American Association of University Professors
University of Delaware Chapter

301 McDowell Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE  19716
Phone: 302-831-2292; Fax: 302-831-4119; E-mail:

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September 2002 aaUPBEAT

What is a Faculty Union?


The AAUP became the UD faculty's bargaining agent in 1972 when the faculty selected the AAUP over other unions to represent them. Although in the decades since the union's inception its relationship with the Administration has varied depending on the issues being negotiated, over recent years the two parties have bargained on more equal footing. Sometimes this has resulted in greater ease of communications, sometimes not. The Administration seems most comfortable when dealing with important, but technical, issues like a health plan's details or a merit pay formula. The Administration displays greater unease when considering more nuanced faculty-related issues like the relationship of UD's educational philosophy to Delaware business interests or the educational implications of adopting a corporate model for higher-education development strategies.

These differences spring from the fact that the Administration's main role is to manage the University's infrastructure, whereas the faculty's main role is to insure our institution's academic integrity. Faculty work entails professors exploring the relationship of what they teach to the world around them. Whether one teaches biophysics or sub-Saharan poetry, the very act of instruction is imbued with the complexity of a piece of knowledge's relationship to the world that piece of knowledge inhabits. In contrast to this, the Administration is more managerial: their expertise is not education per se, but rather making sure that the University's accounting, supervisory, public relations and other administrative tasks are properly carried out. It is not surprising, therefore, that as universities have altered their operations in pursuit of a more corporate-oriented method of operation, expenditures on administrative growth have often outpaced expenditures on faculty expansion.

In spite of different job functions, both faculty and Administration are important. The Administration performs the technical tasks of running UD whereas faculty members create what higher education exists to create: a community of knowledge.

As a faculty union, the AAUP exists to protect and promote faculty members' interests. These interests include salary levels, health care and other benefits, fair workloads, and workplace rights like freedom of expression and the liberty to perform one's job without being hindered by religious, racial, gender or other biases.

Such AAUP functions are similar to the services provided by other unions to their members. But the AAUP also possesses objectives unique to itself. One of the most obvious examples of this is our commitment to developing strategies that promote educational excellence. Pursuing such excellence is not an abstraction in the AAUP's view. Quite the contrary, the AAUP envisions its role as conceptualizing pragmatic ways in which the University can improve upon the education it provides for its students.

Although the Administration and AAUP have much in common, we often, as hinted at above, bring different perspectives to issues of importance. As an example, the AAUP has regularly advised the Administration to use a higher percentage of its ample financial resources for broadening the University's teaching and research options, and also for improving pay scales, so the University becomes more attractive to both students and faculty.

Such issues must be examined regularly. After all, over the last twelve years the Administration spent well over $400 million on campus construction projects, renovations and beautification undertakings. One of the construction projects is a $13 million parking garage, the planning of which assumed the inevitability of continued (and worsening) car congestion on campus and in Newark. Given this assumption, it is reasonable to ask,"Should the garage investment have been thought out more carefully? For instance, would the $13 million have been used better by funding the development of a plan for decreasing campus and Newark car traffic while increasing public transportation, or creating new tenure-track positions in some departments, or setting up a targeted hiring program designed to rectify the University's low number of African-American professors?"

These are reasonable questions. The Administration arrives at its decisions under the influence of many interests, some of which contradict faculty goals.

This reality highlights the AAUP's value. Without the union, no campus organization would be devoted exclusively to bringing a faculty perspective to all University matters.

Faculty members, whether or not they belong to the union, benefit from the AAUP's existence. Salary increases, workload limits, campus development, diversity issues, all represent areas of ongoing AAUP activity.

Union with a Long-Term Vision

Although the union never takes its eyes off the bread and butter economic issues important to faculty, our work is also guided by Article X of our collective bargaining agreement. This article mandates that all faculty be treated equally regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

This commitment to fairness has played a pivotal role in the AAUP's activities over recent years. Our involvement in support of non-tenure track faculty is an example of this.

In 1993, in our first monthly newsletter, we stated our interest in dealing"with nagging problems like the situation of University instructors and lecturers." By 1995, the AAUP had laid the basis for the formation of a joint AAUP-Administration committee which was to review the terms and conditions under which non-tenure track faculty are appointed and renewed. By 1996, a new AAUP-driven University policy was in place. The new policy improved renewal procedures, job security, salary adjustments and the peer review policy for all full-time, continuing, non-tenure track faculty.

Take as an example the case of Daniel"Dean" Dougherty who has taught S-contract courses for the English Department for the past fourteen years. In spite of the high regard in which Dougherty is held by the faculty in his department, on February 4, 2002 he was summoned to a meeting with high-level University administrators and suspended from teaching. The reason given by the Administration for this disciplinary action was that a parent of one of Dougherty's students had registered a complaint with the Administration because Dougherty allegedly had sent a curt e-mail to the student in response to the student's request to be enrolled in one of Dougherty's classes. Dougherty responded to the allegation by challenging its merit and stating that, as opposed to being curt, his e-mail to the student had been brief and business-like in keeping with the routine nature of the initial query.

Although Dougherty's suspension finally was lifted in the latter part of April with full back pay, his reinstatement did not"just happen." Active English Department intervention on his behalf, which included meetings with the relevant Administration officials, compelled the Administration to reexamine the case, as did the AAUP's indications that it considered Dougherty's predicament a violation of faculty rights and as such an issue of importance to all faculty. The AAUP also supplied Dougherty with counsel, in spite of the fact that his status as a part-time instructor prevents him from receiving the benefits of full union membership. Still, when the AAUP was informed about his case it was clear that there was a lot at stake in the Dougherty incident in terms of all faculty members' rights, particularly their right not to be terminated without just cause and not to be harassed under any circumstances.

Dougherty's rights were violated on a number of counts. He was denied due process, and the case against him became overly bureaucratized when the Administration prematurely stepped in, thereby denying the English Department the right to evaluate the complaint on its own. The Administration's instinctive acquiescence to the complaining parent's accusation is an example of how deeply the corporate model has taken root in higher education: the complainant, treated as if he or she is an unhappy consumer in a department store, is given"the customer is always right" treatment whether or not their complaint warrants such a response. Yet the truth of the matter is that universities are not department stores and students and students' parents aren't consumers (in terms of higher education) in any traditional sense. Students and parents certainly have the right to be heard if they have a substantive complaint against a faculty member, but there is a big difference between students and parents having this right and the Administration choosing to ignore faculty rights simply because the Administration doesn't want to disappoint the so-called customer.

AAUP involvement in such matters is indispensable to the protection, articulation and concretization of faculty rights. In a number of areas, the work is frustrating and continues for years. One of those areas is the domestic partners benefits issue. Another area is the Adminis-tration's lack of a targeted hiring policy for rectifying the problem of UD's embarrassing lack of African-American faculty.

As the problems mentioned above show, the AAUP's commitment to faculty includes a wide range of issues other than salaries and benefits. Still, salaries and benefits remain one of the basic reasons we exist as a union. Almost invariably, when we sit down at the bargaining table with the Administration, the union and Administration begin with distinct views of what faculty members are worth in terms of both their financial compensation and how their benefits packages should be structured. Typically, it is only after months of negotiations - and sometimes the solution to a particular problem can take years - that the two sides arrive at an agreement. When such an agreement is reached, the faculty's gains don't just appear"out of nowhere;" they have been extracted from the Administration through analysis, argument and negotiating skill. The Administration, which sees itself as the guardian of the University's purse strings and the school's huge endowment, gives the faculty no gifts; whatever we get, we earn through bargaining.

Bargaining for salaries is always connected to the cost of the benefits package. Since the Administration's aim is to diminish salary gains if benefits improve and vice versa, the AAUP's objective is to prevent this from happening by achieving both salary and benefits increases without either being lessened or allowed to stagnate because of gains in the other. Given the complexity of such negotiations, faculty input prior to negotiations plays an important role in helping the AAUP identify issues of special importance that must be targeted during collective bargaining. In fact, sometimes our negotiations with the Administration even last beyond the conclusion of collective bargaining, which means that our need for faculty input and support also continues. This is because there are times when a bargained benefit turns out to be different than expected. An example is the retiree dental plan that was agreed upon not during last spring's contract negotiations but during the previous negotiations. Unfortunately, long after the contract apparently was settled, the provider decided its profit ratio wasn't high enough and so the cost to retirees went up. Consequently, the AAUP was forced to renegotiate some of the dental plan's details in between collective bargaining sessions.

The University of Delaware is one of the richest state-supported universities of its size in the United States. Consequently, the AAUP stands on principled ground when it reminds the Administration that it should spend as much for faculty salaries and compensation, and invest as much in solving equity and diversity questions, as it does on construction, renovation projects, and developing alliances with the local business community. Just a few years ago, DuPont decided to shift into biotechnology, and soon afterwards the University was advertising its desire to play a major role in helping DuPont and the state become a national biotechnology center. Interestingly, it does not take the Administration or Board of Trustees long to move quickly on such projects.

Unfortunately, the Administration and UD's trustees don't always act as urgently when it comes to matters pertaining to faculty interests. Issues of salary, benefits and equity will all be on the bargaining table next year. For us to be successful, we must all work together.

If you're not an AAUP member, you should be; join now!

Facts about AAUP Structure

Below is a summary of some key items pertaining to the AAUP's purpose and structure. A full copy of our chapter's"Constitution and Bylaws" can be obtained from the AAUP website (

The AAUP and Collective Bargaining. The AAUP is certified by the Department of Labor as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for UD faculty (known as the"bargaining unit") in all issues concerning conditions of employment. Contract gains won by the AAUP go to all bargaining unit members, whether or not they are members of the University's AAUP chapter.

The UD Bargaining Unit. The bargaining unit includes all UD's full-time voting faculty, as specified by the Trustee Bylaws. The bargaining unit does not include administrative officers, department heads, part-time and adjunct faculty members.

The bargaining unit has final voting power over all contracts negotiated by the AAUP with the Administration. For a proposed contract to be ratified, bargaining unit members must pass it by a majority vote during a secret ballot. Before a vote can be held, bargaining unit members must either (1) be given, in written form, the full terms of the agreement or (2) be invited to a bargaining unit meeting at which the contract's terms will be discussed.

AAUP Executive Council. The AAUP's executive council consists of the union's president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and two members-at-large. The immediate past president is always one of the members-at-large. No member of the executive council is allowed to serve in the same capacity for more than four consecutive negotiating periods, with the exception of the president who may serve no more than two consecutive terms. No one may serve on the executive council in any capacity for more than four consecutive terms. The contract maintenance officer and the aaUPBEAT editor are ex-officio members. The executive council is authorized to act on behalf of the union when it judges such actions to be necessary.

AAUP Steering Committee. The AAUP's steering committee consists of 21 members. Those members include the AAUP executive council, the president of the University/Faculty Senate, and representatives from each of the University's Colleges. One of the steering committee's primary tasks is to review the work of the union's bargaining team.

AAUP Bargaining Team. The AAUP's bargaining team consists of the union's chief negotiator and at least three other people selected by the AAUP steering committee. The bargaining team possesses the"sole and exclusive power" to negotiate a contract with Administration representatives. During contract negotiations, the bargaining team must regularly report back to the steering committee regarding the negotiations' status. The bargaining team must follow any written recommendations made by the steering committee. Before a proposed contract (that has been negotiated by the AAUP's bargaining team) can be submitted to UD faculty for ratification, the steering committee must first approve the proposed contract by a formal vote.

Departmental Representatives. In order to make communication between the bargaining unit and the steering committee as fluid as possible, each department is authorized to have, and should have, an AAUP departmental representative.

Information about the New Contract

The new contract contains important provisions concerning workload definitions and unit by-laws. Departmental-level meetings should be held in order to discuss and clarify these issues. We strongly recommend that an AAUP executive council member be present at any such meeting to answer questions

Upcoming AAUP Elections

The union's elections will be held in November.

The slate recommended by the executive council is: President, Linda Bucher (Nursing); Vice President, Michael Zinn (Music); Treasurer, Sheldon Pollack (Accounting); Secretary, Judy Van Name (Consumer Studies).

Any AAUP member who wishes to nominate another candidate or candidates should consult the AAUP Bylaws for the appropriate guidelines. The Bylaws can be found on the union's website.