Saturday, March 30, 2013

Letter from Rufus Cone

Dear Colleagues,  

I urge you to vote to decertify AFMSU as representative of the tenure-track and tenured faculty for reasons briefly outlined below and in earlier notes by colleagues and The Petitioners.

Students at a university like MSU are offered the unusual experience of learning from faculty who are creating knowledge and critically evaluating ideas and new ways of expression;  this highlights a significant difference between a university education and high school.  One of our goals is to convey to students, through the direct experience of research and creativity, some sense of the satisfaction, the excitement, the joy, of intellectual activity and the process of discovery and understanding. 

With that perspective, from my early days as a young assistant professor at MSU, I have regarded my obligation to be providing new opportunities for students in both the classroom and research/creativity.  My current laboratory grew from a $5000 startup package;  it has produced a dozen Ph.D.’s and many undergraduates who have helped make the optics industry strong in Bozeman.  

This required an entrepreneurial attitude throughout – garnering resources, finding used equipment that could be re-used or re-purposed in research and in classroom demonstrations, designing new courses, connecting with local companies, connecting with outside researchers, bootstrapping up, and gaining external funding.  And it benefitted from support and encouragement for these initiatives from the department and the MSU administration.  Those achievements required hard work for which recognition has been given.  

This is not a singular story.  MSU has been made into the high-quality University we know in 2013 by the hard work of many many entrepreneurial faculty members.  Without the individual and independent efforts of those faculty members, each taking a different path – their own path, we would not be where we are today.  The stature of the Faculty and the stature of the University have improved dramatically, and independent and motivated faculty are the reason for that.  

Most of those faculty assumed that their individual contributions would be recognized and rewarded.  As other colleagues who have written urging decertification of AFMSU have clearly indicated, the AFMSU/MEA/AFT vision – being collective rather than individual oriented – is quite different from what I have described.  It is not compatible with that vision of a University.

If I were a young ambitious Ph. D. seeking a faculty job at MSU, as soon as I learned that MSU faculty were subject to the inappropriate management of an MEA/AFT outlook, I would turn down any offer to come here and look elsewhere.  I say that from the heart after obviously having felt strongly about MSU as a desirable institution for the previous years of my career.

In my time at MSU, attempts at unionization were soundly voted down twice by independent-minded faculty.  If the high quality we offer students at MSU is important to you, I implore you to vote to decertify AFMSU, not for my sake but for the students and the future of the great University that we have created together - something that is bigger than any of us.


Rufus Cone