We have been bargaining with the University administration’s bargaining team rather extensively over the summer. What follows is a review of our progress to date, an update on current status, and some words on our plan for going forward.
On the whole, we have made some amazing progress this summer. As you have read in previous bargaining reports, we have come to agreement on many regular, enforceable, faculty-developed policies that will improve the working lives of all faculty. We have achieved agreement on consistent review policies for the promotion of NTTF and promotion and tenure of TTF. We have agreed to 100% salary for one-term sabbaticals. We have agreed that the University will discontinue the practice of hiring NTTF at .49 to avoid benefits. We have agreed that all faculty will be provided with reasonable office space, and that classrooms will be equipped with sufficient seating for all enrolled students. We have gained a six week paid parental leave policy.
There are, however, three very important issues remaining where we have not made much progress. To date, the University administration’s bargaining team has been unwilling to ensure that our valued system of shared governance will remain in place at the UO. In fact, their last proposal–both the written version and their oral explanation–made it clear that the University administration has no idea if a future Board of Trustees will maintain the University Senate. Our attempts to recognize and protect the Senate’s role in the Collective Bargaining Agreement have been rejected.
We are also encountering resistance on the issue of providing job security to Career Non-Tenure-Track Faculty. What we are proposing is neither controversial nor unusual. We propose that Career NTTF should have a reasonable expectation of continued employment as long as they successfully pass their reviews (based on criteria developed by their fellow faculty and applied by the administration); there is continued funding for their position; and there is ongoing programmatic need. We do not seek to bind departments or units to subpar faculty members, to force departments to spend money they do not have, or to employ people when there is no work. Conversely, we believe it is perfectly reasonable that if the administration is going to ask someone to dedicate their career to the UO, the administration should then provide them a basic level of job security. In other words, career NTTF should not fear losing their jobs for arbitrary and capricious reasons. We know that this proposal is not controversial or unusual because it was the intention of the 2007 NTTF policy revision and is the current policy at the UO [http://academicaffairs.uoregon.edu/sites/default/files/NTTF_Policy.pdf].
Lastly, and not surprisingly, we are stuck on economic issues [http://www.registerguard.com/rg/news/local/30221769-75/percent-faculty-university-union-bargaining.html.csp]. For over a year, faculty have been active in a variety of ways in developing the salary proposals put forward by the bargaining team. Faculty working groups have identified four crucial areas that any salary package must address: a decent salary floor for our lowest paid colleagues; money to address our ongoing compression and equity problems; a robust merit raise system; and an across-the-board raise to ensure that no one continues to fall further behind: [http://uauoregon.org/files/2012/11/Article-20-Salary-6-6-13.pdf].
We are stuck because, so far, the administration refuses to provide enough money to make a serious attempt to address these four areas: [http://uauoregon.org/files/2013/01/20_clean.pdf]. Over the course of nine months of bargaining, they have increased their total offer by only .5% (from 10% to 10.5%), or roughly $500,000. They have not proposed enough money to establish a decent minimum salary, and have proposed hardly any money to address our compression and equity issues. They have told us repeatedly over the last months that, while they want to address these issues because they agree that they are important, they just don’t have the money. We have also been repeatedly told that it took them years to get us into this mess and it is unreasonable for us to expect them to fix it right away.
As anyone paying attention to the news lately knows, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that the UO can’t be creative and inventive in finding ways to raise funds for things it is committed to:
We are aware of the differences between the athletic budget and the academic budget. We know that these are two houses mostly divided. The administration’s bargaining team has told us loudly and at length that the new “football palace” has nothing to do with their offer. We agree that Phil Knight (a name that no one on our side of the table has ever mentioned, but the administration’s side seems compelled to bring up) has given generously to the academic mission of the UO in the past (the library, the law school, and Knight Professorships to name a few examples). We have also been informed that he will not be giving to the academic mission in the foreseeable future because he feels disrespected by the “academic side.”
Our last few conversations with the administration team have been frustrating precisely because our salary issues have been so acute for so long and because it is blazingly clear that the UO can find the money to do some amazing things when the administration has the desire to get them done. World class athletic facilities, a new campus police force, significant building renovations, new administrative positions and the new independent board do not just happen. Priorities are set and resources are found. $138 million is not just spent overnight with no administration input. Our conversations are so frustrating because the amount of money needed to demonstrate a real commitment to redressing lagging faculty compensation is relatively small, and if the political will to make good things happen for faculty was there, it could be done.
We continue to point out that there is significant money flowing from the general fund to athletics. When we inquired as to the roughly $2 million dollars being spent to support tutoring for athletes in the Jaqua Center, we were told that was an “academic program” and that the President believes that athletes should receive the “same” support as any student. We don’t accept that roughly $4,000 per student for tutoring is anywhere close to what non-athlete students receive. We concur with the recently passed Senate resolution, which states that the athletic department should not be receiving money from the general fund (including student tuition) to support the athletic program. This is just one example of resources that could be put toward further investment in the faculty.
The administration wrote in their latest online update that “The Union is pressing the University to spend even more for salaries and benefits, which is not surprising. However, the University must meet its obligation to live within its means.”
Given the administration’s continued claims of a commitment to academic excellence and faculty compensation, we think it’s fair to ask what it means for the University to “live within its means.” Why does that phrase apply when discussing the heart of the University but not when discussing other, extracurricular, areas?
The administration claims that it has been as generous as it can be, though their budget office has not taken into account ending subsidies for the Jaqua Center and the athlete parking ramp. Recovering those resources alone could make a real difference. We also understand the need to budget responsibly, but, in talk about the budget across the table, it appears that the administration budgets only from worst case scenarios. Even businesses take some risk to develop their strengths. It’s time that the administration realize that achieving more significant progress towards our shared goal of a well-paid faculty is essential to making the academic program as respected as the athletic program. It is time for the administration to get creative about how it can make a real investment in faculty–current and future–in order to ‘Win the Academic Day.’
If we are to get a satisfactory deal, we need your help. We cannot accept the administration’s silence on faculty governance or their recalcitrance on reasonable NTTF expectations of security. And we cannot accept their economic offers as they are currently configured. They have shown no willingness to make any significant movement over their first offer, and they think it is good and fair as it currently stands. Furthermore, they have indicated that they believe that the faculty – you – agree with them. In the next few days, you will be asked to lend your voices to those of the bargaining team’s and send a message to the administration that we all have to do more to address our critical salary needs. We need to establish a decent salary floor for our researchers and instructors, and we need to address our ongoing compression and equity issues. So far, the UO has offered far too little money to address these crucial needs.
If you agree that we need to address these important issues now, not at some unnamed and unknown time in the future, please help us by responding when called on.
Our next scheduled bargaining session will be on August 29th, from 9-4 in room 122 of the Knight Library. Please show your support by joining us for whatever period of time you can.