EMUTalk.org is coming to you now from an undisclosed location in that vague region referred to as “up North.” The family and I are here relaxing and preparing for the fall term, which is to say that we are sitting around enjoying nature while working on syllabi and other fall things, we are breaking up our hikes and site-seeing with bouts of reading material that will be assigned in a few weeks– or vice versa.
Anyway, this was all interrupted with news that the administration and the faculty union have reached a tentative contract agreement, one that will surly be ratified by faculty in early September when we get to formally vote on it. More details/thoughts on all of it after the break, but I think this quote from the EMU-AAUP blog post on all this kind of sums up the overall feelings I have:
As with negotiations in 2012, we finished several weeks early, and there was a genuine spirit of good will and cooperation at the negotiating table. Both teams operated in an environment of mutual respect, and we were still able to represent the faculty forcefully and responsibly.
I think that’s totally right, and congratulations to both sides of the table for that. Even though it has taken years for both sides of the table to figure this out (that is, all the tense negotiations that went on in the past, and the really ugly strike in 2006), it looks like the administration (and probably the board of regents, too) has come to realize that it isn’t in their interest to screw the faculty, and it looks like the faculty union folks are starting to realize that the faculty they represent would rather have leadership looking for sane and reasonable deals.
Overall, the contract looks like it’s a good deal. If I had any reservation about it– and this is a small one and kind of an odd one, too– it’s the “we will not be paying for parking, despite insistent claims by the administration.” I guess the EMU-AAUP folks see this as a “victory” of some sort, but to be honest, I think we’re at a point where maybe faculty should pay for parking simply because it doesn’t look good. We’re the only group on campus that doesn’t pay for parking, and that includes administrators and students. It’s not that big of a deal either way, but I think symbolic gestures matter, and I feel vaguely uncomfortable/guilty about the “special status” of free parking.
Besides, it could be a good bargaining chip: what could faculty get in exchange for giving up free parking?
And again, the end is near for EMUTalk.org. I’m trying to find a good way to export the whole site and put it up someplace as just text so that if folks want to find it later they can, but I have my doubts about how well that will work. If anyone has any technical advice on that, let me know. In the meantime, be sure to join the EMUTalk Facebook group– oh, and I just customized the address so it’s easier to remember/email to folks: https://www.facebook.com/groups/emutalk/
Okay, more thoughts on the contract after the jump:
So, a few thoughts more or less as they are described in the EMU-AAUP post about all this:
- It’s a four year deal, which is a good thing in the sense that no one wants to be in constant negotiations, which is kind of what we get with something like a two year deal. The only potential downside with that as I see it is faculty might forget what the union did for them and “opt out” with “Right to Work” rules kicking in. Of course, that’s a problem the EMU-AAUP is going to have to face going forward no matter what.
- 2.5% every year for four years is nothing to sneeze at, so that is definitely a good thing. Still, the problem with an across the board percentage is it favors the highest paid faculty members. So I for one would have liked to have seen something like a percentage and a flat dollar figure because that benefits the less well paid.
- The insurance is kind of a win/lose thing to me because while the inevitable increase to our costs were kept fairly low, there is this whole thing about spouses having to take their employers’ insurance. And as another tangent I have to wonder when (as Obamacare kicks in even more) we’ll see the widespread “decoupling” of health insurance from employment entirely.
- As someone who is a little shy of the “halfway” mark in my career at EMU (assuming I retire at 70), I definitely see the “win” of keeping the TIAA-CREF contribution at 11%. Though I also am starting to think I need to start contributing a few percentages myself.
- More money to support research in the form of summer funds and FRFs is a really good thing, and I think it is a good move in the direction of faculty being more engaged in their scholarship. These funds– and the “super-professor” promotions– is a win for everyone because it discourages faculty from “checking out” in later years and it rewards all faculty for staying involved their fields.
- Also from my point of view, reining in the rules for summer teaching and overloads is good too. Frankly, a handful of faculty have been taking advantage of loopholes in those rules forever, and anything the union can do to make it more fair for all faculty to have the chance to teach in the summer if they want.
- Requiring equivalences in DIDs ought to make for some interesting discussions in the next few years. The EMU-AAUP says “the administration must follow locally agreed upon equivalencies in every department’s DID,” but I have to wonder about how that will work in practice. I mean, if a department proposes equivalences that would essentially give faculty a lower teaching load than they have now, couldn’t the administration object to that?
- I think the “student conduct language” agreement sounds like common sense and reasonable. At one point, I think the EMU-AAUP was arguing that faculty could “un-enroll” a disruptive student, but that could easily be abused; being able to get a disruptive person out of a class until the issue is investigated by a third party seems more fair for everyone. I assume we’re talking here not about your run of the mill situation of a student caught texting or napping or whatever, and I also assume (or hope?) that non-tenure-track folks who are in a “faculty” role in the classroom (graduate assistants, part-timers, and lecturers) have similar discretion.
- And two things close to my heart for different reasons are the change to electronic dossiers for tenure/promotion and the rule that says any faculty member who is doing 51% of “administrative” work instead of teaching has to be made an administrator.
More than my 2 cents; any other highs or lows?