RG Op-Ed from UO Unions supports Senate Academic Freedom Policy

This April 25 Op-Ed was published in the Register Guard here. The Senate policy, approved April 9th, is here.

From the Register Guard:

UO should endorse faculty’s free speech policy

By David Craig (GTFF), Michael Dreiling (UAUO) and Carla McNelly (SEIU).

Change is in the air at the University of Oregon. After more than 80 years of operating under the authority of a statewide board, the UO will formally become an independent public body as of July 1, governed by a new board of trustees.

We can anticipate a healthy debate on many issues still facing the university — tuition and affordability, fundraising, intercollegiate athletics and growth, among others.

But there is at least one issue on which every constituency on campus should be able to find common ground: a robust and far-reaching free speech and academic freedom policy.

On April 9, the elected UO Senate unanimously approved a statement on academic freedom that is among the strongest in the country. The policy commits the UO to supporting “open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to the university community.”

The policy specifically protects academic freedom in the areas of research, teaching, public service and shared governance. It affirms that “members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.”

Notably, the policy applies not only to the teaching, research and service activities of faculty, but also to undergraduate and graduate students, classified staff and visitors to campus, permitting free debate and expression without fear of institutional reprisal.

As leaders of the labor unions representing the faculty, graduate teaching fellows and classified workers — totaling more than 5,000 employees at the UO — we are heartened that the University Senate has adopted an exemplary policy that can become a model for the nation.

Like the University Senate, we envision a campus that encourages free speech with no limitations on subject matter and robust speech protections in an academic context.

UO President Michael Gottfredson has publicly expressed his support for a vigorous and expansive policy, stating that “academic freedom is central to our mission and underlies everything we do as a university. I fully support the strongest policy possible to affirm and strengthen this freedom.” We hope he will sign this important initiative.

In Corvallis, Oregon State University already has a comprehensive policy on academic freedom, not limiting speech to any particular area and thus ensuring freedoms to all expression of opinion in governance and public affairs. Furthermore, OSU’s policy ensures freedom of speech for staff as well as faculty. Their policy reads: “The university does not attempt to control the personal opinion, nor the public expression of that opinion, of any member of the faculty or staff of the institution.”

Certainly, freedoms come with responsibilities. The policy adopted by the University Senate at the UO also stipulates responsibilities parallel to those found at OSU. The policy approved by the UO Senate insists that when members of the university community exercise their speech rights, they “should not claim to be acting or speaking on behalf of the university unless authorized to do so.”

Moreover, the policy states that abuses of these freedoms “that rise to the level of professional misbehavior or professional incompetence” may “lead to adverse consequences.” The University Senate passed a responsible and appropriate policy on academic freedom for an institution aspiring to national stature.

As representatives of thousands of employees at the UO, we recognize the value that faculty, graduate students and all nonfaculty employees bring to the academic mission and shared governance of the UO. We trust that President Gottfredson shares this regard. The University Senate’s unanimous declaration leaves us little doubt where our colleagues stand.

If the Beavers can do it, why not the Ducks?

Following the Senate vote, President Gottfredson has 60 days to approve or reject the policy.

Last fall, the university received some unwanted national attention when it was reported that the administration was seeking to curb the free speech rights of faculty.

The president now has an opportunity to join the rest of the university community in supporting a policy that affords the highest possible respect for free speech and academic freedom, and that would signal to the rest of the nation that the UO holds itself to the highest of standards.

David Craig (president@gtff.net) is president of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation at the University of Oregon. Michael Dreiling (dreiling@uauoregon.org ) is president of United Academics at the UO. Carla McNelly (pres085@yahoo.com) is president of Service Employees International Union Local 085.

Union, administration agree on salary floors

At the conclusion of bargaining in September 2013, United Academics and the University agreed that we would form a committee to discuss the best way to spend a limited pool of money to establish salary floors at the UO. After many months of meetings, we have finally come to a mutually satisfactory agreement that will continue our project of transforming the university and improving the quality of research and teaching at the UO. We anticipate these new salary floors will mean wage increases for approximately 300 of our lowest paid colleagues, with some raises as high as 30%.

This could not have been done without the faculty who volunteered to serve on the committee, meeting every week for 4 months. I wish to thank them and invite you to do the same – Alex Dracobly, Yvonne Braun, and our Executive Director, David Cecil. Likewise, an agreement could not have been reached without collaborative work with the Administration’s team, Barbara Altman, Doug Blandy and Brad Shelton. Of course, none of this would have happened without our union and the years of volunteer work by faculty activists who helped create it and negotiate our first contract.

We still have work to do. We begin contract negotiations next December and we need your input. Please come to our first General Membership Meeting on May 13, 5-8 pm in GER Lounge, and celebrate the many achievements in our first contract and help set the groundwork for another round of improvements at the UO. Also, swing by the union office this Friday the 18th (4-6) for a glass of wine, juice, or beer and some afternoon snacks to thank the AFT staff organizers and our office

Yours,

Michael Dreiling

The full agreement is below.

The University will establish Base Salary minimums (referred to here as salary floors or floor salaries) for non-tenure-track faculty represented by United Academics. These floors vary by unit and by classification. Salary floors apply to Base Salary only, for 1.0 FTE. Salary floors apply to all new NTTF hires as of FY2015.

A. Salary floors

1. We establish salary floors for career NTTF as follows (and as previously agreed upon):
a. PE/Rec: $24,000
b. Research assistants: $32,000
c. HEP: $26,000
d. Academic Extension: $27,000
e. All others: $36,000

2. Salary floors for adjunct NTTF will be 80% of corresponding career floors.

B. Implementation for current NTTF employees, effective Sept. 16, 2013

1. Move all existing career NTTF in the bargaining unit to the full floor if they are currently below it.

2. Move all existing adjunct NTTF in the bargaining unit to 90% of the corresponding career floors, if they are currently below it. “Existing adjuncts” are faculty who is or was on contract for any part of Fiscal Year 2014.

3. Move Senior I career NTTF in the bargaining unit to 8% above their respective floors, if they are currently below it.

4. Move all Senior II career NTTF in the bargaining unit to 17% above their respective floors, if they are currently below it.

5. Move all career research assistants in the bargaining unit who are not affected by B.1 above to 110% of the floor of $32,000 (=$35,200), if they are currently below it.

6. Move all career PE/Rec NTTF in the bargaining unit who are not affected by B.1 above to 110% of the floor of $24,000 (=$26,400), if they are currently below it.

7. Move all career NTTF who were not affected by B.1, B.3, B.4, B.5, or B.6 to 105% of the appropriate floor, if they are currently below it.

UO Senate unanimously passes Academic Freedom Policy for faculty, staff, and students

Today the UO Senate unanimously passed an academic freedom policy that, if signed by UO President Gottfredson, will be among the strongest in the country.

The new policy gives free-speech protection to all UO faculty, students, and non-faculty employees for the purposes of teaching, research, shared governance, and public service, and states that “The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal.”

The Senate’s “Ad Hoc Academic Freedom Committee” was chaired by United Academics union President Michael Dreiling (Sociology). Securing a robust academic freedom policy has been a top priority for UAUO, and we applaud the Senate for what it accomplished today, after many months of work.

The motion is posted on the Senate website here, currently in draft form. Under UO’s Constitution the president has 60 days to either sign the policy, or trigger a veto or revision process that could lead to an assembly of the entire faculty.

The draft policy would have allowed the UO administration to weaken the shared governance free speech protections for students and non-faculty employees. But after a discussion of the importance of  the role of these groups in the university’s shared governance, the Senate voted unanimously to change the language so as to be clear that all “members of the university community”, i.e. students and non-faculty employees such as staff and administrators, would also “have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice”.

The final language approved by the Senate is as follows:

Policy on Academic Freedom

The University of Oregon encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to the university community. The University of Oregon protects free speech through Policy No. 01.00.16. This policy on Academic Freedom builds on these existing commitments by recognizing the special contexts of scholarship, teaching, governance, and public service.

SECTION 1

a. SCHOLARSHIP.  The University’s research mission requires that members of the UO community have autonomous freedom to conduct research and produce creative work, and to publish and disseminate that work, limited only by the standards and methods of accountability established by their profession and their individual disciplines.

b. TEACHING. The University’s responsibility to help students to think critically and independently requires that members of the university community have the right to investigate and discuss matters, including those that are controversial, inside and outside of class, without fear of institutional restraint.  Matters brought up in class should be related to the subject of courses or otherwise be educationally relevant, as determined primarily by the faculty member in charge of the class.

c. POLICY AND SHARED GOVERNANCE. Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.

d. PUBLIC SERVICE. Public service requires that members of the university community have freedom to participate in public debate, both within and beyond their areas of expertise, and to address both the university community and the larger society with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, cultural, or other interest. In their exercise of this freedom, university community members have the right to identify their association or title, but should not claim to be acting or speaking on behalf of the University unless authorized to do so.

SECTION 2

These freedoms derive immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding. The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal. Only serious abuses of this policy – ones that rise to the level of professional misbehavior or professional incompetence – should lead to adverse consequences.  Any such determinations shall be made in accordance with established, formal procedures involving judgment by relevant peers.