Our Word: Faculty contract issue

By Gus Bode

The Daily Egyptian met with representatives from the administration and the faculty union in the past month to better understand the on-going faculty contract negotiations.

Talks have temporarily stopped while the union consults its membership. The editorial board questioned both sides about the three remaining contentious issues.

Judicial Review Board: Fixing the tenure appeals process should be done in the contract if the majority of faculty members disagree with it.

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For about a year and a half, members of the faculty union have criticized the university’s process for handling promotion and tenure denial appeals. Under the current system, appeals are heard by a three-member committee. The grievant selects one member, the administration selects another and a third comes from the Judicial Review Board, which is made up of professors who are already tenured.

The chancellor must approve the three-member committee’s decision. If he so chooses, he can go against the panel. The union has suggested removing the chancellor’s power to disagree with the appeals board.

The administration maintains the current process works. The union continues to disagree. University officials say they are willing to work on revising the process, but they do not want it written into the contract.

This disagreement has raged for too long. The president’s office investigated the chancellor’s denials, but their findings did not satisfy union leaders. The Faculty Senate, which represents all professors on campus, has worked with the administration on finding a solution. Still, the debate continues.

We would like this issue made binding and settled within the contract. We first want to see the Faculty Senate pass a resolution demanding the issue be dealt with in negotiations.

The senate represents the voice of the faculty. This decision should be left to it, not union negotiators.

Fair share: The union wants a vote on whether all professors should be required to pay into the union, regardless of whether they are members. We agree. This issue should be put to a vote. But we want to be absolutely sure the majority of faculty members want this – not a majority of the voters.

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Two-thirds of tenure-track faculty on campus should have to vote in favor of fair share.

Currently, tenure-track professors have a choice whether to join the union. If they become a part of the organization, they must pay $56.20 monthly for dues.

Union officials say about half of the faculty on campus are members, but they have refrained from releasing specific numbers. Union representatives told us it was unfair for some professors to benefit from the association’s actions and not pay a price.

The union requests the new contract require all tenured track professors pay a cost for the services the union renders. Nothing is certain, but early projections peg the total monthly cost slightly under $50, union representatives said.

The administration said professors deserve the right to choose, and the contract should not force them to pay. We agree a choice should be made. Let the faculty vote.

Pay raises: Professors need pay raises, but it will take time.

The final issue is the always-volatile salary question.

SIUC underpays its faculty, there is no debate about that. It would take about $4 million in raises to bring our professors equal to their peers at other similar universities.

With so many monetary needs, the professors must be patient.

The faculty union wants the disparity fixed – quickly. Representatives do not want it fixed in one year, but they do want a substantial increase right now.

Administrators have offered to raise pay rates by 3 percent each year for the next four. About half of the money would go to across the board increases, and the rest for merit pay.

During the union’s meeting with the editorial board, they questioned the administration’s priorities. They pointed to library renovations and Saluki Way, an expensive and massive overhaul of the eastside of campus, as projects that administrators have put money into. They asked when it would be the professors’ turn.

Reprioritizing and shifting money from elsewhere on campus would eventually hurt the students. The library needs money for renovation, our athletic facilities need repair and SIUC continues to fight a growing $100 million backlog of maintenance.

The needs are many, and we can’t help but worry that more fees will be thrown at students.

We even worry the raises offered by the administration will be too much. If the state cuts funding, as it has shown itself willing to do recently, then we will need more money. Raise tuition too high and students will opt to attend community college. There won’t be much need for faculty with no students to teach.

We do many things well here, and students come here for many reasons. At the top of that list is affordability.

Our wallets still sting from the last round of tuition and fee increases, and a 3 percent annual pay increase for the next four years as well as the additional salary incentives sound fair to us.

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