Faculty extends contract deadline

by Beacon Staff • October 12, 2005

The full-time faculty union and Faculty Assembly agreed in separate meetings Tuesday to continue negotiating full-time faculty contracts with the administration despite the fact that an assembly vote in September set a preliminary Oct. 10 deadline for negotiations. That deadline passed Monday without a repeat of last year's demonstrations on Boston Common.

Both the Emerson College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (ECCAAUP) and the assembly passed a motion in favor of future negotiation sessions and also voted to suspend participation in certain college-wide advisory boards until Nov. 8.

In a series of meetings between representatives from the Faculty Assembly and the administration over the past month, the two sides agreed that the result of negotiations will consist of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and a handbook detailing guidelines for future grievances and conflicts.

In September, the faculty union and assembly agreed to suspend political action against the administration, including demonstrations and rallies, until Oct. 10, according to Robert Colby, ECCAAUP secretary and associate professor of performing arts.

Now that the deadline has passed, members of the ECCAAUP will no longer participate in the formation of college-wide advisory boards, including the Academic Policy Committee and the Faculty Status Committee, among others, according to an e-mail written by Colby to Tracey Stark, secretary of the Faculty Assembly. The committees regularly review the college's policies on a number of on-campus issues.

When asked about the faculty's decision to suspend participation in advisory committees, David Rosen, vice president of Public Affairs, said the change would have little effect on college operations.

"It would be nice to have the input of the faculty on things like tenure and technology, but business will go on," Rosen said.

The votes come after months of continued dispute between the two parties. Last year, demonstrations on the Common and a student boycott of classes in support of faculty highlighted the debate. Negotiations continued throughout the summer.

Mallory Hanora, a junior writing, literature and publishing major, who participated in demonstrations last year, said she knows several students who would be willing to take action on behalf of the faculty.

"We're waiting for a cue from the faculty to see what the best step forward would be," Hanora said. "We're not looking forward to any demonstrations. What we really want is for this to be resolved between the administration and the faculty."

According to Rosen and Jerry Lanson, associate professor of journalism and Faculty Council chair, the two parties have narrowed the list of contentious issues to two points.

The first matter under debate is that of legal "linkage" between the CBA and the handbook, according to Michael Mauer, director of organizing and services for the national branch of the American Association of University Professors. Mauer has appeared at the negotiation sessions as counsel to ECCAAUP members in recent meetings.

Mauer said the faculty wishes to include in the contract details about promotion and tenure approval so that those privileges may be legally protected.

"We haven't reached an agreement on how the handbook is going to be created and modified, or how much control the faculty will have," Mauer said.

The administration wishes for the two documents to be completely separate, according to Mauer.

Rosen said the CBA is related to salary, while the handbook would deal with governance issues and curriculum.

"The administration believes that these issues should remain outside the contract," Rosen said.

A second point of conflict has been "dues checkoff." The term refers to "the process by which the administration automatically deducts the cost of union membership from faculty earnings," according to a recent history of negotiations drafted by Tom Kingdon, associate professor of visual and media arts.

"The administration so far has said it opposes collecting union dues," Rosen said. "It amounts to doing the union's business and could convey a perception that the college supports the union."

During the meeting, professors also expressed concern over how much control the faculty would maintain over academic governance and policy issues.

"I voted 'no' on the motion this morning and the reason I voted 'no' was because, in the document, there are so many qualifications," said Jean Stawarz, associate professor of visual and media arts.

She continued, "It looks like light-years to getting where we want to be. I love Emerson and I want to go forward in good faith, but I want to see that good faith returned."

Lanson said he was pleased the faculty voted to continue negotiations and hopes that an agreement is reached by Nov. 8.

"The handbook concerns all faculty," Lanson said. "We want a handbook that can be jointly written, jointly ratified and jointly amended by the administration and the faculty. We are looking to be partners in governance."

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