A Sour Note

While there is great anticipation for the coming academic year, there is also one sour note.

Over the summer, the Office of the Provost ruled that faculty can be transferred within the institution at any time, for any reason. Essentially, you can be sent to work in Eugene, Portland, Charleston, or any other place the administration can call a university location. You can, of course, also be transferred back or somewhere else. The Provost’s Office believes that you have no right or say in where you work.

This is especially frustrating because all the faculty spent countless hours over the last four years developing internal governance procedures, workload assignment procedures, and shared governance processes to give faculty a greater voice and some stability in the workplace. The Provost’s Office ruled that none of these processes or procedures apply to where a faculty member works. In most cases, faculty cannot be assigned to teach a 201 class without some level of representative faculty input, but you can be transferred to Charleston at the whim of your dean.

Troublingly, there are no procedures or guidelines to prevent a department head or dean from using their ability to make unilateral decisions on where a faculty member works in order to punish faculty, get rid of them, or discriminate or retaliate against them.

In the grievance that gave rise to the Provost’s ruling, three Architecture faculty members were ordered by the dean’s office to transfer to Eugene from their long-term positions in Portland with little notice and no formal explanation as to why. All three faculty members had worked in Portland for more than 20 years, and all were coming to the ends of their careers. The leadership of the union firmly believes that the dean’s office targeted these tenured faculty for transfer so that they would resign rather than move, freeing up tenure lines in the college.

In a response to a Bureau of Labor Industry complaint filed by the Portland architects, the University justified the transfers on the grounds that the Portland program had suffered two straight years of declining enrollment, at least one of the faculty members had received two years of slightly below average merit scores, and that one professor had “no research agenda.” This despite the fact that he had just won a UO research award.

The union leadership has voted to take this case to arbitration, and we will keep you updated. We believe the Provost’s Office decision to suddenly create something called a “location assignment” and to say that these “location assignments” fall outside of all governance processes is both factually incorrect and an attack on shared governance at the UO. If you have had any similar experiences or opinions on this troubling interpretation of the CBA and UO policy, please let us know at [email protected].