Faculty members lined the commons Saturday to protest the administration’s handling of their contract negotiations. During the peaceful demonstration, the members held multiple signs including “A fair contract for faculty!” and “Tuition dollars wasted!”
The faculty began the protest before the convocation mass for incoming first-year students. They took advantage of the combined crowd of students and parents to express their concerns with the administration’s proposed contract.
Faculty members adopted a state of Minimal Compliance in July to pressure the administration toward a fair contract.
Tim Cannon, Ph. D., FAC board member, is a professor of behavioral neuroscience and conditioning and learning at The University. At the protest, he explained what he thought minimal compliance entailed.
“To minimally comply, we’re being asked to interact less with you guys and that’s why I do this,” Cannon said.
While speaking, Cannon gestured to students and displayed frustration at the necessity of the demonstration.
After a faculty vote regarding this state resulted with 88 percent in favor, the Faculty Affairs Council (FAC) entered into the first stage of Minimal Compliance July 13. By adopting this stance, the faculty will perform obligations required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and nothing further.
By contract, faculty members are not required to accept any readers, tutorials, independent studies, overloads or online courses; however, most ongoing projects will continue during the fall semester. According to The University’s “Minimal Compliance – Stage 1” outline, FAC members are still “expected to teach their standard load of courses, perform assigned academic advising duties, and hold office hours (as many as are necessary to serve the needs of their students, but a minimum of three).”
Students will feel the effects of the faculty’s stance depending on how strictly their professors adhere to the minimal compliance guidelines.
“Each of the faculty have to make their own torturous decisions,” Cannon said. Thinking about his position as a professor, he said, “Why do I work here?”
Cannon estimated that he has worked at The University for 30 or more years. He believes unfair contract negotiations are unusual.
“This is not part of our pattern, this doesn’t happen, but it almost happened in the last contract negotiation and it’s happening now and I’m – I’m sickened,” Cannon said.
Stan Zygmunt, Director of News and Media Relations at The University, declined to be interviewed. Instead, he provided an official statement from The University.
“We are immensely proud of our faculty and their deep commitment to our students, which is why we are committed to providing them with a fair and competitive contract. Negotiations are, however, best done at the bargaining table,” Zygmunt wrote in an email.
Tensions rose between faculty and administration in February closely following the announcement of the healthcare policy change by The University’s president, the Rev. Dr. Quinn.
Quinn took on his role in 2011. Since then, there have been two contract negotiations. Cannon expressed his concern with this parallelism.
“Two negotiations with him on campus, two negotiations that have gone bad,” Cannon said. “It’s the only correlation.”
Inorganic chemistry associate professor David Marx, Ph.D., FAC board member, believes a pattern of unfair proposed contracts is linked to the administration’s use of outside lawyers.
“It seems to me, to have started with the pattern of – this is why I picked this sign frankly – of having university outside negotiators, outside lawyers being paid,” Marx said. “Now we’ve got outside people coming in who don’t know the atmosphere, who don’t know that Scranton family that we brag about.”
Marx chose to hold a sign that read, “$200,000+ spent on lawyers.” When asked if he thought there would be more demonstrations similar to this one, he responded,
“I believe so, I believe so.”
Cannon agreed with Marx’s response.
“That’s all we can do. If they’re not going to, you know, provide a contract that we can sign, what can we do?” Cannon said.