Different Outlooks – Is All Well, or Do We Need Changes?

Executive Summary

The two teams discussed key issues related to tenure and sabbatical. We debated whether the administration should have the sole discretion to delay sabbatical leaves, the obstacles to taking leaves faculty in small departments face when there is no commitment to replace their labor, the need to reform the tenure and promotion denial appeal system, and whether the administration can comply with state law and get the union accurate information about faculty on time.

Through our conversations, we discovered that we have some fundamental differences of opinion on whether everything at UO is working just fine or we need to make some improvements.


On Thursday, the administration bargaining team and our team met for the fifth bargaining session. The administration team brought two counter proposals. We had one counter proposal. Several conversations led our team to express frustrations with how our sabbatical and tenure denial systems disadvantage faculty.

Appeals from the Denial of Tenure and Promotion
We presented the administration a counter proposal to their proposal from last week. Our proposal was largely a restatement of the ideas for improvements from our previous proposal.

The conversation at the table quickly revealed that the differences in our proposals stemmed from our different views on the tenure and promotion appeals process. The administration team seems to believe that everything is working pretty well and that only minor adjustments are needed. Our team believes that there are some major flaws in the current system that need to be fixed.

Illustrative of our divergent viewpoints was the conversation concerning who will review an appeal decision from the Promotion, Tenure, Retention Appeal Committee (PTRAC). Faculty who are faced with a denial are surprised to find that, under the current system, the Provost is the person who decides if the Provost has erred when they denied tenure or promotion. The system works like this: the Provost makes a decision to deny tenure. The faculty member can appeal to the PTRAC. The PTRAC holds a hearing, where the Provost defends their justification and defends their decision. The PTRAC issues a recommendation. The Provost then reviews the PTRAC recommendation and decides if the Provost has made an error.

As we expressed at the table, faculty are amazed that the Provost acts as judge, witness, and appellate judge. We have made the simple proposal that the President review the PTRAC findings and make a decision as to whether to overturn the decision of the Provost. The administration team, however, has stated that they find nothing worrisome about this system, expressing confidence that the Provost will give the report from the PTRAC a fair and neutral reading and make a decision accordingly.

The disagreement about the role of the Provost in the appeals process was not our only proposed change or the only area of disagreement, but many of our conversations followed a similar pattern: our team presents the administration with a problem and suggests a solution, and then the administration team rejects our proposal because they think the systems we have work just fine.

Union Rights
We had previously proposed that the administration send us a list of new faculty by September 1 of each year. They responded by proposing that they provide us a list of new faculty 10 days after they start working, as required by law. They also, however, indicated that, while they intend to comply with state law, they couldn’t absolutely promise that it will happen.

Their proposal sparked some conversation about the need for the university to revamp their records systems so they can better provide the information they are required by the CBA and state law to provide.

The administration accepted our proposal for a new way to calculate salary when faculty go on sabbatical. Rather than averaging FTE over the previous years to determine the date of sabbatical eligibility, FTE will be used to calculate salary when on sabbatical. In other words, a faculty member on a 0.5 FTE contract will be eligible to take sabbatical after six years instead of twelve, but will have their salary prorated.

The administration’s proposal did not accept our suggestion faculty would have to agree to have their sabbatical delayed. Current policy is that the administration can delay sabbatical at their discretion. This policy, apparently, allows them to delay sabbaticals before someone even applies for a sabbatical. We proposed that faculty would need to agree to delay their sabbatical, but administration is worried that a faculty member would refuse to agree even in a genuine emergency, such as when they need the faculty member to cover a class. We countered with our concern that administrators are delaying (or denying) sabbaticals because a faculty member’s absence was inconvenient for a unit head but was not a genuine emergency. We did not resolve our difference of concern.

We had also proposed that, when a faculty member takes a sabbatical, any cost savings on salary be returned to the unit to enable the unit to hire replacement faculty. The administration informed us that they were not going to be willing to agree to proposals that dictate how the administration will spend its resources. After clarifying that of course there are many areas of the CBA dictating how the administration spends money, we were led to understand that they did not agree that it was necessary to support units when faculty went on sabbatical. We had some conversation with them on this point, describing how career faculty and/or faculty from small departments often forgo sabbatical – and other leaves – because they know it will place a burden on their colleagues who will have to cover their classes. We argued that knowing there is a mechanism to replace their labor, if necessary, faculty will be more willing to exercise their rights. The administration told us they would be very willing to discuss the issue further when we respond to their proposal.

We resume on conversations on Thursday, February 13 at noon in Chiles 125. All are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to attend. You can bring work to do and do not have to stay the entire time. See you there.