer Scholars' Program, I work for Washington University and my home Department, Religious Studies, on temporary unpaid sabbatical. Actually, I always worked for my students, not for any institution but for my community, and I will continue to do so.

I have no reason to doubt the story I was told, that RS was pressured from above to cut my position, for mainly political reasons (this was very strongly suggested). Please see my open letter, posted about this time last year (2006), "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." After that, I don't think any one person knows what is going on, or why, because everybody seems to be passing the buck.

Two scenarios seem plausible. First, it may be that the plan (of the core Religious Studies faculty, minus me of course, and/or the expanded RS group) was to give their one Lectureship to Professor Schwiebert, and replace me with a tenure-track job, a position for which I was as good as told I need not apply. I was told the decision came from the top down, from one of the Deans, and RS begged to keep me AND the new South Asian religion position. The Dean said no, they could not have both the tenure-track position and the Lectureship. Why, then, does RS still have a Lectureship in Religious Studies, now held by Professor Schwiebert? If this scenario is true, I was not told the truth.

The second scenario is more ominous: we (me and my students in the "Save Bauer" campaign) really won, and the victory was stolen. The Administration gave RS both the new Assistant Professorship in South Asian religion, and the Lectureship held by me for eight years. Instead of giving me back my old job (all I asked for, based on a conservative reading of the student petition), RS stuck to their position that the Lectureship was always a "pre-tenure track" job, to be awarded at will to whomever they please. After all, my predecessor, Diane Mines, held a post-doctoral fellowship for two years, then left to take an Assistant Professor position, leaving me with the Lectureship created to replace her position. In other words, the Lecturer's Policy (which does not distinguish between "pre-tenure track" Lectureships and any other kind) need not be respected. They assumed I was bluffing, and I must have had other job offers or possibilities (e.g. the rumored job at Florida State). If forced to do so, I would give up and leave, and they could tell the students "Dr. Bauer got a better job." Their refusal to honor their promise to keep me teaching here in the evening school would have been intended as a strong signal for me to give up and leave. If this scenario is true, I was "played," used to expand the Program, then discarded, hardly ethical behavior. My continued presence here would now be an embarrassment, and a threat, to those responsible.

What is going on now? Everybody is repositioning. I keep hearing, "You were just collateral damage," "It was nothing personal," "They were just trying to save their jobs, doing SOMETHING, changing the direction of the RS Program' [but if RS has a "direction," isn't it theology, or something similar?], "What hurt you was your talk of a union," etc., but many faculty are expressing their solidarity with me, and their sympathy. "There was nothing we could do" is simply not true. Even now, they can do the right thing. Petty shots taken at me, such as the urgent demands that I turn in all my keys before my summer teaching is over, or the attempt to steer students away from my last summer course (I have the document to prove it), seem the desperate last acts of people in some political trouble (attempts to blame all this on the office staff, or on arm-twisting from higher up, or on the collective will of the entire RS faculty, minus me of course, ring hollow in the middle of the summer). This University is changing. Especially at the middle management level, some are going up, and some are coming down. For my own part, I vote "no confidence" to the current RS collective leadership (no specific individual, because they all seem to be passing the buck). The sooner we have a change, the better. In my opinion, the MLA Program, Summer School, International and Area Studies, and Focus Programs are in need of change as well. I do not expect you all to agree with me on this, and I don't want to risk losing support for the cause of Lecturer's Policy Reform over this.

What do I want you to do? In autumn: Please, take my cfu-lc.com courses, I need the money. You can all afford it, we have a sliding scale! Please consider teaching for us too, and help make this initiative a success. In spring: I hope to be reassigned in UC at least (please beware of my signature courses offered by anyone else, or ANY South Asian religion courses in UC offered by anyone else; I expect some attempt to break my "'neither publish nor perish, work directly for my students' strike" by exploiting the large and accessible pool of academic migrant labor). Please join, and tell your friends about, our Facebook advocacy groups: "Reform Lecturer's Policy," "Cervantes Free University," and/or "Save Professor Bauer." Professor Adcock's "Hindu Traditions" course is compatible with my educational goals, and I look forward to working with her.

She is NOT my replacement; I regard her as Satadru Sen's replacement in the History Department, a position I made clear in an earlier communication on my website. At least one of my advisees is taking both her version of "The Hindu Traditions" and my own CFU course, "Hindu Civilization," to get a balanced perspective. The more choice the better.

Please support Professor Schwiebert, and consider taking his courses on the historical Jesus, etc. We are colleagues, and we Lecturers must stick together. He will be treated as a second class faculty member by many, but he must not be treated so by any of us.

Please support my reinstatement next year, as Senior Lecturer (or as tenured Associate Professor in the College!) No more minimum demands. If they had offered the Lecturer's job to me, I probably would have lasted only one more year. There is nothing like a student petition drive, and t-shirts with one's name sold in the library. to alienate many colleagues! If I, and my students, did inadvertently get Professor Schwiebert his "pre-tenure track" job, that is a good thing, but they must treat him fairly, not string him along for years as they did to me. In line with our Lecturer's Policy Reform platform, calling for a three year limit on "temporary" positions, his years as a Mellon post-doctoral fellow should count towards that limit. After this year, they should offer him a choice: to take his chances on the "research" tenure-track, or to pursue the "teaching track," under a reformed and strengthened Lecturer's Policy, offering real job security and respect to dedicated college teachers.

Please resist any attempt to play one Lecturer against another. I have been inspired by the example of a colleague some years back, who, in his very first semester here, informed me of an attempt to do just that. He put his career on the line for someone he did not even know! In one of my annual or biennial "Five Year Plans" sent to my RS colleagues, I nominated him for the (nonexistent) "Washington University Labor Solidarity Prize." My point was well taken, by friend and foe alike. Please, look to those who talk the talk, AND walk the walk, not those who support worker's rights only when it is politically expedient to get on the bandwagon. I have more respect for those who disagree on philosophical or economic grounds; I invite them to my classes.

Last year, the Religious Studies leaders had a golden opportunity to support Lecturer's Policy Reform, and TAKE CREDIT FOR IT, but they blew it, and turned back. Let's give them one more year to make good. If they fail to support Lecturer's Policy Reform, I support a change. RS should be run by one of the new, presumably neutral appointees, or the Dean himself. Next year, more power should be given to the Lecturers, both of us. (Even if I am home-based in the Humanities, or University College [!], I still want to teach in RS, and have a say).

Please support pluralism in the University and in RS. There was a rumor two years ago that both RS and Women and Gender Studies were being cut, probably for lack of neutrality. The Women's Studies Program is openly feminist. Some may have a problem with that, but I do not, because they are HONEST about it, they are hiding nothing. This is a private school, so we can be advocative, we could have a theological seminary (or several) if we wanted, to give students more choice. But RS is not theology. We have a devil's advocacy role (my specialty!), a duty to represent diverse viewpoints fairly, not necessarily our own views. In my opinion both RS and WS are necessary and complementary, and should be full departments, for MA training, but departments have no legitimate role in the College, or UC. We should adopt a streamlined divisional system, on the Chicago "Hutchins College." Let's upgrade our "International and Area Studies" Program to "Civilizational Studies," with courses on South Asian Civilization and also Russian Civilization. The United States spent trillions of dollars to bankrupt the Soviet Union. Now, how can we say we're not interested? Why are we cutting back our Russian programs? We should also support identity formation as a legitimate, and central, goal of college teaching. This is what Religious Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and Ethnic Studies have in common. Let's make sure we include Asian American Studies in our new, expanded Asian and Near Eastern Cultures and Civilizations and South Asian Studies programs.

In an earlier communication, my new "Five Year Plan," I proposed to move on, beyond the confines of any particular discipline, including Religious Studies. I would like to be reassigned to Asian and Near Eastern Cultures and Civilizations, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, and the Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values, teaching many Freshman and Pre-Freshman courses and doing more Four Year Advising. I would also like to teach for the University College International Affairs and Master of Liberal Arts Program. I said that there were conditions under which I would return to RS, or at least let them once again cross-list my signature courses such as "Karma and Rebirth" and "Miracles, Marvels, and Magic." Here are my conditions: change of leadership; more power and respect to Lecturers and Adjunct faculty; balance between social scientific and humanistic, including theological, approaches; more inclusive community building events, such as pot luck dinners (in my experience, this is the only way to make an interdisciplinary program work, to be "small and friendly," a reputation RS once had and lost); renewed support of Sophia: The Religious Studies Discussion Club, which I am proud to have helped found; more choice of courses in ALL categories, at all levels; more workplace democracy, and less central control. All this is reasonable and necessary. All this is common sense.

Never give up! Look for allies in unexpected places: Dean McLeod endorsing civil disobedience as a "great American tradition" at the Living Wage Sit-In in Spring 2005, Chancellor Wrighton complimenting the Student-Worker Alliance at the Spring 2004 Commencement. Change comes from grass roots and from the top down, rarely from the entrenched bureaucracy in the middle. This is an exciting time to have a debate about the aims of education! Let's all take the initiative, and experiment with cooperative, free market, and top down approaches to curriculum reform, or anything that works for us. "Don't ask permission, it's YOUR education!"

The cfu-lc.com will continue with or without WashU support; it is an idea whose time has come, and entirely consistent with the University's mission.

Once again, thank you for your personal support, but please don't limit your support to me. I thank everyone who worked last year for Lecturer's Policy Reform, especially Bharath Mohan, Paul Moinester, and Eric Gradel, who wrote the Student Union resolution on this issue. Please reintroduce this in the 2007-2008 academic year, and please, support only candidates who will support education reform.

American politicians are now fond of quoting Hillary Clinton, citing Gandhi, "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Nobody is laughing, some are still trying to fight, but I think we have already won a moral victory at least, just by keeping these issues alive. Some kind of positive change is definitely in the works. I hope to claim a small share of it, and then get back to full time teaching, with no hype, and the minimum amount of collateral PR damage for Washington University and myself. We all should be able to win, if we do the right thing. You may ask yourselves, why do I still want to work with (if not "for") people who have misled me? All the world's religions teach forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the function of a Religious Studies Program, properly constituted, to represent and embody the ethics and values of the world's religions.

Please let the world know, including as many politicians and journalists as possible, so our campaign to reform Lecturer's Policy spreads to other schools. This year, let's claim our victory, and share the credit.

Thank you,

Jerome Bauer

Lecturer, Cervantes Free University and Learning Cooperative

satyam eva jayate