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Report on Academic Analytics and Next Steps

Submitted by Staff on Mon, 01/25/2016 - 15:00

On January 25, 2016, President David M Hughes sent this follow-up message to Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union members: 

 

I hope your semester has started well. I write with news on our efforts to protect the faculty against Academic Analytics (AA), the private, secret database company measuring individual and departmental productivity. If you missed my first message on this topic, you can read it here. To summarize, this database threatens all of us who invest in work not measured by AA: book chapters, films, websites, public scholarship, non-federal grants, patents, teaching, service, and myriad other scholarly pursuits. Indeed, the metrics threaten even those of us who do none of these things but who work in departments with colleagues who do engage in such activities.

On 14 December, the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences (NB) met and considered a resolution with three demands: 1) that the School and the administration should exclude AA profiles from decisions regarding tenure and promotion; 2) that the School and the administration should exclude AA profiles from decisions regarding the budget and the allocation of resources among departments and programs; and 3) the School should distribute AA profiles to each faculty member by 1 March 2016. The resolution passed with overwhelming support (92-20). Executive Dean Peter March made his opposition and displeasure apparent. It remains unclear whether he will honor any of these clauses.

Two days later, on 16 December, I met with New Brunswick Chancellor Richard Edwards. Long planned, this labor-management event brought together a team of the Union’s staff as well as two more top-level administrators and legal counsel from each side. We intended to negotiate over a proposal identical to the first clause in the SAS resolution: namely, that the administration should exclude AA data from tenure and promotion decisions, as well as from reappointment for NTT faculty. (The proposal is here.) The meeting did not go well. As air was still exiting from the cushions beneath us, the Chancellor declared, “The answer is ‘no,’ David.” Chancellor Edwards refused to commit to exclude AA data from tenure, promotion, or reappointment decisions – although he admitted that the data contained many errors and were not being used in tenure decisions currently. Peter March, in fact, said the same thing. Indeed, administrators in New Brunswick seem happy to promise to fulfill the most important of our demands, but they refuse adamantly to make that promise in writing. And they positively insist upon using AA for the allocation of money, faculty lines, and all other goods becoming scarce under responsibility center management (RCM).

These two events – of 14 and 16 December – have received significant coverage in the press. On 11 December 2015, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a story and other outlets released further articles:

Inside Higher Ed 12/11/15

Inside Higher Ed 12/15/15

Daily Targum 01/19/2016

Daily Targum 01/22/2016

So where do we go from here? This attention from the media has attracted interest from faculty unions at a number of state universities across the country. We are consulting with them – as well as with the AAUP and AFT national offices – regarding options at a larger scale. It may, in fact, be easier to challenge Academic Analytics through Academia-wide solidarity than face-to-face with our own administration. Even locally, though, there are further avenues open to us. In the next month or so, I will begin exploring with many of you the possibility of a resolution in other schools and, particularly, in the Graduate School-New Brunswick.

I will be talking with faculty activists in Camden and Newark as well. Contacts with those administrations suggest much less support for AA than in New Brunswick. Chancellors Haddon and Cantor have committed to publicly-engaged forms of scholarship that fall well outside the metrics of Academic Analytics. That database can only undermine their visions for Rutgers University-Camden and Rutgers University-Newark. Please let me know if you would like to participate in efforts to address the issue of AA with these two chancellors.

Finally, to return to the School of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick, we await the distribution of AA data to faculty members. Please let me know if you receive this information from any source. If the data do not reach you, I will communicate with you about further options before the 1 March 2016 deadline established by SAS faculty.

In solidarity,

David M. Hughes
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Professor of Anthropology

Rutgers AAUP-AFT
11 Stone Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Office phone: (732) 964-1000
Fax: (732) 964-1032
 

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