American Association of University Professors
University of Delaware Chapter

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May 2004 aaUPBEAT

Last Issue with David Colton as Editor

From the AAUP Executive Council

In March 1993, after consultation with the Executive Council, David Colton published the first monthly edition of the Upbeat. At the time, David was in the third month of his first term as AAUP President. When he stepped down as president in January 1997after his second term's conclusion, he agreed to the Executive Council's request to continue as Upbeat editor. All told, he has overseen the publication of over one hundred issues of the newsletter. This is the last.

From the beginning of his 11-plus years as Upbeat editor, David envisioned the newsletter's existence as crucial to strengthening the union. This was his motive for transforming it from a sporadically published information sheet into a regularly published vehicle for building the AAUP and keeping the membership apprised of important issues.

Correctly, David saw the newsletter as a mandatory step in making sure that the union leadership's thinking was never hidden from the membership but was there for all to see, so faculty members could then either agree with it or challenge it. From David's perspective, openness and discussion were always preferable to behind-the-scenes decision-making and silence about policy. His tenure as Upbeat editor incarnated his commitment to this belief.

From the bread and butter issues of salary and benefits to the mechanics of contract and policy negotiations to in-depth analyses of issues like distance learning, free speech in the post-Sept. 11 political environment, domestic partner benefits, diversity, and the corporatization of higher education, David's devotion was always to covering what should be covered because of its seriousness and relevance, and never to what it was merely easy or popular to cover. This is why, although David is a distinguished mathematician, many who know him - including those of us on the Executive Council - also view him as an individual with (a) a social analyst's skill at eloquently dissecting a wide range of topics and (b) a principled, unsullied commitment to fairness.

David's 11 years as Upbeat editor have left the union with a professional caliber newsletter. The union can never quite pay him back for this. Still, we hope our "thank you" will let him know how much his work is admired.

Summarizing the Workload Dispute

Six Points about Workload

Controversy and prolonged discussions among faculty concerning workload have occurred over the last year and a half. Although some in the Administration attempted to target the AAUP as bearing the blame for this confusion, events have shown the facts indicate otherwise. The AAUP believes that this is a good time to summarize the issues and the positions of the respective parties.

1. The Administration Changes Its Emphasis. During the last bargaining period, the Administration informed the union of its intent to enforce the Administered Workload Policy, which, among other things, provides for faculty members to receive reduced teaching loads for doing research and/or participating in service activities. The Administration stressed that by "enforcement" it meant, for example, that it would no longer look favorably upon workload assignments that allowed a faculty member to define the teaching of one course as 60 percent of his workload, then adding on another 20 percent for service activities and an additional 20 percent for research.

2. Where Do Workload Criteria Come From? After evaluating the Administration's position, it became clear to the AAUP that if a unit's workload policy didn't contain specific criteria for how to assess the value of a faculty member's research and service, the power to judge this value would rest solely in the hands of the chair. To counter this possibility, we supported the development of a "metric" and its inclusion in revised workload agreements. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, such revised workload agreements must be drawn up by the faculty. It is not the Administration's prerogative to do so.

3. Administration Tries to Circumvent Contract. Instead of abiding by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, in a number of units the Administration minimized faculty input and imposed its own criteria for determining proper workload assignments. It did this by informing faculty members that if they didn't accept the Administration's criteria, the Administration would refuse to authorize new faculty lines. The Administration defended this threat by saying that, in the absence of a unit workload agreement, the Administration couldn't be clear on how the new lines would be employed, and therefore it was appropriate for the Administration to veto the creation of new lines in that unit.

What the Administration didn't mention when making this argument was that its reasoning violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Since at the time all units had their old workload agreements in place, those agreements were still in effect until such time as they were replaced by new ones. Therefore, the Administration's argument that "in the absence of a unit workload agreement" it couldn't create new lines in that unit was without practical application since there were no units without workload agreements.

Unfortunately, in those instances in which the Administration used the above threats, the AAUP was only informed by unit faculty after the fact when a new Administration-designed workload policy was already passed. Administration interference in the workload-formulation process in certain units could have been avoided if the AAUP had been contacted earlier.

Don't forget: The union can't help you if you don't inform the union of your dilemma.

4. What Faculty Must Know about Their Units & Workload. If faculty are unhappy with a unit workload agreement that they feel has been imposed on them by the Administration, they can revise their workload agreement at any time as long as such revisions are consistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and Faculty Handbook. If a decision is made to revise the agreement, the AAUP should be involved from the very beginning in order to make sure that no Administration misinterpretations of workload issues hamper the revision process. Once a unit has approved a new workload agreement, the Administration has the power to reject it only if the new agreement conflicts with academic program needs, the contract or Faculty Handbook. Any Administration attempt to sidestep or ignore this process can be grieved and ultimately, if necessary, taken to binding arbitration.

5. Ad Hoc Faculty Workload Oversight Committees. One key aspect of the workload issue that faculty cannot afford to forget under any circumstances is the AAUP's recent strengthening of faculty input in workload decisions. This strengthening occurred at the end of 2003 when the union overcame Administration resistance to the formation of ad hoc faculty committees within departments to advise department chairs on issues of workload increases. The resolution of the conflict entailed the insertion of the paragraph below in the Faculty Handbook workload section. The paragraph takes precedence over anything that departments have or have not included in their workload agreements on this issue. The paragraph's first sentence simply states a policy that has existed for years; the rest of the paragraph introduces what's new: the creation of ad hoc committees. The paragraph is:

When a faculty member's administered workload assignment does not comport with his/her actual research and scholarly contributions, the chair may increase the teaching or service components of the faculty member's workload. In such an instance, the faculty member may request a review of his/her research quality and productivity and the chair will appoint an ad hoc committee for that purpose. The composition of the review committee by the chair and its recommendation will be advisory. Alternatively, the chair may appoint such a committee, in the absence of any request from the faculty member. In all cases, the faculty member will have the opportunity to submit any evidence deemed appropriate to the committee's tasks. The recommendation(s) of the ad hoc committee are advisory; the chair has final responsibility for any change in a faculty member's workload.

The motive for the creation of the above paragraph was the union's perception that the faculty needed more protection than the "metric" guidelines in the workload agreement. The above paragraph allows for the possibility of an opinion other than the chair's on the evaluation of a faculty member's research and thus a firmer basis on which to challenge arbitrary decisions by the chair.

6. What Should Be Obvious. As should be clear from the above, for faculty to protect themselves regarding workload matters, faculty must stay on top of their unit situation, remember that they possess the group power to revise workload agreements if necessary, and, whenever necessary, call in an AAUP representative so that as a group you can discuss your concerns with her or him.

Being passive and uninformed as opposed to being self-organized and aware won't achieve anything. The AAUP can't, independently of you, protect you from bad decisions at the unit level. You must set the ball in motion. The AAUP can certainly help you achieve success, but the initial momentum must come from you.

Contextualizing the Workload Issue

Workload must be viewed not as an isolated issue but rather as part of the wider-ranging trend of higher education corporatization. The increased use in higher education over the last two decades of corporate productivity and accountability concepts to measure faculty effectiveness raises the question of the applicability to university and college educational systems of concepts lifted directly from the business community.

Take the auto industry as an example. In it, productivity experts use mathematical formulas that include data (e.g., the number of physical movements made within particular time frames, etc.) in order to calculate productivity. Exactly how such a productivity determination process can be transferred, if it can be transferred, to higher education isn't at all clear.

Similarly with a more white collar economic sector like mental health. The formulas for determining productivity in this area can't be transferred to the academy any more smoothly than those from the auto industry. In fact, it isn't clear that the formulas even work well in evaluating counseling productivity. To judge, as is often done, counseling productivity merely in terms of (a) number of patients seen and (b) number of counseling hours worked often results not in greater efficiency, but rather in an increase in the number of overworked counselors who, because they're emotionally drained, find it difficult to counsel effectively throughout a whole workweek.

We certainly don't want such productivity models to dominate higher education.

Studies show that faculty already work a lot - between 40-50 hours weekly - although a large number of these hours isn't spent in the classroom but rather in class preparation, research or service. That faculty should participate in assessing how these various activities combine to form a full workload is obvious, but exactly what type of formula will evolve over the coming years isn't yet fully clear. This is because, whereas the common public assumption was once that educational productivity should be based on in-class or specific research hours, even politicians and the general public now realize that higher education productivity often entails a significant amount of "unobservable thinking time" that isn't quantifiable through the use of traditional corporate productivity models.

This doesn't mean that academics shouldn't be held accountable for their productivity, it just means that determining higher education productivity is not merely a matter of transferring business ideas of productivity into academe. This is one of the reasons why faculty involvement in productivity decisions remains of the utmost importance.

U.S. faculty should note that the push for heavier faculty workloads isn't merely a US phenomenon. With the globalization of the U.S. corporate model occurring at such a rapid pace these days, even academic institutions in developing countries are undergoing pressure to increase faculty productivity. In 2002 the Delhi University Teachers' Association went on strike over an attempt to force a 47 percent increase in faculty members' classroom hours, from a minimum of 15 hours per week to a minimum of 22 hours per week. Eventually the dispute was settled, with the administration winning a workload increase but a smaller one (10 percent to 16.5 minimum classroom hours per week) than initially demanded. The increase was implemented by adding an extra five minutes to each class period, which added an average of 90 weekly minutes to each faculty member's workload.

Communications between the AAUP Leadership & Faculty

During the debates and passions generated by the workload controversy, some faculty members criticized the union for a lack of communications from the AAUP leadership regarding what was going on. We sympathize with the feelings of frustration and powerlessness that the recent workload formulation process spawned.

Still, it would be inappropriate for us not to remind the faculty at large that although we respect those who addressed their concerns to us, the issue of leadership-membership communications in general is a large one that can't be approached simplistically. Although the union is certainly open to suggestions for improving communications, we also think faculty should take full advantage of already existing communications avenues. For instance, in every Upbeat issue from December 2003-May 2003, there was at least one article (and never a short one) detailing the workload controversy's evolution and the various factors involved in it. The information given in those articles provided faculty with all the factual information at the union's disposal. If any of the information was unclear to someone, a call or email to the AAUP office or one of the Executive Council members would have started the clarification process.

The AAUP also holds at least one open faculty meeting each semester and sometimes more if circumstances call for it. Unfortunately, these meetings are typically attended by only twenty or so people in spite of the fact that at such meetings a wide range of faculty concerns and policy issues (e.g., workload) are discussed. The better attended such meetings are, the more widespread the dissemination of information among faculty becomes.

Another avenue of communication available to faculty is the setting up of special meetings. In departments where members have expressed either dissatisfaction with a particular union policy or discomfort with an Administration action, the AAUP always offers to come to the department and discuss the relevant issues. Yet sometimes after the offer is made, the unit declines the opportunity to meet, and then weeks or maybe months afterwards some faculty from the unit will tell us that not having the meeting was a mistake because, as a result, things grew worse and not better. So remember: faculty in any department can take advantage of the option of setting up a special meeting. Just contact us to set the process in motion.

Democracy in a union is the same as democracy in society at large - people staying informed and getting involved is the key.

We look forward to seeing you and working with you in the fall.