By Virginia McHugh-Kurtz

I want to give a huge “Thank You!” to RAFO for allowing be to attend the Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities 2018 SENCER Summer Institute at Santa Clara University. SENCER links science and civic engagement by connecting public issues and science. The SENCER Summer Institute consists of four days focused on many pathways of education, with tracks focused on practices that have be shown to be successful and have a profound impact. I gained insight on innovative techniques to engage students in learning about STEM in my classroom and to increase student success.

I spent a large portion of the conference attending a three-part workshop titled, “‘Thinking Like Leaders’: A Systems Approach to Improving Introductory Level Courses.” This workshop was led by many leaders in the scientific education community and aimed to improve student learning by helping them understand the components of the higher education system, the barriers within that system, and how to create change.

One session I attended was titled, “Real News of Fake News? Developing Scientific Literacy through Analysis of Media Reports.” In this session, different ways of verifying whether news is “real” or “fake” were presented, along with methods to help students identify and analyze scientific news. Identifying fake news and being scientifically literate are two important objectives in my courses, so this session inspired me to implement similar news analysis tools in my curricula.

Another session I attended was titled, “Building an Inclusive Classroom.” This session focused on the critical need to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities and women in STEM programs. The session also identified extrinsic factors on campus and in the classroom that present roadblocks for these groups and provided techniques to build a more inclusive classroom. It is important to highlight diverse scientists in the classroom and not ignore their struggles. STEM faculty needs to understand that not everyone has access to the same resources.

I am passionate about increasing diversity in STEM and creating an inclusive learning environment. Attending the SENCER Summer Institute motivates me to continue the work that I love and empowers me to make change. Thank you again to RAFO for this opportunity.


Bonnie J. Smothers, RAFO Grievance Chair 
NEA-RA Report, 2018

Current events certainly brought an even greater sense of urgency to the usual intensity of a RA annual. Before the event, the nation experienced a draconian immigration policy, the Janus v. AFSCME ruling, and, as the conference drew ever nearer, the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. While Kennedy did vote for Janus, he has been unpredictable during his tenure. For instance, he had been steadfast in defense of Roe v. Wade. With his departure, the choice of selecting a replacement Supreme Court Judge may fall into the hands of Trump and the GOP, both unfriendly to unions and public education. To increase the unease over the Janus decision, we delegates learned from our info packets that some NEA member had received e-mails from “MyPayMySay” prompting them to drop their memberships. Now, MyPayMySay is partially funded by the Mackinac Center, which is funded by Betsy DeVos and her family. We were also “reminded that there might be other anti-NEA people in the city—always know whom you are talking to.” Without doubt, much reason and stealth would be needed to address pressing issues, in spite of the concern and anxiety setting the stage from the beginning. For me, it wasn’t a time to take candid photographs. Some of my shots were of the huge monitor in the Assembly Hall! 

Jennifer Wilson, RAFO President, will be hosting a conference open to full bargaining members and fee payers on  July 19 at 7:00 p.m. to answer questions about the union, Roosevelt University, or the contract.

To join in this discussion, please click the following Zoom link:

Last week in the case of Janus vs. AFSCME, the Supreme Court overturned a 40-year decision in a 5-4 decision siding with plaintiff Mark Janus stating that non-union or “fair share” members are no longer required to pay their union dues. Public unions across America will face the repercussions of this decision with both discouragement and opportunity. The opportunities return to an original model of unionism at its inception. Building relationships with those who stand up for their labor rights and ensure the fair practices within the work place.

Because Roosevelt University is a private institution, RAFO and its bargaining are not directly affected by the Supreme Court Janus decision. The fee payer structure will remain in place. However, we are committed to strengthening our bargaining unit, supporting workers’ rights and representing our members’ concerns and questions to the administration. The method of achieving these goals brings more adjunct faculty into the fold of full bargaining unit member status.

RAFO remains dedicated to a culture of listening. We want to seek and hear the ideas and suggestions from our members prior to bringing them to the administration. If you are concerned about IEA funding elections for specific candidates and campaigns, step up and serve on the Region 67 committee that makes those decisions. If you have questions about the university’s financial state in consideration of the recent bond downgrades, reach out to us and fill one of the open governance positions in Senate or College Council. If you want a voice in changing the current RAFO contract, prepare to serve on the next negotiating team. Or simply attend one of the Zoom Q&A video conferences we plan to hold monthly over the next academic year (dates and times TBA).

Strong unions begin with relationships – not political agendas. We are listening.

We won’t give up advocating for our students

In a narrow decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today turned its back on the educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and public servants who make our communities strong and safe.

In Janus v. AFSCME, the court overturned common sense jurisprudence that was established more than 40 years ago. By overturning Abood, the court ruled non-members no longer have to pay fair share fees, but unions are still required by law to represent them. Allowing some to opt out of paying will make it harder for all public employees to provide the services that everyone depends on; it will be harder for our educators to advocate for our students and public education; and it will be harder for workers to join together in strong unions.

The key word here is harder, not impossible.

It has never been more vital that those of us who believe in fair contracts use our collective voice to make sure that all students have access to a high-quality public education. We will continue to spread the truth about the importance of union membership to all of our brothers and sisters working in schools.

We are aware that the Illinois Policy Institute is currently making plans for at least one campaign to try to get IEA members in fair share locals to cancel their membership. This campaign will likely try to convince you – by a letter sent to your home -- that you can save your dues dollars each year by simply sending one pre-paid mailing to your school district to tell them to stop your payroll deduction and a second to your local to cancel your membership. The Policy Institute wants to make it very easy for you to do this because they know that fewer members in your local association means less power at the bargaining table – and that’s their goal. If you’re wondering, here’s a list of other things you would also lose if you cancel your membership.

But this won’t be the last you hear from the Policy Institute, or other entities, trying to get you to drop your membership. Their goal is to take power away from educators and our students.

This fight is just beginning. We won’t let them stop us. We will use their attacks to build a stronger IEA and we will move forward together because we know we are STRONGER UNITED.

In solidarity,

Kathi Griffin,

IEA President