Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Fredonia UUP Chapter Officer for Contingents May 2013 Newsletter: On Contingency and Sustainability

On Contingency and Sustainability
Bruce Simon, Officer for Contingents, Fredonia Chapter, UUP

Thanks for electing me to the first-ever Officer for Contingents position in the Fredonia UUP Chapter. I take my election as a mandate to continue working with other campus and chapter leaders to explore what could and should be done to improve terms and conditions of employment, university policies, campus climate, and departmental cultures for contingent academic and professional workers at Fredonia. It seems fitting for me to reflect on the significance of UUP’s move from chapter Part-Time Concerns Officers to Officers for Contingents across the SUNY system.

The UUP Constitution lays out how our union defines contingency in academic and professional appointments:

"Contingent Academic" members shall be those persons appointed to any academic position which does not prescribe eligibility for continuing appointment.... "Contingent Professional" members shall be those persons appointed to any professional position which does not prescribe eligibility for permanent appointment. (Article III, Section 2)

The Constitution also defines the membership and responsibilities of the Contingent Employment Committee (Article X, Section 1, Part i), a new statewide standing committee on which I serve, and requires that at least one Executive Board member be a contingent academic or professional (Article V, Section 1). These changes have been spurred on by UUP’s Task Force on Contingent Employment, by the statewide Executive Board, by our statewide officers, and by the delegates at our Delegate Assemblies. They are part of continuing efforts to bring our union into the 21st century when it comes to effectively organizing and representing all our members. They also bring us in line with best practices and recommendations from the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of University Professors

I encourage everyone reading this to familiarize yourself with the above documents--along with more recent AAUP reports on stabilizing the faculty and strengthening governance and the SUNY New Paltz Chapter’s Mayday Manifesto--for nothing less is at stake in the matters they address than the sustainability of public higher education. COCAL, AAUP, and AFT have been national leaders in a global movement aimed at calling into question the sustainability of the generations-long shift toward majority contingency among university employees and particularly among the academic faculty. By creating the Officer for Contingents position at each chapter, UUP is better positioned to contribute to this movement and to represent and respond to the voices, needs, and interests of our colleagues in contingent appointments

Please rest assured that the Fredonia Chapter leadership is committed to precisely this project and has been taking concrete steps, with input from our Contingent Employment Advisory Group every step of the way, to put SUNY Fredonia on a sustainable path. (Indeed, the theme for this month’s Newsletter essay was suggested by Leonard Jacuzzo.) If you have suggestions for us, please don’t hesitate to contact me at brucesimon18@yahoo.com. I’ll be sure to bring them up for discussion and review by the Executive Board and the CEAG. Finally, there’s still time for academic faculty and professionals on contingent appointments to join the CEAG and play a role in shaping our strategies and tactics in the coming months. I look forward to being able to announce the results of our efforts and proposals in upcoming Newsletters.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Recommended Reading: On Open SUNY

Here's a recently-updated Phil Hill post at e-Literate on Open SUNY--it's a great intro to the recently-announced initiative by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.

I'm here at UUP's Academic Delegates meeting hearing from a panel on issues raised by Open SUNY, such as:

  • academic quality/academic integrity
  • pedagogy
  • intellectual property/work-for-hire agreements
  • extra service/workload/on-call-recall designations/compensatory time
  • outsourcing
  • who is involved in curriculum change, when, and under what conditions
  • pace of change
Of course, UUP must be involved in discussions of any changes to salary, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment, which are mandatory subjects of bargaining.  These include:
  • change in length of workday
  • increases in duties
  • work-for-hire requests
  • on-call/recall issues
  • extra service issues
UUP is available to consult with members whenever there are changes in work life and is looking for ways to  collaborate with SUNY governance bodies, both state-wide and on different campuses.  Vice President for Academics Jamie Dangler recommends:
  • forming chapter committees
  • using chapter web sites and newsletters to engage members
  • working with campus governance bodies
  • developing positions on specific changes/issues
  • developing guidelines for UUP representation on campus and statewide groups
Other ideas that came out of our discussions include:
  • workshops/training
  • what are legitimate and inappropriate standards/procedures for evaluation of online teaching? (UUP's Technology Issues Committee has a report entitled Best Practices in Online Learning that addresses this [available here], but may not adequately deal with evaluation of contingent faculty.)
  • vulnerability of contingent faculty to be pressured into designing or teaching in Open SUNY
  • increased workload that comes with changes in online learning systems
  • UUP resolution/statement (Chief Academic Officers and Faculty Council of Community Colleges have made them)
  • who profits from Open SUNY? (often with MOOCs, it's private corporations)
  • conflicting definitions of "consultation" and management abuses of the concept (such as at CUNY)
  • what's going on in other systems, states, and nations so we can help, learn, gain allies
  • defining what's optimal, what's working, what ought to be happening
  • thinking about how to connect with student groups to push for broader/better support for quality public higher education