Session 15: On Summer Session Cuts

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

In last Friday’s bargaining session, both sides approved the new contract language for Article 18, which improves job security for non-tenure track instructional faculty by creating a system of continuous appointments. AAUP and the administration will release joint communication with full details about this agreement later this week. If you have questions about how this new system will affect you, please contact Leanne (leanne@psuaaup.net or leaserbulo@gmail.com).

In our last meeting, we began discussing Summer Session. We had come up with a framing question to guide our discussion: How do we compensate faculty during summer session in a way that is equitable, predictable and sustainable while considering student needs? This week, we looked at more data, which showed an overall decline in the number of sections and student credit hours produced during Summer Session as well as an increase in students per section. While it is difficult to draw conclusions from this macro-level look at summer term, the administration’s data seems to support what PSU-AAUP found in our report on Summer Session.

Each team then listed their interests, and we began brainstorming possible options to address the Summer Session issues. There seemed to be some general agreement that a campus-wide conversation about the mission of Summer Session needs to happen. Both sides are also in agreement that there needs to be contract language protecting summer pay rates. However, the administration has expressed concerns that restoring historic rates could harm some departments that have been operating at cut-rate pay levels.

Before the next session, each side will draft and share a proposed, comprehensive solution. If you experienced pay cuts, course cancellations or a reduced summer load anytime over the past couple of years, please come to our next bargaining session on Friday, October 30th at 10:00 AM in Smith 296. Bring a sign that shares your thoughts about Summer Session!

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Session 14: Some More Good News!

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

Good news from yesterday’s bargaining session…

  • We signed off on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that protects faculty who will be joining the new PSU/OHSU School of Public Health. Affected faculty will now vote to ratify this MOU.
  • We also agreed to a Transfer of Tenure Home policy which will become part of our new contract.
  • PSU administration will provide money for post-tenure review pay increases for all five quintiles (all faculty eligible for post-tenure review over the next couple of years). The pay increase will remain the same for all five groups scheduled to undergo post-tenure review. This was part of the MOU that our membership ratified in September.

We began yesterday’s session by listing all of the bargaining issues we want to discuss in these negotiations and putting a time frame around them. We categorized issues as short (we can resolve in less than one session), medium (we’ll need 1-3 sessions) or long (we’ll need to devote 4 or more sessions to the issue). We agreed to tackle a few short issues during our next session and to prioritize a medium-term issue next: summer session. As most AAUP members know, we’ve seen drastic cuts to summer session pay and class offerings in recent years.

We reviewed the contract language on improving job security for non-tenure track instructors (NTTF) by establishing a system of continuous appointments. We also reviewed language for letters of agreement that ask Faculty Senate to address emeritus status and evaluation and review guidelines for NTTF. In the next session, we will officially “TA” (tentatively agree) upon these documents, meaning they’ll be part of our next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In the afternoon, we began using the Interest-Based Bargaining Process to discuss Summer Session issues. We came up with a framing question to guide our discussion: How do we compensate faculty during summer session in a way that is equitable, predictable and sustainable, while considering students’ needs? This question will drive our discussions and help us frame options for resolving this issue.

If you’ve been concerned about the loss of summer session offerings or pay, we encourage you to join us at our next bargaining session. We have a few contract language issues we need to deal with in the morning, but we should be well into the summer session discussion by the afternoon. We meet next Friday, October 23rd from 10:00-4:00 in Smith 323.

Thanks to everyone who joined us yesterday to observe bargaining and attend the lunchtime discussion. Your presence reminds the PSU administration that the issues we’re negotiating are deeply important to faculty across the university.

Session 13: Success in Negotiating Continuous Appointments for Instructors

By Leanne Serbulo, VP of Collective Bargaining 

On October 6th, we completed our bargaining over non-tenure track instructional faculty (NTTF). We have now conceptually agreed upon all of the details of a new system of continuous employment for our instructional NTTF. We will still need to draft and approve contract language for this system, so please look for a joint statement about this tentative agreement, which will be issued sometime next week.

The primary issue we resolved today was the transition plan for current NTTF. We conceptually agreed that:

  • Current NTTF who have reached the 4 year seniority mark and promoted will automatically convert to a continuous appointment.
  • Current NTTF who have not promoted, but have completed 6 years and have four recent annual or multi-year reviews will automatically convert to a continuous appointment.
  • Current NTTF who have reached the 4 year seniority mark, but haven’t promoted and have less than 6 years experience, can apply to convert to a continuous appointment.
  • Current NTTF who have not yet reached the 4 year seniority mark will be granted a continuous appointment if they promote in their 4th year. If they do not plan to promote, they can apply for a continuous appointment.

Faculty Senate, and then each department/unit, will need to create guidelines about how continuous appointment peer review procedures. In the interim, we conceptually agreed that applicants can put together a portfolio that includes: a narrative self-evaluation, CV, letters from colleagues or community partners, syllabi or other teaching materials that support the narrative, quantitative summaries of student evaluations, previous annual reviews and additional departmental-specific materials.

This issue took a long time to process, in part, because we’ve created an entire new system of employment for instructional NTTF. The Interest-Based Bargaining process (and strong member mobilization) really facilities this type of institutional change. While we may have been able to make this gain through traditional bargaining (and strong member mobilization), the IBB process ensures more buy-in, from both sides, in the final result.

Next session, we will discuss how we want to move forward with crafting a similar system for our non-tenure track researchers. If you are a researcher, our bargaining team would love to get your input on how we can increase your job security given soft funding constraints. Please email leanne@psuaaup.net to share your story and ideas with our team.

We will also spend time next session sequencing our bargaining issues. We have a number of issues we need to address including: academic professional issues, Summer Session, Professional Development, and of course, wages and benefits.

More good news! We signed-off on…

  • Article 11: Changing how academic professionals are released from duties to participate in bargaining. Previous contract language was written with only faculty in mind
  • Transfer of Tenure Home procedures

Session 12: Big Steps Toward Job Security for Instructors

By Leanne Serbulo, VP of Collective Bargaining

Good news! We had a very productive session on Friday October 2nd. We continued to hammer out the details of improving job security for non-tenure track faculty (NTTF) by providing continuous (rather than short-term) appointments. Our union and the administration reached conceptual agreement around many points, including the question of how evaluations will work for non-tenure track instructors in the years after they receive a continuous appointment.

Here’s an outline of how continuous appointments will work for NTTF instructors:

  • NTTF instructors will be initially hired on annual or multi-year contracts. Upon reaching seniority (see details below) and completing a successful, summative peer-review, they will be awarded a continuous appointment.
  • A continuous appointment means the instructor will become a permanent PSU employee and will no longer work on short-term contracts.
  • A NTTF instructor with a continuous appointment can only be terminated from their position under specific circumstances: if they engage in behavior that warrants termination under Article 27 (the part of our contract that lays out procedures for discipline / sanctions); if the university declares a financial emergency under Article 22; if there is no longer a curricular need for the position, in which case, the faculty member will have an opportunity to be recalled should the position reopen; or if the instructor receives an unsatisfactory evaluation and is unable to remediate his/her performance within a year.
  • An instructor on a continuous appointment will be evaluated once every three years. There will be no off-cycle evaluations. The evaluation process will be similar to our current peer-reviewed evaluations.
  • If a NTTF instructor receives an unsatisfactory evaluation, the faculty member and department chair will come up with a remediation plan that addresses the specific issues for improvement which were identified in the review. The plan will contain detailed mileposts and timelines. The faculty and chair will check in each quarter to assess progress. The plan can be ended earlier or extended if needed. If a faculty member does not make any progress on the plan by the end of Winter Term in the year following the evaluation, s/he will receive a 3-month termination notice.
  • The administration is open to the idea of attaching financial rewards to satisfactory evaluations. We will discuss this further when we bargain over economics.
  • While we have not yet agreed upon a transition plan, there seems to be general consensus around automatically converting many current NTFF instructors to continuous appointments. We have discussed automatically converting instructors who have completed 6 or more years at PSU, plus instructors who have reached seniority (4 or more years) and have been promoted during that time. NTTF who have not been able to promote (those hired at the Assistant Professor rank do not have a promotional pathway open to them) but have 4 or more years of experience can convert to a continuous appointment with departmental approval. New hires (NTTF hired after the agreement is ratified) will need to reach a 6-year seniority mark, but we are still working out these details.
  • We still need to outline a system of continuous appointments for NTTF researchers.

We’ve spent a significant amount of time working on these issues, and many of our previous sessions became contentious. Because this is such a monumental change, there was a lot of fear and trepidation in the room. The administration was leery of letting go of the managerial control and “flexibility” that the current system of short-term appointments provides. We felt pressure to construct a system that would adequately protect our members and that wouldn’t have negative unintended consequences. In short, we wanted to get it right. In the end, we’ve come up with a system that provides real job security for NTTF instructors, creates a stable work environment within our departments and most importantly, facilitates a high-quality learning environment for our students.

This conceptual agreement represents a major shift at PSU. One of our team members commented that “PSU will become a national leader in how we provide job security to NTTF. Other universities will look to us a model.”

Thank you to all of our members who attended the lunch and joined us at the bargaining table afterwards. Your presence kept us motivated and on track. It is the actions that you’ve taken over the years that made this agreement possible. Without your willingness to share your stories, the courage you’ve repeatedly shown, your support and unity for your colleagues, we would have never reached this point.

While last Friday’s news is good, we still have a long way to go. In our next session, we will start working on a system of continuous appointments for NTTF researchers. After that, we will begin to address academic professional issues, summer school protections, professional development and wages and benefits. Please join us for coffee on Tuesday October 6th at 9:30 am in Urban 611 before our next bargaining session. The bargaining team will be there to answer questions and listen to concerns. At 10am we’ll all proceed up to bargaining in Urban 710.