October 1, 2022


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We must fight for the right to rule

We must fight for the right to rule

discussion Not Johnny Olsen

Sociology professor Ole Jonny Olsen writes, that the ancient form of government in universities opened up much more scope for autonomy and collective management for academic practice than it does today.

This text is a discussion post. The content of the text expresses the opinion of the author.

There is a discussion About a normal work day for academics, after notices about increased work pressure and people who feel overwhelmed with too many tasks. My comment was that this was the result of a long-term transformation of universities into companies and working academics into wage workers.

academic capitalism Its branches extended to Norway, as in the rest of the world. The result is control from above and a loss of independence, under increasingly stringent constraints. This raises the need to defend one’s conditions as employees. A valid and reasonable defense.

But the danger That management at the same time cultivates the identity of the wage worker, as opposed to the identity as an academic scholar. It weakens work conditions that are governed by professional commitment, professionalism and community affiliation.

This excitement The role of the subordinate wage worker and the independent professional is a well-known phenomenon in working life. I agree with Olvestad roared that this was a ‘false split’., meaning that one is not one or the other. As I said in that interview, academics working at the university are also paid workers. But the problem is what role is being developed. Not less than those who hire.

I also totally agree With Olvestad in clarifying the unions’ mission in the struggle for professional independence. He has many good points there. I myself am a member of NTL, and have also sat on the UiB Board of Directors for several years now, and am very pleased with the work that has been done in that association when it comes to knowledge policy. But I was also a member of a professional college college for many years, which elected its boards and leaders, and felt it “rules its own house”.

as a college We were not employees, but “angels”. The elected representatives did not sit in meetings with “the other side”. There were no “negotiations”, but discussions to make a collective decision. there’s a difference. Therefore, I said that on the day we should fight our battles through union, it is a sign that we have begun the struggle – for ‘property’.

In private and public companies Managers have ‘control rights’. They have the right to “lead and distribute the work” as it is called. Yes, it is stipulated in the main convention in Norwegian working life. When this agreement was first signed between the LO and the NAF (now the NHO), there were many critical voices in the labor movement that suggested that this meant handing over the occupational independence of workers to the employer (the owners and their managers). It was to abandon a basic principle of democratic socialism. But if the court is absolute in principle, in reality it is relative.

The ancient form of government was nothing like the Rosary Poets. far from it. But there was room for autonomy and collective control over academic practice.

Ole Jonny Olsen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Bergen

It was decisive The attitude of employees in the work process and their struggle to defend their role as professionals – as producers. This role is present in all paid work, not just in “liberal” professions. But it was more prominent in professional occupational groups such as electricians, construction workers, craftsmen, care workers, teachers, etc., where the question of autonomy was an important part of workers’ collective struggle for interests. Today, that autonomy is threatened everywhere – and weakened after years of NPM and all forms of market management.

teachers did Even the general mistake of allowing their unions to unilaterally promote the interests of wage workers was the basis for the struggles of the 1980s and 1990s, precisely at a time when attacks on union independence were serious. We don’t know if the outcome will be different, but when schools were turned into ‘resource units’ and principals into ‘leaders’, the race was over – and teachers were left trying to fend for themselves against controlling compliance with ‘working hours’. (So ​​the struggle for a “normal workday” was turned upside down in the yard. As it so easily happens in colleges and universities.)

These experiences We should pay attention, but in universities, this also applies more. Here, there was not only autonomy in the matter of “leading and distributing” the work (as much as it was taken for granted, but no longer). It was also a question of what work was to be done, what was to be produced, and about the content and form of studies, teaching, research and publication.

it has been Elected councils, in basic units such as departments and colleges, as in the highest authority – College, exactly as it was called in the past. These councils provided guidance and made decisions about studies, employment, and career initiatives. They gained legitimacy and support from group discussions, from below. Originally, these boards were governed by professors, but the democratization of the 1970s gave a huge impact to all groups in universities, both employees and students.

Today, the boards have changing personality. More and more people have hired managers, from above, with outside drivers. In sections, they were turned into “boards”. The ‘leaders’ are sent on training sessions, and the idea is cultivated that they have to practice ‘leadership’. They should start things that respond to cues from higher or high scores on competition scales. In any case, they should keep their backs away from NOKUT and other outside inspectors. Departments are increasing, the number of managers is increasing, with deputy managers, managers and advisors.

One might ask How universities could be run in the 1990s, when large groups of students filled the halls and examination committees multiplied. The secretariats and departments of the faculties ran the business with great calm, fixed routines and one or two administrative staff.

The old form of government He was not a rosy poet. far from it. But there was room for autonomy and collective control over academic practice. Rooms are much larger than today. So my call is as follows: to raise the struggle against exploitation and injustice as workers, to struggle for professional independence, in the unions and in what remains of the councils and communal councils, but also to mobilize forces in the struggle for the restoration of the right to rule. .

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