On March 26, 2019, a crowd of UVM students, faculty, and community members gathered to deliver over 950 petitions to UVM adminstration.
United Academics is pleased to announce that the UVM part-time faculty membership has voted to ratify a new part-time faculty collective bargaining agreement. Our bargaining team has been in negotiations with UVM's administration for over 6 months, and we are appreciative of the work of both teams and the mutual willingness to compromise to achieve a fair contract for UVM's part-time faculty. Gains in this contract include a 8.75% pay raise over 3 years, a $2000 promotion bonus, increased professional development funds, a new part-time faculty award for excellence in teaching, increased access to tuition credits, and improvements in per diem payment for additional duties. United Academics looks forward to continuing to work with both faculty and the administration to advocate for faculty, our students, and our profession.
University of Vermont Faculty AGAINST Kavanaugh and FOR Survivors of Sexual Assault
We, the undersigned University of Vermont (UVM) faculty, write in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all survivors of sexual assault. We also write against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and against the toxic conditions of gender, sexual, and racial inequality and violence that have been fomented by the country’s highest office holders. These are the toxic conditions that gave rise to Kavanaugh’s nomination and that his elevation to the Supreme Court would reinforce, including at the University of Vermont and in our wider community.
Last week UVM Police released its crime statistics for 2017 including 20 reported cases of rape and “fondling,” 14 reported cases of domestic violence, and 25 reported cases of stalking. These are only the cases that were reported, just one indication of how a nationwide culture of sexual predation and violence pervades our own campus, dorms, classrooms, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Of grave concern to us as well is the combined force of racism and misogyny that has been escalated and legitimated by the Trump White House and its appointees and nominees--its effects visible in racist messaging and threats on campus and cited by Vermont’s only female legislator of color as necessitating her resignation.
With this letter, we call on the U.S. Senate to commit to a thorough and independent investigation of the claims of Dr. Ford and of all other women against Kavanaugh. We further call on members of the University of Vermont community to stand with Dr. Ford and with survivors of sexual assault, and we call on the UVM administration to increase prevention strategies to combat assault and improve the humane and sensitive treatment of victims who report sexual violence. With and beyond this letter, we commit our voices and our power to oppose the confirmation of Kavanaugh and to the multiple threats he represents, including to the integrity of the judicial process itself.
Jamie Abaied, Psychological Science
Tatiana Abatemarco, Environmental Studies
Elizabeth Adams, Communication Sciences & Disorders
Sarah C. Alexander, English
Eve Alexandra, English and Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies
Allison Anacker, Psychological Science
Erica Andrus, Religion
Michael Ashooh, Philosophy
John Barlow, Animal & Veterinary Sciences
JB Barna, Social Work
Brad Bauerly, Political Science & Global Studies
Emily Beam, Economics
Caroline Beer, Political Science
Jean Bessette, English
Paul Bierman, Geology
Thomas Borchert, Religion
Sid Bosworth, Plant & Soil Science and UVM Extension
Vicki L. Brennan, Religion
Carol Buck-Rolland, Nursing
Eileen Burgin, Political Science
Chris Burns, UVM Libraries
Keith Burt, Psychological Science
Holly-Lynn Busier, Leadership & Developmental Sciences
Sarah Carleton, Theater
Jacqueline Carr, History
Sin yee Chan, Philosophy
Yolanda Chen, Plant & Soil Science
Thomas Chittenden, Business
Anne Clark, Religion
Michele Commercio, Political Science
Catherine Connor, Romance Languages & Linguistics
Nicole Conroy, Human Development & Family Studies
Meghan Cope, Geography
Celia Cuddy, Social Work
Daniel DeSanto, UVM Libraries
Dan Tam Do, UVM Libraries
Deb Ellis, Film & Television Studies
Maeve Eberhardt, Linguistics
Tina Escaja, Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies and Romance Languages & Linguistics
Amber Doiron, Electrical & Biomedical Engineering
Joshua Farley, Community Development & Applied Economics
David Feurzeig, Music & Dance
Brendan Fisher, Environmental Program, Rubenstein School of the Environment & Natural Resources
Yolanda Flores, Romance Languages & Linguistics
John Forbes, Theatre
Alice Fothergill, Sociology
Pamela Fraser, Art & Art History
Shirley Gedeon, Economics
John Gennari, English and Critical Race & Ethnic Studies
Joel Goldberg, Chemistry
Laura Haines, UVM Libraries
Paula Higa, Music & Dance
Laura Hill, Plant Biology
Jinny Huh, Critical Race & Ethnic Studies and English
Maria Hummel, English
Deborah Hunter, Higher Education & Student Affairs
Kyle Ikeda, Asian Languages and Literatures
Kirsten Isgro, Medical Laboratory & Radiation Sciences
Didi Jackson, English
Major Jackson, English
David A. Jones, Business
Vijay Kanagala, Higher Education & Student Affairs
Julia Katsnelson, German & Russian
Kate Kenny, German & Russian
Colby Kervick, Education
Mary Louise Kete, English
Nikki Khanna, Sociology
Felicia Kornbluh, History and Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies
Eric Lindstrom, English
Andrea Lini, Geology
Matt Liptak, Chemistry
Annika Ljung-Baruth, Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies and English
Don Loeb, Philosophy
Lokangaka Losambe, English
Trina Magi, UVM Libraries
Teresa Mares, Anthropology
Patricia Mardeusz, UVM Libraries
Lili Martin, Nursing
Brooke McCorkle, Music & Dance
Elaine McCrate, Economics
Margaret McDevitt, Art & Art History
Anis Memon, Romance Languages & Linguistics
Libby Miles, English
Beth Mintz, Sociology
Rachel Montesano, Romance Languages & Linguistics
Ana Morales-Williams, Rubenstein School of the Environment & Natural Resources
Charles-Louis Morand Métivier, Romance Languages & Linguistics
Harlan Morehouse, Geography
Helen Morgan-Parmett, Theatre
Ilyse R. Morgenstein Fuerst, Religion
Dianna Murray-Close, Psychological Science
Garrison Nelson, Political Science
Ingrid L. Nelson, Geography
Hilary Neroni, Film & Television Studies
Frank Nicosia, History and Holocaust Studies
Sarah Nilsen, Film & Television Studies
Deb Noel, English
Trish O’Kane, Rubenstein School of the Environment & Natural Resources
Amy O’Meara, Nursing
Holly Painter, English
Fiona Patterson, Social Work
Melissa Pespeni, Biology
Jane Petrillo, Community Development & Applied Economics
Elizabeth Pinel, Psychological Science
John Pirone, American Sign Language
Paolo Pucci, Romance Languages & Linguistics
Ann Pugh, Social Work
Donna Ramirez Harrington, Economics
Helen Read, Mathematics & Statistics
Dana Riger, Human Development & Family Studies
Patricia Riley, Music & Dance
Julie Roberts, Romance Languages & Linguistics
Kathleen Ross, Communication Sciences & Disorders
Malcolm M. Sanders, Physics
Scott Schaffer, UVM Libraries
Alice Schermerhorn, Psychological Science
Kathleen Scollins, German & Russian
Helen Scott, English
Jeanne Shea, Anthropology
Riin Sirkel, Philosophy
Lacey M. Sloan, Social Work
Brenda Solomon, Social Work
Peter Spitzform, UVM Libraries
Patrick Standen, Rehabilitation & Movement Science
Thomas Streeter, Sociology
Bridget Swanson, German & Russian
Eric Testroet, Animal & Veterinary Sciences
Martin Thaler, Theater
Brian Tokar, Environmental Studies
Regina Toolin, Education
Sarah Turner, English
Chris Vaccaro, English
Christine Velez, Social Work
John V. Waldron, Romance Languages & Linguistics
Eric von Wettberg, Plant & Soil Science
Laura Webb, Geology
Jacqueline Weinstock, Human Development & Family Studies
Nancy Welch, English
Jenny Wilkinson, Animal & Veterinary Sciences
Jamie Williamson, English
Sean A. Witters, English
Hyon Joo Yoo, Film & Television Studies
Burlington, VT—Today, the full-time members of United Academics, the faculty union of the University of Vermont, voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement reached with the administration for a contract after fifteen months of negotiation.
Faculty won an 8.5% salary increases over the three years of the contract (2.5% the first year, and 3% the following two years), increased pay for promotions and summer teaching, a workload reduction for non-tenure-track faculty, and more. Administration proposals to reduce faculty control over their intellectual property were rebuffed, and benefits won in previous contracts were maintained.
According to Prof. Tom Streeter, President of United Academics, “many public university administrations across the country are seeking to undermine faculty professionalism and autonomy by letting salaries stagnate, reducing job protections, reducing or eliminating research sabbaticals, and reducing faculty control over what and how they study and teach. In that context, this contract represents a victory for the faculty and students of the University of Vermont. Students will continue to learn from teacher-scholars at the forefronts of their fields. The disciplined free inquiry that has made UVM an environment conducive to bold and cutting edge research has been preserved.”
UA Vice President and Professor of English Sarah Alexander noted that “over the long term the struggle over control of universities continues. For the good of UVM and its students, we will continue to press against the tendency of university administrations, including UVM’s, to treat the university as if it were a private business where students are merely revenue sources and faculty are an expense to be minimized. Universities exist to serve the public good, and United Academics will continue to serve as an important protector of that role.”
Almost all issues for the contract were settled during bargaining between January and September of 2017. The main sticking points going into mediation in September were salary and an administrative effort to reduce faculty’s rights to the intellectual property in their courses under certain circumstances. The administration dropped the intellectual property clause in December, which meant the only issue going into fact finding was salary. After a fact finding hearing in February and submissions of final exhibits by both sides on March 23rd, a report by Fact Finder Michael Ryan was released to both parties on May 7th.
The report to a large degree supported UA’s analysis. Regarding the administration’s claim during negotiations that UVM faculty were already competitively paid, the fact finder noted that “objectivity balks at [the administration’s] selection” of the Oklahoma State Univ. (OSU) annual survey of faculty salaries as a comparator (the basis for the administration’s public claims during negotiations that UVM faculty were at 104% of national averages). “It is hard to envision,” he continued, “what [UVM] might have in common with the University of North Dakota, the University of South Alabama, and Central Michigan University, to pick a few examples from the OSU list.” There is, he concluded, a “continuing need to increase the bargaining units' salaries to be more in line with their comparable peers.” (UA’s exhibit on UVM faculty salaries in a national context, authored by Prof. Beth Mintz, is here.)
The fact finder also noted that “There is no doubt that the University is currently on a firm financial footing. Enrollment is stable or increasing. The revenue picture is generally positive, and the reserves are strong. The bond-rating agencies have recognized this performance, commenting on the University’s ‘strong’ financial profile and ‘stable outlook.’”
“This has been a long process – too long,” said Streeter. “The end results are better than what we would have gotten without hanging tight, and they should give the administration pause before they choose to drag things out through mediation and fact finding in the future. But we can safely say that our union has acted successfully to protect the well-being of faculty and the intellectual vitality of the University of Vermont.”
United Academics is the union of full- and part-time faculty at University of Vermont, with over 700 members from departments and colleges across the campus. We represent faculty in negotiating and upholding contracts, and we advocate for fair labor practices within and beyond our academic community. We are a member-led union committed to academic freedom, shared governance, social and environmental justice.
Posted: Fri 7:45 AM, Feb 02, 2018 |
Updated: Fri 11:38 AM, Feb 02, 2018
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The University of Vermont and the faculty union are at an impasse in their contract negotiations. Some faculty members and students feel the university should focus on education, rather than new amenities to attract more students.
"Many faculty members believe that university priorities have gotten a little bit warped," said Tom Streeter, a professor of sociology and the president of the faculty union at the University of Vermont.
An informational session on where and how UVM spends its money was held Thursday night.
"Building new buildings, doing things to attract new students is a great idea if it’s not the case everyone else is doing the same thing," Streeter said.
Streeter says new complexes like the STEM facility and the future Multi-Purpose Center shouldn't be the top priority of the university. He argues focusing on the physical development of the campus is not unique. Other schools are doing similar things to attract students. Streeter thinks the money could be better spent.
"It doesn't have to be a giant change, but a modest change could right the ship," he said.
UVM leadership declined to speak with WCAX News on camera but sent a statement that read in part, the "Multi-Purpose Center will be funded through private philanthropy and debt service paid through student fees." And that it is "not competing with faculty compensation." They also say the university has "a very significant backlog and continues to renovate and replace buildings" to "compete nationally for students faculty and staff."
"I mean things change, it’s progression, it’s natural," said Esther Rosen, a junior in UVM's College of Arts and Sciences.
Rosen also believes the university is prioritizing bringing in new students rather than focusing on the ones already in Vermont.
"Everybody here is getting an amazing education but there's definitely an imbalance in the way the administration looks at the university as a product and the university as an institution," said Rosen.
It was announced late last year that 12 spring courses were cut at the college due to UVM's $4 million budget shortfall. Potential faculty layoffs were also mentioned.
"Which will inherently impact me as a student and my peers because we have less lecturers, we have less classes," Rosen said.
Streeter falls short of advocating for money to go to specific colleges or departments but says the union wants everyone that contributes to UVM to be treated equally.
"We need the business school, we need the classics department, we need the nursing school, we need the STEM researchers-- that’s what makes the university what it is," Streeter said.
Members of UVM’s faculty union, United Academics, which is in contract negotiations with administration. File photo by Kelsey Neubauer/VTDigger
BURLINGTON — University of Vermont’s faculty union is concerned about cuts in the number of non-tenured lecturers ahead, the cancellation of classes this semester and stalled contract negotiations.
At an event last week, the union said a national trend in higher education that puts an emphasis on marketing and high end infrastructure at the expense of academics has come to UVM.
At an “Open the Books” forum Thursday, United Academics, the union representing UVM faculty said the decision last fall to cut several courses from the College of Arts and Sciences, and recently revealed plans for reductions in the ranks of full-time and part-time lecturers, are symptoms of a larger national trend called “marketization.” Universities everywhere, including UVM, are allocating more money to infrastructure, marketing and student incentives such as merit scholarships in an effort to broaden the university’s appeal.
Beth Mintz, a professor of sociology and a panel member, said the shifts in funding are geared toward attracting more students and improving UVM’s standing in university rankings.
The Open the Books panel examined of the role of UVM’s budgeting formula, known as “incentive based budgeting.” Incentive-based budgeting, or IBB, allots money to colleges based on a number of factors such as enrollment and the cost of offering the class. It is UVM’s version of the responsibility-centered management model in use at public universities across the country.
Implementation of IBB has contributed to a longtime trend away from hiring tenure-track faculty toward the use of non-tenure track lecturers. Lecturers carry larger course loads — as much as double the number of courses as their tenure-track counterparts — and earn a fraction of the salary of a typical tenure-track faculty member, said Nancy Welch, a panel member and a professor of English.
Welch said the university employs 64 fewer assistant professors and 37 more lecturers than it did 12 years ago. This has translated into larger class sizes, she said. Over the course of the past 20 years, many classes have grown by nearly three times their original size.
The university is also investing in infrastructure, such as new dorms, an athletic center and a new library bridge, to draw more students.
“Our argument is not that we think UVM can unbuild the library bridge and give the money to faculty and students,” Welch said. “But we think the simultaneous spending on bridges while cutting courses and faculty is a symptom of larger trends, and these trends can be turned around bit by bit.”
While the College of Arts and Sciences has borne the brunt this year, every college will feel the effects eventually, said Thomas Streeter, a professor of sociology and president of the faculty union.
Panelist Esther Rosen, a UVM junior and editor of the alternative campus newspaper The Water Tower News, said class sizes have grown. The course, Healthy Brains Healthy Bodies, for example, had been open to 15 students the first few years. Now it is a lecture attended by more than 200 students.
Rosen said despite the increase in class size, the course itself is unchanged: Fifty percent of the class grade is attendance. But the large number of students has led to an inevitable slip in educational quality, she said.
Rosen said that while students personally have witnessed the changing face of UVM — as a result of daily navigating construction sites — they question what the payoff is.
“The obsession with image hasn’t been lost on the students,” Rosen said. “The change doesn’t necessarily translate into the student experience.”
The faculty union and the university have been in contract negotiations for the past year. An impasse was declared in September, and in November it was announced that mediation had failed. The issues separating the two parties involve salaries and aspects of faculty intellectual property rights. The next phase of negotiations — fact-finding — is to begin Feb. 12.
“The University is committed to presenting accurate, comprehensive, factual data and information in the fact-finding process,” Wanda Heading-Grant, vice president of human resources, said in a letter emailed Thursday to students.
In an email response Streeter, the uniong president, said “the administration’s thinking is based on a narrow, blinkered, short term set of concerns.”
If the fact-finding phase fails, the university administration and the faculty union each will submit contract proposals to the Vermont Labor Relations Board.
Brent Hallenbeck, Free Press Staff WriterPublished 12:27 p.m. ET Nov. 16, 2017 | Updated 2:10 p.m. ET Nov. 16, 2017
D. Thomas Toner, professor of music at the University of Vermont, explains why music matters to students not majoring in the subject
The University of Vermont has cut a dozen classes in its College of Arts and Sciences – half of those coming from the Department of Music and Dance – leading a music professor to resign his position as department chairman.
D. Thomas Toner stepped aside from his Department of Music and Dance chairmanship last Friday after being asked to recommend cuts to help reduce a budget shortfall in the College of Arts and Sciences that’s estimated between $3.7 million to $4 million. The college’s total annual budget is $110 million.
The cuts came as students were about to begin choosing classes for the spring semester. Registration began Monday and ends Friday.
“No one wants to cut any classes anytime because it is disruptive to everybody,” Toner said Thursday morning from his office in the Southwick Building on UVM’s Redstone Campus. “It just seemed like it was happening so late.”
According to William Falls, dean of the College of Arts and Science, 12 of the 63 spring courses offered by part-time faculty in the college were canceled. Six were cut in music and dance, Falls noted, while others were trimmed in art, anthropology, theater and psychological services. The cuts represent less than 1 percent of the total class offerings in the college, according to the university.
“I’ve been fielding some questions (from) students that suggest to me that there is a perception that this (is) targeting the arts, or at least music and dance directly,” Falls wrote Wednesday evening in an email to the Burlington Free Press. “Nothing can be further from the truth.”
Toner said he has “tremendous respect” for Falls, who said cuts were deep in Music and Dance because the department relies on numerous part-time faculty. Still, Toner said, “it is difficult not to feel singled out.” Classes cut in the music department include group lessons in conga and djembe, brass techniques and music history and literature.
D. Thomas Toner, professor of music at the University of Vermont, resigned his chairmanship of the Department of Music and Dance after being asked to cut classes on the eve of registration for the spring semester. (Photo: BRENT HALLENBECK/FREE PRESS)
Though he quit his chairmanship, Toner remains at UVM, where he has been a full professor since 2010 and taught since 1995. The Swanton native said his tenure of more than 10 years as chairman of the Department of Music and Dance was due to end Jan. 15, but his early resignation means he will forfeit a portion of his approximately $18,000 annual chairman’s salary.
“I can say I was not OK with (the cuts), and they (administration) would have to believe me,” Toner said, explaining why he decided to quit his chairmanship. “I just didn’t want to be a part of this any longer.”
Toner said the cuts on the eve of class selection for the spring semester is hard on students, though he made the effort to recommend cuts in classes that would not affect students’ abilities to graduate. “It does create a problem for the students running around at the last minute” to find new classes, according to Toner.
A former part-time faculty member himself, Toner said he feels especially bad for the adjunct music faculty who arranged their schedules to accommodate spring classes. As musicians trying to make a living in the small state of Vermont, Toner said many count on their salary of $1,900 per class credit to augment their incomes.
The half-dozen classes cut in his department will save about $50,000 in salary and related costs, according to Toner, which he said doesn’t seem like a lot in the face of a $4-million shortfall. “It’s not insignificant,” he said of the reduction, “but in a way that gives you the perspective that that amount of money should be significant but it isn’t.”
According to a statement issued Wednesday by UVM spokesman Enrique Corredera, the College of Arts and Sciences “has not met its enrollment and retention targets and has not yet been able to adjust costs so as to keep its budget in balance.” Toner said the cuts have many within his department on edge.
“The students and the faculty are concerned both about what’s happened immediately,” he said, “and what the potential is down the road.”
Contact Brent Hallenbeck at 660-1844 or email@example.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.
Images From our Spring Legislative Trustees Reception
Comments before the UVM Board of Trustees
Dr. Felicia Kornbluh
Associate Professor of History and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
and President, United Academics, AFT/AAUP
February 6, 2016
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Board this morning. And hello to those legislative trustees with whom United Academics has had the pleasure to share its perspectives in recent months.
I am Dr. Felicia Kornbluh, an Associate Professor of History and of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, at UVM and the President of United Academics. Here with me today are members of our elected leadership bodies, the Executive Council and the Delegates Assembly, and other active members of our union. We are all busy teachers and scholars, who join together in UA to forward our vision of the university.
Let me begin by acknowledging your service to the University of Vermont. As the representative of the organized faculty of the University, United Academics is indebted to you. We know that this is a hard-working board, and that you all have many other commitments in your lives as well. We acknowledge as well President Sullivan and other university administrators who use their best judgment to sustain UVM financially and steer it toward a stable future.
This morning I will say a few words about United Academics and share some of our current concerns, offering not a “state of the union” but thoughts on the state of the University from the union’s point of view.
Since 2002, United Academics has represented the large, diverse faculty of UVM. Our 800 members range from library and research faculty, to part-time faculty, with specialized knowledge as experienced practitioners in their fields, to full professors in the humanities, physical sciences, and social sciences. We share a profound commitment to our students, to thi university, and to our own professionalism. We stand for the material wellbeing of each and every faculty member – including our access to high-quality, affordable health care and to the time that allows us to nurture our family lives and feed our intellects. We also stand for the values of the faculty. These include the accessibility and affordability of higher education to all who seek it; the importance of education that is challenging—and to courses that are small enough to allow for the most rigorous pedagogy; intellectual and political independence that permit us to challenge young minds; and a democratic, humane university that can serve as a beacon in an era in which the most truculent or meretricious voices are often the loudest.
We care more than perhaps you know about the fate of the University of Vermont and about the fate of universities generally in our society. These institutions value fairness and free inquiry, depth of engagement and the search for truth, and the ability to stand at a critical distance from the picture of the world provided by conventional media, political, and economic authorities.
Our over-arching concern at present is that a certain version of fiscal sense has taken priority over other values that define us as a community. Throughout the university, we seem to be experiencing a death of a thousand cuts. I say “seem” because UA learns about these only episodically and anecdotally. Under Incentive-Based Budgeting, the central administration has divested itself of responsibility for these decisions while imposing demanding fiscal targets upon the Deans and colleges.
We insist that the UVM administration at all levels hold the faculty harmless in the face of the many remaining unknowns of this budget model. We should not be taxed to enable its implementation. The letter and the spirit of our collective bargaining agreement with the university must be honored. Changes in the quantity or quality of faculty members’ work must be bargained and negotiated with United Academics as their organized representative. We call for a moratorium on administrative decisions that are ending the careers of some of our treasured colleagues and exposing others to uncertainty and unanticipated, exploding workloads.
As a partial solution, we ask this Board to demand that the UVM administration work with the faculty to establish new democratic procedures that give faculty the power to approve or reject any decisions that affect our and our colleagues’ wellbeing under the IBB system.
Last, we ask that this comment period be restored to FRIDAY AFTERNOON to enable more students and faculty to attend.
I fear that this Board has received a somewhat false sense of the level of satisfaction within the UVM faculty. The hope of Incentive-Based Budgeting is that it will provide for greater democratic participation because decisions are made within the colleges, which largely command their own budgets. However, we have seen the following:
* Disparity across colleges in implementation of IBB. This includes disparity in the degree of consultation and democratic participation that individual Deans have solicited, or even allowed. We must ensure that faculty have power under this system – not merely the ability to have their voices heard, but the authority to make choices based upon our experiences and expertise.
* Departmental chairs and deans operating in the shadow of IBB to cut costs pre-emptively. Some appear to be running scared, limiting or eliminating the contracts of nontenured faculty just in case the finances do not work out. This is no way to make decisions about matters of intellectual and academic value, which have implications for our students’ education and which may end the livelihoods of professors who provide enormous value to UVM.
* Increased class sizes—by fiat and against the best judgment of the faculty. This happened in the Environmental Program, a shared endeavor of the College of Arts and Sciences, CALS, and the Rubenstein School. It is one of our flagship programs at UVM, a national leader and one of the defining elements of the undergraduate curriculum.
* The withdrawal of Teaching Assistance. We know of one faculty member, a distinguished part-time Lecturer, who has left the university largely over this issue. The faculty member had taught essential courses for six years and is also a scholar whose research focuses upon urgent contemporary issues. Faced with rising class sizes, no assistance, and no additional compensation, this faculty member left UVM. Aside from the rising workload, this professor felt disrespected and devalued by a university that was apparently more interested in cutting costs than in preserving a high-quality education.
UVM can and must do better. United Academics is eager to work with you to take the next steps forward.
For The Member Meeting: November 2, 2015
Today I want to talk briefly in three parts:
First, the assault we are facing and the vision of the world that motivates that assault;
Second, what we as faculty, and education workers, and union members have as a contrasting vision, what our sense is of the kind of university we hoped to work in and we want to help create;
and Third, to begin to think together about what are the concrete steps we can take.
I want to start off by acknowledging everyone for your contribution to United Academics: Past leaders; NEW MEMBERS: The most important people here Delegates; Departmental Representative; members of the Executive Council; Member of our staff; Allies of United Academics, friends of our union.
And ALL members of United Academics –who joined with the intention of joining with other faculty at UVM to accomplish things we care about.
My intention today is that you leave here knowing that the union absolutely needs you and every colleague you can bring with you into active membership.
We face a historically new situation.
- Thanks to our predecessors in the 20th century, universities have been special places, held apart from the most dehumanizing dictates of market capitalism.
- Since the 1970s, public-sector unions, such as ours, have been a port in the storm for organized labor. It has been possible for labor to keep unions alive and even expand our efforts to humanize the workplace in the public sector.
- UVM has benefited from a demographic “bubble” that has allowed it to expand and bring in more revenue without lowering admission standards.
These are all changing. In fact, we have so many challenges, we could spend hours just talking about those. So, very briefly --
At UVM: Budgeting (the “Incentive-Based Budgeting” model and its concomitants): By design, cost is designed to be in the driver’s seat in ALL university decision making – by every Dean in every College, and therefore by every Chair and Department head.; Erosion of faculty governance, for example, in the powers of the Faculty Senate.; Continued biases on the basis of race, gender, (dis)ability, nationality and sexuality; andNOT looking at how we can have smaller classes, give students more attention, engage in more ethnical and critical reflection, reduce our teaching loads.
State legislature – multiple proposals – including Higher Education “performance measures,” distracting from the scandal of Inadequate funding : Vermont 49th in the country in its support for higher education (in the dollar value of its per-pupil expenditures)
U.S. Supreme Court: Friedrichs v. CTA case, which could imperil our ability to have a class of “fee-payers” whom we represent in bargaining but who do not affirmatively declare that they are members of the union.
Those are serious and sometimes overwhelming challenges, attempts to transform UVM as we have known it, to operate like a private business, with managers calling all of the shots, with students conceptualized largely as “customers” here to provide a revenue stream, and with the emphasis ONLY on the bottom line instead of expanding knowledge, opening minds, and encouraging the free exchange of ideas.
We have to counter these challenges, but we also need to put forward our contrasting vision, to insist that WE ARE THE UNIVERSITY. We need to be a key part of the decision making process, and to involve people to create the kind of university that Vermont deserves.
That’s what our union is: a chance to come together, to talk about what WE want to create, to unite with student and community allies, to contrast our vision with the administration’s vision, and to work in solidarity to stop the outrages -- and start to create something better.
Doing that isn’t easy. But we have the power of the faculty and the people who work here, the support of many students, and a set of legal and organizational tools created through past struggles. Those include the union itself, our right to decide on our goals and to bargain with management, and a contract that we can enforce. Those are potential resources – resources we can strengthen!
II. What to do/Hope
The main source of hope here is our committed union itself. Just recently the part-time bargaining unit of UA finished negotiating a remarkable contract. Brian Tokar will share details in a minute – but in summary, it makes the part-time faculty of UVM among the best protected in the country.
The Contract Administration Committee for good reasons keeps many details of its work confidential. But it, too, has stood up for individual members of UA with incredible tenacity and dedication – and won much for those individuals.
In the past, some of you may have brought a concern to the elected representatives of the union or the staff. You may have heard, “There’s nothing we can do,” because the contract has already been signed, or state labor law doesn’t seem to address the situation that concerns you or your colleagues. You may even have said that yourself when somebody came to you with a question or a concern. Starting today, we never want to say there’s nothing we can do. We can build on our success at contract bargaining and the bringing of grievances to expand our work to face our new situation: We don’t yet have all the answers. But many of us in UA want to work together to be more creative in our response to some of the challenges we face – and we want to be more effective, and more powerful.
Please be part of the effort to widen the conversation in UA, to make us a union that can really never again say, “no, there’s nothing we can do for you.” To do that we need to build active membership. We need informal interest groups, committees, and Delegate and Representative structures that are firing on all cylinders.
We need to start by increasing our capacity to listen to our members, and talk with them.
Several of us have discussed the idea of having departments invite in people from the union for 15 minutes or so. When UA gets invited in, we need members who will volunteer to attend those meetings, to have questions to ask members at those meetings, to tell people what we are already doing, and to ask for suggestions about other things to do.
- What two topics would you want UA to emphasize if leaders of the union were to come to your colleagues or your whole department or college?
- What other strategies and ideas would you propose in the face of our current challenges?