American Association of University Professors
University of Delaware Chapter

301 McDowell Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE  19716
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December 2003 aaUPBEAT

Progress & Roadblocks Regarding UD Workload Dispute


On Monday, December 8, the AAUP Executive Council, Provost and the Vice President for Administration met in an effort to resolve ongoing union concerns about the Administration's view of faculty workload policy formation and implementation. Although the meeting did not result in a resolution of all relevant matters, it was nonetheless useful as part of an ongoing Union-Administration dialogue that has already resulted in some clarifications of UD workload policy (see the "Increasing Faculty Input in Workload Decisions" section below). Both sides agreed that academic units should submit their workload policy revisions to the Administration as soon as possible.

As this dialogue continues, faculty should be aware that the Administration has given the AAUP verbal assurances that existing departmental workload policies will remain in effect until new policies are approved. When existing policies are in violation of the collective bargaining agreement or University policy, chairs will be required to make assignments in accord with the contract or UD policy.

Below you will find a summary of the issues - and their current status - that have motivated the AAUP to push for workload policy clarification.

Increasing Faculty Input in Workload Decisions

One of the union's main concerns regarding workload has been the question of faculty input in workload decisions. In particular, the apparent resistance by some in the Administration to the formation of ad hoc faculty committees within departments to advise department chairs on issues of workload increases troubled the union.

We are glad to announce that this matter has now been resolved. The resolution entails the insertion of the paragraph below in the Faculty Handbook workload section. The paragraph will take precedence over anything that departments have or have not included in their workload agreements on this issue. Departments may either add the language below to their workload policy or substitute this language for old language in their workload policies. Departmental workload policies that contain language that is in direct conflict with the insertion will be returned to the department for the appropriate revisions. Note that 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 dispute over the formation of ad hoc committees to advise chairs has been an ongoing issue that was intensified in the face of heavy-handed involvement by several deans and chairs in the drafting of workload policies. We saw this involvement as contrary to the opening paragraph of Part 2 of the "Faculty Workload" section of the Faculty Handbook, which states:

"The members of the unit (emphasis added), in consultation with the unit administrator, and following their own by-laws, will prepare and adopt a workload policy that accurately represents the composition of each component of the workload."

We also believe that the Administration's behavior violated the spirit of the same section's statement that:

"A unit's final workload policy and plan can be returned by the appropriate administrator to the unit for revision if it is not congruent with academic program needs or does not comply with all university policies or the collective bargaining agreement."

Since nothing in the formation of ad hoc committees to advise chairs on workload issues is contrary to University policies or the collective bargaining agreement, the AAUP was confident from the beginning that our suggestion to create such committees was a sound and permissible way of increasing faculty involvement in workload decisions.

We are pleased that the Administration, after studying our arguments, recognized the union's proposal as a fair one and agreed to its implementation. Although a "metric" for faculty productivity in the workload agreement provides criteria for insuring fair evaluations of faculty performance, the new possibility of creating ad hoc committees to advise chairs in cases of contested workload changes provides some protection against arbitrary or otherwise unjustified increases.

Departmental Workload Policies & the Hiring of Faculty

An issue that has caused further concern in many departments is whether or not the Administration will prevent a department from hiring faculty if the department hasn't yet had its new workload policy approved.

In a memo from the Dean of Arts and Sciences in Spring 2003, it is stated that "neither the Handbook nor the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) says that units that have not submitted workload policies for review will not be able to fill positions."

Yet in spite of this statement's clarity, on Nov. 3, 2003 the Provost responded to a faculty member's query about this issue that he "would not approve hiring for continuing faculty positions in units that did not have an approved workload policy."

This comment not only conflicts with the memo from the Dean of Arts and Sciences, it also clashes with section 17.1 of the collective bargaining agreement which states that existing workload policies stay in effect until new ones are approved; in other words, there is no point at which a unit is without an "approved" policy. Of course, since the Provost does have the right to make decisions regarding the allocation of resources, he can, on the basis of an analysis of available resources, decide not to increase a unit's number of positions, but he cannot do so on the basis of whether or not a new workload agreement has completely gone through the approval process specified in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The fact (as cited in the "Introduction," p. 1) that the Administration has given the AAUP verbal assurances that existing departmental workload policies will remain in effect until new policies are approved is a step toward resolving the Administration's conflicting claims about the relationship of workload policy to creating new positions in units. But although the Administration's verbal assurances are welcome, they do not possess the same solidity as contract or Handbook language.

Deepening UD's faculty-Administration relationship depends not just on good will but also on clarity. This is why the AAUP takes seriously its ongoing workload-related dialogue with the Administration as we pursue the development of a mutually agreed upon understanding of the facts.

Workload: An Issue Connected To Other Issues

In a September 2003 New York Times op-ed piece, Stanley Fish, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote that during one-on-one conversations with parents who are critical of higher education costs, it is often possible to deflate some of their negative assumptions by giving them a more accurate picture of higher education financing than they receive from the media and politicians.

As Fish argued effectively in his article, when parents find out that higher education's state funding is closer to 25% of total budget than to 75%, and when they discover that tuition typically pays for only one-quarter of the educational services received by a student, and when they additionally find out that these facts exist in an educational environment of increased cost-cutting, they're flabbergasted and as a result switch from criticizing higher education to asking sympathetically, "How can you stay in business?"

Unfortunately for Fish and others interested in higher education's future, one-on-one conversations with parents are no match for the scorched earth publicity tactics of pro-corporate model advocates who insist that rising higher educational costs are traceable to (a) a lack of business efficiency at colleges and universities and (b) faculty laziness and greed. Such critiques laid the basis for education's evolution into an industrial-style climate that emphasizes the need to develop lean workplaces (i.e., fewer tenure track faculty at universities and colleges) characterized by greater productivity (i.e., increased workloads) and more efficient (i.e., shrunken) funding for educational services.

Such pressure doesn't occur only at the state level. Rep. Howard McKeon of California, a key member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, supports national legislation that would deny federal funding to higher educational institutions whose tuition increases exceed the rate of inflation by a certain amount.

Such demagoguery allows politicians to rail against higher education's supposed fiscal irresponsibility while conveniently ignoring the degree to which many cost hikes are traceable not to the educational community per se but to reduced government funding at both the state and federal level. As pointed out in "Taking Responsibility," a report from the Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, business leaders as a national grouping "want higher education to cut costs and students to pay more" before any thought is given to increased federal aid for colleges, universities or students.

There is nothing simple about higher education's current cost crisis and its consequences. The crisis certainly isn't accurately articulated by pontifications that play to the crowd without carefully analyzing the substance of the issue. As the national AAUP has pointed out in its "Statement on Faculty Workload with Interpretive Comments," efforts to identify the university itself as the main culprit have set in motion over the last three decades a series of interrelated trends that have put the squeeze on higher education's capacity to fulfill its instructional mandate while simultaneously increasing the pressure for heavier workloads.

According to the "Statement," during the last thirty years "the world of higher education has changed significantly... While the number of faculty members in the profession has increased considerably, the proportion who hold positions that are with tenure or probationary for tenure has decreased significantly. Colleges and universities are meeting their instructional needs by increasing their reliance on part-time, adjunct, or full-time non-tenure-track faculty members and on new technologies. The increased reliance on various types of non-tenure-track faculty has added to the workload of tenured and tenure-track faculty, who must assume additional administrative and governance responsibilities."

David Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of a new book, Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line, views such occurrences as the result of elevating corporate values above academic concerns. Although, as he told Newsweek in an interview (11/17/2003), he thinks some positive campus self-examination has resulted from pressure from the corporate world, he believes that in general business's colonization of academia has gone too far. One example he gives of this is that "Berkeley gave one company the right to buy the output of one academic department. It gave the company a big thumb on the scales of the department's research agenda."

Kirp sees such trends as signs of the fact that "colleges are evolving in ways that diminish some of their core values." He believes that the more power that corporate interests gain over academia, the more higher education's flexibility and creativity will shrink, both politically and in terms of academic freedom.

As Kirp says at the end of his interview, "If you are collecting money from power, it's hard to speak truth to power."