UNited Academics Bargaining Statement, February 6, 2017
Bargaining between UVM United Academics Faculty and UVM Administration began this week with many faculty on hand to greet the team, voice their concerns and goals for these negotiations, and applaud the bargaining team’s opening statement. The statement—read by Dan Krymkowski, Sociology, for the team that includes Erica Andrus, Religion; Julie Roberts, Linguistics; and Sean Witters, English—is below. Find United Academics on Facebook for photos from the kick-off events and, especially, visit our Pack the Room Bargaining Session Sign-Ups to add your name to all sessions that, whether for a half hour or three hours, you can attend.
United Academics Bargaining Team Opening Statement
“This Contract Will Be Corrective ….” of the
“Tension between the Board and the administration’s rhetoric and practices”
In an historical moment when cherished institutions face profound disruption, the shared stories of our traditions matter. The UVM admissions page broadcasts a condensed version of that apparent story: “For more than 200 years, UVM—a public ivy—has been educating students from across the U.S. and throughout the world, and preparing them for rewarding futures.” In this declaration, UVM establishes a story of tradition: a direct line between a 226-year-old history and a “rewarding future.” By all visible and declared measurements the administration and Board of Trustees have an ambitious and confident outlook on the future prosperity of the University. The faculty, who are the source and center of that future, welcome this, and the frequent recognition that we are the embodiment and catalysts of the future. Such recognition and affirmation is essential for equity, morale, and especially recruitment and retention as we look to that promising future.
With this shared tradition and vision in mind, we expect that this contract will be corrective. This corrective brings the trends of the university into alignment with the university’s expressed goals and values, and will ensure parity with comparable institutions in terms of workload, security, compensation, support, and benefits.
This correction is necessitated by an accumulating and persistent tension between the Board and the administration’s rhetoric and practices. It is true that academic excellence and the teacher-scholar model are widely praised as essential assets of the university and treated as important to our future, as our Provost recently noted in his thoughtful missive from “Across the Green.” Confronting the post-election world and the potential disruption of cherished institutions, Provost Rosowsky eloquently asserted the essential function of the faculty and the university in this moment, writing “I feel most fortunate to be at the University of Vermont, part of this community of teacher-scholars, and feel confident and hopeful that we will be part of the great intellectual movement ahead—and help bridge the divide” (Rosowsky, “Across the Green,” Jan. 2017, 2). He goes on to affirm this model as the very essence and founding principle of the University and the key catalyst of its future vitality, declaring:
The Teacher-Scholar model at UVM is a beacon to would-be students, attracting those who seek an intimate and engaging undergraduate experience but also the benefits and opportunities of a research university. It also is a signal to would-be faculty of the value we place on teaching excellence, student mentoring, and bringing their scholarship into their classrooms and their students into their laboratories. We continue not only to promote our commitment to the Teacher-Scholar model, but to invest in it as well. (Rosowsky, 4, emphasis added)
We are heartened by his hope and by his affirmation of the teacher-scholar model and the insistence that we must invest in it as a “beacon” and “signal.” This sentiment is, of course, widely held and in keeping with the long-standing goals of the Board of Trustees and successive administrations. For example, in the UVM strategic action plan of Oct. 25, 2013, the Board targeted a faculty-focused effort to:
1. Promote increased research and creative scholarship of the faculty that has high impact and recognition.
2. Increase the number of tenure-track faculty in high quality programs that are aligned with UVM’s strategic priorities where there has been a substantial enrollment increase over targets in order to advance excellence in teaching and learning.
This, however, is a case where we see a regularly repeating irony in the difference between rhetoric and practice. In this same strategic document in the section that followed and which is entitled “Identifying necessary investments to ensure a bright future,” there is no mention of faculty. Rather the focus is on “investments in facilities, infrastructure, and information technologies” and a list of building priorities.
The deeper trend regarding the declared efforts to “Increase the number of tenure-track faculty in high quality programs that are aligned with UVM’s strategic priorities” necessitates action. Dr. Howard Bunsis’s January 2017 presentation to UA shows a quite different picture of the future. The numbers are unambiguous.
1. There is a major shift in the composition of the faculty. Many fewer tenure lines are being replaced, let alone opened.
2. The ratio of non-tenure track to tenure-track faculty has shifted drastically and is out of pace with growth in student enrollment.
3. Faculty salary expenditures are below comparable institutions.
These are not merely anecdotal or statistical issues. They have material consequences in terms of workload. What is a major research institution to do when an increasing percentage of faculty, now 41.8%, cannot teach in the graduate school? What will happen to our research profile as this trend continues? What happens when we can no longer adequately field real “teacher-scholars” in vital areas. Many disciplines face a future in which basic coverage is in question. How can tenure-track faculty meet the need and demand for advising in these conditions?
A corrective contract will affirm the common ground of our university’s future and past, by giving concrete institutional respect for workload, careers, and the commitment of faculty, and by ensuring the integrity of academic appointments, tenure, and earned institutional expertise. A corrective contract will sustain and ensure the teacher-scholar’s integral role in the innovative and open work of the institution, and will affirm a just and responsible future that, has it has been, is a “beacon” to students and faculty.
Remember to sign up to support our bargaining team and pack the room at the next bargaining session: Monday, February 13, 2-5 pm, 234 Jeffords!