Published: October 30, 2015
FAC members are voting on the tentative agreement with the administration until the end of today.
If it is approved, months of negotiation will end with a new contract for the next three years.
If it is not approved, FAC officers will try to pinpoint which aspects of the tentative agreement are unsatisfactory to faculty members.
Union members had Wednesday, Thursday and today to vote via an electronic ballot. FAC officers expect the results of the vote as soon as Saturday morning.
FAC Chairperson Michael Friedman, Ph.D., shared his prediction.
“I’m expecting that the contract will pass, but I’m expecting that it’ll be a closer vote than usual,” Friedman said.
FAC members had three meetings to discuss the tentative agreement. During the first meeting on Oct. 13, they mainly discussed the controversy of one aspect in the document.
“It was discovered that there was a discrepancy between what the administration believed they had agreed to and what we believed we had agreed to,” Friedman said. “And, unfortunately, although it was not a very large part of the document, it was a very important thing to the faculty.”
Last year, faculty members who did extraordinary work, such as publishing a book that brings positive attention to The University, were financially rewarded in various amounts, or merit adjustments. The administration decided the amount of merit pay but did not provide any feedback about why the faculty received however much they received. FAC members did not like this. For this contract, they proposed the formation of an advisory committee that would address these concerns.
“The faculty, in every one of its proposals, had included a passage about a committee that would be formed,” Friedman said.
“It would be administrators and faculty members that would look at the procedures for merit pay and make revisions to the current procedures so that a lot of the problems that were identified in the last set of procedures could be fixed.”
However, the administration thought they did not agree to the formation of this committee, Friedman said. He explained why there was confusion.
“They thought they had agreed to a document that did not include this committee, but the document we passed to them – and this is the key idea – the mediator backed up our version of the events,” Friedman said. “The mediator said ‘No, the document that was agreed to included a reference to this committee,’ but the administration said ‘No it doesn’t. We don’t care what the mediator says. This will not be in the new contract.’”
Some faculty members were concerned that merit pay creates competition, which is why this issue was so important to them.
“This is one of the bad parts of merit pay,” Friedman said. “It causes faculty members to be competitive against one another because there’s a limited amount of merit pay, and if I get some of the pie it actually detracts from what somebody else might get. So it does not encourage community. It does not encourage collaboration. It encourages competition. We think this runs counter to the spirit of the institution.”
Darryl DeMarzio, Ph.D., chairperson of the education department, teaches philosophy of education and history of education. He is also worried about, what he refers to as, a cultural change on The University’s campus.
“More and more higher education is looked at as a product and students and their parents are looked on as consumers,” DeMarzio said.
He said that while most of these changes are economy-based, it is imperative to not see things only through the lens of an economic crisis.
“The economic crisis is real. Economic uncertainty is real,” DeMarzio said. “But if we only see what we do in terms of the issues of an economic crisis, then that’s going to mean that as a faculty member and as a student the entire educational engagement is seen through this level of economic uncertainty. I think that’s a great concern.”
However, the administration agreed to the advisory committee before the FAC’s second meeting on Oct. 22. Friedman said the FAC was pleased and explained why he thinks the administration changed its mind.
“I think the problem would have been that if they didn’t change their mind, if they didn’t accept this aspect of the contract, then it would have held up the tentative agreement,” Friedman said. “And open house was approaching and I think the administration was, let’s just say, as anxious as we were to get a settlement, so they agreed to this.”
Agreeing on the committee allowed the FAC’s second and third meeting to focus on other aspects of the tentative agreement.
“People disagreed with certain aspects of the tentative agreement, but I think on the whole it was a successful enterprise,” Friedman said. “And we’re now in the middle of the voting.”
The administration provided a general statement regarding the tentative agreement rather than sit for an interview.
“The University is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the Faculty Affairs Council, which testifies to the willingness of the union and the administration to compromise in pursuit of a mutually beneficial contract,” Stan Zygmunt, director of news and media relations at The University, wrote in an email. “The agreement now awaits ratification by the faculty.”
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