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Tax Proposal Hurts Higher Ed

The AAUP, along with other higher education groups, strongly opposes proposed changes included in tax legislation being voted on by Congress this week. The AAUP particularly opposes the repeal of provisions exempting from taxation tuition waivers for campus employees and graduate students, which would cause a devastating tax increase for thousands of graduate students, and the repeal of the current Student Loan Interest Deduction, which would result in an increased cost of roughly $24 billion to student borrowers over the next decade.  The attached link refers to a letter form the American Council on Education that expresses grave concern for H.R.1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

https://www.aaup.org/news/tax-proposal-hurts-higher-ed#.Wg281rpFyUm

 

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Various and perfunctory images of campus from the 12th of August, 2011. Pictured: Fountain near Morris Library

Board of Trustees: Greater Transparency and Accountability

AAUP EXECUTIVE COUNCIL CALLS FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY AND PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE’S BOARD OF TRUSTEES AND ADMINISTRATION

The University of Delaware’s Board of Trustees has become increasingly engaged in shaping decision making on vital academic issues at our university.  During the recently concluded contract negotiations with the AAUP, which lasted more than a year, it became clear to the AAUP Bargaining Team that the level of involvement of some members of the Board of Trustees in formulating the University’s proposals and actions of the University’s Bargaining Team was unprecedented.  Moreover, last year the Board of Trustees changed Article 3 of its own Bylaws to weaken substantially the role of the University Faculty Senate and heighten the powers of the President and Provost in academic policy-making, despite grave reservations expressed by an overwhelming majority of University Faculty Senators.  Furthermore, at its semi-annual meeting in December 2016, with hardly any advance notice and absolutely no public discussion, the Board of Trustees revised Article 2 of its own Bylaws to consolidate the powers exercised by the Chair of the Board and his own appointees to the Board’s Executive Committee.

The AAUP Executive Council recognizes and fully respects the fiduciary responsibilities of the Board of Trustees and the vital role it plays in the life of the University and the State of Delaware.  However, the AAUP leadership is concerned about the Board’s increasing activism in academic issues and its concentration of power in the hands of just a few trustees and administrators.  This is especially the case because compared to the governing bodies of almost all other flagship state universities in the USA, such as Rutgers, Penn State, and the University of Maryland, the University of Delaware’s Board of Trustees has very limited transparency, with no opportunity for public observation of the discussions and decisions in the secret meetings of its committees, and no opportunity for public comment at its semi-annual meetings.

Having discussed these issues and deliberated about them, the AAUP Executive Council unanimously approved the following motion at its meeting on Wednesday, May 3, 2017:

Consistent with long-standing principles of the proper role of faculty members in the shared governance of American universities, the Executive Council of the University of Delaware chapter of the American Association of University Professors endorses and supports efforts to increase the transparency and public accountability of the operations of the university’s Board of Trustees and the administration.

In future communications, the AAUP Executive Council will elaborate more specifically on the issues presented here and suggest ways forward to realize the spirit of this motion.

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Various photos of main campus in the Spring of 2015. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

AAUP-UD Membership Ratifies New CBA

In the vote for ratification of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, 582 ballots were distributed.  When voting ended at 5pm on April 5, 2017, the final vote was 412 to accept and 38 to reject.

Negotiations for the new contract were long and arduous.  The AAUP Bargaining Team and the University Bargaining Team had twenty-two meetings over a period of more than a year.  The AAUP faced initial proposals from the University that would have terminated key retirement benefits and provided minimal salary increases.  Over the course of negotiations, efforts to find common ground in order to minimize concessions on retirement benefits and to afford the faculty reasonable salary increases were successful.  Through this process, the AAUP leadership and Bargaining Team held meetings with the Steering Committee and Department representatives both to keep them informed about proposals and counter proposals, and to take stock of their views and concerns.  In addition, we held four open faculty meetings and updated the faculty on the negotiations by email.

The AAUP leadership is grateful to the increasing membership for their ideas and support during these contract negotiations, as well as their expressions of concerns about specifics of the new CBA. Without our concerted effort through collective bargaining to maintain and improve compensation and protections for the faculty, our conditions of employment would have greatly deteriorated.   As we move forward, it is crucial that Steering Committee members, Department representatives, and individual faculty members stay involved in the implementation of the provisions of the new CBA.

The AAUP is the only legally authorized organization on campus that represents the entire full-time faculty and only full-time faculty. To be our best as a strong advocate for faculty interests and academic values, the AAUP needs continued growth of membership and invites the active participation of all faculty members.  If you are not a member, please join by submitting the attached form.  If you are a member, contact the AAUP leadership for ways you can get involved.  Together, we can create our vision for the future of the University.

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The AAUP After the 2016 Election–Letter from Rudy Fichtenbaum, AAUP President

The American Association of University Professors and the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress have never endorsed or supported a candidate for president of the United States or otherwise engaged in partisan political activity on the national level. For over one hundred years the AAUP has vigilantly defended the professional rights and the academic freedom of all those who teach in higher education, irrespective of their political or other views, popular or unpopular, leftist or rightist. It would be foolish, however, to deny that most college and university faculty members did not support the election of Donald Trump. Many no doubt fear that his election threatens some of the core institutions of our democracy and may be the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy period.

Certainly, Trump’s campaign has already threatened academic freedom. His remarks about minorities, immigrants, and women have on some campuses had a chilling effect on the rights of students and faculty members to speak out. At some events Trump held on university campuses, students who opposed him said they were harassed or threatened. His call for an “ideological screening test” for admission to the United States could make it difficult for universities to attract students and scholars from other countries and to engage in the international exchange of ideas so vital to academic freedom. In addition, Trump has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia, who would cripple public employee unions by overturning their established right to collect fees from the nonmembers they must serve. With more than half the faculty now barred from the protections of tenure, unionization may be the only remaining protection for academic freedom available to those instructors. Lastly, Trump’s denial of climate change and, indeed, of the validity of science itself assaults the very core of higher education’s search for knowledge.

But the problems facing higher education today and the growing assault on the professionalism and freedoms of faculty members over the past several decades can hardly be attributed to the results of a single election. Many of these problems stem from ill-conceived policies developed and implemented on a bipartisan basis. As a candidate, Donald Trump did not propound clear and detailed policy proposals for higher education. We therefore urge him and his supporters in the Congress to listen to the voices of all faculty members and other educational leaders and endorse policies aimed at restoring our great higher education system as a common good for all Americans, while protecting the academic freedom and shared governance that made our colleges and universities the envy of the world.

We in the AAUP and AAUP-CBC pledge to redouble our efforts to

•         Oppose the privatization of our public higher education system and fight for higher education as a common good, accessible and affordable to all.

•         Oppose discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national origin and fight for an equitable and welcoming educational environment in which all can freely and safely learn, discuss, differ, debate, and grow.

•         Oppose attacks on unions and the economic security of college and university faculty and staff and fight for expanding and strengthening the rights of all faculty members– tenure-track, contingent, and graduate employees–to organize and bargain collectively.

•         Oppose violations of academic freedom and of the broader rights to free expression in the academic community and fight for strengthened protections for and renewed commitment to the principles of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

Consider making a donation to the AAUP Foundation now to support the fight for academic freedom.

We recognize that faculty members are divided by discipline, by institutional type, by employment status, as well as by race, religion, gender, and politics. But now is the time for us to unite, organize, and fight, not only for ourselves but for the common good, not only by ourselves but with allies both inside and outside of academia.

The future is still in our hands. There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost from resignation or despair.

Rudy Fichtenbaum, AAUP president
Howard Bunsis, AAUP-CBC chair
Henry Reichman, chair of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure

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Various campus photos around the North Central Green and outside Brown Lab following a rainy afternoon in the Spring of 2015. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

AAUP Statement on Two Tier Retirement Benefits

TWO-TIERED RETIREMENT BENEFITS?  JUST SAY “NO!”

 

In its shocking initial contract proposals in February 2016, the Administration sought to end retirement leaves and retirement payouts for all faculty members within six years. The Administration also proposed to reduce the University’s contributions to the 403b retirement plan for new faculty members.  Following a unanimous rejection of these proposals by the AAUP’s Steering Committee and a surge of AAUP membership last spring, the Administration modified its proposals for both retirement leaves and for the retirement payout.  For retirement leaves, it proposed ending the option of 75% of salary for a full-year’s leave and maintaining the one-semester leave at full pay with full benefits.  For the retirement payout, the Administration proposed “grandfathering” for current faculty the 2.5% payout for each year of service, but ending this benefit for new hires after July 2017.

In effect, the Administration has proposed two tiers of retirement.  Current faculty members would continue to receive 11% of their salary from the University for their 4% contribution, while new hires would get a maximum of 10% from the University for their 5% contribution.  Current faculty members would continue to accumulate their retirement payout, while new hires would not be eligible for any retirement payout.

This two-tiered proposal is unacceptable for at least two reasons. First, the proposed “grandfathering” of retirement benefits for all current faculty would be valid only for the duration of the next contract, after which everything would be subject to renegotiation.  Second, by creating deep divisions within the faculty, these proposals would undermine trust and collegiality.  Instead of building faculty morale, they would generate resentment and envy among faculty members.  By the mere difference of being hired after a specific date, some faculty members would have significantly better retirement options than their more recently hired colleagues.  This is no way to maintain an academic community with a shared sense of mission for educating our students and building collaborative research and educational programs.  Moreover, disadvantaging the younger generation is certainly not an example that administrators or faculty members of an institution of higher education should set for their students.

Two tiers of retirement benefits would divide our faculty against itself in future contract negotiations and thereby weaken its bargaining position.  Older faculty members with supposedly “grandfathered” retirement benefits would be motivated to preserve these benefits, while younger faculty members without these benefits would have no personal stake in preserving them for their older colleagues, who had agreed to such an inequitable arrangement. These divisions could easily be exploited by the Administration to the detriment of both older and younger faculty members. This can be viewed as a “divide and conquer” strategy.

Retirement benefits are provided by our Collective Bargaining Agreements, which must be renegotiated by the AAUP and the Administration, usually every three years.  Weakening faculty unity and solidarity in contract negotiations would severely complicate both the current and future negotiations.  Over time, as the proportion of faculty members eligible for retirement payouts and with higher 403b University contributions declined, it is likely that these benefits would lose support by faculty in future contract negotiations. With the weakening of faculty unity, the Administration’s original proposals to end these benefits for all faculty members, including those whose benefits had supposedly been “grandfathered”, would become more likely.

The AAUP shall not acquiesce in the Administration’s attempt to induce our faculty to disadvantage their younger colleagues in future years.  Unity across generations is necessary not only for our own financial well being, but also for preserving our ethical values and upholding our own fiduciary obligations to future generations of University of Delaware faculty members.

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Various and perfunctory images of campus from the 12th of August, 2011. Pictured: Fountain near Morris Library

Report on Contract Negotiations

THE STATE OF CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ADMINISTRATION

 

As we begin the fall semester, the AAUP and the Administration have not reached agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Until a new contract is negotiated, approved by the AAUP Steering Committee, and ratified by the AAUP membership, the 2013-2016 Agreement will remain in effect.   Salaries, promotional increments, and s-contract compensation will not increase until there is a new contract.  Once there is a new contract, payments will be retroactive to July 1, 2016.

Contract negotiations have led to tentative agreement on a number of important issues.  These tentative agreements include greater protection for CT faculty conditions of employment, and favorable changes in the grievance procedure and in the merit pay allocation procedure.

While there has been progress on key issues, bargaining over salary and retirement benefits has been extremely difficult.  As you were informed early in these negotiations, the Administration initially made draconian proposals on retirement benefits that are simply unacceptable.  There has been some modification in the Administration’s proposals on retirement benefits, but not nearly enough for serious engagement at the bargaining table.  At this stage of negotiations, the AAUP leadership is hopeful that more meaningful discussions will begin.

Two key factors have been slowing the negotiations and hindering progress. First, there has been a significant change in accounting practices regarding retirement benefits.  Retirement benefits are now aggregated into the future for all faculty members eligible for retirement and are included as a liability on the University’s balance sheet.  This new accounting practice does not affect the actual annual budgeting or actual revenues and expenditures on a yearly basis.  However, it has focused administrative and Board of Trustee attention on retirement benefits in a manner that we believe overly emphasizes the actual financial effects of current retirement benefits.

Second, the timing of these negotiations has coincided with a presidential transition.  Perhaps as a result, it has not been clear to us how the Administration’s approach and priorities are being formulated.  This is, to some degree, to be expected as a new president takes office.  During such a period of transition, it takes some time for a new leadership to emerge, articulate its goals, come to know the AAUP leadership and the broader institutional culture, and become fully engaged in the specifics of decision-making.

The AAUP leadership recognizes that contract negotiations require both sides to acknowledge and give credence to one another’s priorities along with establishing an understanding of the University’s true financial condition.  We believe this is vital to achieve a fair and reasonable contract that recognizes and supports the unique and central roles faculty members play in the life of the University.  Despite the length of current negotiations and lack of progress at this time, there is good will between the AAUP and Administration bargaining teams and a shared belief that a collegial resolution of differences is crucial to renewing trust, rebuilding severely weakened faculty morale, and fulfilling the educational and research missions of the University.

It is important for faculty members to be engaged in the negotiation process by staying informed through their department representatives and Steering Committee members.  The surge of membership since these contract negotiations started last February clearly demonstrates that faculty members recognize the importance of the current contract negotiations for their futures and the future of the University.

If you are not a member, please join the AAUP now.  Our bargaining power is strengthened by your membership.

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The north central Green and UD gates outside the Carpenter Sports Building (CSB) on one of the first warm spring days of 2015. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

AAUP-UD Statement on Article 3

May 10, 2016

 

AAUP-UD Statement on Faculty Governance and Article 3 of the By-Laws of the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware

 

Relationships and interactions between the University of Delaware’s administrators, the University Faculty Senate and the University of Delaware Chapter of the AAUP (AAUP-UD) are generally open, frank and proceed from positions of mutual respect. The foundation for this mutual respect has been shared governance, in which all opinions are valued and considered and where positions are open for discussion and potential modification. Indeed, the University of Delaware is often regarded as an example of the best practices in shared governance in higher education.

Last autumn, the Board of Trustees began to consider revisions to Article 3 of their by-laws. Article 3 defines the functions and responsibilities of the faculty and officers of the University. Two members of the Executive Council of the AAUP-UD, Calvin Keeler and Prasad Dhurjati, were members of an ad hoc committee assembled this semester by Acting President Nancy Targett to make recommendations to the Board of Trustees regarding Article 3. Throughout these deliberations your two representatives were consistent and steadfast in asserting the principle expressed in the AAUP Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities that “The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process.”

At its May 2 meeting, the University Faculty Senate strongly expressed its desire to have further input on the proposed revisions to Article 3. Although your representatives on the ad hoc committee strongly advocated maintaining current practices of collaborative shared governance, it is the opinion of the AAUP-UD that the proposed language risks undermining the culture of shared governance. In the long-term best interests of the University, the AAUP-UD urges all parties to maintain the traditional policies and practices of shared governance which for decades have benefited not only our faculty, but also the students whose education has been entrusted to us.

Be assured that the AAUP-UD has been, and will remain, vigilant in protecting the rights of the faculty of the University of Delaware as expressed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Faculty Handbook, and other official personnel policies.

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Various and perfunctory images of campus from the 12th of August, 2011. Pictured: Fountain near Morris Library

AAUP Steering Committee Rejects Administration Retirement Proposals

AAUP STEERING COMMITTEE RESOLUTION ON THE ADMINISTRATION’S RETIREMENT PROPOSALS

 

After careful consideration, at its meeting on Thursday, April 21, the Steering Committee of the AAUP unanimously voted to reject the current administration’s surprising proposal to phase out the retirement leave and the lump-sum retirement payout proportional to years of service.

These retirement benefits, which are similar to well-established forms of deferred compensation, have been in place for the last 20 years, ever since they were negotiated in collective bargaining in the mid-1990s.  Hence for many years UD faculty members have expected and continue to expect that these benefits will still be available when they retire. 

Since only those faculty who are 55 or older qualify for receiving these retirement benefits, they provide an inducement for faculty in their 40s and early 50s to remain at UD, rather than seeking better-paying jobs elsewhere, during their most productive years.  They also provide an inducement for faculty in their 60s and 70s to retire, perhaps a year or two earlier than they might otherwise do so, and thereby open up vacancies which can be filled by hiring younger faculty. 

 

We therefore believe that these retirement benefits, which during the last 20 years were maintained and even enhanced by the mutual agreement of the AAUP with both the Roselle and the Harker administrations, constitute a well-designed program which is beneficial not only for UD’s loyal faculty members, but also for our university as a whole. 

 

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Various photos of main campus in the Spring of 2015. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

AAUP-UD Survey Findings

Below you will find a link to a summary of the results of the AAAUP faculty survey, conducted earlier this spring. 508 (44%) of your colleagues responded to this survey, which is distributed periodically by the AAUP-UD to ask for input on questions which impact our working and personal environments. This year the survey posed questions about S-Contracts, searches and appointments of academic administrators, faculty governance at the college level, and morale. You will find the summary to be concise and informative.

AAUP Survey Summary
AAUP Survey Comments

 

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