Session 11: Addressing Management’s Concerns While Protecting Our Members

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We met for an early and short bargaining session yesterday. Our team went into the session hoping that we could resolve our outstanding issues around the evaluation and transition of non-tenure track faculty members (NTTF) into a continuous appointment system. The last time we met, the administration insisted that managers needed to have a right to call for evaluation of NTTF whenever they wanted to. Our team wanted to see more protections for our members, especially since the model we had been discussing already included a mechanism for termination if a faculty member had an unsatisfactory performance and failed to remediate within one year.

As we prepared for this bargaining session, our team outlined a fair and reasonable evaluation system for non-tenure track faculty members with continuous appointments. We proposed a peer-reviewed evaluation system modeled on our current NTTF annual or multi-year review procedures. Our suggestion was for NTTF faculty with continuous appointments to be reviewed on a 3-year cycle, then proceed to a 5-year cycle. To address management’s concerns, we allowed for off-cycle review but built in a timeline and justification process that we believe would protect our faculty members from evaluations that are unwarranted.

To provide a framework for the review of both our and the administration’s proposed options (which they will prepare for the next meeting), the mediator led us through the development of a subset of interests specific to the evaluation issue. At the next session we will review AAUP’s and administration’s most recently proposed options against this subset of interests.

This has been a very long and difficult negotiation. We could really use your support as we try to wrap up this issue. Please join us this Friday Oct. 2nd at Noon in Urban 611. We’ll have lunch, a quick bargaining update, then we’ll move back upstairs to the bargaining room.

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Session 10: We Won’t Agree to Undermine Existing Protections for Instructors

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We met for a short (4 hour) session yesterday to try to finish hashing out the guidelines for non-tenure track instructional faculty continuous appointments. The two outstanding issues were how to transition our current non-tenure track faculty (NTTF) into continuous appointments and how often NTTF with continuous appointments will be reviewed.

We moved much closer on the transition issue. Both teams offered proposals that outlined:

  • NTTF with at least 4 years of experience who have promoted will be automatically converted to continuous appointments
  • NTTF with at least 6 years of experience, regardless of promotion will automatically convert to a continuous appointment, and
  • NTTF with 4-5 years of experience who haven’t promoted could obtain a continuous appointment with departmental review

There are some minor details that still need to be worked out.

We then moved to a discussion about evaluation. The administration, once again, insisted that chairs and deans need to have the ability to request more frequent, off-cycle evaluations for NTTF with continuous appointments. They stated that since they moved closer toward us on allowing current NTTF to automatically convert to continuous appointments, this item was non-negotiable.

Because a NTTF with a continuous appointment can be terminated if s/he has an unsatisfactory evaluation and fails to remediate within a year, we find the administration’s insistence that chairs and deans can call for off-cycle reviews very troubling. Basically, it amounts to less job security than NTTF on 3-year contracts have right now. Why should NTTF on continuous appointments be subject to more frequent evaluations than other faculty? In addition, it places a significant burden on NTTF who will have to conduct these reviews for their peers.

We have a strong interest in providing real, meaningful job security for our NTTF. It’s not enough to simply change the title of one’s appointment and call it secure when the conditions of employment remain insecure. Allowing chairs and deans to insist on calling for reviews at their whim potentially undermines other protections we have in our contract and results in less job security than NTTF with multi-year contracts already have.

Session 9: Administration needs to ‘recognize and reward years of hard work’

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

In today’s session, we finalized language describing when a continuous appointment (for non-tenure track instructional faculty) could be terminated.  This took up about half of our day, but making sure that contract language is as clear and precise as possible is an important part of bargaining.  In traditional negotiations, teams also invest a lot of time into crafting, clear language, but this is usually done apart and away from the table, either in our prep meetings or in caucuses.  In Interest Based Bargaining, the teams write the language together.  While this process can feel unwieldy, in the long run, it can lead to a stronger, shared understanding of what the language means, which will should result in less conflict and misunderstanding once the article is implemented.

We returned to the issue of how our current non-tenure track faculty will transition from time-limited contracts into continuous appointments.  The administration brought a revised proposal, which backed away from requiring a terminal degree.  Their proposal allowed faculty who had reached the four year seniority mark and had promoted to transition to a continuous appointment with the approval of their chair and dean.  Faculty with at least six years seniority and had promoted could automatically transition, but faculty who had not promoted would have to go through a cumulative review.   We found this proposal problematic, because historically, non-tenure track faculty at Portland State have not had opportunities to promote to higher ranks.  This proposal would make some of our longest serving, non-tenure track faculty members have to undergo an additional hurdle before they could be awarded a continuous appointment, a process that in our eyes, fails to recognize and reward years of hard work and the significant contributions they’ve made to this institution.

Session 8: Small Signs of Encouragement

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

During the past two bargaining sessions on job security, we got stuck on the question of how current non-tenure track faculty would transition from short-term appointments to “continuous appointments.” In order to break through our deadlock, we decided to start the session off by focusing on defining what a continuous appointment means and when it could be terminated. This approach was very helpful. Both teams worked diligently and cooperatively to flesh out terms of continuous employment.

Our union and the administration reached a conceptual consensus on what a continuous appointment would mean. A non-tenure track instructor* with a continuous appointment would be employed at PSU indefinitely unless:

  • The faculty member engages in behavior that warrants termination
  • The position is eliminated because of retrenchment (a rare process that would be triggered if the university declares financial exigency)
  • There are curricular or programmatic changes that lead to the elimination of a need for that position (We spent a lot of time discussing this point and adding in provisions to protect faculty members)
  • The faculty member receives an unsatisfactory evaluation and is unable to remediate his/her performance within a year

As we neared the end of our session, we went back to trying to reach agreement on a transition process. The administration again proposed that non-tenure track instructors* would need to have a terminal degree, or discipline-specific work experience, to receive a continuous appointment. They wanted to require an instructor* to be employed at PSU on short-term contracts for 6 years before becoming eligible for a continuous appointment. They backed off their 8 year timeline, which was encouraging. However, we see no reason why our non-tenure track faculty suddenly have to comply with new qualifications when their job duties are not changing.

We are simply trying to improve non-tenure track working conditions by providing real job security — a change that’s long overdue. 

*Our conversation at this bargaining session related specifically to teaching-intensive non-tenure track faculty. Once we reach agreement on a reasonable transition process for instructors, we’ll move to discussing continuous appointments for research-intensive faculty members. These appointments may look slightly different but the concept should be the same; we’re trying to guarantee job security for faculty members who have invested time and effort into PSU. 

Session 7: Frustrating Day at the Table

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We are still discussing Non-Tenure Track Faculty (NTTF) employment issues. We had hoped to finish processing this issue by now, but our two sides remain far apart on a pivotal aspect of the proposal—how to convert current non-tenure track faculty members into continuous appointments. We spent the entire day dealing with this issue, yet don’t seem much closer to coming to an acceptable solution.

In our last session, the administration asserted that Non-Tenure Track Faculty members don’t undergo rigorous review (which we refuted) and wanted to use rank as a determinate factor in deciding who would be eligible for a continuous appointment; however, they proposed using a series of ranks that were not equivalent for the various NTTF categories. To address their concerns, our bargaining team came-up with a compromise that incorporated rank into the criteria used to award a continuous appointment. We proposed that all NTTF who had reached the 4 year seniority mark and had promoted or re-ranked would be eligible for a continuous appointment. We also proposed that any NTTF who had not promoted, but had 6 years of service also be eligible for a continuous appointment. As we analyzed data about NTTF ranks and years of service, we noticed that some departments had concentrations of NTTF who had been at PSU for a long time, but had never promoted, leading us to conclude that promotional opportunities have not been systematically made available to all NTTF. We don’t believe that our members should suffer for administrative negligence.

The administration proposed a complicated, two-phase transition system that would first make NTTF indefinite employees that could be let go for any reason with a yet-to-be decided notice period, then set-up a tiered system that would add the requirement of a terminal degree (changing the current criteria for NTTF employment) and make NTTF who had promoted have to work an additional two years before becoming eligible for a continuous appointment. This proposal did not meet our interests.

After a few caucuses and more discussion, we remained stuck.
Our next bargaining session is on Wednesday, September 9th from 10-4 in ASRC 620. We hope we will be able to settle this issue in our next session and be able to move on to our other bargaining priorities (Academic Professional issues, Summer School, Professional Development, Economic issues, etc.).