Happy 2017, everybody!
I was at home minding my own business on New Year’s Eve when (like other members of the EMU-AAUP), I received an intriguingly angry, bitter, and kind of crazy email from outgoing EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller. After I skimmed through it, I posted this on Facebook:
After getting a screed of an email from Susan Moeller on New Year’s Eve, I am even more thankful that she got voted out of office. Much of what she says is flat-out wrong, all of it is sour grapes, and I’ll put together a very detailed post for EMYoutalk.org in the next day or two. Stay tuned.
I have to say that when it comes to the EMU-AAUP, I want to be in the mode of moving on from the election and letting bygones be bygones– and as a slight tangent, Howard Bunsis sent an email more or less in this tone a week or two ago, so good for him. But the more I read Moeller’s email, the more it pissed me off. So, perhaps against what might be better judgement, here’s that promised very detailed post.
Sorry for the length, and if you just want the email Moeller sent without my commentary, click here or scroll to the very end of this post and after the read more part. And as a bit of a primer/context of this (for those of you who didn’t follow the EMU-AAUP Executive Committee elections), you could read a long post I had about this on my own blog back in November.
Moeller starts off by talking about “right to work,” which was a challenge for the old union leadership and will be for the next. I actually don’t disagree with much of what she has to say here, though I would argue that the best way to keep faculty in the union is to listen to the membership and try to engage new voices (instead of cling to power for over a decade). And you certainly do not want to foster divisiveness within the union by singling out one department as the problem.
Then she gets to the equivalency fiasco.
To start, my own general take on teaching loads and equivalences:
I have always thought that at a regional university like EMU– one where we have graduate programs and where faculty are expected to maintain a modest research agenda along with teaching– a 3-3 teaching load (or its equivalent) is reasonable across the board/across all departments, and I think there are good reasons why all departments can make the argument that we’re doing the equivalent of a 12-hour a semester contractual amount of work while teaching 3-3. We are not (and shouldn’t be) a major research-focused university like Michigan or Michigan State where the teaching load in a field like mine is more typically 2-2 or 2-1. But we are also not (and certainly shouldn’t be) a community college like Washtenaw CC where the teaching load in my field is 4-4 or 5-5.
I have also always thought that individual departments/disciplines ought to be able to make the argument about what they believe are equivalences in their department/discipline, as long as they can make reasonable arguments based on agreed upon evidence (for example, based on past practices and what similar universities do). Who am I to say what should count as an equivalency for Music or CMTA or Nursing or whatever? I don’t know what is involved in the day to day for teaching in any of those disciplines. Why this has been so hard to work out for the EMU-AAUP over the last decades is unclear to me.
Anyway, this is where I have to parse out a lot of what Moeller wrote because she is so fundamentally wrong. Moeller’s words are the block quote part. She wrote:
The English department believed that a 1976 arbitration protected their 9/9 load. The EMU Administration and the EMU-AAUP attorney do not agree.
First off, Moeller came to an English Department meeting in Fall 2015 and told us that the 1976 arbitration protected our 3-3 load and that both the administration and the EMU-AAUP agreed this was settled law. Moeller is lying here, full stop. This was NOT some sort of whimsical fantasy from a bunch of “lazy” English professors; this was what we were told by our union president just over a year ago.
Second, we don’t really know what the EMU-AAUP attorney said because there was no written explanation of the change of legal interpretation in Summer 2016, and the EMU-AAUP leadership refused to provide any explanation to faculty in the English department when asked to do so. Frankly, we have no idea what the legal thinking is here other than “oh, we don’t want to do that anymore.”
First, because the arbitration award was to allow a department head to give equivalencies for freshmen composition classes and because few, if any, of the current English faculty teach freshmen composition ( most are taught by GAs), their 9/9 load was not protected under the arbitration.
This is wrong in two important ways. First, the 1976 arbitration (here’s a link to a PDF of it) does not limit equivalences to freshman courses. The arbitration does not name any specific course; the closest it comes to this (according to my reading at least) is on page 3 where it says “Those faculty members teaching one composition class– whether freshman or advanced— were assigned two other literature courses for a total of nine student contact hours each week.” (emphasis mine)
Interestingly, the arbitration is oddly specific as to the reasons for the equivalency: teaching writing is a lot of work, and the arbitration even goes into the detail of how many words students write, about how much time it takes to grade these writings, about the time it takes to work with students individually on revisions, and so forth. Not surprisingly, a lot has changed about the specifics of what and how we teach writing in the last 40 years; but the basics of the workload described in the arbitration are still accurate.
Second, most of the sections of WRTG 120 and WRTG 121 are actually taught by part-time instructors and full-time lecturers, NOT graduate assistants. And here’s the thing that is so galling to me about this: I know that Moeller was told this by me and others in several different meetings. So when she writes here most sections of first year writing are taught by GAs, she is either lying or she completely ignored what faculty told her multiple times.
In addition, the arbitration only was in effect if the contract it was awarded under did not change, and since the contract has changed many times, the 9/9 load was being given as a deal to the English faculty. Many CAS faculty approached the union about the unfairness of this arrangement.
The idea that the arbitration was only in effect for the contract in which it was enacted doesn’t make sense. We’ve been referencing this arbitration for 40 years, and the provision of the contract that the arbitration references of the “supervision of special learning activities” is still a part of the contract.
But the real meat here is Moeller singling out the English faculty as getting a “special deal” and how “other faculty” in the College of Arts and Sciences didn’t like it. In other words, Moeller is confirming that much of this equivalency nonsense was specifically aimed at faculty in the English department. We had a president of the EMU-AAUP actively working against members of the union in a particular department because of some sort of long-simmering feelings about “unfairness.”
But wait, was Moeller saying that English is the only department where faculty were teaching three classes a semester? Apparently not:
At the table in 2012, the EMU Administration agreed to work with the faculty on collecting the equivalency data on the Joint Workload Committee. The data resulted in faculty and the administration discovering that the ‘real’ teaching load at EMU was on average 9- credit hours a semester, with a range of 5 to 12-credit hours. So it appears that the EMU Administration was now in a position to force all faculty to 12 hours a semester loads.
What Moeller is saying here is most faculty at EMU were already teaching a 3-3 load. So other than a clear goal to “go after” faculty in the English department, why not make the argument that most faculty at EMU were already teaching a 3-3 load? I don’t know the answer to this, but what I’m seeing here is Moeller saying that faculty in the English department don’t teach enough because they teach a 3-3 load even though the average teaching load across the university is 3-3– and by the way, lower than 3-3 in some departments and colleges, like (surprise surprise!) the College of Business.
Moeller goes on:
As the EMU Administration was moving to enforce a 12 hour load for all faculty, the EMU-AAUP team negotiated that equivalencies would be placed in the DIDs so that they become contractual. Without this protection, I believe that the EMU Administration could require all faculty to teach a 12/12 load and is very willing to do so for budget reasons.
So while I understand that the new equivalency system requires an accounting of equivalencies toward teaching loads that is new for some faculty, it does allow for all faculty to participate in a system of banking work load credits also. As it was discovered that some faculty in the past were given release for banking hours and others were not – again unfair treatment.
Many universities have policies that define teaching load equivalencies, however few have them in their union contracts. With only a policy this then allows management the right to, at any time, enforce a 12/12 load. I believe that in the long run if one truly believes the union’s mission to make sure all faculty are treated, this contract provision will be one of the best achievements of the EMU-AAUP.
I don’t know enough about what the EMU Administration could or couldn’t do to force everyone to teach 4-4, and I certainly don’t understand why the changes in right to work would somehow give the administration a magic wand to change the teaching loads that have been in place for decades. I do have a sneaking suspicion though Moeller thought if she threw the English department under the bus and get their teaching load increased, then maybe that would protect the low teaching loads in places like the College of Business.
In any event, the system that Moeller et al have created– including this “banking” system– is unworkable in my department, and, as I understand it, many other departments. I’m not going to go into it now (this is already way too long), but if the current equivalency scheme does indeed go into effect in Fall 2017, there are going to be hundreds of grievances filed about unfair treatment because of not equal individual teaching loads. The EMU administration and the EMU-AAUP have agreed to a train-wreck. Stay tuned.
Three last things. Moeller wrote:
The final issue from the election is the accusation that the old union leadership was running a business union. Even though I am a member of the faculty of the College of Business, as is Howard Bunsis, we have never favored one group of faculty over another. Our record shows that in the last five contracts we have negotiated a contract that helps all faculty and have gotten good raises and kept benefit costs down.
The main problem I’ve always had with the EMU-AAUP when it comes to negotiating for salary increases is the union almost always seeks an across the board percentage raise. This means that the highest paid faculty end up getting the biggest raises, and guess which college has the highest paid faculty?
As for benefits: in this last contract, the union negotiated away insurance coverage for spouses who could get insurance someplace else. Maybe there was no way to prevent this, I have no idea, but I do know that this has cost a lot of my colleagues a lot of out of pocket money for health insurance.
In terms of “Academic Partnerships,” Moeller wrote:
Finally, the new leadership recently in an email to you stated that the old leadership is responsible for a marketing contract with a company that promotes on line programs. While This just happened and no faculty had complained to us about the contract, there has been no contract violation as the five departments receiving the help gave input on it and do not have to use the company. However, the new leadership needs to realize that some faculty may want their programs marketed and that the unions job is to protect the contract and it processes. There can not be a grievance if there is no contract violation and no grievant faculty member.
I am sure there will be more about this in the coming weeks, but I have already heard from a faculty person in one of these five departments about how this decision to get into bed with Academic Partnerships happened without faculty input and how this is likely to be grieved. Moeller’s comment here almost suggests that there was some kind of not exactly in the open negotiations going on between the administration and the old EMU-AAUP regime.
We have always worked for the best interests of all faculty at EMU. I am disappointed that the entire past leadership is no longer on the Executive Committee as their experience would have been valuable in the union’s workings with the EMU Administration. We built a strong union over the last 12 years with your support and many faculty have benefited from that work. Hopefully the new leadership will not just support special groups of faculty and realize all faculty are to be supported whether they are members or not.
Susan, thank you for your service. I’m not entirely sure why the past leadership who were re-elected in the most recent election decided to resign after you lost, but that is what it is and I’m sure that will be a topic of discussion in the new year. But 12 years on the Executive Committee is too long, and it’s time to loosen the grip and let others continue the hard work. And I am confident that the new leadership will not have the agendas against faculty and departments that has been made nakedly clear with this email.