Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bargaining report: workload

I promised a report on the progress of bargaining, as I've heard it at the FA general membership meeting on Thursday, 10/13 (and of course supplemented with what I now from other sources). I'm going to break this report up into a number of chunks (which may also help focus comments). 

I'll only briefly characterize the overall impression I have of the 64k question: How's it going? Since the strike authorization vote, there has been been a change in atmosphere and attitude but rather little substantial progress. Rather than simply saying that they had "no interest" in our proposals, the board team has now been interested in more clearly figuring out just where the two sides disagree. Meetings have also become much more frequent. Hours before the Chancellor's announcement a few weeks ago that her team was willing to meet 24/7 (and her false charge that the FA was responsible for the failure to meet over the summer--when meetings did in fact take place), the administration team did indeed offer many more times for meetings, and lengthy meetings are now occurring on most business days.  On Monday, the teams will meet twice, and the FA team expects new language from the board team on a number of different issues.

I have been impressed, though many of you will not consider me an impartial observer, with the flexibility and creativity of the FA team (in addition to their more obvious persistence). On several crucial issues we have offered a number of different approaches in an effort to meet our interests. This is how Interest Based Bargaining is supposed to work. The sides don't stake out conflicting proposals and bang heads until they meet some place in the middle. Rather, each side attempts to creatively come up with proposals that allow them to meet their interest without undermining essential interests of the other side. This sort of flexibility is particularly clear on the first issue I'll consider below the break, workload.

For a bit on how negotiations with GA United are going, check out their latest bargaining update.

I. Workload

A. Credit hour equivalence

[Background--fit to be skipped if you're familiar with the 12 hour rule. Our last contract classifies our workload as 12 credit hours per semester.  That is, if you are teaching four three-credit hour classes per semester, your teaching occupies 100% of your workload--there's nothing left for research or service. For most faculty (at least those in programs familiar to me) this works reasonably well; most of us teach rather less than 12 credit hours a semester, leaving time for service and research. There are of course inequities; I teach on average 16 credit hours per year, which ought to be 2/3 of my workload, but decisions about merit, tenure, and promotion are weighted much more heavily for research. For other faculty, though, particularly those with many contact hours outside of credit hours, credit hours are a very poor judge of teaching load.]

Many faculty, particularly in CASA, have complained that the absence of any contractual language has allowed the administration to vastly up their workload. The FA is therefore attempting to secure contractual language that provides some sort of equivalence between contact hours and credit hours. Here's what we've tried so far--none of which has been found acceptable by the administration. 

1.  Our initial position was that one contact hour ought to count as one credit hour toward one's load.

2. The administration not liking this figure, we suggested .75 contact hours count as one credit hour. 

3.  The administration declining this offer, and saying that different departments had different needs and cultures, we said fine: let workload be defined in departmental operating papers. But on one condition.  Currently operating paper amendments, despite being approved by faculty, often sit without action in a dean's office, suffering a sort of pocket veto.  There is no conflict resolution process when faculty disagree with administration. We suggested one, which would call for both sides to meet to resolve their differences, but would ultimately allow faculty to override an administrative veto of amendments if they twice voted by a 60% majority to do so.

4.  The administration not agreeing to this proposal, either, we suggested a two-fold approach.
a. For most operating paper revisions, the provost would indeed have the final say. He could, despite a faculty vote to the contrary, veto an amendment to an operating paper, though he would have to do so in a timely manner and provide some written explanation of why he was doing so. This is a significant concession: it would resolve the current ambiguity about who determines operating papers by giving this power to the provost. But it would at least result in a fairly quick and transparent process, rather than the current mess. And we could all see just how often the provost veto changes strongly backed by departmental faculty.
b. The one exception to this process/consession was on workload. Here we proposed a process similar to that used in the past, successfully, on the issue of intellectual property. This issue of workload would be resolved only after the resolution of the current contract, but would be put on a tight schedule, after which, should the two sides disagree, the issue would be put to binding arbitration.  
The administration has also rejected this proposal.

B.  Distance learning (DL)

Despite occasional statements by the Chancellor that she has no interest in forcing faculty to teach distance learning courses, the administration bargaining team continues to insist on this at the bargaining table. The FA regards this as a matter of academic freedom, and as a matter of respect (or rather the lack thereof) for an individual faculty member's expertise. Just as my chair cannot tell me how to teach my course on campus, my chair shouldn't be able to tell me that I must teach my course at a distance, via the web or video.  In the administration's view, requiring a faculty member to do DL is the same as requiring one to teach, say, and elementary course in one's field rather than an intermediate level course (an authority chair's already have). 

C. Overload

SIUC currently has no clear policy on overload teaching. With the movement of DL to the academic departments, the payment by the head offered through continuing education is no longer available. In order to ramp up DL--or even to maintain our current number of DL offerings--without cutting back on traditional courses, we need some such policy.

The FA proposed that overload teaching be compensated following the logic of the 12 hour rule. I normally teach 24 credit hour Adding three credit hours to my current 12 hour load ought to amount to a 20% raise for the given semester.  As I get paid 4.5 months per semester, and 25% of 4.5 is 1.125 months.  The FA therefore proposed that a faculty member be paid 1.125 months salary for a three-credit overload class.

The administration has instead proposed that faculty be compensated anywhere from from .5 to 1.0 month in salary. The FA's problems with that include the likelihood of a sort of race to the bottom via a faculty bidding war--your chair sees who she can get to teach a course most cheaply. If I get paid only half as much for this course as my other courses, should I put out half the effort? In other fields, overtime work generally gets time and a half--why should faculty get half time?

Overload teaching is of course voluntary, but this doesn't mean that faculty won't feel pressure to do it. If the only way to keep your program alive, or to give it a DL presence the administration is calling for, is to teach an overload, you may feel pressure to teach an overload. Sorry, we can't replace your colleague, so it looks like your specialization is going to have to be eliminated. Unless, that is, you are willing to teach an overload. The FA wants to protect faculty in such predicaments by ensuring they are paid decently for overload teaching.


  1. Thanks for the update. While I won't strike, I'm keenly aware of how harmful a strike will be and I'm still hopeful that a strike can be averted. I appreciate whatever updates you can offer here on the negotiations.

  2. I read somewhere in the Faculty Senate minutes that the FS also recommended that a faculty member should get 1.125 months salary for each three credit hour course taught as overload? Has FA looked into the FS recommendations?

  3. Thanks, also, for this very thorough report. While I will strike if my colleagues do (or, in other words, not cross a picket line), I am very unpleased with how I sense things proceeding. If something very soon doesn't change, I fear that momentum for a strike will further increase; questions like that asked by the gentlemen in the back of the room in Lawson on Thursday night will become more and more frequent. And "questioning moderates" such as myself will get so fed up that we will join the strike.

    Your presentation on overload pay seems reasonable enough. Except isn't there some SIUC policy somewhere that states that we cannot earn x percentage more than our salaries every year? I believe the x is something like 20% more but it could even be lower.

    Thus, if a faculty member offered to teach an overload course one semester he/she would not be eligible to teach a summer course because they would come up against that cap.

    Clear contract language is a good thing, I think most of us would agree on that. However, I have taught a summer overload course most summers for which I am paid a tenth month's salary. Functionally I am paid nearly what the FA is proposing to put into the contract (10.00 vs. 10.125). And that is not with a contract protecting that special summer contract I sign every year (if it is available to me). So, while I do appreciate the desire to have clear contract language, in reality SIUC on its own (without said contract forcing them to) comes very close to reimbursing me well for that summer course. Indeed, compared to colleagues from grad school teaching at other colleges and universities, I make about double what they typically get if they want to teach a course overload or summer course.

  4. Anonymous (October 15, 2011 11:58 PM):
    The Faculty Senate's Faculty Status and Welfare Committee was responding (in red, blue and purple) to a proposal from the administration that was more or less the same (in black) as the one the administration put on the bargaining table. My guess (just a guess) is that the FA bargaining team has looked at this document. Maybe it still has value as a demonstration for the FSN of what they could expect if the Senate were to bargain on behalf of faculty.

    If the norm for overload is .5 to 1%, as the administration is proposing, wouldn't that become the new normal for extra teaching in a few years? Why would the administration pay more for summer if it knows from the academic year that it can find people for .5%?

    Also, at least the way the language is written in the Senate document, the overload policy rarely would affect summer teaching because the 20% is computed based on 20% above an equated annual salary (what you would earn working full time for 12 months).

  5. Thanks for this very good update/summary.

    While I strongly feel the administration could (and should) be doing more to address faculty concerns, I am very conflicted about a strike and what my role in it would be.

    On the one hand, it seems like the administration would be content to let things go on as they are (without a contract) indefinitely - and a strike may well be the only thing that will motivate them to action.

    On the other hand, I believe a strike called in the middle of semester will hurt out students more than (or at least as much as) it will hurt the administration.

    As a faculty member I believe I have loyalties and allegiances to many different groups which I need to take into consideration - to my colleagues, my department, my school and my university (and to myself of course) - but the number one priority always has been and always will be to my students!

    If a strike is called this semester, I would not want to cross the picket line - however, there is no question in my mind that my personal (not contractual) obligation to my students will have to come first.

    If/when I can come up with some creative ways of meeting with my students without crossing that line, I will do so. But if/when there are things that must be dealt with in a classroom setting, then that is where I will be.

    If the FA decides that a strike is the only option left, I would like to see them call a strike for the first day of the spring semester - that would allow students to seek out other options for their education.

    Then if the administration responds with comments about having replacement teachers ready and waiting to occupy faculty spots in the classroom, they will have to deal with the outcry from students and (perhaps most importantly) from the parents of students!

    Parents are not sending their children to this institution to be taught by people the administration picks up from the streets.

    The notion that there are QUALIFIED teachers hanging out in Carbondale just waiting for a call from the administration is ludicrous - we're not in Boston - to even make such a suggestion would be an indication of what small regard the administration has for the faculty.

  6. Thank you paranoid. Administration does not care about faculty input whether it is through FS or FA. The only way faculty can get its voice is through biding contract. This administration does not think rationally. Some please ask the administration the rationale behind offering ½ month salary for a course taught as overtime. Does the administration think it takes half the effort to teach the same course as overload?

    Message to ALL Faculty,
    Intentions of Cheng’s administrations are not good. Unless things are legally binding on her administration she is not going to care. She is only rewarding those who are in her inner circle. Either you start waiving your tail behind her or wake-up and support your colleagues and get a binding contract that we all can live with.

  7. Thanks for these excellent comments. I've covered paranoid's comment on the Faculty Senate via a new post.

    7:57, for my wise words on how one's duties to one's students stack up against striking, cf. this post.

    By the way, if you meet with your students off-campus, online, etc. you are essentially crossing the line. You're minimizing the disruption a strike is designed to cause. Just think of it from the administrative perspective: hey, look, the faculty are willing to teach for no pay without the use of a classroom! They should go on strike more often.

    None of this is to diminish your concern for your students' education. Again, to repeat myself, if I go on strike it will be because, in the long run, I think the administration's positions are a threat to my ability to educate my students--my students this semester and in the semesters to come.

  8. which post? i can't click the link.

  9. Conflicted & Montana:

    Dave probably meant

    I think Dave's strongest statement about this is buried in the first paragraph of his response in a comment thread on Sept. 17 at 2:18 PM. The thread also includes many comments from others about how a strikes could harm students.


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