How the Administration Values the Faculty

Executive Summary
The administration team brought a proposal designed to ensure that everyone understands that only active tenure-track faculty’s contributions to the mission of the University matter to them. We resume bargaining this Thursday, February 27, at noon in Chiles 125. The administration told us that they intend to bring a response to our salary proposal. Before they give us their proposal, there will be a presentation from VP for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt. If you want to hear Jamie tell us that despite Tykeson, Knight Campus, Knight Tower, Hayward Field, administrative bonuses, proliferating deanlets, and general administrative bloat, the university is actually quite poor, be there at noon. We may even learn about buckets. If you’d rather skip the preliminaries, showing up around 12:30 would be a better option. As always, please bring a colleague or twelve and feel free to duck in and out and bring your work as needed. Whether you’re in the room or following remotely be sure to interact with our live blog on facebook or twitter.

On Thursday, the administration bargaining team and our team met for the seventh bargaining session. The administration team brought four proposals – one substantive and three housekeeping. We had four substantive proposals:

The conversation at the table was insulting and frustrating.

On January 30, we proposed that Career Instructors who had been promoted to Senior II could undergo a third intensive review to become Teaching Professors. Upon a successful review, our best Instructors would earn an indefinite appointment – a kind of “tenure lite.”  When we presented the proposal, we stressed that we were seeking to recognize that there are Instructors on this campus who are masters of their profession, who have demonstrated excellence time and time again, and who have truly earned the long-term stability and academic freedom that comes with a permanent position (or at least not having to worry about contract renewals).

Thursday, we learned that the administration was rejecting this proposal. They did not have a counter proposal for us, nor did they engage in a conversation with us about why they were saying no to job security and academic freedom for our best instructors. The most they were willing to tell us is that they truly do value instructors, and they are working very hard in thinking of a way to recognize them, but at this point they were not prepared to discuss the issue. More on this below.

The administration team was, however, ready to discuss our system of classification and ranks on campus. It seems that when we proposed a position called Teaching Professor–a category that could include excellent, long-serving career instructors with and without PhDs, MFAs, and other terminal degrees–this upset someone in the administration. Apparently, only faculty with terminal degrees (which many career instructors across campus have) can be called “professor.” Or, so the administration is now, sort of, proposing.

The administration did not, however, fully follow through on their new principles. They proposed keeping the Professor of Practice rank, which does not require a terminal degree. The administration team explained that that rank was only for people who were amazingly successful in their field, so it was okay to call them “professor.” We pointed out that our proposed Teaching Professors were also amazing in their field, as we have written the proposed classification, but this argument was dismissed with a shrug. Under the administration’s proposal, someone could also be a Visiting Professor without a terminal degree.

In addition to striking our proposal for Teaching Professor, they proposed that Clinical Professors who teach be called now be called Clinical Instructors, while those who focus on research or clinical practice would be called Clinicians. The administration’s newfound desire to protect the word “professor” from degradation seems to mean that, while some faculty without terminal degrees are excellent enough for the title, our own career instructional and clinical faculty are not qualified for it.

The administration also proposed downgrading our tenured faculty who retire. While they have been unable to produce a response to our TRP/buyout proposal after six weeks, they did propose that all retired faculty have the same rights as Pro Tem faculty, which are minimal at best. We asked them why faculty who retire cannot retain the rights they had before they retired or the rights of Career faculty. The administration explained to us that faculty who retire “quit” their jobs, so the administration needs to treat them as Pro Tem faculty so they don’t have to conduct a competitive search to hire them back. Apparently, the jobs of faculty who retire go away completely, and the administration needs to create new jobs if they want to hire a retired faculty member back. None of their explanations made sense to our team, despite repeated attempts to understand. In response to our questions, the administration was unable to say if any administrators who have quit have been hired back into their same positions.

The administration also proposed creating a new job classification – Postbaccalaureate Scholar. The Postbaccalaureate Scholar position would be a mentored research position of “limited duration” for people holding a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and above. They told us the intention was to create a position for people who have recently graduated with a bachelors and want experience working in a lab before deciding on their career options. They did, however, allow for the possibility that a holder of a master’s degree or PhD could be placed in the Postbaccalaureate Scholar classification. Upon questioning, we learned that “limited duration” of the position would maybe be two to three years, but could be for seven years or more. In fact, they weren’t able to tell us what they envisioned as the upper bounds of how long someone could be a Postbaccalaureate Scholar, nor was that proposed as contract language to protect future Postbaccalaureate Scholars, but they invited us to make a proposal to them.

It is difficult to convey how dismissive the administration team was of the idea that our most accomplished Career faculty should be allowed to earn indefinite job security after dedicating themselves to the mission of the university for at least twelve years and demonstrating their exceptional contributions through three intensive performance reviews (those are the conditions we proposed for the Teaching Professor classification). We had proposed that should layoffs become necessary, that Teaching Professors be laid off only in extreme cases, but before any tenured faculty were laid off. We were careful not to equate Teaching Professors with tenured faculty, we were careful to make sure that they were still classified as Career faculty with the same shared governance rights as Career faculty, and we did not propose paying them the same salary as tenured professors. When the administration struck the proposed classification Teaching Professor because now only people with terminal degrees can be called professor, we asked why they just didn’t come up with a different title. The administration team scoffed that they were not going to be giving Instructors tenure, as if the whole notion was ridiculous. We remarked that many distinguished institutions have had teaching professors for years to no detriment to their stature. (The effect on their professionally-credentialed administrators’ fragile egos is less clear.)

Our proposal for earning the rank Teaching Professor is in Sections 36-42 of Article 19. It was not a casual proposal, and it was shocking to our team how casually the whole proposal was dismissed. More importantly, it felt like the administration team was dismissing all of the Career Instructors and the work they do for our students. While the administration thinks about how they might one day propose something that recognizes Career Instructor labor, it is impossible to forget that the administration has repeatedly made statements disparaging the labor Career faculty do. Our Career Instructors make possible our ability to fulfill the educational mission of the university. They often do this vital work in poor conditions for low salaries. It is indescribably frustrating that the administration’s first substantive proposal to address the years of neglect our Career faculty have suffered is to make it clear that none of them should ever be called “professor,” and to casually dismiss providing them with real job security.