Unit Policy Revisions

Greetings, dear colleagues,

Although the negotiations for our new contract have begun, important items from our current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) remain in process or yet to be implemented.

In the CBA the membership of United Academics ratified in July 2022, we agreed with the administration that units need to update their policies to reflect significant changes in the CBA and to address several concerns, including course loads and equity in service assignments. The deadline for these changes is coming up.

This email thus reiterates, updates, and adds to a communication I sent in January 2023 on the subject of unit policies to keep you all aware of where we are in this process.


Unit by unit, we will need to finalize and submit to our respective deans or vice presidents revised unit policies over the coming weeks regarding:

  • professional responsibilities (i.e., workload and assignment of work duties)
  • peer review of teaching (i.e., the process of how peer reviews are to be assigned and who would do them)

These policies are due no earlier than the end of the current winter term, although schools and colleges are free to set later deadlines. Schools and colleges need to submit them to the Office of the Provost by June 15, 2024.

Note that by mutual agreement of the Office of the Provost and United Academics, the deadlines for policies on performance reviews, promotion, and tenure have been pushed to next academic year. Units are still welcome to submit proposals for those policies now if they want to.


In short:

  1. For units that have found it difficult to recruit and retain faculty, this is a chance to craft the kind of job that will help attract and keep top talent.
  2. For units with high course loads—or course loads that have been increased by deans over the last several years—this is an opportunity to propose a reduction in (or restoration of!) the number of courses taught, as well as a chance to think carefully about how courses are counted toward our units’ current course loads.
  3. For all units, this should be a key moment in enhancing equity through greater clarity and detail on how service is to be assigned and accounted for.
  4. To the extent that our jobs and de facto duties now permanently differ from the Before Times, we should be explicit about it and make necessary adjustments to our workload policies.

In more detail:

    1. The University of Oregon is an R1 institution and a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). How many of our colleagues have left UO in recent years for one of the 70 other AAU institutions? How many offers have we made to candidates who ultimately decided to take a faculty position elsewhere? Our salaries need to reflect those of our public comparators for us to compete and succeed at this level, which we are arguing at the bargaining table. As crucial as salary is, there is more to our jobs than pay. Are we given the support, resources, and time commensurate with our membership in the AAU?
      How do our course loads compare with those in our respective disciplines at similar institutions? How do our comparators calculate their course loads? How much teaching relief is offered to new assistant professors, and how is it codified?While the bargaining team leads our big-picture asks in negotiating our new contract, what can we do in our respective professional responsibilities policies to ensure that our units remain competitive?What can we do so that our current and future colleagues find themselves saying: “The grass is damn green in Eugene.”?
    2. We need to be thoughtful and intentional about our course loads—not only to be competitive with comparator institutions, but to improve our academic programs, our courses, and our teaching through professional development. The Teaching Engagement Program, UO Online, and other UO programs offer a plethora of opportunities for improving our skills and pedagogy right here. We just need the time to take full advantage of them. Beyond our institution is a much larger set of such opportunities, many of them tailored to the specific needs of our respective disciplines.
      To this end, a key priority in our bargaining of 2022 was to try to set an eight-course maximum across the university, along with a restoration of the six-course maximum that had previously been in place at the School of Journalism and Communication. The administration’s team at the time was adamant that it wouldn’t be appropriate to set an institution-wide maximum, and that such changes should be considered unit by unit. In the end, the administration team agreed that unit policies:“…should be modified as necessary to address the University’s goals on diversity, equity, and inclusion with particular focus on course loads of 9 or more. Discussions should include course allocation across terms, preparation time, number of new course development and preparations, number of contact hours, size of classes, teaching load variation, course maximums, and support mechanisms for faculty with heavy teaching loads.” (Implementation Agreement 2 in Appendix 1 of the CBA)If indeed it’s more appropriate—as the admin team claimed in June 2022—for course loads to be determined at the unit level, now is the time for us to put that to the test!In many units across campus, Career instructional faculty are currently expected to teach nine courses per academic year, with a full-time equivalent (FTE) breakdown of 90% teaching and 10% service (possibly lumped in with professional development and scholarship). United Academics recommends that faculty in such units consider proposing an eight-course load for Career instructional faculty, with an FTE breakdown of 80% teaching, 10% service, and 10% professional development. Smaller course loads than eight and other potential FTE breakdowns may be more appropriate given the circumstances or past practices of your unit, school, or college.
    3. We didn’t need to see the results of 2022’s IDEAL Campus Climate Survey to know that many faculty don’t feel supported, respected, or welcomed. As laid out in this May 2023 message from the United Academics Faculty of Color, Pride, and Working Family Caucuses, the structural problems at work are best solved at the institutional level. It isn’t reasonable or fair to expect that faculty in our various units do the heavy lifting against the inertia of the status quo.
      That said, we strenuously believe in the primacy of faculty voice in shared governance. Insofar as some of the solutions to these larger issues are to be implemented at the local level, it’s incumbent on us to craft unit policies that reflect our values and protect our colleagues.Led by the report of the Senate’s Task Force on Service and the recommendations of its successor Service Working Group, let us seize this opportunity to take concrete steps toward improving equity within our units through the allocation and measurement of service.We must make invisible service more visible. We should be mindful of cultural taxation and take it into account. We can establish mechanisms to distribute non-promotable tasks—the unglamorous and unrewarded activities that still need to be done by someone—in ways that don’t disproportionately burden women and faculty of color. As detailed in the 2022 book The No Club, the all-too-common pattern in which women are implicitly expected to step up and take one for the team is incredibly corrosive to careers, morale, and well-being. Reducing (or eliminating!) this dynamic will greatly improve quality of life, productivity, and retention.Among the issues to discuss on service are how mentorship of peers, graduate students, and undergraduates should be accounted for. Do these count as service, or might they fall under teaching or scholarship? If one of the latter, how are they accounted for there?

      By legislation of the UO Senate, we need to explicitly establish the structures and procedures for how to conduct peer reviews of teaching within our units. How often these reviews will be done, who can perform these reviews for which colleagues, whether or not they will be conducted by individuals or committees, and how assignments to conduct them are to be made are all relevant to our larger conversations on service within our units?

    4. The disruptions of the pandemic greatly increased the scope of our teaching responsibilities, which didn’t magically reset to status quo ante with the return to in-person instruction. We face supervisors with heightened expectations and students with greater needs.
      In parallel, successive staff reorganizations have caused our administrative burdens to balloon, complicating travel and hampering research.We continue to be stretched thin, with no obvious end in sight. Left unchecked, our overwork will continue to ratchet upwards, undermining our capacity to do any of the work we have been hired to do.If this is to be the new normal, let us name it and plan accordingly. If we truly are expected to do more than before, then there need to be concomitant reductions in our other duties or expectations—or corresponding overload pay. Depending on the needs of particular units, one possible recourse may be to augment the FTE allocated to research, teaching, or service—and to reduce, as needed, one or both of the other two components. This kind of adjustment is done routinely for unit heads, for example.

Taken collectively, this is an immense opportunity to elevate our vision and improve our working conditions.


None of us are in this alone, and there is ample support to help us carry out this work.

This website from the Office of the Provost outlines the timeline for these unit policy updates and includes a host of helpful links and resources.

The Office of the Provost has developed templates to simplify the work of faculty, heads, and deans in designing and reviewing their respective unit policies:

Think of these templates as scaffolding. Treat them as a starting point. There is enormous flexibility in how units fill out the sections in blue text.

Peer Review of Teaching

The most straightforward of our tasks may be the establishment of a policy on the peer review of teaching. This website from the Teaching Engagement Program and UO Online offers four sample policies on the peer review of teaching that units are free to use or adapt according to their needs and preferences. (Many thanks to Julie Mueller of TEP for her work on these!)

This website on teaching-related unit policy updates gives a broader overview of the multi-year unit review process–including the policies slated for review next year—and offers additional ideas and resources.

Co-Working Session—With Lunch!

The Inclusive Teaching Task Force will be hosting a co-working session from noon to 1:30pm on Tuesday, March 5, at the Knight Library Browsing Room for a lightly facilitated discussion on crafting our units’ peer review of teaching and professional responsibilities policies. This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn what other units are doing. There will also be time and space for those who want to quietly draft potential language for their own units.

Lunch will be provided.

If interested, please register at this MyTrack page to help get the catering right.

Existing Unit Policies at UO

As we contemplate our professional responsibilities policies, we can look to existing unit policies from across campus for examples, ideas, and inspiration. The Office of the Provost maintains an online repository of all current and past unit policies (at least those since the establishment of the first CBA in 2013). This site presents a daunting array of documents, but take heart!

Our Chair of the Representative Assembly, Kathleen Freeman, has done an extensive review of the existing unit policies from across campus. Here are Kathleen’s key findings and proposed action items:

  • Virtually all unit policies adhere closely to the language of the templates provided for the most recent prior unit policy update (2017).
    • What we should do: Focus on areas that need more detail than the existing policy unit policy. Here’s what to consider for each specific section of the 2023-2024 unit policy template:
      • II.B.i General Considerations/Assignment of Workload/Accounting for Individual Faculty Needs
        • expand the list of factors
        • provide example wording for the process of assigning workload and accounting for individual needs
      • III.A.ii.1 Tenure-Related Faculty Professional Responsibilities/Workload Expectations for Tenure-Related Faculty/Teaching/Standard Course Load
        • list example factors
        • provide an example rationale for a standard course load
        • add example wording re: supervision of thesis committees/other individual studies
      • III.A.ii.2 Adjustments to Standard Course Load
        • list example factors
      • III.A.iii Service
        • list example service
        • provide example wording for how service is equitably assigned and evaluated
      • III.A.iv Professional Development
        • list examples of professional development
        • allocate FTE for professional development
        • propose funding for professional development
  • There is a great deal of variation among departments and units regarding service through administrative positions, departmental committees, or other departmental work.
    • What we should do: Review this list of service exemplars for possible service activities to include in our unit policies. The set of activities and their weights will often depend on the size and nature of the unit. If the unit doesn’t currently list something as an administrative or service role that is actually happening, then it is probably invisible service that should be tracked and credited.
  • There is less variation in the area of teaching, though teaching loads vary among schools and, to some extent, among units within schools. Teaching descriptions mainly focus on individual courses, and not the overall curriculum or pedagogy, or individual study courses (including thesis supervision).
    Course loads vary among departments and somewhat, but much less so, among departments in a particular division (e.g., Humanities). Course loads are typically but not always given as a number of courses, with no rationale for the number.Teaching also includes, without acknowledging additional time/commitment, individual study courses, advising, mentoring, and thesis committee supervision (chair or member), which means that faculty engaged in these important student learning endeavors are not supported.

    • What we should do: Consider this list of teaching exemplars for possible modifications to how courses are counted within the unit’s course load (such as high-enrollment courses, new preps, specialized pedagogy, multiple modalities and so on). Be sure to include a policy on how individual study courses are handled.
  • Virtually all units conflate service and professional development, with more or all of the emphasis on service.
    TTF are typically 40-40-20 for research-teaching-service, though some departments are more precise about differences for pre- and post-tenure.Career instructors are usually 90-10 for teaching-service/professional development. A comprehensive list of teaching adjustments across units is given.

    • What we should do: Consider proposing dedicated FTE for professional development for Career instructional faculty. For example, an 80-10-10 split between teaching, service, and professional development. Be explicit about the ways in which Career faculty can be supported with resources for professional development, including Academic Support Account funds and travel support.

Senate Task Force on Service and Senate Service Working Group

Informed by the work of the Senate Task Force on Service, the successor Service Working Group developed recommendations for tracking service in our units. At this link is the Working Group’s introduction of these recommendations to the Senate.

Here are the key questions to consider as units decide what service to track and how:

  • Who assigns the points for these categories? This is determined by the department. The faculty may give the department head the autonomy to assign points to the categories, for example.
  • What about course releases for major service roles such as DGS, directing a degree program, etc.? Faculty are in short supply for these heavy service roles, and quite often the course release does not adequately compensate for the time required to carry out these roles. Therefore, the model has no adjustment for course releases. Departments might modify this as they wish.
  • How does this affect the department policy process that is underway? As each department creates its own updated Professional Responsibilities policy this year, we hope that this model is useful in describing service responsibilities. Departments are not required to incorporate this model into the policy document, specifically.

The document also includes a sample service grid for illustration.

Office Hours

Once the unit policies are submitted to the Office of the Provost, Ron Bramhall (Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs) will take point in conducting the review at that level. He is therefore very motivated to assist faculty and offer clarifications as we do this policy work.

Ron is available to answer any questions faculty might have about unit policies (in real time!) at his twice-weekly office hours:

  • Ask Ron Bramhall: Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:00 to 10:00am on Zoom

This is a terrific idea! So much so, that I now make the same offer. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have about unit policy revisions (or anything else) at the same days and times:

  • Ask Mike Urbancic: Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:00 to 10:00am on Zoom

I am purposefully coordinating my office hours with Ron’s so that potential questions or ambiguities can be resolved more quickly by allowing folks to stop by and chat with each of us—or perhaps for me to chat with Ron right in the moment if something unexpected arises. It’s not at all my intent to supplant Ron, whose work in this years-long endeavor I greatly appreciate!


The faculty of each unit are those best situated to fill in the details on how the guidelines enshrined in the CBA should be operationalized for their local context.

To be clear, the policies we submit will be subject to review and approval by the deans of our schools and colleges, as well as by the Office of the Provost. Whenever a unit proposes changes to its policies, the appropriate dean or vice president can make revisions.

If a dean or vice president chooses to modify a unit’s proposed policies, both the faculty-approved version and the dean’s modified version will be sent to the Office of the Provost for review and approval. The dean or vice president will inform the unit of the changes, and at the request of the faculty will meet with them to explain why those changes were made.

Understandably, many of us—or our colleagues—may ask: if deans can overwrite the changes we propose—and likely will, in many cases—what is the point? Why expend effort on what seems to be a hopeless endeavor?

These are valid questions! Please consider my responses here:

First, the policies we propose as units will send a message to our deans and to the Office of the Provost about our concerns, our values, and our priorities. If we can’t be bothered to ask for what we need, how can we complain when it isn’t provided?

Second, we have multiple priorities, some of which may find a more receptive ear. Given the breadth of what we’ve been asked to review, it’s exceedingly unlikely that all of what we propose would end up on the cutting room floor.

Third, it’s ultimately not up to the deans. As Ron Bramhall highlighted again at the table at yesterday’s bargaining session, both the faculty-approved policy and the version modified by the dean are sent to the Office of the Provost, and “[t]he Office of the Provost will have final authority to establish policy for each department or unit.” (Article 4, Section 3 of the CBA)

The Office of the Provost has a broader view and wider vision for the institution as a whole. Presidents and Provosts—past and current—have been clear in their support for improving conditions for faculty, including explicit commitments to enhance equity through a more comprehensive approach to the assignment and measurement of service. It is within the power of the Office of the Provost both to approve faculty-proposed changes and to coordinate with the Office of the President the allocation of resources needed to assuage deans’ budgetary concerns.

Finally, there is strength in numbers. It is easy for a dean—or the Office of the Provost—to discount or ignore the asks of one unit, or a few units. The more unit policies we present that seek to redress problems with our working conditions, the more difficult it will be to deny the underlying problems. Plus, the broader the diversity of proposals from across our several dozen laboratories of shared governance, the more likely it is that we happen upon clever solutions that can serve as examples to other corners of campus over time.

As each of us ponder how to calibrate our time and engagement with this unit-review process it’s reasonable to be realistic, but there’s nothing to be gained from being fatalistic.

We’re coming at this from different perspectives, different experiences, and different expectations. Remember to be patient and kind as we engage with one another in a transparent, inclusive, and genuinely participatory process. Those of us with more power should do what we can to encourage colleagues who may be feeling less confident to share their thoughts.

This is our moment. This is our time to stand in solidarity within our units and across campus to advocate for ourselves and for our colleagues so that we can succeed.

If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

Let us seize this moment. Let us work to build a better university, unit by unit. Together.


Mike Urbancic
Senior Instructor, Economics
President, United Academics of the University of Oregon
AAUP/AFT Local 3209, AFL-CIO
[email protected]