Small Merit Raises, Term-to-Term Employment

Executive Summary
Vice President for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt gave us a presentation on the budget. We learned that the university has very little money and what money it does have is already spoken for.

The administration offered the faculty a 1.4% merit raise in each year of the CBA. There would be two additional pools of money. One would be controlled by the deans (~$300,000/year) and one would be controlled by the Provost ($450,000 total) to distribute as they see fit, or not, in the case of the Provost’s pool.

The administration proposed moving all Career faculty to term-to-term employment.

Exceptional Career instructional faculty could be given the title University Distinguished Teaching Faculty, which would come with up to $9000 in ASA money.

This was our eighth bargaining session with the administration. Their finance presentation was intended to assure us that there are few resources available to support higher faculty salaries. However, what Moffit actually made clear was that administration has made choices about how to spend the university’s money and that these choices are unlikely to change. With that context established, the administration team gave us four proposals. We did not bring proposals so we could focus on their salary proposal. The conversation was difficult.

The administration brought their first response to our January 9 salary proposal. They proposed separate 1.4% merit pools for Tenure-Track and Career faculty in each unit for each year of the CBA (probably three years, but we have not yet agreed to that) that would be distributed according to the merit policies developed in each unit.

They further proposed that each dean would get a pool of money equal to .25% of the school or college’s total salary to distribute to “exceptionally meritorious” faculty. The administration proposed no guidance on how deans might identify the “exceptionally meritorious” faculty, but each dean would have a committee made up of the school or college department heads and an unspecified number of dean-selected faculty to help them. Although the administration team did not say it, it was apparent they believe that when faculty developed their merit policies, they did not do enough to reward the exceptionally meritorious, so the deans have to step in to get that job done.

They proposed that the Provost would control a $450,000 pool of money to distribute over the course of the contract to fix equity, compression, and inversion problems on campus. There is no requirement that the Provost distribute all or any of the money. Given that administration officials have very recently asserted that, after several rounds of merit and equity raises, all Tenure-Track salaries are exactly correct, there is little reason to believe this money would be distributed. The administration team did acknowledge that there may be some inequitable situations among the Career faculty that might be addressed, which was the first time an administration bargaining team had acknowledged that Career equity problems may possibly exist. However, the only time equity can be triggered for career faculty is at the time of promotion, leaving our Senior II faculty with no recourse to address long standing problems with salary compression and inversion.

The administration team did not propose a cost-of-living raise. We pointed out that the CPI for the West Region increased by 2.9% last year, so no cost-of-living raise combined with a paltry merit raise would mean faculty would lose real wages over the life of the agreement.

The administration team proposed lowering the raises for Tenure-Track faculty who have a successful post-tenure review. They argued that raises for post-tenure review had satisfied their intended purpose, which was raising up the salaries for full professors. We argued that the intent of raises for post-tenure reviews was to provide a reward for meeting or exceeding expectations after a major review, but the administration disagreed. President Schill’s $100,000 bonus for meeting expectations on his last review hovered in the air, but no one brought it up.

The administration’s proposal had a clause that would allow them to cancel all increases–including promotion increases–if there is any cut in the amount of money the legislature allocates for the Public University Support Fund. They would need to negotiate with us for 90 days, but could ultimately impose any cuts they want.

The administration wrapped up their salary presentation by asserting that they believed their raise package would enable UO to recruit and retain excellent faculty.

Career Faculty
UA bargaining team member Nathan Whalen put it best when he said that the administration proposals show exactly what they think of Career faculty.

The administration proposed no increase in Career salary floors for the second straight contract. They have not been increased since 2015 and, under this proposal, would not see an increase until 2023 at the earliest. The current salary floor is $39,000 to teach nine courses a year or work full time in a lab (adjusted downward for PE faculty and Research Assistants). The current entry level GE rate to teach three courses a year is $15,708, which would be $47,340 for nine classes. The administration provided no justification for the lack of increase other than it would cost them more money to pay people higher wages, which they did not want to do.

In response to our proposal that exceptional Career Senior Instructor II faculty who pass a rigorous teaching review would be granted quasi-tenure, the administration proposed that the Provost could decide to give some Career instructors up to a $9000 stipend to be distributed over three years and the title Distinguished University Teaching Faculty, which they could keep forever. The stipend money has to be used on projects that would transform graduate and undergraduate education as assigned by the Provost. The Provost would decide how many of these positions to award.

Finally, the administration rolled out their proposal to replace our current Career contract process with the expectation of continued employment. The conversation on this proposal was brief, so it is possible that we don’t have a full understanding of their idea, but they proposed to replace the 1-, 2-, and 3-year contract system with one that would move all Career faculty to term-to-term employment. 

Funding-contingent faculty would remain at the mercy of funding sources. Funding-contingent faculty who have achieved promotion can be terminated with 30 days’ notice. Without promotion, funding-contingent faculty can be terminated with as much notice as the administration wants to provide.

They proposed that all non-funding-contingent Career faculty, even those who had achieved promotion, could be laid off with 90 days’ notice for financial or programmatic reasons. As is the current practice, Human Resources would have to verify that the proposed layoffs are for legitimate reasons. There are no proposed restrictions on the University laying off a faculty member in the middle of the academic year.

Career faculty can be terminated for performance reasons. In their first year of employment, they can be terminated with 15 days’ notice. The length of notice for Career faculty not in their first year of appointment is yet to be revealed. We were told that they are working on a performance improvement plan proposal that outlines their thinking. 

They did propose that a faculty member could not have their FTE reduced by more than 40% without permission from Human Resources. Although it is not stated, the implication is that departments and units can lower a faculty member’s FTE by 39% or less without triggering a review. We are not clear on when the lowering of FTE can happen. It is possible it can only happen at the beginning of the academic year, but we are not sure.

We meet with the administration team again Thursday at noon in Chiles 125. The administration team has not yet responded to our proposals on governance policies, reasonable working temperatures, lowered course loads for Career faculty, improved layoff procedures, health insurance that starts on September 1, full-year health insurance for faculty with 0.5 and above FTE, bus passes for all faculty, a new tenure reduction program, ASA money for all faculty, student support, information about negotiating a starting package for new hires, improved parental leave, parking, performance improvement plan, faculty involvement in the institutional hiring plan, and permanence of work location. 

A Note from UA President Chris Sinclair

Since the establishment of our union, the University of Oregon has moved to a model of faculty compensation that rewards excellence at promotion and regular intervals post-promotion. These excellence raises are coupled with smaller yearly raises which (though they are not always structured as cost-of-living adjustments) ensure we are not falling behind between major reviews. While the exact numbers and configuration of the yearly raises is subject to bargaining, the compensation system is stable enough to allow for financial and strategic planning by administrators, and it provides positive incentives for faculty to exceed expectations in their work to support the mission of the university.

The administration proposes to change this system by offering far-less-than-inflation yearly raises, and reducing excellence raises from 4-8% to 1.5-3%. Moreover, they are proposing that we return to the old-boys system of distributing raises whereby deans and the provost control disbursement of some of the raise pool without regard to departmental merit policies.

Suffice it to say, this economic proposal will be vociferously countered by the union. Our initial proposal was to maintain the 4-8% excellence raises as well as 3%, 9%, and 4% yearly raises (distributed between COLA, merit, and equity) over the three years of the contract. I do not suspect we will be moving off of our initial proposal until we see a reasonable economic proposal from the university that covers inflation and maintains the current level of excellence raises.

This brings us to the subject of what you can do to ensure fair faculty compensation.

First: come to bargaining! Sit in the audience, write some emails or grade some papers. Simply by being there you are proving to the administration that you care about your contract/compensation, and that you are paying attention to their insulting offers. 

Second: think about what it would take for you to go out on strike. At this point, we are far from declaring a strike, and we hope that we can avoid one. However, our ultimate power as a union is the ability to withhold our labor, and each of us needs to decide where the line between fair compensation and administrative exploitation is. 

Finally, talk to your colleagues about bargaining, and how they feel about their compensation. We are always happy to swing by your unit/department/lab to hear your opinions and talk through unit-specific concerns.