Frequently Asked Questions
for Spring 2020, the COVID crisis, and summer bargaining
QUESTIONS FROM THE JUNE 8, 2020 TOWN HALL
We received over 50 questions from faculty, many on the same topic with a similar theme. We have combined some questions together or taken a representative question in some cases. If you had a specific question about your situation that you need answered, please do not hesitate to contact the office.
Q: It is of concern that there has not been a unified statement coming from the administration, the unions, Senate, OA Council, and ASUO addressing the current and future challenges facing the UO community. Is there any possibility of a town hall where representatives of these groups could come together to address where common cause exists and a commitment to work together?
A: This a great idea. There has been some tension between UA and the administration originating from what we see as their heavy-handed treatment of Career faculty contracts. We have heard reports that they believe we have been "posturing." A town hall where we come together and address where common cause exists might help.
Q: What specific steps is the union taking to build a productive, working relationship with the administration and come to agreement about restoring career faculty FTE? The message we're receiving from the union — that the administration simply doesn't care about career faculty — is disheartening and counterproductive. While the administration certainly has its own agenda, there is no path forward that doesn't entail us working together to deliver results for career faculty.
A: We agree that we must work with the administration to fix the problems all faculty face. Our difficulty right now lies in the faculty that the administration, by their own words, views the contracts of Career faculty as the "flexibility" they need to save money during times of difficulty. We fundamentally disagree. Disagreeing with this proposition was one of the founding principles of the union. We genuinely believe that the actions of the administration this spring are an abrogation of what we agreed to over many months of bargaining seven short years ago.
That said, we also work with the administration daily. Our Executive Director meets with or talks with the Director of Labor Relations just about every day. We have a bi-weekly joint labor management meeting with several administrators. We have two representatives on the Employee Safety Reopen Committee. We're also going to be meeting with the administration almost weekly over the summer to bargain over several issues, including restoring Career FTE. While these conversations may be difficult and may generate disheartening emails, the fact that we will be sitting and talking and problem solving is a productive working relationship.
While we very much want to have a good relationship with the administration, we also have to be able to speak plainly with the membership. Generally, our communications about the administration are respectful, but recently we have clashed over fundamental issues of import to the faculty, and we believe we'd be doing the membership a disservice if we did not give them a fair and frank assessment of the situation.
Q: When does summer bargaining start? What are we bargaining for? How quickly can FTE be restored for Career faculty?
A: We are aiming for a late June start. The bargaining team is still finalizing our platform, but we will be bargaining to restore Career FTE to the same levels it was in AY20-21 or FY20, we want to bargain a new retirement/buyout program for faculty, a new Career employment system, and a reasonable wage cut. After the term ends, we will be sending out a lot of information about bargaining, and plan to make all the sessions viewable on Zoom. We know there is a lot of anxiety about Career contracts and plan to make that our first topic of conversation. We want to resolve the issue quickly, but the administration has delayed admittance acceptance until September 1, so we anticipate that they may be hesitant to act quickly.
Q: In the upcoming negotiations with the Administration about potential cuts in TTF faculty salaries, is UA going to bring up the fact that many faculty worked overtime to prepare their classes for virtual instruction in the spring and will be forced to continue to work over the summer to enable graduate students to finish and defend M.A. theses and dissertations, whose completion was deferred to summer due to COVID? Under such circumstances, current salary levels could already be perceived as a reduction in compensation.
A: We bring this up frequently. The administration has responded with two basic arguments. One, faculty are salaried professional workers, so there is no such thing as "extra" work or overtime, and, two, faculty had a lowered service burden in spring to balance increased teaching efforts. We have repeatedly told admin that no one experienced a reduced service burden this spring, but there has been no positive administration response.
Q: How will cuts to career faculty FTE be taken into account in the negotiations over salary reductions? It doesn't seem fair that career faculty who are already being negatively impacted by the FTE reductions would also be subject to wage cuts. Even with the possibility of having FTE restored before each term, this still creates a lot of financial uncertainty for the impacted career faculty.
A: Any faculty member who has suffered a reduction in FTE due to COVID should not take a wage cut.
Q: If the UA agrees to furloughs for TTF faculty, will it negotiate for a tangible and quantifiable reduction of workload (i.e. by reducing the number of classes taught by faculty) or by reducing the amount of scholarship needed for promotion. (Reducing service is not practical, given the increasing bureacratization of the university and the service demands put on faculty, and in particular on women faculty and faculty of color.)
A: If we bargain for furloughs, we will bargain for reductions in FTE that directly correlate to reductions in course load.
Q: What will you advocate for as the criteria for career faculty to have their FTE restored before each term - in particular for librarians?
A: We will continue to advocate for faculty to have their FTE immediately restored to the same FTE as AY20-21 or FY20. If there is a need to have reduced FTE in some unit because of an actual reduction in enrollment, we will push the administration to have as much faculty input into their unit's plan as possible. We will want to ensure, however, that the administration doesn't decide to cut the FTE of their highest-earning faculty in order to save money.
Q: What are the Union and UO doing for parents with children who are working at home and have no day care or very limited options? People have to make choices now about sending their child back and not everyone feels that is safe or possible. But the alternative is that kids don't go and parents keep on doing triple duty--particularly women. Even if kids can go back to childcare or school if they have a temperature or are sick they will have to stay at home for two weeks--even if not COVID. This situation is not just an "emergency" situation but most likely next year as well--really until there is a vaccine. This falls particularly hard on women. We need child-care support ideas such as small scale cooperatives, working with students and others to organize "bubbles" that include parents, children, and volunteer or paid child-care workers.
As the administration intends to reopen the university and insists that faculty plan for remote and face-to-face classes, it seems that nobody is asking how parents (particularly of young children) and care-takers of elder, sick or disabled relatives are supposed to keep up with their work. As faculty, we are supposed to keep “business as usual” - keep our teaching responsibilities, continue researching, applying for grants, publishing and doing service. There is even new funding for covid research available to apply for.
Yet keeping this pace is completely impossible in a scenario in which school/daycares/senior care is not available or outright dangerous. Parents of young children, for instance, have to choose either to take the risk of sending their kid to daycare (if open), or continue paying to keep their spot while having their child stay at home. Others, have already lost their childcare altogether as daycares continue to close.
What is the UA doing to advocate for caretakers as we recognize that school/daycare disruptions will last until there is a vaccine?
Are there any programs, plans, funds, or accommodations proposed by the administration to attend this demographic?
A: We received many questions regarding child care issues for fall; the question above combines and reflects almost all of them. It is a huge issue facing many faculty members. Shortly before the town hall, we received a letter from the Center for the Study of Women in Society with six urgent requests to address the issues facing faculty with children. We have sent a letter to President Schill requesting a meeting to discuss how we can begin addressing the issues raised in the letter. We absolutely agree with all of the solutions they propose. We are hoping that the administration will be willing to go beyond these solutions and begin to address the need for affordable childcare on campus. We proposed a solution at the bargaining table last fall, but the administration did not accept our proposal, instead proposing a website that listed availabilities in Eugene, Portland, and Charleston. We will resume these conversations when bargaining resumes next January. We believe it is time to build a child care facility on or near campus that can accommodate the university's needs.
Of course, that does not address the issues faculty face due to COVID-19. One thing we are still working on is securing the right of all faculty to work remotely this fall without penalty. We fully support the CSWS's call to have work schedules adjusted to accommodate those that may have children at home.
As we have talked with our Working Families Caucus over the last two years and had informal conversations with the administration, it has become clear that one of the necessary prerequisites to addressing the needs of faculty with children is that we must transition the institution from thinking of child care as a private need to thinking of it as a public need. Changing our thinking will impact not only how we provide and support actual child care arrangements, but how we think about tenure and promotion timelines, work assignment, scheduling, and everything we do. Our work in collective bargaining and policy development can help, but we will always be fighting upstream if the needs and concerns of faculty families are thought of as "extras" or "perks." Centering the needs of faculty with families would be a revolutionary act in the academy and will take some serious effort. Our Working Family Caucus has just started to have these conversations. The letter from CSWS gives us a platform to work from. If you are at all interested in helping, please click the link above and let Michael Hames-Garcia know you want to help.
Q: Given the additional demands put on faculty in the midst of the pandemic, what means will UA employ to ensure that the Provost's Office will take this account for TTF faculty going through reviews of all sorts (annual, third-year, sixth-year review, tenure reviews, promotion reviews, etc.)? In recent years, the Provost's Office has been particularly harsh, and has instituted the increase in teaching loads for faculty perceived as unproductive. Under the current circumstances, where teaching on Zoom takes more preparation time and energy, interlibrary loan is not operating, and field work and research-related travel is curtailed, it is not fair to expect the same levels of productivity as in the pre-COVID world. What measure will UA take to ensure that faculty are treated fairly?
A: When it was first decided to offer an extension of the tenure clock, we raised the issue of extending all review clocks. At the time, no one understood how long COVID would disrupt academic life, so it was thought that a few weeks of disruption might not justify a delay for everyone. So far, the Provost's Office has indicated that they might be willing to delay reviews on an individual basis, if the faculty member can demonstrate an actual disruption to their research productivity; this has not officially been announced, however. We will continue to push the administration to extend all review timelines, especially as we anticipate on-going COVID disruptions.
Q: Do you advise career faculty to apply for promotion this year, particularly those who are applying for the first time, considering recent admin behavior around promotion raises?
A: There is a lot of uncertainty right now, but we still recommend that Career faculty apply for promotion next year. Both parties have indicated a willingness to fix the broken Career contract system, so the environment might be very different. One of the things we will push for is strong limits on the amount of FTE that can be reduced from year to year. It is also possible that the protections for Career faculty who have achieved promotion will be stronger, making promotion more valuable. Finally, there is reason to believe that COVID will have a long-term impact on the academy, but we don't expect enrollments to be down so much that widespread reductions in FTE would be a plausible solution (it's not now, but even more so next year).
Q: Other than tenured faculty and classified staff (union), my understanding is that all other jobs (e.g., TTF, careers, OAs, Admin) are all on contracts? That is, why is the focus for potential downsizing at the UO on career faculty only (possibly the strangest choice, given the work that career faculty do for generally low-end faculty salaries)?
A: Downsizing at UO has not focused solely on Career faculty. More than 200 classified workers in housing and food services have been laid off. 75 or so OAs have been laid off from the Athletics department. Of the faculty, we expect most of our Pro Tem faculty will not be returning next year. Career faculty who are up for renewal took a hard hit, but are not the only workers who have felt the brunt.
Q: When will faculty who have been given a contract extension actually receive the contract?
A: Faculty may not receive their contracts until September 15. The renewal notice is a minimum appointment promise, but appointments may not be finalized until later.
Q: Like many TTF and Career faculty, I've been shocked at the administration's approach to 'fixing' potential budget shortfalls. The broad-brush approach to cutting career faculty contracts is not only unfair to those dedicated faculty who saved this University during a time of crisis, but it puts the quality of the programs themselves at such great risk.
What are the administrations specific plans to ensure programs themselves are able to function when such a high percentage of faculty will be working under compromised contracts (e.g. .55 FTE)? I've been in every faculty meeting, including a deplorable visit from Provost Phillips, and have heard no mention of program quality — just numbers, contractual terminologies, blame, and an utter disregard for career faculty.
How does the administration propose UNDERSTANDING the individual qualities of the specific faculty they are cutting, and how those qualities fit into the very fabric of our programs beyond a number in a spreadsheet? Further, how has the administration considered the ethics of pretending everything is normal for current and potential students when this approach will gut the years of benefits that have been so strategically build within schools/programs?
A: Answer to came as soon as possible.
Q: While I'm looking forward to the possibility of teaching in person in the fall, the room I was assigned for my in-person class did not allow for social distancing for the 15 graduate students who will attend. I requested a larger room, and the new room I was assigned will not allow for proper social distancing either. Is there a central plan for how to schedule classrooms in such a way that social distancing guidelines can be followed? If not, is there a plan for moving back to remote teaching?
A: We have been told that all assigned rooms were vetted to ensure that social distancing can be followed. Please contact the union office if you have been assigned a room that does not allow for social distancing.
Q: How can it be that some faculty are requesting to teach remotely and those requests are being granted (essentially, with no questions asked), while other faculty are being told, in effect, that unless they meet the CDC "risk criteria" (which are problematic on many levels), they must return to teach in person classes next year? This has to be made an issue - faculty should be able to choose to teach remotely FOR ANY REASON (e.g. no questions asked, no need to self-identify as belonging to a risk group) if they do not feel that sufficient provisions are being made by the administration to make return to campus safe next year.
A: Administration has told us that any faculty member who requested to teach remotely for any reason will be accomodated. We believe that facutly should be allowed teach remotely for any reaons and are advocating that positon to administration.
Q: Who will be enforcing social distancing in classrooms and/or other spaces?
A: There is no official answer at this time. It will be discussed by the Employee Safety Reopen Committee that UA is a part of. Our view is that it should not be the responsibility of the faculty member to enforce social distancing in the classroom. If a request to follow the clearly posted rules is not effect, we will advocate that faculty can cancel class for the day and report the situation. We believe that if faculty have students who want to disrupt the class, then the faculty member should have the option to teach the class remotely.
Q: What are the current proposals around required use of face coverings? Will masks and/or other PPE be provided by UO? Will the issue of air circulation in closed spaces be addressed?
A: Although everything is very fluid, right now it looks like face coverings will be required in all buildings unless the person is alone in a "space" - i.e., classroom, office, meeting room. Face coverings will be recommended outside where social distancing is not possible. We have heard conflicting reports about whether UO will be able or willing to provide face coverings; it is assumed that everyone has at least one face covering that they have been using this spring. The requirement to wear face coverings while indoors is thought to address concerns about air circulation.
A big question that remains about the face covering requirement is how faculty who teach will be able to make themselves heard in the classroom. At this time, it is thought that face shields might be an answer. If they are, then they will definitely need to be provided by the administration.
Q: Will UO definitely be remote after Thanksgiving break?
A: Not definitely, yet, but almost certainly.
Q: Can you speak more to how career faculty contract reductions are affecting faculty of color? How many have been affected?
A: Unfortunately, we cannot. We know that many faculty of color were impacted by the reductions, but the administration does not and will not share with us demographic data related to race, ethnicity, gender, or age. Their stance is that this is private information and it would be a violation of faculty members' rights to release the information to United Academics. We are aware that many of our international faculty members are impacted by the 0.55 FTE contracts, as their visas stipulated that they would be working full time at UO. We are trying to rectify that situation as quickly as possible.
Q: Should I sign my .55 contract? Will signing or not signing it make a difference in my eventual FTE?
A: If you accept the contract you are being offered at 0.55, there is absolutely no bar to having the contract raised to 1.0 FTE later, and it should not impact the decision to raise FTE one way or another. Restoring FTE as soon as possible is our number one priority during our summer bargaining. If we are successful, then the 0.55 FTE contracts should increase.
It is our understanding that right now, the colleges have no power to raise FTE. The Provost has told all units that they are not allowed to raise FTE without the permission of the Provost's Office. The Provost's Office is holding all FTE at where it is right now because they are concerned about possible large enrollment decreases and cuts to state budgets. Every time we meet with anyone in administration, we urge them to increase FTE when they know they will need the faculty member full time.
From what we understand, the department heads are being asked to indicate any faculty members who they believe will definitely be needed in the fall. We are hoping that the combined efforts - the union pushing for full restoration in fall and department heads demonstrating need - will force the Provost to act quickly.
Q: If I understand correctly, my FTE could be front-loaded so I would be working full-time fall term, but only paid a small portion of my salary for that work. It seems the FTE conversation will also happen each term rather than once for entire the academic year. How are people suppose to plan for that, and what is the union doing to prevent this instability? I might look into getting a part-time job if I knew I was going to be .55 for the year, but having an ever-changing FTE with little notice means I can't plan for my future. If I do decide I only want to work half-time, can the university force me to front-load my FTE?
A: Yes, your FTE assignment can be front-loaded or back-loaded, even if you do not want it. There have been no agreements reached between the parties regarding how decisions on what FTE needs to be assigned when will happen. We have mostly been encouraging the administration to restore full FTE to eliminate this problem. In units where an unbalanced schedule has become common, there has been cooperation between the faculty and the people in charge of assigning work, where accommodations have been made when they can be. Unfortunately, due to the administration's decision to delay freshmen acceptance until September 1, many decisions about unbalanced scheduled will be made at the last minute. We will work very hard to eliminate this problem by restoring FTE and address the need to accommodate faculty if we cannot come to agreement on the restoration of FTE.
As we have said in our communication to the membership, we think this is a horrible way to treat faculty and a betrayal of the agreement we had. Faculty should not be treated this way. We have some hard bargaining to do to make it so that they cannot in the future.
QUESTIONS FROM THE APRIL 2020 TOWN HALL
Q: I have heard that there is a plan to cut faculty wages. Have I heard correctly?
A: United Academics leadership has had discussions with the administration about a wage cut plan. We sent an email to all union members describing the plan, leadership's thoughts on it, and the possible consequences of not accepting their plan. The Provost followed up with his own message.
Q: Can the administration impose wage cuts on the faculty?
A: No. Any wage cut plan has to be agreed to by the membership of United Academics. If the leadership of UA believes that the administration has made a reasonable proposal, we will refer it to a vote of the membership for ratification. There will be a period of time for discussion before any vote is held.
Q: I am not a member of the union. Will I be able to vote on any wage cut proposal?
A: No. Only members of United Academics will be able to vote on any proposal. Members have volunteered the dues that keep UA healthy and able to engage in these discussions. All bargaining unit faculty are invited to join UA and have an active voice in their union.
Q: Is there dialogue happening between administration and UA about short term versus long term planning and budget choices?
A: Yes, we have raised this point with administration. Unfortunately, it seems that admin wants to look at it that way but from the negative. They seem to be thinking that we might be alright for spring and summer, but there could be a global depression that lasts for a decade. They don't want to make long-term commitments to faculty given that possibility. So, what they want from us is a mechanism that lets them cancel contracts or lower wages if there is a budget deficit. Unfortunately (again), they do not want to give us any input into the budget, instead arguing that all the decisions they have made so far are the right ones and they don't need our input.
Q: Administration is proposing that cuts would be triggered by something like a cutback in state funding. Shouldn't we insist that the trigger has to be related to overall funding? Often, state funding has decreased while endowment earnings, overhead on grants and contracts, and even tuition are stable or rising. And state aid is a relatively small share of the budget.
A: They have proposed that wage cuts would be triggered by a decrease in state revenue or a decrease in tuition income. They have indicated that they would be willing to say that there would need to be a decline in either of those renew sources that impact the General Fund before the cuts would be triggered. If tuition were up and state funding were down and there was no overall decrease, however, then no, it would not make sense to have a trigger that results in wage cuts.
They proposed that people on grants and contracts will not be asked to take cuts.
State aid is a small percentage of the budget, but a cut of some millions would still result in a reduction of millions to the budget.
Q: Can we propose that other options will be exhausted before reverting to faculty cutbacks? E.g. drawing down reserve funds, temporarily increasing the endowment spending rate, taking on more debt, accounting for all CARES act support?
A: The central theme to our response to their outline of a proposal has been that they will both need open up the books and increase faculty involvement in budgeting decisions going forward. They have not been receptive to these talking points. At this point, we don't see coming to an agreement that cuts faculty salaries without these provisions, though. The plan they proposed to us started with a loss of $5 millions in funding. All of the items you mention have been or will be discussed, but we believe that their thinking is that all of the options you list will be quickly exhausted if enrollment dips by 10% and/or state funding is slashed.
Q: I have done a lot of work this term, both to prepare my classes, but also to supervise my GEs. Will I be able to use this experience on my promotion case or next review?
A: Yes. You should emphasize the work you have done this term in your teaching dossier and/or on your service report. We will also work to make sure the work people are doing, including librarians and researchers figuring out how to work remotely, is also taken into account in merit considerations.
Q: Do we know what our Board of Trustees is doing to help during this crisis? Has there been an increase in donations to the teaching and research mission?
A: We have not heard about anything in particular the BoT or donors are doing to help out. We have asked the administration several times to tell us what they are doing to offset an anticipated budget crisis, other than wage cuts, and they have not mentioned increased donations. At one point, we indicated, that one thing we'd like to see if a concerted effort to have all donors - including athletics donors - asked to make a one-time contribution to the General Fund, but administration did not seem receptive to that idea.
Q: If there are triggered cutbacks, there should also be automatic snap-backs - i.e. a commitment that once university revenue rebounds to point X, all positions will be reinstated, and retroactive raises provided.
A: Yes, the outline of their proposal incorporates that idea by limiting the cuts to two years. We did mention automatic raises when we come through this. We are still in bargaining with the administration, so potential cuts, and raises after cuts will need to be bargained in the coming months.
Q: It’s good that the union will have an opportunity to vote on any proposal for salary reductions. But there’s more information needed, along with the formula for salary reductions themselves. What are alternatives? What will the university do if the union members vote “No?” Layoffs according to seniority? Automatic reductions of FTE? Other means of reducing the expenditures? Obviously, it’s hard to vote “yes” for something without knowing what “no” would entail or trigger.
A: At this point, we have had only 2.5 hours of conversation with administration about any of this. All of these questions are good ones, but we don't have the answers. One of the difficulties we have is that the administration is mostly worried about a cut in state funding, not an enrollment decrease. If enrollment does not decrease, they will have a difficult time laying off faculty, although they may need to find tens of millions of dollars.
Unfortunately, they told us that if we do not accept their plan, they will renew all Career faculty whose contracts are expiring at 0.1 FTE, if they renew them at all. We do not think it is feasible to have these faculty stay at 0.1 FTE, as many units will need the Careers to teach classes that do fill. We believe that the administration is attempting to us the Career renewals as leverage to get us to agree to a plan.
One of the big drawbacks of having a Board of Trustees made up mostly of successful business people, is that "cut wages and/or employees" has been then the first and main solution to every business crisis since the 1980s. While President Schill is not a businessman, "cut wages" has also been his first thought, or so it seems. We asked administration to tell us what other reductions that they might be making, but they are maintaining the posture that there is nothing else that can be cut because everything (except faculty?) is vital to running the campus.
As discussions will be ongoing, these will be questions we will be definitely be asking of them.
Q: I understand that you are discussing salary cuts, not raises, right now, but I want to make sure that the exceptional workload that many of us have shouldered isn’t forgotten. I would like to see some kind of direct financial benefit for each course taught this quarter. My preference would be a lump sum per spring 2020 course for each member of the teaching faculty (TTF and NTTF), since that better reflects the one-time, exceptional character of the burden than a permanent alteration of base salary via the merit process.
A: We have only had the two brief conversations with the administration about their thinking, and one of the points we did not discuss is how all of the planning for "cuts" would fit into our larger bargaining proposals on wages. Everything is very much in flux. Right now, our ask in exchange for all the hard work faculty have been doing is to extend the contracts for our career faculty who are up for renewal. So far, the administration has rejected that proposal, instead tying renewals/extension to our willingness to take cuts. We believe some sort of one-time bonus might be an acceptable alternative, but I know right now that the admin is thinking cuts, not bonuses.
Q. Can research faculty be required to come into work, even if they believe their work is not essential or there are hazardous conditions in their lab?
A. If a faculty member is working in an unsafe or hazardous situation, they have an obligation to report that situation, but cannot be compelled to work in a hazardous situation until the concerns are investigated and hazardous conditions are resolved. Theoretically, if you are being asked to come to campus to perform work, the administration has deemed your work to be essential.
Of course, there can be a difference of opinion on whether a situation is essential or hazardous. We strongly urge anyone who believes they are being asked to come into work to what they believe is a non-essential or hazardous situation to contact the union office for an individual assessment and advice.
Q: One of the questions I have in addition to learning about a proposed wage cut plan for faculty: Will this also effect contributions to retirement accounts? Will this be different for those of us that are not part of PERS?
A: Almost certainly, a temporary reduction in salary would impact retirement contributions to any of the plans.
Q: I noticed that so far, the president and senior administrators are taking a wage cut. Does this apply to Dean’s, coaches, etc.?
A: It is our understanding that deans voluntary took a wage cut, coaches have not taken a cut. We have been told that there will be a wage cut plan and it will be imposed on OAs, which includes senior administrators and athletics department personnel, but we have no details.
Q: I’ve heard unofficially that UO is treating the extra 80 hours of paid sick leave we’re all receiving as part of the federal government’s mandate as a use-it-or-lose-it situation, in which hours must be used during the time the university is closed, and that we won’t be able to keep any unused hours after UO reopens. Is this right?
A: The 80 hours of sick leave given as part of the federal stimulus package are due to expire on December 31, 2020. They are “use them or lose them” as of now.
Q: I would like to know if the pay cuts are going to be across the board for NTTF and TTF faculty?
A: Yes, the administration's proposal would apply to all faculty, save those whose salary is derived from outside grants. Since any cut to state revenue or loss of tuition dollars would not impact funding-contingent salaries, these faculty would not take a wage cut.
Q: How might this effect PERS? Our pensions going forward currently depend on our three highest earning years. For most people these will be the next couple of years. The effect of even a temporary pay cut could potentially be a permanent reduction in pensions.
A: Obviously, any pay cut program will be painful, but the folks on TRP or who have retired would be particularly hard hit because their PERS pay may be affected or they are on a fixed income. Administration told us that they had considered this when devising their plan, but felt that the impact would not be enough to justify exempting faculty near retirement.
Q: In light of pending layoffs for Pro Tem and Career faculty, I am wondering how and when these decisions will be delivered to those affected. What can we expect from the administration in the coming months?
A: Instructional Pro Tem faculty contracts will most likely be expiring at the end of the term, and it is unlikely that they will be renewed before the administration knows people will be need in the fall. Pro Tem faculty who are doing grant-related work will be employed until their work becomes unfeasible to do remotely.
Instructional Career faculty and Career Librarians who are up for non-renewal should receive notice of renewal or non-renewal by May 1. The administration has indicated that they will either non-renew or renew all contracts at 0.1 FTE, unless we accept the wage-cut proposal.
Funding-contingent Career faculty always face non-renewal when grant funding runs out. Obviously, we are in a unique situation where grant funding still exists but doing grant-related work may not be feasible. We are talking with administration on how to deal with this unique situation. As always, our main priority is to protect the long-term employment of excellent faculty and to protect the benefits they have earned.
Q. Is there talk of salary cuts among TT in order to save NTT jobs?
A. Yes, many faculty have suggested they would be willing to take a temporary pay reduction in order to help save Career faculty jobs. Some faculty are interested in a straight pay cut, while others believe we should have a furlough program where tenured faculty can give up pay and FTE so as to double the feasibility of keeping Career faculty employed. All faculty we have talked to agree that any wage cut plan should be voluntary and the funds should transparently be used to retain employees at UO.
Q. Is there talk of UO offering financial incentives for faculty to retire early?
A. Not yet. In the last bargaining session before the Governor’s stay-at-home order, the administration proposed a buyout plan that would allow them to control if and when a faculty member left employment at the university. Obviously, times have changed, so those conversations may be different in light of COVID, and a one-time plan may be more appropriate. Unfortunately, the administration maintains that they do not have robust reserves, so there is the question of where the millions of dollars needed for an effective buy-out program would come from.
Q. Is there or should there be a sick leave bank? Or another thing faculty (esp TT) can do to support their (esp NTT) colleagues?
A. The idea of a sick bank has been discussed many times with the administration. To date, they have been unwilling to make any serious modifications to the current system. Currently, faculty can use accrued sick time or borrow up to 520 hours of time from the administration, which is paid back as it is accrued. The administration has been willing to have a sick leave bank that lets faculty borrow up to 520 hours from the bank, which would be paid back as it is accrued. Which, as you can see, is basically the same thing we have now.
We raised the idea of allowing faculty to donate accrued sick time to fellow faculty members facing a lay-off, but administration did not seem interested in pursuing the issue, as it would carry a financial burden for them.
Q. Do we have reassurances that UO won’t try to claim this content zoom/online/streaming course as their own? Is there anything faculty can/should do to maintain ownership of their materials?
A. In his email on March 20, Provost Philips stated, “Please know that the university will not seek to capture any of the streaming lecture materials developed by faculty during this time.” The ownership issue is more complicated. In current UO policy [link: https://policies.uoregon.edu/finance-and-business-affairs] – following state law – the administration claims ownership over “educational materials,” but the policy is very vague. We believe the materials used to teach regular classes, including those used to teach remote classes belong to the faculty member under Section 6.215(3) of the policy:
(3) Lecture notes and other materials prepared by academic staff in connection with a teaching assignment and with only incidental use of institutional facilities, funds, staff, and other resources normally shall be viewed as flowing from individual effort and initiative and shall not be construed as having been produced in the course of discharging the obligations of employment.
This issue needs to be clarified through bargaining over the summer, but for now, we are relying on Provost Philip’s statement that the administration will not capture streaming materials this term.
Q. Why didn’t the UO extend week 1 so faculty could prep for remote delivery? Will we demand compensation for extra work time?
A. Many colleges and universities gave their faculty an extra week to prepare for the Spring term. Obviously, the UO admin did not. We did not speak with them on this subject directly, but we understood that they prioritized engaging with the students as soon as possible so as to retain as many students as possible. While the financial health of the university ran far behind the health and safety of the campus community and the need to keep students on track to graduate on time as priorities, it was a concern.
Q. What’s with the confusing information re: teaching synchronously vs. asynchronously? Is it ok to do either?
A. There has definitely been mixed guidance on this question. All faculty are allowed to deliver content in a way they believe is to the advantage of their students and pedagogically appropriate. That can be synchronous delivery or asynchronously delivery. You have the absolute right to choose either.
A best practice, though, would be to check in with your students and see what works for them. Many students want to be able to interact with their professor and their fellow students on the course content. If you are delivering content asynchronously, you might set up a discussion board in Canvas.
Q. What happens when accumulated paid time off runs out? Will these workers, especially RAs and postdocs, have to take unpaid time off, have FTE reduced, or be “laid off?” Do we know what the admin’s plans are for these faculty?
A. At this point, we believe that employees who cannot do their work remotely will be eventually laid off. We do not, however, have a lay-off program for faculty in the collective bargaining agreement, as neither party envisioned a scenario where work at the university would be suspended for an unknown period of time.
We are trying to avoid a situation where any faculty member will lose their job on a temporary or permanent basis. Guidance from the administration has been that every effort should be made to keep the non-instructional faculty fully employed. As far as we have heard, this effort has been successful. Looking forward, however, we do anticipate that it might not be possible to keep everyone employed remotely. We have suggested to the administration that faculty be allowed to donate sick time to a pool that can be used by RAs and postdocs to fend off a lay-off situation. We have also encouraged the administration to be creative in finding work to keep good research faculty engaged until we all return to work.
Should faculty need to be laid-off, there will need to be an agreement between the administration and the union about how this will work. Our first priority will be fight for recall rights and the extension of current benefits for as long as possible.
Q. Are there any protections in place in the collective bargaining agreement for funding-contingent faculty?
A. There are no particular protections for funding-contingent faculty beyond promoted faculty being entitled to 30-day’s notice before their contract is terminated due to lack of funding.
Funding-contingent faculty can lose their positions at UO when funding for the project they are working on either runs out or is revoked. There is a possibility that some grants could be revoked or terminated during the COVID crisis. All indications are, however, that the efforts from governmental agencies are designed to keep people working.
We do not believe that the administration can use the COVID crisis to end funding-contingent contracts unless there is a withdrawal of grant funding. We may need to develop some emergency lay-of procedures, but we do not believe that a temporary suspension in grant-driven work constitutes a “lack of funding” that would justify a non-renewal notice.
Q. Will there be any special considerations for faculty with children at home (e.g. for research productivity)? Will this be a reason to pause the tenure clock?
A. All faculty in the tenure-track who have not yet secured tenure are allowed to request a pause in the tenure clock of one year. You do have to ask for it, as it is not automatic. You can initiate a pause in your tenure clock by notifying your dean of your wish in pause your clock.
We have raised the issue of pausing the post-tenure review clock with the administration, as well. They were receptive to the idea, but they have not finalized this option at this time.
The pausing of the clock will not be based on having children at home or other factors. Almost everyone is facing a unique challenge at this time. Obviously, some faculty are facing the challenge of educating and caring for children in a time of confinement. Other faculty have parents or partners who are ill. Almost all of the faculty are facing reduced research resources or loss of time in the field. Fortunately, the administration has agreed that all faculty need a break and have extended the tenure clock and are working on an extension of the post-tenure review clock.
Because going up for promotion is optional, there is no need to extend the promotion clocks.