Our bargaining team and the administration team met on Saturday, June 8, 2019 in the LaSells Stewart Center. Thirty-two faculty members were on hand to observe the session. The administration team arrived with one counter-proposal on grievances while our team brought forward five new proposals related to promotion and tenure. For those of you keeping track, we have now presented 40 original proposals, and the administration team has countered very few of them. While we are hopeful that the pace of bargaining will pick up over the summer, we remain frustrated by their apparent lack of preparation for our bargaining sessions.
We introduced several important articles on promotion and tenure (described below), but a significant portion of our time in this session was devoted to the administration’s counter-proposal on Grievances. The two sides are still far apart.
We know from conversations across OSU that many faculty feel the problems they experience cannot be addressed within the current grievance system. Faculty are hesitant to engage in a process that is opaque and seems to be primarily designed to protect the university and its public image. The administration team suggested that everything must be going well since relatively few grievances are filed. This drew a collective, incredulous chuckle from faculty observers who know all too well that there are widespread concerns with both university process and outcomes. The grievance procedure we proposed, including third-party arbitration, would create stronger and more transparent steps to resolve grievances and enforce provisions of the collective bargaining agreement we are negotiating.
The administration wants the entire grievance process to remain “in house,” with all decisions resting with OSU administrators, culminating in a final decision by the university president. This is what we already have, and it is wholly insufficient. While we agree that it is best to resolve problems quickly and at the lowest possible level, there are times when arbitration may be necessary. Every other faculty union contract in Oregon includes provisions for binding, third-party arbitration. At OSU, CGE and SEIU have arbitration as part of their collective bargaining agreements. Shockingly, OSU’s lead negotiator twice said that they do not intend to counter our proposed Arbitration article nor to introduce one of their own. This is utterly ridiculous on their part. It is imperative that faculty retain the right to arbitration when their grievances are not satisfactorily resolved at the university level. In the absence of neutral, third-party arbitration, the very institution against which a complaint has been lodged will be able to adjudicate that complaint to completion, a clear conflict of interest. Faculty at OSU deserve the same protections afforded our colleagues at other public universities in Oregon.
After taking a break and recovering from our shock that the administration believes there is no need for an arbitration article, we introduced our promotion and tenure proposals.
The five articles we introduced were:
- General Guidelines for Promotion and Tenure;
- Promotion and Tenure in the Tenure-Track Classification;
- Promotion in the Fixed-Term Professorial Categories;
- Promotion in the Fixed-Term Instructional Categories and the Fixed-Term Research Categories; and
- Midterm Reviews for Tenure-Track Faculty.
The goal of the General Guidelines for P&T and the two articles on procedures for tenure-track faculty is to provide greater clarity and transparency for the current process as described in university policy. Anyone who has ever looked at the promotion and tenure policies from OSU’s Office of Faculty Affairs will know why more clarity is needed. We want to ensure that promotion and tenure decisions are made on the basis of the job duties described in faculty members’ position descriptions and that the application procedures are well defined and understandable, with clearly delineated responsibilities and timelines.
In addition to clarifying the existing process, we are seeking to significantly strengthen the promotion pathways for the fixed-term faculty who make up about two-thirds of all faculty at OSU. We are committed to ensuring that all faculty have opportunities for promotion and that those opportunities are actualized in practice and in a timely manner. Currently, Research Associates and Instructors (PAC) have no opportunities for promotion. Our proposal will provide that. While other fixed-term faculty do currently have, at least theoretically, opportunities for promotion, it is a relatively uncommon occurrence. As things stand today, only 15% of instructors have been promoted, only 34% of faculty research assistants have been promoted, and only 32% of fixed-term professorial faculty (Clinical, Practice, Extension, Senior Research) have been promoted. Fixed-term faculty often find themselves in “limbo” — eligible but with no way forward when unit heads refuse to even consider them for promotion. This is a clearly untenable situation. It is unfair to our excellent faculty upon whom the university relies to advance the teaching, research, clinical, and extension missions of OSU, and it is bad for the university when a majority of faculty are undercompensated, insecure, and underappreciated in their jobs. In order to address these problems for fixed-term faculty, we are proposing that:
- Eligible faculty members initiate the promotion review;
- Promotion reviews be initiated during the third year (fifth year for fixed-term professorial faculty) so that the promotion becomes effective after four years in rank (six for fixed-term professorial);
- Credit for prior service (up to two years) may be given to faculty members in the fixed-term Instructional and Research categories who enter the university with exceptional experience and/or skills. This will allow them to seek promotion earlier while also ensuring that newly hired faculty members are not disproportionately favored over existing faculty.
As noted at the beginning of this update, we are dismayed at the lack of progress in bargaining. The administration team doesn’t seem to be doing much work outside of scheduled bargaining sessions which hinders productive negotiations at the table. But be assured that together we will succeed in creating a collective bargaining agreement that will protect and extend the rights of faculty at OSU. You can help us in this effort by attending bargaining sessions and talking with your colleagues about what you are seeing and hearing. Let’s be vigilant in keeping the pressure on the administration to bargain in good faith and to treat OSU faculty with the consideration and respect that we deserve.
The next bargaining session is on June 17 from 8-12 in the LaSells Stewart Center. We plan to present articles on faculty governance; workload; transportation and parking; post-tenure review; and hiring procedures. We appreciate your support and hope to see you there. You can find a full calendar of upcoming bargaining sessions on our website.
Proposals Exchanged on June 8