New Yorker article on disruptive innovation (major part about higher education

    This Jill Lepore article in a recent New Yorker questions the fad of chasing disruptive innovation. The mantra "if it doesn't disrupt, it can't be good" is one of the contributions the business world is pushing on higher education, and this article is encouraging us to re-examine some of the arguments made by advocates of disruption. Are all the cases of disruptive innovation really disruptive? Clay Christiansen, who is one of the gurus of disruptive innovation, cites disk-drive manufacturer Seagate as a company that first disrupted, then got disrupted - except, Lepore points out, that Seagate is alive and well, one of the leading manufacturers of disk drives today, while the companies that are cited as having disrupted Seagate out of business are the ones that are gone. 

      Lepore cites numerous examples from higher education of where "disruptive innovation" looks more like fad-following. Do the ways we've done things sometimes stay around because they work? Is it always best to chase the new thing?


Read the article here

Supreme Court Decision (Harris Vs. Quinn) expected that could affect UA

As presented to the court the issue is " (1) Whether a state may, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, compel personal care providers to accept and financially support a private organization as their exclusive representative to petition the state for greater reimbursements from its Medicaid programs; and (2) whether the lower court erred in holding that the claims of providers in the Home Based Support Services Program are not ripe for judicial review."

In the worst case scenario, the court could decide in the affirmative for all public employees, despite its 1971 Usery v. League of Cities decision that public employee unionization was an issue reserved for the states.  That would mean public employee unions could not negotiate, as they can at present in most states (Florida being one exception) any classification of financial support, the most normal being agency fee,  other than voluntary membership dues.

For almost all unions, this would mean a significant loss of income, for some a considerable loss.  In the case of UA, about 25% of income comes from fees.   

While there is a plan in place to approach all fee payers personally and ask them to become members, obviously not all will.  We will be discussing this at the first EC and DA meetings of the fall semester. 

The court could also uphold the appellate court finding that the issue is not ripe for review.  Or it could come down the middle and rule that while personal care providers who are privately employed though their funds come from the state cannot be compelled to pay agency fees, state employees (including in Vermont UVM and the VSC) can be so compelled.

Assuming the court finds in the affirmative for all public employees, procedural questions remain which it would be hoped, the court would answer or provide guidance.   For example, would agency fees be immediately outlawed, or would they remain in effect for the life of the current contract.  And if, as is the case with UA, a contract continues in force past the expiration date pending negotiations or imposition of a successor, would the agency fee clause continue in effect also.

I have suggested to AAUP Senior Counsel that if the decision goes the wrong way, that AAUP put together a webinar dealing with implementation and effects.  He agreed that was a very good idea, and also suggested there would be discussion at the Summer Institute. 


Join UA at the Vermont Lake Monsters - June 17

We hope you will join us for the game between the Lake Monsters and the Connecticut Tigers next Tuesday, June 17 at Centennial Field. UA gear is always fashionable, and, if you haven't gotten yours yet, we'll have hats and shirts available at the ticket pick-up table at the entrance to Centennial Field.  E-mail Patti at to let us know you're coming and how many tickets you need.

UVM Faculty Union Supports CCTA Drivers and Strike Action

MARCH 14, 2014

The Executive Council of United Academics, the faculty union of the University of Vermont, stands in solidarity with the CCTA drivers in their struggle for a fair contract that ensures a safe and respectful workplace. We call on the CCTA Commissioners, and on the elected officials of the areas served by CCTA, to insist that CCTA management return to the table in good faith to negotiate a contract that protects the drivers and our community: a contract that contains at a minimum the key demands of the drivers, including reasonable restrictions on split shifts, robust protections against predatory management and driver intimidation,appropriate limits on the use of part-time drivers,and protections that ensure drivers can bring their concerns and safety recommendations to management without fear of retaliation.