July 26, 2021: Bargaining Update

The two sides met last week on Thursday, July 22.

We began with discussion of the 3rd hold-over tentative agreement from last summer. In March of 2020, the union team suggested changes to the selection process for Promotion and Tenure (P&T) Committee members. Additional language issues were also identified, and changes were agreed upon. The teams agreed to a selection process that is a combination of voting and random selection. First, all faculty will vote for the member at large. Once that vote is completed, any remaining open seats will be selected through a random selection process. For each school a pool of eligible faculty will be created—minus those who decline–to replace committee members who are at the end of their two-year terms. Terms are still capped so that faculty cannot serve more than three consecutive terms.

Next, we discussed class size caps and how to address the administration’s proposal to formalize a process for setting and revising class size. We have stressed that this should be up to the discretion of faculty and department chairs who are best positioned to understand the needs of the students and the constraints of the department. Faculty want to promote optimal learning conditions for all students in their courses. The administration recognizes that changes cannot be imposed.

Large class sizes are a concern for many courses, including those with a significant writing component and those with hands-on work or discussion components. Some relief for faculty with high class numbers and/or writing intensive courses was recommended, potentially in the form of release time once classes reach a threshold. The definition of that threshold has not been set.

We pushed back on the proposed move to 15 contact hours from 12 for full-time faculty. We noted that student research mentoring is only possible because of our current credit loads. Several contracts ago a move from the range of 12-15 (with limits on prep periods) was negotiated down to 12 contact hours per semester in mutual acknowledgement of best practices in higher education. The standard contact hour/course loads in higher education are lower than our current standard of 12 contact hours per semester. Accrediting bodies have noted high workloads on our campus as an area to improve upon and have recommended decreasing workload. The lead negotiator for the administration stated that accreditation is not the highest priority for the University and that accreditation may need to be sacrificed in some programs.

Finally, we discussed sabbatical opportunities for non-tenure track faculty. We have a tentative agreement that non-tenure track faculty will be allowed to apply for up to two sabbaticals, at least 6 years apart, after they are in their first three-year contract (year 9) and that up to one per year will be awarded. In exchange we agreed that sabbatical opportunities for tenured faculty will be limited to two. This item has not been finalized but we look forward to signing this tentative agreement in our next meeting.

Important reminder: we are one month away from our negotiated increase and reinstitution of 403B matching. Please remember that with the onset of the pandemic, in the spirit of shared sacrifice, we gave up our contracted 403B match for the 2020-2021 academic year. Next month, we will again be able to take advantage of the match. Although it will take faculty 10 years to make up the lost retirement contributions if they contribute 5% (matched 2:1), we recognize that staff and many administrators also have had lost retirement contributions, and we are grateful to have the contracted benefit returning for us in August. In order to take advantage of the increased cap on matching, you will need to adjust your own retirement contribution through ADP. Instructions have recently been sent from HR, but if you have trouble or questions, please reach out to us or directly to HR.

Our next two meetings are scheduled for Tuesday August 3 and Thursday August 5. Keep an eye out for updates and for additional surveys to help us represent you at the table.