At a union meeting Tuesday, however, members voted to postpone ratifying the contract until a special committee of representatives from both sides completes an employment handbook, which will be written over the next few months and should be finished by early spring, according to David Rosen, vice president of Public Affairs.,After months of negotiation, representatives from the college administration and the full-time faculty union have completed a proposed contract in the form of a collective bargaining agreement for teacher employment.
At a union meeting Tuesday, however, members voted to postpone ratifying the contract until a special committee of representatives from both sides completes an employment handbook, which will be written over the next few months and should be finished by early spring, according to David Rosen, vice president of Public Affairs.
Since last semester, representatives from both the Emerson College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (ECCAAUP) and the administration have met several times to finalize details of the union contract, including grievance procedures and workload guidelines, according to Associate Professor of Journalism Jerry Lanson, who is also the chair of the Faculty Council.
"We need to find compromises that are good for the entire college community," Lanson said. "My hope is that the handbook process starts to change the environment, so we can have a patient and collaborative college environment."
If the ECCAAUP had ratified the contract, it would have been bound to the document's terms, no matter the outcome of the handbook-drafting process, according to Robert Colby, ECCAAUP secretary and associate professor of performing arts.
According to Rosen, the proposed contract and the handbook will jointly govern all aspects of teacher employment at Emerson.
At the Tuesday meeting, the union discussed what action could be taken if the drafting of the handbook does not proceed to the satisfaction of faculty representatives.
Among other things, the faculty wishes to ensure that the handbook will not be subject to unilateral revision on the part of the administration, according to Colby.
An unofficial "straw vote" poll taken at the meeting posing the question, "Would you participate in a two-day strike?" yielded a vote of 31 "yes," 19 "no," six abstentions and two undecided.
"If we hit a stall [in drafting the handbook], there seems to be a fair amount of feeling that we won't take it anymore," Colby said.
Following the unofficial poll, teachers discussed what kind of action would be necessary to effect the changes the faculty is still holding out for.
"We could not just go back and do some leafleting or wear scarves," said Janet Craft, ECCAAUP vice president and assistant professor of performing arts. "It would not be enough. It really would take a strike or something similar to bring them back to the table."
Lanson cautioned that such action should be carefully considered.
"I don't want to stay at the college in a state of perpetual paralysis," Lanson said. "This faculty has to decide what its mission is. Unless the faculty wants to go on strike, and can articulate a clear reason why we are going on strike, we need to move ahead."
The administration remains confident that the two sides will be able to compromise to create a handbook.
"We would have preferred to reach closure on the contract," Rosen said. "It would have been nice and neater to get that cleared and move on to the handbook, but it's okay with us."
According to both sides, relations between representatives have improved since last semester, when faculty members participated in demonstrations on Boston Common decrying what they called the death of academic freedom at Emerson.
"Civility has replaced hostility," Rosen said. "We've come a long way, if you think about where we were before."
Rosen said that a committee of six to eight people, most likely equally divided between faculty and administration representatives, will work in the coming months to draft the handbook.