One might imagine in a beautiful state like ours, with its consistent Democratic majority of legislators committed to the values many of us UA members share, that we might experience some smooth sailing in virtual Salem. Well, at least when it comes to Higher Ed equity and Labor. Unfortunately, as many people of color and other marginalized groups understand, “progressive Oregon” has a long way to go…
But the fight continues…
HB2873 / SB712
Also known as the “HECC Voting Rights” Bill, Higher Ed folks have been trying to amend the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) voting rights makeup by making a total of 5 non-voting positions into voting positions; this includes the faculty representative. Typically, the faculty member has voted in previous decision making, but it has been more a de facto rather than a de jure practice. The Bill would also add a graduate student representative to HECC with full voting rights. We’ve had some really great support from legislators on this: Chief Sponsors are Senators Dembrow and Gelser and Representative Evans; Regular Sponsors include Senators Golden, Gorsek, and Prozanski and Representatives Alonso Leon, McLain, Noose, Ruize, Weber, and Wilde.
The “Part-time Faculty Healthcare Bill” (also carried through as HB 3007 and SB 551) creates a program which allows part-time faculty working at public institutions, including those putting together multiple part-time appointments at different institutions, to purchase subsidized health insurance from the state’s public health insurance programs. AAUP Oregon has made this a legislative priority for several consecutive sessions and is committed to expanding health care coverage to faculty at public institutions. While this simple piece of legislation seems like an “easy” one, there are considerable roadblocks keeping this Bill from becoming a reality. Fortunately, we have a strong family of collaborators and comrades strategizing a final push for this much-needed legislative action to support our part-time faculty, especially as we’ve seen the weight they’ve had to carry over the years, including and especially during Covid.
The “Transfer Bill” is another attempt by Salem to get CCs and Us on the same page when it comes to facilitating a smooth transition for students making their way through school and/or moving among schools. The idea here is to allow faculty and other on-the-ground stakeholders to form a Transfer Council; their recommendations will be signed off by the HECC with appeals processes and minority voice inputs all present. This bill enjoys some complications, particularly between some upper administrators in the Us who don’t want transfer decisions to leave their home institutions while CCs are looking to the HECC to make sure they aren’t drowned out by their big siblings.
“The Board of Trustees Bill.” Finally. Yes, the nonsense at OSU, the memories of PSU, and the current threat at Tech have finally pushed legislators past their limits. This Bill would hopefully configure Boards of Trustees so that they focus on offering an accessible and equitable path for all students, especially those students traditionally marginalized from Higher Education. And no, football or shiny new buildings don’t attract those students. A chance to break from generational poverty and develop critical thinking skills that will ensure they thrive in this world does. You can read more at the link below, but here are some highlights:
- More, official, input from faculty and students on Board Nominees for the Governor to consider in their recommendations to the Legislature.
- More transparency by and accessibility to Board members.
- Prohibits secretary of governing board from also being a member of administration of public university, aka, checks and balances stay in check and balanced.
- Stronger appeals process for Board decisions
And speaking of the Board of Trustees, and remembering UAUO’s particularly fraught history here, we are glad to see the University Senate recommend Professor Ed Madison, SOJC Faculty member for the next Faculty Member position on the Board, especially after the way the last faculty recommendation went.
One of the very first “political” meetings I had was with Governor Brown and our fearless leader President Chris Sinclair on the Board composition and the process whereby faculty members and members-at-large are chosen. Fast forward a couple years later and I find myself along with comrade-in-arms Treasurer Bill Harbaugh testifying in Salem on the ways in which these processes are still flawed. We here at UAUO are incredibly happy to see Salem legislators step up and offer concrete changes to the Board that will undoubtedly give the rank-and-file (we who do the research and teaching and the many support professionals we rely on to do our work) and our students a small break from business-as-usual. And while my pessimistic leanings will always say, “not enough,” this Bill is hopefully an opening to something different, and dare I say, something better, for us and our students.
In closing, I hope you all see the benefit of having our local actively engaged with Salem and our Higher Ed partners and collaborators around the State. Personally, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know legislators like Marty Wilde, Theresa Alonso Leon, Courtney Neron, and Mike Dembrow who have taken the time to listen to my rants, read my pleas, and keep us and our students forefront as they seek to make this State and its Higher Education institutions do right by us.
If you are interested in joining the UAUO Politics Committee (trust me, we ain’t too formal), lemme know. Once the dust settles in June on sine die, we’ll have to see what landed and didn’t, and start the fight for the next session. Of course, if you’re feeling at the end of the AY you still got some fight in you, we will need a push to get these Bills and of course the money, to where they need to be.
Avinnash, Chair of the Politics Committee