Austerity Measures

Dear Members,

President Schill sent a message to the campus community that has generated considerable conversation (and some anxiety) for everyone concerned about the education and research mission at the University of Oregon. Leaders of United Academics are involved in discussions with university administration about the changes President Schill envisions. We want to share with you what we are hearing. We also need to hear from you about what you are learning regarding changes in your unit. By speaking with an informed collective voice, we can help President Schill live up to his promise to make proposed changes as smooth and humane as possible.

Over the past few weeks, we have started to see the contours of what President Schill is envisioning for our campus: consolidation and reduction in the communications personnel on campus; cancellation of the remainder of the branding contract with 160over90; and reductions in administrative personnel. We have also been told that there will be 40 new graduate student scholarships next year that can be used to recruit top-flight graduate students.

President Schill’s letter indicated cuts will be coming to the instructional staff, in order to, as he put it, “align our resources to achieve academic excellence.” Our understanding is that most of these cuts will be focused on the College of Arts and Sciences, at least in the near term. Based on the information shared by Dean Andrew Marcus at a recent meeting of department heads and program directors, we understand the plan as follows:

For each department, the CAS deans measured the growth in student credit hours and faculty employment since the 2007-8 academic year for each department. You can see their breakdown for each division in CAS here. They will be using these numbers to set preliminary reduction goals for each department. The deans will meet with department heads to discuss the scenario in each unit, get feedback about their proposals, incorporate the information they learn, then go forward with any cuts.

The CAS deans have been careful to emphasize that there are no plans to cut any tenured or tenure-track positions or to terminate any Career NTTF contracts. They have said their focus within CAS is on the pro tem and instructional postdoc positions, although there may be some non-renewals of Career NTTF positions. The deans have said the bulk of the cuts will be to the Humanities division of CAS, as this is the division that includes most of the NTTF positions. The idea seems to be that Career NTTF and TTF will have to take over the work done by the pro tem faculty, maintaining workloads by giving up some of the small seminar classes.

There are some real concerns about this plan. We have reservations about the feasibility of replacing large numbers of faculty by shifting work around; we do not see how this can be done without sacrificing quality in both education and research. We also have concerns about asking faculty to teach courses they have no experience teaching. Just because a class has a 100-, 200-, or 300-level designation does not necessarily make it any easier to teach than one with a 400- or 500-level designation. We also know that faculty feel stretched already. Our course loads, TTF and NTTF alike, are high and already stress our research and service obligations.

Fortunately, the Collective Bargaining Agreement limits the administration’s ability to terminate tenured and tenure-track faculty except for disciplinary reasons or in the case of extreme financial emergency, and–in this latter case–only as part of an articulated plan to deal with such a crisis. The university administration has been careful to state that they are not declaring a financial crisis. This is partly why President Shill uses phrases like “realignment” and “transition.”

The Collective Bargaining Agreement also limits the ability of the administration to terminate Career NTT faculty mid-contract. Career NTTF can be non-renewed when their contract is up for renewal, but their contracts cannot be terminated or cancelled mid-contract. This is why we fought so hard to establish two- and three-year contracts for Career NTTF who earn them. These contracts do not guarantee ongoing employment at the university, but they provide some level of protection and limit times at which NTTF can be non-renewed.

Unfortunately, pro tem and instructional postdoctoral positions do not enjoy these protections; by their very nature they are designed to be temporary positions. Again, this is why we have fought so hard to limit the number of pro tem positions on campus and convert as many positions as possible to Career NTT so those faculty could earn some level of stability.

We have learned that the department heads in Romance Languages and English have met with the CAS deans and so far the changes proposed are very much as Dean Marcus described them at the department heads meeting. The information we have, however, is not complete and is filtered in a variety of ways.

In order to represent the interests of all faculty, we need to hear from you about the changes that are affecting your unit. We are working to set up meetings between departments and union leadership to discuss the coming changes. If you would like us to meet with your department or program, please respond to this email and we can help set up a meeting. Replying to this email will also put you in touch with our staff who can answer individual questions or discuss your concerns. We need to hear from you and we are eager to help in any way we can.

In solidarity,

Michael Dreiling

Posted in NTTF, TTF, Updates.