We met with the Administration’s bargaining team on Wednesday, July 10 from noon until 4:15 in the LaSells Stewart Center. Forty-four faculty members observed the bargaining session. The teams signed tentative agreements on two minor contract provisions, Parties and Notices.
The Administration team said they had a counterproposal to the Academic Freedom article that we proposed on March 23. Their counterproposal consisted of a Statement on Academic Freedom from the OSU Faculty Handbook, verbatim, that is a vague affirmation of academic freedom along with a list of general “Faculty Responsibilities,” which was also taken verbatim from the Faculty Handbook. This proposal does not enumerate any specific rights for faculty, nor does it include a corresponding list of “Administration Responsibilities.” We expressed concern that the administration team had not engaged in any way with our proposal; it became clear during discussion that they in fact had little knowledge about the contents of either the proposal they put on the table or our proposal, despite having more than fifteen weeks to address it. We reminded them that our proposal asserts faculty members’ right to academic freedom in research, scholarship, and publication; course design, classroom instruction, and grading; and participation in shared governance. Our proposal would also require the administration to get Faculty Senate approval for any agreements or contracts with curricular impact and to protect faculty members from any forces, external or internal, which would restrict their academic freedom. We agreed with the general sentiments of academic freedom in the OSU Faculty Handbook but argued that they are just that, general sentiments; these sentiments are not adequate for a Collective Bargaining Agreement, which should specify the rights to which faculty are entitled.
We also spent a good amount of time discussing a Grievance Procedure. In our counter to the administration team’s latest proposal we re-inserted several provisions, including the goal of resolving grievances at the lowest possible level without litigation, the right to be free from retaliation, and the right to pursue arbitration. The bulk of our discussion focused on issues of discrimination and sexual harassment. In our last discussion, the administration team argued that complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment should be investigated by the Office of Equal Access and Opportunity. In response, we revised our proposal to include an EOA investigation in the grievance procedure in those kinds of cases. The purpose is not to dictate the EOA investigative process but to establish EOA as the initial fact finder in such cases. We also included a longer timeline for such cases; given the trauma involved in cases of discrimination and sexual harassment, we want faculty to have ample time to pursue their grievance. The administration team argued that longer timelines were unnecessary and would somehow encourage grievants to procrastinate. They were also concerned that including longer timelines in the CBA might mislead faculty members into missing the deadlines for filing legal complaints. We suggested addressing that concern by including those timelines in the CBA, a suggestion that the administration team rejected. It became clear through the discussion that the administration team does not want faculty members to be able to use the grievance process in cases of discrimination and sexual harassment. Instead, they want those cases to continue to be dealt with through current procedures, which forces faculty members who have faced potential discriminatory treatment to either accept the university president’s assessment or take on the expense of hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit. We believe a grievance procedure with arbitration would be a superior, more efficient, and less costly alternative for both faculty and the institution.
Proposals Exchanged on July 10