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January 2000 aaUPBEAT
Looking Ahead to My Next Term: Challenges & Opportunities
By: Gerry Turkel, President
During the 1990 contract negotiations, I was among a group of AAUP activists engaged in picketing. Amid smiles of approval and some concerned looks from people passing by, we carried signs that said "Quality Education Demands a Fair Contract" and "Parity is a Priority."
I am pleased to say that with the contract we ratified last Spring, we have moved a long way toward fulfilling those demands.
In 1990, our salaries were below the median for comparable institutions in our region. Now, our salaries are above the median. We are just below Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pennsylvania and one or two other universities in both compensation and salary.
This improvement has been accomplished as part of an multifaceted strategy to upgrade the conditions of employment for all UD faculty members. Other aspects of that strategy include the implementation of a full-time nontenure track policy that provides employment security and career development for long-term nontenured faculty. Also, we have made gender equity a core concern and have sought equity for all faculty members whose compensation does not reflect their contributions to our University's mission. Additionally, faculty are taking advantage of phased retirement options provided in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and we have made the plight of contingent faculty, including long-term part-timers, one of our major concerns. Finally, we provide a strong voice and a clear sense of direction for realizing the goal of greater racial and cultural diversity on our campus.
In seeking to better the economic status of the faculty and to realize equity, we have relied on quality data and sound analyses. In 1993, we participated in creating a formula for assessing equity issues. We commission a yearly analysis of the University's finances, the Weber Report, to better understand the University's financial resources. In 1998, we conducted a survey of personal expenditures by faculty members on research and teaching. Through these studies and reports, we have been able to formulate precise and rigorous proposals for collective bargaining.
Faculty members have responded to AAUP accomplishments and activism by joining in record numbers. During a time of high retirement rates and the addition of many new colleagues to our faculty, we have added more than seventy members in the past two years. There are currently 504 dues-paying AAUP members, representing 54% of eligible faculty. Our chapter's leadership has been invigorated by the addition of three new Executive Council members and five new Steering Committee members. Also, our chapter's finances are very healthy in spite of the fact that we continue to have the lowest dues of any comparable AAUP chapter that engages in collective bargaining.
As I look forward to the next few years, I am pleased with the progress we have made and with the purposes we serve. These achievements have been accomplished through the thoughtful planning and work of people who volunteer time and talents to enhance the quality of life for faculty and making the University of Delaware fulfill its potentials for quality research, education, equity and democratic governance.
Still, the future is not certain. Not only new opportunities, but also challenges and even dangers await us. We must recognize that our conditions of employment at the University of Delaware are affected by regional, national and, increasingly, global changes that are putting many of our taken-for-granted expectations and our values in question. Higher education is in the crucible of major changes that will inevitably have an impact on our lives as UD faculty. In recent editions of our newsletter, we have discussed some of these challenges: the emergence of cyberspace universities and distance teaching, the Internet's impact on intellectual property rights, the relationship between corporate funding and independent research.
Looking toward the near future, I think there are some concerns that are especially compelling for UD faculty.
Salaries and Compensation. While we at UD have made progress in salaries and compensation, we must put these gains into perspective, since we have measured the gains in relation to comparable institutions in our region. Unfortunately, some of our comparators have seen compensation stagnate or have experienced only minimal gains over the past several years. This means that our statistical gains have been determined in part by low or no gains for colleagues at other universities. Therefore, if we want to prevent our salary and compensation improvements from eroding, we must remain organized. This is especially true since the overall economic status of our profession has not improved in any meaningful way over recent decades. Due to pressures from inflation and declining support from government, salaries underwent a real decline during the late 1970s and 1980s. While there has been improvement in recent years, overall levels of compensation for professors in the United States are at 1971 levels. Such facts indicate that although local AAUP strategies have paid off for UD faculty, there is still much to be done in the larger battle of winning higher-education faculty in general greater financial and professional rewards. Our fate at UD is tied to this national issue.
Higher Education as Business. In pivotal states such as Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Texas and Pennsylvania, elected officials and people who serve on governing boards of public and private universities have been developing a vision of higher education as a business. Such people, who are often drawn into the leadership of academic institutions because of their political ties or business success, frequently do not appreciate higher education's unique character, achievements and particular needs. These leaders provide a perspective, given voice in The Chronicle of Higher Education and the popular press, which seeks to replace traditional approaches to higher education with one grounded in bottom line business practices. From this standpoint, students are customers who should be cultivated through advertising and market research. Faculty concerns with academic freedom are viewed as special pleading by a rather tiresome group of underworked and privileged employees. Tenure is regarded as a protection for incompetent faculty and a block to management prerogatives. Shared governance is considered a fetter to centralized decision-making and a way of maintaining wasteful programs and courses. (In case you think I exaggerate, see James Carlin, "Restoring Sanity to an Academic World Gone Mad," Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/3/99). From this perspective, the entire culture of higher education is viewed as dysfunctional and in great need of a makeover so that efficient managers can redesign it in terms more compatible with the model of a successful business firm.
Technologies and Distant Education. Last spring, Jones International University was accredited. Jones International is completely Web-based, has only two full-time faculty members, conducts all its student/faculty meetings over e-mail, and has graduated five students. The yearly tuition is $3,908 compared to an average $3,356 for a four year public college. The courses are designed by people who do not teach them.
To be sure, electronic teaching, distance education and the Web provide exciting possibilities for enhancing higher education's scope and quality. When woven into higher education's fabric under the direction of faculty engaged in ongoing research and teaching, computer-based educational technologies possess great potential for creating new learning opportunities and for expanding faculty communication with colleagues and students. Yet such technologies also threaten to undermine the patterns of organization that have made U.S. education distinct and highly successful. Virtual universities like Jones International, the Western Governors University and University of Phoenix tend to view faculty as one among many "modes of instruction." Consequently, questions of intellectual property rights, such as who owns the courses that are designed and taught, have become increasingly important. The very nature of the professional status of faculty is put in question by such realities. Being alert to such challenges is the only way to control them.
The Political Climate. Overall, higher education enjoys a great deal of support from public opinion. Higher education is viewed as a gateway to good jobs, respect and a middle class life style. Despite attacks on faculty in a spate of books like Profscam and Tenured Radicals, opinion surveys continue to demonstrate community respect for higher education and faculty's role in society.
Still, there are a number of education-related initiatives around the nation that merit concern. Rooted in very legitimate worries about the costs of higher education, these initiatives seek to more directly regulate faculty workloads and research. The Ohio Supreme Court, for example, has ruled constitutional a state law supported by the governor which allows state universities to determine faculty teaching loads independently of what is stipulated in collective bargaining. In a related matter, some members of the U.S. Congress plan to link a university's ability to qualify for federal funds to that university's adoption of greater teaching loads. In fact, some Congress-people want to go even further and impose stringent accountability standards, rooted in abstract notions of efficiency, on higher education faculty. Also, a law was passed which applied the Freedom of Information Act to data collected by faculty whose research is federally funded. Meanwhile, in many states the overall budgets of higher education have fallen behind the budgets for prisons and corrections - an important shift in political priorities. As if this wasn't bad enough, major state universities are continuing efforts at consolidation and have not been replacing retired faculty with tenure track full-timers. The only upside to all this is that these trends have been resisted in California, Georgia and the Boston area by politically organized faculty in alliance with students and others.
As we focus on improving conditions of employment at UD, we must incorporate our knowledge of the local/national contexts within which we live and work into our goals. Given UD's resources and the Delaware AAUP's record of developing well thought out strategies for achieving its ends, we have reason to believe we can continue to make things better at our institution. We plan to do this by identifying problems, promoting solutions, building on the collective bargaining agreement currently in effect, and working with academic administrators who share our vision of academic excellence. Still, local efforts can only get us so far. If we are to maintain and enhance our stature, we must also approach issues and define them within the broader context that I outlined above.
As faculty, we must continue our efforts to learn from one another and become more unified. We must deepen our ties to one another both on campus and in the professional and disciplinary associations in which we participate. We also must strengthen our capacity to realize shared goals by joining and working together in the AAUP, since there is no doubt that the bigger and more engaged our membership is, the more powerful the union's campus presence will be. Additionally, we must continue to reach out to other campus constituencies, including students and non-faculty employees, in order to develop a fuller sense of our common concerns and goals. We must also reach beyond UD's borders to develop deeper relations with people who live near the University, as well as in Wilmington and other parts of the state. Finally, we must persist in building connections with political leaders at the state and national level, with other unions such as those under the umbrella of the state AFL-CIO, with the business community, with the press, and with state educational leaders.
As part of this effort to strengthen our group presence, we must increase our involvement in the national AAUP. In this spirit, our chapter recently pledged a $500 yearly contribution to the AAUP Legal Defense Fund. This fund is used to support key principles that pertain to faculty rights. The national AAUP staff works tirelessly to protect tenure, guarantee academic freedom, and enhance the rights of nontenure track and part-time faculty throughout the country. The national AAUP is a treasured forum for defining academic values and applying them to new situations. The AAUP's activities across the nation have the cumulative effect of making each local AAUP chapter, including ours here at UD, stronger.
In the months and years ahead, I would like to help the chapter develop specific actions and proposals to realize the following goals.
The AAUP has been part of the University of Delaware for almost thirty years. In that time we have helped shape the history and life of the University, achieving a great deal that all members of the University community should take pride in. Especially since 1990, we have established a relationship with the Administration that is based on mutual respect, an open exchange of priorities and ideas, and a willingness to work together to fulfill the University's missions.
In addition to serving as president of our chapter, I have been elected to serve on the National Council of the AAUP. As I have shared my experiences and views with other council members, I have been pleased to report on the innovative approaches our chapter has taken on key issues, as well as on the hard work we have put into developing an effective relationship with the Administration. In my more utopian moments, I have expressed my view that the University of Delaware provides a model of how collective bargaining and shared governance can come together to serve the faculty and the University community as a whole. I look forward to working with you to make this more of a reality.