United Academics Values
As we enter into bargaining with the administration, these are the values that will drive our negotiating positions [A work in progress]
Below is a list of some of the things we value as faculty at the University of Oregon. The list was drawn up by a bargaining caucus that met over the summer. Most of the items below inform the proposals we are developing for the table. As our bargaining caucus and bargaining team develop proposals to present to the administration, we will update this list with links to specific proposals.
Academic freedom is the core value of what we do as faculty. Protecting our freedom to research, publish, and teach is a primary mission of United Academics. We already have strong <link>academic freedom protections<link> in the collective bargaining agreement. We intend to protect our current freedoms, and also look to strengthen protections for Career faculty. Academic freedom and tenure are inherently linked in the academy. Unfortunately, the academy of today is not the academy of 1940 or even of 1990. The rise of contingent labor in the academy has weakened the guarantee of academic freedom for all faculty. We will bring to the table several proposals that will provide Career faculty with more job security and more academic freedom.
Our first collective bargaining agreement ensured that all faculty could participate in shared governance at the unit, college, and university levels. We further bargained for service FTE for Career and Tenure-Track faculty to participate. There have been some difficulties as the campus has become accustomed to participation by more faculty.
One area we will work to improve is the role of Career faculty in the Tenure-Track hiring process. Many units have begun to include Career faculty on hiring committees, but have continued to deny these Career faculty a vote on the hiring decision. While we believe that Career participation on TTF hiring and review committees should be a unit-level decision, we fully support the notion that all faculty who share in the work of selecting candidates should be allowed to vote on them.
Another area we will seek to explore is the Institutional Hiring Plan. Where new faculty will be hired will set the priorities and agenda for the university for years to come. We believe that faculty should have a full voice in this process. We are a university community, and a community only works if there is joint cooperation and input.
Job Stability for All Faculty
Theoretically, our Career faculty can earn longer contracts with more job security through longevity and promotion. Unfortunately, round after round of layoffs have taught us that job security is often illusory. Moreover, the administration has taken advantage of our willingness to provide them "flexibility" by defining a Career "contract" as any appointment greater than 0.10 FTE. In other words, a promoted Career faculty member can be given a three-year contract that is 0.10-0.10-0.10 FTE. We will be seeking to end the system where faculty can be given these sham contracts.
We will also be looking to strengthen the processes by which Career faculty can challenge a non-renewal notice. We plan to propose that a committee of faculty and administrators review each non-renewal decision to verify that there is either a performance issue, a legitimate departmental programatic change that eliminates the need for a job, or a bona fide financial reason for a layoff. We will also be seeking language that will give faculty with performance deficiencies to learn and improve before a non-renewal goes into effect.
Finally, we will create a mechanism whereby Career faculty who have demonstrated teaching excellence can earn indefinite appointments.
Modern Learning Spaces
While the administration has done a decent job of providing faculty with the technology they need to teach students, not all of our facilities have been updated. When students are paying top dollar for their eduction, our faculty should have the tools they need to educate them. We will be working to ensure that all campus facilities, not just the newest buildings, have the equipment and technology we need.
Our faculty also have difficulties when their offices and teaching spaces are cold in the winter and much, much too hot in the summer. We will be proposing contract language that will ensure that faculty have working conditions that enable students to learn.
Our current retirement regime is a mess. There is a lack of clarity of how the Tenure Reduction Program is supposed to work. When do faculty officially lose tenure? Are they still eligible for raises? Are work assignments mandatory or only when the department needs their labor? Is service to the profession still compensated when a faculty member is on TRP? Why is there no buyout program? We plan to bring clarity to all these questions by simplifying the retirement system for tenured faculty.
To date, Tenure Reduction Plans have been ad hoc agreements between faculty and department heads. This can work out great for some, including providing faculty who are moving into a new phase of their career with needed flexibility. Unfortunately, if can also mean that two faculty members in the same unit can have different retirement packages, depending on their relationship with their current department head. By having campus-wide rules that provide some guidelines for retired faculty labor, we hope to make the system better for everyone.
Currently, Career faculty who "retire" by collecting PERs are required to "retire" at the university and give up all their Career rights, essentially becoming permanent adjust faculty, even if they don't lower their FTE or change jobs. We will work to end this system and ensure that Career faculty retain the rights they have earned throughout their whole time at UO.
Safe Working Conditions
Over the life of the union, roughly 50% of the raises we have bargained have been merit raises. We continue to believe that most faculty on campus are doing exceptional work and that work should be recognized. We also believe there should be a faculty-controlled system for recognizing the outstanding work of our colleagues.
The merit raise system we have is not perfect. We will work to improve the transparency of merit raises and to ensure that when we do merit raises the pools of money are large enough to justify the time faculty give to the process.
Comprehensive Family Leave
Family leave is the area of campus that generates the most complaints. The problems are multifold, but three many issues constantly come up in conversations with faculty. One, there is a lack of clarity on campus about when it is appropriate to take leave, what leave is available to faculty, how and when to take sick leave, and what duties faculty will be responsible for when they return. Two, "paid" family leave is actual "use earned sick leave," which is not paid leave. Three, there is a lack of clarity on stopping the tenure, promotion, or contract renewal clocks.
Our efforts address these issues have been complicated by the Oregon Paid Family Leave Act. The new law is a good thing for our state, but there is some question about how it will work in practice. The new law does not exactly fit with what we had planned to bargain. We're fairly certain that unions can bargain benefits that go beyond the guarantees in the new law, but how all of this is going to work together will take some good conversation at the bargaining table.
We will be looking to improve on the biggest issues faculty face when taking family leave. We will want a family leave policy that is centered on simplicity and clarity. We will want true paid family leave. We will also ensure that all review clocks are paused while faculty use leave to take care of themselves or their family.
Each spring, the campus is roiled by news of yet another massive tuition increase. Tuition increased by 6.91 % last year. This has to stop. We cannot continue to ask our students to be the only source of funding for general expenses at the university. Each year, the administration provides an explanation about the lack of state funding. We are very sympathetic to the lack of state funding argument, but that does not stop the increases to tuition.
We will propose that the administration create a fund to offset increases in tuition by taxing donations to the UO Foundation and the Duck Athletic Fund. We expect to have vigorous conversations with the university about this idea. We believe it is time to try anything to provide new funds for undergraduate education. We cannot continue to combine hope that the state will do the right with tuition increases to provide needed money.
The issue of class size at UO is a difficult one. There is no standard for what a proper class size is. Best practices vary from department-to-department and topic-to-topic. We know, in principle, that smaller classes lead to better educational outcomes. Moreover, we know that larger classes are one solution that deans have used to address the problem of increasing enrollment but decreasing income, as the administration adjusts budgets for the colleges.
We will be looking to engage with the administration in conversation about how we can keep faculty, not administrators, in charge of class size so that decisions are driven by pedagogical best practices, rather than budgetary needs.
Transparent Hiring Processes
Over the last few years, the administration transitioned to a centralized hiring system for tenure-track faculty - the institutional hiring plan. Whereas in the past, departments and deans decided who was hired into which positions, now that authority has been turned completely over to the Provost. If you do not work in an area of campus that the Provost much cares about, your unit stands little chance of seeing a new hire any time soon. For instance, over the last three years, the Provost's office approved 44 new tenure-track hires in CAS Natural Sciences, but only 4 new hires in the Law school, and 5 new hires in the entire School of Music and Dance.*
According to the Office of the Provost webpage, former Provost Jayanth Banavar relied on the Dean's Hiring Advisory Committee and something called the Provost’s Faculty Hiring Advisory Committee when making his decisions. There does not seem to be a record of which faculty members were on the Provost’s Faculty Hiring Advisory Committee, let alone how they were selected.
We believe that the decision on which areas of campus will have new or replacement tenure-track hires and which will not will fundamentally shape this university for decades to come. We strongly believe that faculty should have a central role in this process. We will be bargaining to ensure that our future colleagues are selected with transparent faculty input.
*There are, currently, 147 TTF in CAS Natural Sciences and 43 in SOMD.
Undergraduate & Graduate Education
UA values undergraduate and graduate education as the core mission of the UO. All pedagogical research shows the link between small classes and student success. We ask that the Administration stop raising class caps in Writing and language classes as a response to budget pressures. We also recognize that career faculty are necessary to our mission of providing excellence in undergraduate education; we ask that the administration work with us to provide our career faculty support for professional development support and job stability. Graduate education is central to our identities as an RI institution and as the flagship university of the state of Oregon. We ask for greater institutional support for graduate programs so that departments have the necessary resources to train the next generation of researchers and teachers.
Science and Poetry
The goal of a university to is provide an education that allows its graduates to become productive and humane members of society. Such a lofty goal can only be achieved if a student has access to a wide-ranging curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking, communication, respect for others, and the technical skills needed to thrive in today’s increasingly technologically complex world. In order to ensure student success at the University of Oregon, our students need to have access to a world class education spanning all disciplines; from the natural sciences to poetry, as well as everything in between. We recognize this need and is committed to ensuring that no academic discipline is left wanting for the resources necessary to make this a reality.
This means that though there are limited resources, no university should need to rob one program to pay for another. Of course, we realize that the amount of resources needed for different disciplines varies; a chemistry lab is inherently more resource intensive than a course focused on the work of Leo Tolstoy. However, both are vitally important to the University’s overarching mission to its students and a well-run university would see to it that both get the resources they need to ensure student success. One of the best ways to ensure this is to stay true to three of our core principles when making tough budgetary decisions: transparency, academic excellence and student success. It’s through transparency that we can most efficiently use the resources that are available, for example by fighting against administrative bloat; to meet the standard of academic excellence needed to maximize enrollment and thus the resources needed to support the University’s mission to its students. Historically, universities such as Stanford and UC-Berkeley have used academic excellence and student success to drive enrollment, not NCAA trophies or the number of alumni with professional sports careers. At UAUO we believe academic excellence, from science to poetry, is the way forward for our university.
Our collective bargaining agreements have increased salaries for faculty by a combination of merit raises, cost of living increases, and salary floors. In fact, salaries increased by approximately 24% since the implementation of the first CBA. However, for many faculty, particularly career non-tenure track instructors, salaries remain so low that they seek outside employment on top of their 1.0 FTE, and in some cases rely on public assistance to feed their families and make ends meet.
We believe that at an institution where the top administrative position can receive an annual bonus of over $60,000 that ALL faculty should be paid a salary that allows them to not only make their monthly bills, but recognizes and rewards their education, experience, and expertise. Furthermore, in an area with rapidly rising costs of living, we believe that salaries must adjust to reflect these changes in order to retain faculty.
Innovative Scientific Research
Innovative scientific research is at the heart of any AAU-accredited institution, and the University of Oregon should be no exception. While UO in recent years has shown a renewed commitment to scientific research through the formation of the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and programs such as the Big Data Initiative, these should not be seen as end goals in and of themselves, but as the beginning steps in making us an international research powerhouse. We play an important role in this process by continuing to promote our core principles of transparency, academic excellence, student success, and pay equity.
Transparency in decision making in places such as the Knight Campus is vital. Cutting edge scientific research demands lots of resources and these resources must be efficiently used. One of the best ways to ensure this is to ensure new campuses and initiatives are maximizing scientific infrastructure in existing colleges and core research facilities. Transparency in decision making processes allows all stakeholders to effectively and efficiently use the limited resources available. Without transparency, duplication and competition will cause waste and divisions to arise, keeping us from reaching our scientific research potential.
Academic excellence requires pay equity for TTF and NTTF involved in research. Pay equity ensures UO can attract and retain the best and brightest faculty, the bedrock of innovative scientific research. A healthy research ecosystem needs the complementary experience of TTF and NTTF, both in directorship and support roles. In addition to generating new knowledge and innovations, TTF and NTTF train the next generation of scientists through mentoring graduate and undergraduate researchers. To ensure that we attract and retain top quality NTT and TT research faculty, we cannot allow salaries to fall behind the best research institutions found around the world — or allow inequity to divide us in the team-science and collaborative culture that promotes innovation and excellence.
With transparency in decision making processes to ensure the efficient use of limited resources, along with attracting and retaining the best faculty, UO puts itself in a great position to ensure the success of its graduate and undergraduate students. Having a track record of student success strengthens the third leg of the research triad needed to conduct innovative scientific research.
Creating New Knowledge
Support for Innovative Teaching
The bedrock of any university is the students. We are proud that our membership is comprised of so many dedicated teachers and researchers. While UO in recent years has shown a renewed commitment to supporting teaching excellence, particularly through the Teaching Engagement Program (TEP) and joint efforts between the Provost’s office and the University Senate to reform teaching evaluations, more work is needed to provide financial support to enable faculty to engage in professional development focused on innovative teaching. Too often teaching excellence is thought of as secondary to the research goals of the university, when in fact these goals go hand in hand.
To truly foster excellence in teaching means that faculty must be given a course load that allows time to develop new courses as well as rethink, revise, and reinvigorate established courses. In addition, faculty must be paid a fair salary to allow them to focus on a single career, rather than scrambling to take on additional teaching (or other work) to make ends meet. Furthermore, financial support must be provided for faculty – career NTT and TTF alike – to attend conferences, symposiums, and other events to engage with the latest educational research into teaching and learning, not just in a particular field of research interest. Teaching is not just time spent in the classroom, and for our students to truly be successful, we believe that cultivating a career of lifelong learning on the part of faculty is key.
We will be bargaining for professional development FTE for all Career faculty, increases to ASA funds for tenure-track faculty to be used for teaching development, and ASA funds for Career faculty.
Grant Overhead Transparency
Grant Application Support
Diverse Faculty and Students
UA values a diverse faculty and student body and we are committed to making the UO more welcoming. We ask that the UO continue to prioritize hiring a more diverse faculty; we also ask that the Administration keep demographic data on the retention and promotion rates of faculty to identify and address institutional barriers. Social class is a category of diversity that is largely invisible. We commit to making the UO more welcoming to people from all social classes by asking for salary floors for all career faculty, researchers, and post docs. In order to bring and retain a more economically and culturally diverse student body, we also ask that donations to the UO Athletics be taxed at 20% to support academic scholarships for in-state students with financial need.
Professional Development Opportunities
Mentoring New Colleagues
UA values mentoring faculty. We have partnered with Academic Affairs to offer a series of workshops for junior faculty to talk about teaching, research, service, grant writing, and the review process. UA hosts a series of informal caucuses to bring together faculty of color, parents of young children, and LGBTQ faculty to socialize and discuss any issues of concern. UA staff and executive committee members also offer a safe, knowledgeable and discrete place for all faculty to ask questions or raise concerns about any workplace issue. These conversations inform many of our current bargaining platforms and refinements to the CBA.