Brief History of the AAUP at Delaware Valley College

Michael Tabachnick andĀ Ronald Johnson

For quite some time, the relationship between the administration and faculty, academic procedures, benefits, etc were spelled out in a faculty handbook. This handbook was periodically revised; it served the institution well for quite some time. Approximately 20 years ago, a series of events occurred that changed that. It was a time of changing faculty dynamics, economic concerns, and an overall concern about the college, its future and direction. During this period, several faculty members went up for promotion and tenure after a moratorium had been lifted. During this process, it became apparent that the handbook had no real legal standing, since all of these candidates were denied. The Board, through the Administration, was free to do as it saw fit, even if it was not in accordance with the provisions of that handbook. In response to this, the faculty realized that the only way to develop a legally binding agreement between the administration and faculty was to unionize and collectively bargain for a contract.

The faculty considered affiliating with several educational organizations and decided to go with the American Association of University Professors, the AAUP. With their help, the proper procedures were followed and the faculty voted on the issue. In October of 1994, the faculty voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionization, with above 80% of the faculty voting in favor.

A set of officers was elected and a committee set to establish the by-laws for the organization, with AAUP assistance. At the same time preparation for collective bargaining process began. A bargaining council and bargaining team were selected. It was the council’s job to determine what points, issues, procedures, etc were important to the faculty and to give them some kind of ranking. The old faculty handbook was the template for much of that work. Once that work was completed, the bargaining team, which would actually be at the table, was given a crash course in collective bargaining. The team was taken to a local motel, and for three days was coached by a group from the AAUP on bargaining law, technique, and strategy. Mock sessions were held where the team actually bargained against the AAUP representatives on the individual points that were part of the Bargaining Council’s report. Collective bargaining began soon thereafter. The administrative team was led by an attorney and gentleman from a large Philadelphia law firm and the faculty team was led by a member of the faculty. Both sides were fortunate in that each quickly realized that neither was unreasonable in its positions. It was obvious that the administrative and faculty teams both espoused the concept of “shared governance”. The question was how to protect the rights and responsibilities of the administration and board and yet make sure faculty were a part of the processes and procedures that effect faculty. The sessions were professional, intense, and serious (most of the time). Progress was slow at times, but both sides gradually worked through the issues point by point, working to craft language that was acceptable to both sides. At no time did either side mention, consider, or discuss any type of job action during the negotiating process. Finally after many months of hard work by both teams and agreement was reached later ratified by both sides. The first contract was signed on February 29, 1996. That first three-year collective bargaining agreement has served as the basis for the 5 subsequent negotiations and the CBA served this institution well since its inception.