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April 2006 / AAUP Newsletter
UD Chapter Pledges $25,000 to the National AAUP
The AAUP Executive Council took the occasion of Roger Bowen’s visit to announce its pledge of $25,000 to the campaign build the national AAUP’s endowment fund. The Executive Council took this action after informing the faculty through the AAUP VOICE in the fall semester of the plan for providing these funds to national AAUP and after seeking comments from AAUP members. The Executive Council is especially pleased that its pledge will be matched by a $25,000 donation by Chancellor Rogers of the University of Nevada. National AAUP will receive $50,000 as a result of our chapter’s action. These funds will enable the AAUP to enhance its financial stability and to provide resources so that the AAUP can advance faculty interests and values. General Secretary Bowen and national AAUP President Jane Buck expressed their deep appreciation for our chapter’s pledge and immediately announced it nationally. They said that our chapter’s pledge should be an example for others to follow.
Administration Challenges Health Benefits for Future Retirees
During last year’s contract negotiations, the Administration asked the AAUP to participate in a committee that would analyze increasing costs of retiree health care benefits and propose directions for dealing with those costs. The AAUP agreed to participate. Leon Campbell, David Colton and Patricia Barber represent the AAUP and report to the Executive Council about meetings.
An Administration analysis — University of Delaware Post-Retirement Health Care Benefits and Issues — provided to the committee presents health care benefits as a two-pronged problem. One of these prongs pertains to the practical value of providing benefits to “an aging professoriate.” It views these benefits not merely in terms of helping retirees financially, but also as an incentive for encouraging faculty to retire. According to this approach, the retirement of older faculty provides funds for hiring new faculty at lower salaries and with reduced benefits. Because of this, the Administration apparently plans to continue the policy that has been in place since 1991 of (a) providing retirees under age sixty-five with the same medical plans and premiums as active faculty members receive and (b) paying for Medicare supplements for retired faculty and spouses over the age of sixty-five. The Administration views these benefits as retirement incentives that provide revenues for hiring new faculty and also lay the basis for future cost cuts.
“But where would the cost savings come from?” you might ask. The answer to this pertains to what the report sees as the health care problem’s second prong: the need to start hiring new faculty who will receive fewer health benefits at retirement than current retirees do. In the Administration report’s words, the costs for health care benefits for future hires would be reduced by “linking retiree health care eligibility/or funding to length of service, changing retirement eligibility criteria, restructuring health care funding.” This is an example of the so-called “defined contributions” approach.
In the Administration’s view, increasing health care costs justifies the development a two-tier health benefits program that (a) provides an incentive for current older faculty to retire while (b) lowering long-term costs by reducing benefits for all faculty hired in the future. To support this position, the report points out that for retired faculty members under 65 health care costs increased from $225 in 2001-02 to $400 in 2005-06, whereas the costs for retirees over 65 increased from $550 to about $825 during the same period. Such facts indeed sound ominous, particularly when presented out of context. Part of that context entails UD’s extraordinarily strong financial condition. While health care costs are on the rise, so is the University’s resources. According to a report from the National Association of College and University Business Officers, UD is now one of only 56 institutions of higher learning nationwide to have an endowment in excess of $1 billion.
The union’s mission is to protect faculty economic security to the best of its ability. In this light, the AAUP’s position on health care benefits is consistent with our overall approach to collective bargaining. While we recognize that health care costs have risen, we also recognize that (a) the significance of this increase in terms of overall University expenditures, revenues and assets is unclear and (b) the Administration’s policy direction may not be in the faculty’s and the University’s best interest. This is why we maintain that the issue of faculty benefits, in the final analysis, must be dealt with during collective bargaining as is the case with all issues of compensation. Committee discussions can be useful, but not definitive. This is why bargaining for benefits for active and retired faculty has been part of the negotiating process for many years.
Equally important is the fact that the AAUP will strongly oppose any effort to develop a two-tier retirement program designed to save costs by creating a sub-par retiree plan for new faculty. We cannot go down this road. Such an approach would sow seeds of rancor and resentment not only in the AAUP, but throughout the faculty. We must protect the principle of equality of benefits for all members of our bargaining unit, current and future. Ethically, we are obligated to do this. But doing so also has a practical aspect: if we do not protect the economic well-being of new faculty now, in the future they may feel free to bargain away some of our security when we retire.
UD's "Family Friendly" Policies: Overcoming a Limited View
The University’s Office of Women’s Affairs distributes a brochure entitled “UD’s Family Friendly Policies.” The publication uses both text and graphics to advertise UD’s ongoing commitment to the development of “programs designed to help faculty balance work and family responsibilities.” The brochure states that these programs include maternity leave, child care, family leave, and a policy that stops “the tenure clock for childbirth and parenting.” The brochure additionally cites the University’s offer of “a research semester option for tenure-track faculty” as an important part of its family support vision.
Any University program that supports women’s equity and families is supported by the AAUP. However, something the brochure omits must be pointed out: that for the most part the programs mentioned in the brochure were the fruit of years of collective bargaining and consequently show the results of AAUP initiatives. None of these programs, therefore, was “given” to faculty by the Administration. Moreover, key features of these programs still require strengthening — i.e., more honing during future bargaining sessions — to be fully effective.
The University’s maternity leave policy, which can be found in section 4 of the Faculty Handbook, exemplifies these points. The AAUP brought this issue to the bargaining table because of a disconnect between the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and faculty needs. One part of this disconnect was that the FMLA only allows an employee to take up to 11 weeks maternity leave, which does not amount to a full semester, within a 12-month period in order to care for a newborn or adopted child. Because of this, the AAUP negotiated an agreement with the Administration (Section 9.13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement) which mandates that departments and chairpersons must grant to eligible faculty the option of “a one semester administered load that allows a choice of either partial or full relief from teaching during the semester of the birth of a child or immediately following the birth of a child.” In other words, we won language that extended maternity leave to a full semester. Even so, there is room for greater improvement in this area.
Another gain mentioned in the brochure is the “stop the tenure clock” clause now in the contract. The clause involves giving a faculty parent a one year extension of their pre-tenure probationary period for each child up to a maximum of two years. This means that faculty who have children early in their academic careers are now given additional time to establish their tenure credentials, thereby at least partially diminishing the “time penalty” previously inflicted on faculty parents who strove to achieve tenure while simultaneously raising young children. Although this was a step forward when originally won at the bargaining table, we had to continue negotiating with the Administration until we finally won language that extended this right to the parents of adopted and foster children.
In terms of family-related issues, UD daycare remains an ongoing problem. The administration’s claim that it provides “high quality early child care and education and family support services in the Early Learning Center located near campus” is severely limited by the fact that only 50 of 237 slots are reserved for all University faculty, employees and students. UD clearly requires a dramatic improvement to establish full access to quality day care.
In spite of the bright picture painted by the “Family Friendly Policies” brochure, the University’s own data reveals the school’s ongoing problems in attracting women. From 1992-2001, the percent of women in full-time tenured and tenure-track positions at the University did not increase, while from 2001 through 2005 the female percent of total faculty rose by only 2.8 percent to 37.3 percent.
The AAUP’s goal is to continue bargaining for the kinds of innovative policies that that will move UD ahead more dramatically on the gender equity issue at the faculty level.
National AAUP on Faculty Unionism
In November 2005, the National Council of the AAUP endorsed the Collective Bargaining Congress’ adoption of a statement of principles that defines faculty unionism as it is understood and practiced by the AAUP.
As the following excerpt shows, the AAUP’s vision of unionism is tied to traditions long associated with academic life as well as to ongoing efforts to enhance faculty autonomy. For the AAUP, promoting activism within higher education serves the purpose of strengthening faculties’ overall position while avoiding bureaucratic and staff control of issues and policies that cannot be properly dealt with without faculty input and/or oversight. .
Our chapter not only recognizes theses central values and principles, but strives to make them real. In our next issue we will provide another excerpt.
National AAUP on Unions and the University
Over the centuries, academics have considered it an honor and a duty to defend the autonomy and integrity of their institutions against outside threats. Historically, academics continued to create new institutions—for example, medieval collegia and modern faculty senates—to protect the profession and to promote free inquiry against efforts to censor curricula, violate institutional autonomy, and intimidate individual scholars.
Academic unions are the most recent in a long line of collegial structures forged to protect the rights and professional roles of academics. Increasingly, tenure-track and contingent faculty, academic professionals, and graduate assistants have formed unions to ensure their professional standing and protect themselves from the threats and challenges presented by the corporatization of American colleges and universities.
Academic unions provide many benefits.
• Unions enable faculty and other members of the academic community, who would be powerless alone, to safeguard their teaching and working conditions by pooling their strengths.
• Unions make it possible for different sectors of the academic community to secure contractual, legally enforceable claims on college administrations, at a time when reliance on traditional advice and consent has proved inadequate.
• Unions provide members with critical institutional analyses—of budget figures, enrollment trends, and policy formulations—that would be unavailable without the resources provided by member dues and national experts.
• Unions increase the legislative influence and political impact of the academic community as a whole by maintaining regular relations with state and federal governments and collaborating with affiliated labor organizations.
• Unions reinforce the collegiality necessary to preserve the vitality of academic life under such threats as deprofessionalization and fractionalization of the faculty, privatization of public services, and the expanding claims of managerial primacy in governance.