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TACT Quarterly eBulletin

July/Aug/Sept 2003 Vol. LVI No. 1

Texas Association of College Teachers ~ Defending Academic Freedom

President's Column
How TACT Works For You
by Dr. James Puckett, TACT President

“Reasons to Join TACT”

As the incoming President of TACT, I’d like to make several points.

Your membership in at least one professional organization dedicated to higher education faculty, as faculty - - not as engineers or economists or dentists or historians - - is the most important membership you can have, regardless of your academic discipline. You’d better believe that the majority of medical doctors belong to one organization, AMA, and as a result, they are a potent force.

Of your three choices of faculty organizations that serve higher education faculty in Texas, TACT is the largest in terms of members who teach at four-year public universities. Just check out our respective web sites and look at the number of active chapters at four-year public colleges for each organization. Also, despite the fact that TACT’s membership dues are low - - $90 - - we survive almost exclusively on those dues because our membership is large. We don’t have to charge $200 or $300 or $400 per member or receive subsidies from, nor become subordinate to, a national organization to make ends meet.

Not only is our membership the largest, but our members are almost exclusively from Texas four-year public institutions of higher education. A large percentage of one of the three organization’s members is from community colleges, meaning that the organization cannot (and did not) lobby against standardized core-curriculum, standardized field-of-study curricula, and community colleges offering B.A. degrees. One other organization does not have a lobbyist and has a large percentage of its membership in private universities, so its mission is not clearly and uniquely focused on Texas public four-year universities as is TACT’s. Promote TACT because it is the largest organization in terms of members from Texas four-year public universities, because it’s the right thing to do, and because public higher education in Texas is in privatization crisis.

That crisis translates into declining public funding and increasing reliance on corporate ideas and ideals. Articles in past TACT e-Bulletins have documented serious problems in academic freedom and tenure and in intellectual property and distance education that stem from this corporate mentality. In the current TACT e-Bulletin, Jeremy Curtoys [Efficiency or Effectiveness: A Challenge to Colleges And Universities In Texas] documents his case that higher education should be “effective” and not necessarily “mechanically efficient” as most corporations define it and as many Texas politicians seem to desire. For education to be maximally effective, students must have appropriate class sizes and the course offerings that their professors deem appropriate, so in the coming biennium TACT will be addressing the increase in class size minimums on many campuses. For education to be maximally effective, students must have the channel of communication that they want, students preferring face-to-face over on-line instruction. For education to be maximally effective, students must have intrinsic motivation to become life-long learners and not be fixated on grades as promoted by new “B on time” legislation that promises zero-percent loans to students who graduate with a B average within four years. For education to be maximally effective, students must have motivated teachers, and not have faculty members' intrinsic motivation to teach damaged by introducing merit pay and then have their extrinsic motivation removed by going long stretches without merit pay. Many of these problems would not have emerged if Texas law had required that faculty be consulted as required by Arizona’s shared governance law. As an example of the kind of privatization that can occur, look at what has happened to Sam Houston State University’s faculty ID card, as documented by Frank Fair.

TACT is the only organization to have built up the political capital to lead the way out of this crisis. As just two examples of the influential leaders in the state that recognize the leadership of TACT and Chuck Hempstead, TACT’s Executive Director, look here and in the Executive Director’s Report. Over the last several years, TACT has been steadily building influence through diplomacy and by taking the high road, most recently passing HB 264 to help faculty hired since 1995 receive higher contributions to their optional retirement plans. When one considers TACT’s professional liability insurance program, its Academic Freedom Defense Fund, its success at lobbying, and its large membership, there is no doubt that TACT is the main player in the politics of higher education at four-year public universities in Texas. Spread the word that those who join TACT now ($90) and take TACT’s $1million liability insurance package ($49) will get free membership until November 2003.

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