American Association of University Professors
University of Delaware Chapter

301 McDowell Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE  19716
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January 2002 aaUPBEAT

Resolve During Challenging Times
Contract Negotiations


Several weeks ago I drove with my family to visit relatives in New York for the first time since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Seeing the New York City skyline with my own eyes filled me with a deep sense of sadness and loss. Fortunately, I did not lose family members or friends directly in the attacks, but I know several people who did. A friend from my high school days worked with more than twenty people who were killed in the World Trade Center attacks. One of my colleagues on national AAUP Council had a daughter who was a passenger on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Several of my students had relatives who were directly at risk in New York City and Washington, DC. The personal consequences of these attacks will always be with us.

Challenges to High Education

In addition to the personal consequences of the attacks, other factors -- the war in Afghanistan, the mobilization against terrorism within US borders, and the effects of the economic downturn -- have greatly deepened the challenges we face as higher education faculty. The University of Delaware's academic community is diverse and international. Faculty and students who are Moslem, Indian, Middle Eastern or who may appear foreign should have our friendship and support in the current climate of suspicion and fear. The need to question and debate government policies, to provide background and analysis for current international and domestic issues, and to put ongoing events into perspective is greatest during times of crisis. Efforts to provide knowledge, analysis and thoughtful opinion are expressions of our constitutional rights, our trust in democracy and our traditional values of academic freedom. These qualities are most imperiled during times of fear and international conflict, and we as faculty have an an obligation to affirm them.

Higher Education Finances

The focus on security combined with the decline in state and federal revenues resulting from the ongoing recession are greatly exacerbating the financing of higher education across the country. According to Dr. Linda Bell, professor of economics at Haverford College and author of the AAUP report The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2000-2001, financial support for higher education was declining well before the current mobilization against terrorism and economic downturn. Bell found that faculty salaries increased nationally by 3.5 percent over the period while the inflation rate was 3.4 percent. This negligible real increase in faculty salaries was largely the result of tightening state budgets that fund higher education at public universities where more than two-thirds of the nation's full-time faculty are employed.

With the loss of state revenues due to the current recession and heightened demand on state budgets for security, higher education is losing financial support in California, New York, and every state in between. In some states, such as Alabama, the needs of K through 12 public education are being pitted against funding for higher education. A cycle of tax cuts during times of prosperity and budget cuts during recession is compounded by a pattern of federal tax cuts that threaten to further reduce state revenues. These financial pressures are heightening tendencies to squeeze faculty salaries, to use part-time faculty and graduate students as replacements for full-time faculty, and to use distance education and interactive communication technologies to reduce costs rather than as educational resources that enhance innovative instruction styles.

How we as faculty meet these challenges to our values, our professional and scholarly integrity, and the economic status of our profession will affect not only our own conditions of teaching, research and shared governance, but also academic life for the foreseeable future.

The Current Contract Negotiations

We confront these conditions of higher education at the University of Delaware in the collective bargaining arena. As we enter into collective bargaining at the University of Delaware, we must resolve to build on our past achievements in improving the climate for education and research by securing meaningful improvements in salaries and benefits, workload and merit pay policies, and the full implementation of our collective bargaining agreement.

My support for the Bargaining Team's contract proposals in the December issue of the aaUPBEAT is based on the following facts and principles:

  1. During the past ten years, the wealth and revenues accruing to the University of Delaware have increased substantially. The salary increases negotiated through collective bargaining succeeded in bringing the faculty past the midpoint of our comparator institutions. Yet the salary increases have not matched the growth in the University's financial resources and certainly did not place a strain on them. While the University's immediate financial position is not as favorable as in the recent past, a meaningful increase in faculty salaries is still affordable based on the University's accumulated resources and its multifaceted income sources.
  2. Thanks to faculty and administration efforts, the visibility and prestige of the University of Delaware have been dramatically enhanced. The University is increasingly the first choice of highly qualified students who apply from across the country. Last year's reaccreditation review lauded UD's accomplishments and held many of our policies and practices up as exemplary. Along with academic related improvements, there also have been architectural and landscape developments that not only enhance the campus's physical beauty but simultaneously increase the University's presence as a seat of learning. Given such recent UD achievements, it is simply not enough for the University of Delaware to be at or slightly above comparator institutions in salary rankings. With the enhanced prestige of the University and its faculty, we should aim to be higher on the comparator list; in fact, if we don't move higher, we run the risk of losing stature within our comparator group. Given the comparators in our region, I think it would be reasonable for UD faculty salary levels to be located just below the top tier, which includes Princeton, The University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, and Johns Hopkins.
  3. The University of Delaware provided over $900,000 for special salary adjustments for this academic year. These salary adjustments were made within the provisions of Article 12.8 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that addresses issues of equity, market and retention. Funds for special adjustment are an important resource for faculty salaries. Yet the magnitude of special salary adjustments made available this year outside of across the board and merit pay have raised concerns about accountability among many faculty members. These concerns have been heightened because they occurred during a time of change at the highest levels of academic administration. Within the boundaries of the University's rules of confidentiality, the AAUP has investigated these salary adjustments and has provided a report in the aaUPBEAT; also, we provided additional information at the Open Faculty Meeting held on Dec. 4. Concerns about this year's salary adjustments have negatively affected many faculty members' morale. This is part of the background of current negotiations; it signals the need to make sure that a higher percent of salary increases comes through across the board increases and merit pay.
  4. The time for domestic partner benefits at UD is past due. Approximately 156 colleges and universities provide such benefits to faculty; Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pennsylvania, both prominent within our comparator group, are two such schools. In the past year, General Motors, Daimler Chrysler and Gannet have joined the list of major corporations providing domestic partner benefits. In my view such benefits should be part of any reasonable benefits package.
  5. In recent contracts, we have sought to enhance the retirement options and benefits available to retiring faculty. We must continue this effort. Yet we must also recognize the needs and concerns of people who have recently joined the faculty and who represent our institution's future.

Financial Condition of Recent Hires

Concerning the financial condition of recent hires, during the spring semester of 2001, I conducted a brief survey of faculty who have been at the University for six years or less. The survey was sent to 226 bargaining unit members who joined the faculty during the last six years. 83 people, about 37%, responded to the survey. Of the respondents, 82% were assistant professors, 78% were at UD for 5 years or less, 70% were between 30 and 40 years old, 44% were women, 56% were men, 24% were single, and 76% were either married or living with a partner. About 38% reported having no children, and 62% said they had one or more children. About 50 % were earning more than $50,000 and about 50% less than $50,000.

While the number of respondents is too small for meaningful statistical analysis and does not represent a scientific sample, the survey does suggest financial distress among recent faculty hires. For example, about 33% of the respondents said they were paying student loans. Of those paying student loans, more than half said they owed $20,000 and about a quarter said they owed more than $30,000. About 33% said they are renters rather than homeowners. Of the renters, 84% said they either lacked a downpayment for home ownership or that mortgage payments were too high. About 67% said they had $5,000 or less saved for emergencies, and about a third reported they had less than $1,000 in savings for emergencies. More than 40% reported that they spent more than $1,000 out of their own pockets for expenses related to teaching and their professional activities.

There was a very stark gender difference that suggests the financial conditions of women who are new hires are more perilous than their male colleagues. While 63% of women said they learned less than $50,000, 64% of men said they earned more than $50,000. In addition, while slightly more men had student loans than women, the amount owed by women was considerably higher.

While the survey's results regarding recent hires are far from definitive, about one-third of the respondents appear to face difficult personal financial situations. We must more fully recognize and address these issues in collective bargaining.

Some Final Thoughts

It has long been my view that the AAUP chapter at the University of Delaware has an important role to play not only on our own campus, but in providing an example to other institutions of how collective bargaining can be combined with traditional commitments to shared governance and to academic freedom. Campus AAUP members have contacted their colleagues at other institutions, such as the University of Vermont, in efforts to establish collective bargaining at other research institutions.

We are engaged in contract negotiations during unsettled times. In this context it is especially important that our current efforts be guided by our past accomplishments. In collective bargaining agreements over the past ten years, we have negotiated funds to enhance equity for female faculty, established policies that provide employment security and career advancement for nontenure track faculty, sought and won the inclusion of phased retirement in our contract, created a pattern of negotiation that uses a list of comparators as a basis for our salary demands, formalized and strengthened departmental faculty's role in selecting chairs, improved sabbatical leave options, and recently we have been clarifying relationships among workload and merit pay. Also, through our independent analyses of the University's finances, we have provided solid grounds for making strong proposals at the bargaining table. Additionally, in coalition with the campus AFSCME leadership, we have established free tuition for people who work in food services and the bookstore, a benefit they had until their work was outsourced to a private vender. Now free tuition is once again theirs. Accomplishments like this last one help to build bonds of mutual interest and commitment on campus.

I have every confidence that with AAUP membership and support for the AAUP, we will further enhance the conditions for quality education, scholarship, and the depth of our academic community during 2002.