ECCAAUP administration settle five-year agreement

by Beacon Staff • September 13, 2006

The Emerson College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (ECCAAUP) and the Faculty Assembly voted to approve the recently completed contract and handbook on the morning of September 5, six days before classes were set to resume for the fall semester.,After almost four years of negotiations that were at times publicly adversarial, the administration and full-time faculty union have agreed on a work contract and employment handbook.

The Emerson College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (ECCAAUP) and the Faculty Assembly voted to approve the recently completed contract and handbook on the morning of September 5, six days before classes were set to resume for the fall semester.

Jerry Lanson, outgoing chair of the Faculty Council, said the mood at the voting session was positive.

"The faculty clearly felt that we had reached resolution," Lanson said. "We felt it was time to finish this and move on."

The finished contract will apply to wage and workplace issues for 101 tenure and tenure-track professors at the college. The handbook will contain guidelines for matters of governance for all full-time faculty, according to Lanson, also an associate professor of journalism.

David Rosen, vice president of public affairs, said the final negotiating process began over a year ago and the dispute began long before.

During that time, the faculty's cause was taken up by the student body which staged March 2005 protest at the Boston Common gazebo. Students and faculty showed solidarity by wearing orange scarves and delivering speeches, calling for a resolution to the negotiations.

The protest also included a mock funeral for "academic freedom," and student-ogranized boycott of classes.

Robert Colby, associate professor of performing arts, who was involved in the negotiations, said the negotiations were occasionally difficult.

"I've never been through as acrimonious a process as this," Colby said. "It's human nature that there's a bit of wondering now, to see how this well work."

The last several months have consisted mostly of informal talks between a few representatives from both the administration and the faculty according to Rosen.

"They really worked long and hard," Rosen said. "The administration is pleased with the outcome. We commend the faculty members who worked very hard to reach and agreement."

According to Lansen, one of the major stumbling blocks in negotiations over the past year has been the power to unilaterally amend the contract in an emergency situation. Under the final agreement, the board of trustees of the college is allowed to make such changes without the approval of the faculty.

The Faculty Assembly, however, retains the right to back out of the contract completely with a three-fourths vote by tenure-track faculty.

These options are considered last-minute fail-safes for both sides, Lansen said. Both Rosen and Lansen said they considered the documents the products of much compromise.

Lansen attributes the resolution to a slow "push and pull" in the final stages.

"I think the college came to understand that there was high degree of unity among the faculty," Lansen said. "They said that it wasn't just a couple of rabble-rousers, and then the rest of us."

Both sides agreed that a resolution would result in a better learning environment for the students.

"The winner in all of this in the end is the student," Rosen said. "We're going to work together to provide the best possible curriculum for all of the student body."