Session 6: Can We End the Climate of Fear for PSU Faculty?

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

On August 25th, we continued to discuss the job insecurity faced by hundreds of PSU educators and researchers. In 2014, we got the university to shift toward offering multi-year contracts (2-3 years in length) to a greater proportion of non-tenure track faculty. This was a major stride, but it’s not enough. Teaching faculty and researchers, many of whom have invested years of service into this university, should not be treated as temporary employees. Temporary employment creates a climate of fear for non-tenure track faculty members that leads to a stifling of academic freedom, an inability to protest unfair employment conditions or exploitative work environments, and is a disservice to our students, who have an interest in knowing that the faculty they work and learn with will remain at PSU. We need to respect and reward our NTTF who produce a significant portion of student credit hours and bring-in grant revenue for this university. We need to end the climate of fear for non-tenure track faculty by providing permanent employment.

Initially, there was some agreement. Our union and the administration coalesced around the idea of continuous employment, which means non-tenure track faculty would become indefinite employees, with full job security protections, after completing a probationary period and cumulative review. The teams agreed that continuous employment opportunities should be open to both teaching and research-focused faculty. We recognized that in certain cases, short-term appointments may be needed (for instance, to replace a person on temporary leave, or if a position is funded by a single grant that has a specified end date and continued funding from any source is not anticipated). However, we want to put strict limitations on how fixed-term appointments can be used, so we do not end-up creating another faculty underclass. We also discussed the idea of creating a task force through Faculty Senate to explore the possibility of tenure tracks for faculty members who are solely focused on either teaching or research. Many details of the new employment system still need to be worked out.

We have not yet reached consensus on how current non-tenure track faculty would be transitioned into the new system. Our union asserted that everyone who has met the four-year seniority mark should have their position converted to a continuous appointment without having to undergo further review or serve an additional probationary period. The administration did not agree with our position and, after taking a caucus, they proposed a fairly confusing array of contradictory tiered employment situations, some of which represent a move backwards from what we currently have. We did not see this as a viable option.

We meet again Monday, August 31st, 11am-4pm, ASRC 620. Please join us at 11am, especially if you’re a non-tenure track faculty member. The administration doesn’t always have an accurate understanding of who we are, how we’re employed and what we do for this university. Your presence will make a difference!

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Session 5: STILL Looking for Real, Meaningful Job Security

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

On August 14th, we continued to process Non-Tenure Track Faculty issues using the Interest-Based Bargaining steps. After sharing the data that was gathered since the last session, we began generating proposals. Our bargaining team suggested that we start with the proposal that the Article 18 Task Force produced last January. This joint labor/management group came out of our previous contract and was charged with designing an alternative to the current contract system of employment for Non-Tenure Track Faculty. The task force proposal calls for continuing appointments for Non-Tenure Track teaching and research faculty members. Continuing appointments mean that once a Non-Tenure Track Faculty member achieves seniority status (4 years) and undergoes a successful review, s/he would become a permanent PSU employee who could only be let go if s/he failed to perform his/her job duties or if his/her program was cut. The Article 18 Task Force report recognizes that there may be times when a fixed-term (time-limited) appointment is necessary, but it puts strict limitations on the use of these appointments.

The administration was initially reluctant to discuss the Article 18 Task Force report, suggesting that engaging in an evaluation of this proposal would shut off our ability to explore other ideas. The administrative team has repeatedly floated an idea of providing “tenure for teaching” but has failed to specify what this means. This idea seems to have come out of a draft report generated by one of the strategic planning topic teams.

AAUP was founded on the principles of academic freedom, and we cherish the role that tenure plays in guaranteeing faculty members’ rights. Tenure is our ideal, however, designing a teaching-intensive tenure track is a substantial project that would require multiple layers of institutional review. We are open to exploring what this could look like at PSU, but our Non-Tenure Track Faculty need job security immediately, not years down the road. In addition, the vague model the administration is putting forth guarantees nothing for research-intensive appointments.

In the afternoon, the administrative team finally agreed to review the Article 18 proposal. Their team does seem to understand that the current system of contract employment is untenable, and they no longer insist on the need for “flexibility.” This is a significant change from our last cycle of bargaining (during 2013 and 2014), when they wanted to be able to let the least senior Non-Tenure Track Faculty members go with only 30 days notice.

Whatever system we ultimately come up with will need to provide real, meaningful job security to the Non-Tenure Track teaching and research faculty who are currently working at Portland State. It will need to recognize the ongoing contributions that this portion of our bargaining unit have made to the instructional and research missions of this university and appreciate the time and effort they have invested in university service and governance.

We will continue to discuss Non-Tenure Track issues during our August 25th session. We encourage you to attend bargaining. We missed our member observers at our last session. Please come and show your support!

Three Tentative Agreements

Joint communication from both bargaining teams

The University and AAUP are pleased to announce that we have come to three tentative agreements in our current contract negotiations. The following changes will be made to our successor Collective Bargaining Agreement:

  • Letter of Agreement to continue the Task Force on Academic Quality:
    • Continuation of the current Faculty Senate Academic Quality task force
    • Representation from: Faculty Senate, University, AAUP
    • University provides staffing support for the task force
    • Presently developing aspirational practices that support Academic Quality.
  • Letter of Agreement to create a Standing Committee on Work/Life Balance:
    • Resulted from Family Friendly Task Force discussions
    • Representation from: Faculty Senate, University, AAUP
    • University will assist with scheduling and provide staff support
    • Committee charged with: updating PSU Work/Life Policy Statement, researching spousal hiring practices, examining campus recreational opportunities for employees and their families
    • May become a standing committee dedicated to improving work/life balance at PSU
  • Creation of a Sick Leave Bank:
    • Article 32 changed to: Family and Medical Leave and Sick Leave Bank
    • AAUP members join the Sick Leave Bank by pledging 3 hours of their accumulated sick leave
    • Upon approval, members of the bank can withdraw up to 30 days of sick leave from the bank after they have exhausted their own sick leave
    • Leave from the bank can be used for an employee illness, to care for a family member, or for parental leave
    • Sick leave bank members may apply for an additional 30 days of leave if necessary
    • Leave will be converted into dollars upon withdrawal
    • Sick leave bank donations will be randomized, so no one department or unit will face a disproportionate financial burden when leave is withdrawn
    • AAUP will receive quarterly reports from HR on the status of the Leave Bank
    • Calls for additional sick leave hours will be issued if the accumulated, pledged leave becomes too low

The tentative agreements we reached will become part of our successor Collective Bargaining Agreement and will be ratified by PSU AAUP members and the Board of Trustees. The Sick Leave Bank will be established after ratification. The Academic Quality and Work/Life Balance Task Forces can continue their work under Letters of Agreement in our current CBA.

AAUP and the University look forward to continuing our discussions using the Interest-Based Bargaining process. We hope to announce additional tentative agreements soon!