A few more thoughts about the contract negotiations between the EMU administration and the EMUFT union

Here we are, almost at the end of the academic year, and just to complicate matters further, the EMU Federation of Teachers (the union that represents lecturers and part-time lecturers at EMU) and the administration are off to what sounds like a rocky start for contract negotiations. As noted here on the EMUFT’s web site, in this Michigan Radio story, and in this WEMU story, the administration’s “opening bid” in these negotiations is a 25% pay cut for new part-timers. So folks newly hired at EMU to teach part-time would earn $900 a credit hour instead of the current rate of $1200.

Now, I don’t know a whole lot about what the lecturers and part-timers are negotiating for with this round. Frankly, since they just got done negotiating a contract last year, I’m surprised they are at the bargaining table at all. That said, I think there are a few things worth mentioning:

  • I don’t care how you slice it (as in “the administration isn’t serious about this” or “that’s just an opening tactic” or whatever), for the administration to begin negotiations by proposing a 25% cut is I believe what is technically known as a “dick move.”
  • For folks who don’t understand this: lecturers generally but part-time instructors in particular are where a place like EMU makes back a lot of the money it spends on dumb stuff like overpaid administrators and coaches. A really simple example I know well from my experience/work with the first year writing program: classes taught by part-timers rake in a lot of tuition money.  Undergrads pay about $1000 per course at EMU once you figure out all the fees and stuff. The capacity for a section of first year writing is 25, so (assuming that everyone is paying in-state tuition) it’s pretty easy to ballpark the revenue of each section of first year writing is about $25,000. Even if you knock off some of that for paying the bills/keeping the lights on, that’s still a pretty healthy return on investment when that class is taught by someone only making $3600.
  • Higher education’s relationship with part-time labor generally has been problematic for decades. EMU is far from unique in this regard. Personally, I have a lot of mixed feelings about what to do with the adjunct problem, as I’ve blogged about before (here’s an example of a “modest proposal” to reduce the number of adjuncts with MOOCs, and here’s my review/reaction to a movie about adjunct labor called “Con Job”). I think higher ed has an “addiction” to cheap labor when it comes to teaching (particularly in gen ed sorts of classes). But I also think that part-time instructors should be just that, part-time. Too many folks have been trying make their part-time work look like a full-time job by teaching at multiple places and for too long.
  • As it is, we are increasingly having some “staffing challenges” when it comes to hiring people who are qualified and willing to teach at the current part-time rate. This is a relatively recent change, at least in my field. Based on my completely unscientific recollection, there were more people applying for part teaching ten years ago in my program than there are now. So this move by the administration– even if it is just a bargaining tactic– could make things even worse, which of course ultimately impacts students. It might also inspire some current part-timers to realize that with an improving economy and job market, there are other options out there.

By the way, if anyone involved in the negotiations wants to post something more here at EMYoutalk, let me know. I extend this opportunity to the administration too, though I don’t think they’ll take me up on it.

Teacher Ed to Academic Partnerships: Thanks, But No Thanks

Someone who prefers to remain anonymous sent me the following response from the faculty in Teacher Education to the administration about EMU’s newest online BFF Academic Partnerships:

The Teacher Education Department voted not to work with Academic Partners at its February faculty meeting. While we appreciated the time that you spent with us in March, faculty members have not changed their position. The reasons for this position are as follows:

1. Faculty members do not feel that there was an opportunity for input regarding the decision to work with Academic Partners. We received information regarding the selected programs and the services Academic Partners offers after the decision was made.

2. Faculty members have major concerns regarding the effect that marketing only certain programs will have on our other graduate programs and our resources. These graduate programs would be at a distinct disadvantage in attracting students, given the tuition discount that would be offered to the Academic Partners programs. Additionally, there are concerns about the allocation of future faculty lines if such an enrollment imbalance occurs.

3. Faculty members have concerns about the staffing of courses for the Academic Partners programs. At present we only have two faculty members who can teach in the selected Curriculum and Instruction Master’s. Should enrollment take off as promised, who would staff the rest of the courses? Will we eventually be put in a situation where we will have to hire Academic Partners faculty in order to staff a class or will we simply be given part-time lecturer lines as opposed to tenure-track positions?

4. Faculty members feel that working with Academic Partners could create unnecessary tension between EMU and the public school teachers in our community because of the company’s past history.

5. Finally, there are considerable concerns about the privatization of the marketing plan for our programs as well as concerns about an online model of education which may ultimately disadvantage the very populations which we serve.

We are very proud of our outstanding graduate programs and would be more than willing to work with you on a marketing plan that better suits our needs and mission.

 

CAS Dean Candidates Interviewing this Week

It’s that crazy time again, the end of not only the term but also of the school year. Just to make matters worse, my department has been thrown into what certainly feels like a new level of crisis because of some significant and last minute changes to the way stuff is done. I’m going to intentionally leave it vague like that for now, but once again, I believe the academically correct term for describing the situation is “clusterfuck.” 

Anyway, to add to all of this, EMU is interviewing finalists for the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). A word about academic pecking orders for those potentially reading this not familiar with these things: the academic part of things at EMU, like most universities, is divided up into colleges (and then there are departments within colleges), and CAS is the largest of the colleges by far. In theory, the Dean works for the Provost and the department heads within CAS would work for (or at least report to) this dean. Needless to say, it’s a significant leadership position.

I’m going to try to go to at least some of these, though we’ll see how it works out. Personally, I only have two questions I’d ask if given the opportunity: first, some variation of a question like “This equivalency mess you’re about to step into: um, how are you going to deal with train wreck coming this Fall?” and, closely related, “Can you explain to me how it is possible to add together a combination of threes and fours and arrive at 12? That is not ALL threes or ALL fours, but a mix of threes and fours– can you explain that math to an English major like me?”

The first candidate (he’s going to be on campus today and presenting to anyone interested at 1:30 pm in 108 Marshall Hall) is Roy Barnes. He’s an associate dean at the University of Michigan-Flint. He’s a sociologist, though he seems kind of like more of a business scholar/academic in the sense that his scholarship is about how corporate boards operate. I’m not sure I get that. Anyway, as far as I can tell from looking at his CV (all the candidate CVs are here, though it looks like you have to have the right EMU credentials to see these documents), Barnes has been at UM Flint since grad school and he’s been one version or another of administrator since 2002.

The second candidate is Charlene Gilbert and she’ll be doing her public presentation on Tuesday, April 11,  at 4:00 pm (again in 108 Marshall). I won’t be able to go to her presentation because of something else I have scheduled and that disappoints me because she strikes me as the interesting wildcard in this pool. Gilbert is the “Dean and Director” of Ohio State University at Lima (which I guess means she’s completely in charge of what is a satellite campus of THE Ohio State University), but she’s only been in that job since 2014. Prior to that, she was chair of women’s/gender studies at the University of Toledo (and if that department is anything like EMU’s women’s studies department, it means she was chair for a very small group of faculty). Prior to that, she did some other administrative work at Toledo along with being a professor there; prior to that, she was faculty at American University in DC and SUNY-Buffalo. The “wild card” part of things for me though is she is a documentary filmmaker whose terminal degree is an MFA in filmmaking.  Don’t get me wrong– her CV notes excellent achievements as a documentarian and she’s an impressive speaker and presence on various YouTube videos (here’s one link, but do a search for her and you’ll see more). I’m just not sure she has the administrative experience or academic background to make the jump to being dean of CAS.

The third candidate (she’ll be doing her public presentation thing on Wednesday at 1:30 in 108 Marshall) is Vandana Kohi. She’s also trained as a sociologist, though her PhD from Michigan State describes her field as “demography.” Interestingly enough, her MA and BA both come from universities in India, what I presume is her native country. She’s been one flavor or another of administrator at California State University at Bakersfield since about 2000 or so, and she’s been in an interim Associate VP position since 2015. Also on her CV is work in CSU’s faculty senate and time as the “Faculty Rights Officer, California Faculty Association,” which I think is the union for CSU faculty out there.

The fourth candidate– Thursday at 1:30, 108 Marshall– is Andrae Marak. His PhD is in Latin American Studies (I am not sure, but I think that he sees that work fitting into both Political Science and History) and he’s been some flavor of administrator at Governors State University (he’s the interim dean of CAS there now), Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (never knew there was a Columbus, Indiana before), and also at California University of Pennsylvania. That appears to where he started down the tenure-track in 2004. He’s probably the most “academic” of the lot in terms of publications and presentations and the like– though all of the candidates have impressive things on their CVs in that sense.

So we’ll see how this works out. I don’t know what it says that there are no internal candidates here (did no one here who could have applied wanted it? was no one here really viable? was the committee determined to bring in someone with a fresh view?), but I do think the head-hunting firm and committee has an interestingly diverse pool in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and scholarly backgrounds. This is my own bias, but I’m kinda glad that all of these folks seem to lean more toward the “arts” than the “sciences” of things– though sociology is sort of in-between of course.  All I know is whoever takes this job is in for a very VERY bumpy ride, probably for at least a year.

Rhonda Longworth Named Provost

Well, “EMU names Rhonda Longworth new provost,” though a more accurate headline to that Detroit News article might be something along the lines of “Longworth continues as provost” since she’s been in the interim role for over a year now. A few weeks ago, I blogged about the four finalists coming to campus. Here’s what I wrote about Longworth then:

It was probably inevitable that Longworth would be in the mix since she’s been in the interim position for a while now– not to mention the fact she’s had other administrative positions in Welch Hall in recent years. I don’t know what her chances are of getting the job, but quite frankly, I hope the committee and the president give one of these other folks a chance. I don’t really know Rhonda as a person that well, but I’ve always had pleasant small-talk exchanges with her, so this is nothing personal from my point of view. But for better or worse, she’s been the point person on both this equivalency mess and the controversial “Academic Partners” agreement. So if she gets the job, then I think it means that the powers that be must think that everything at EMU is just hunky-dory– a “stay the course” hire, if you will. And to be honest, I think that would send a pretty bad signal.

So now I guess we’ll have to see how this works out and if anything changes now that Longworth gets to cross “interim” off of her business card. I’m not optimistic.

As I understand it, the “Academic Partners” thing is the subject of a grievance the EMU-AAUP is pursuing right now. But for me, the more pressing issue is the equivalency mess. I had a tiny bit of hope a new provost would take a look at what Longworth and former EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller wrought and put the brakes on implementing this in the fall. Now it’s probably going to be full speed ahead. And it’s not going to at all pretty– at least not in my department.

First, you can’t add threes and fours together and get to twelve: that is, 3+3+3+3 = 12, 4+4+4 = 12, but 3+4+3 or whatever combination of threes and fours ≠ 12. Go figure that a bunch of English professors have noticed this mathematic fact but the business and science people who were at the table to craft this equivalency deal didn’t figured this out. Further complicating the issue is faculty cannot be scheduled for more than twelve credits in a semester because that would mean that person would be teaching an overload, which means additional pay (and of course EMU doesn’t want to do that).

Anyway, what this means in our department is we are inevitably going to have a fair number of faculty scheduled for 10 or 11 hours because there are courses that are going to be worth three and courses that are going to be worth four. In my mind, that means that anyone who is schedule to teach 12 (with the approved equivalencies), has a grievable complaint against the department head for every faculty member scheduled to teach less than 12 simply because it’s not a fair and balanced teaching load across all faculty. In my department, I think this could result in hundreds of grievances.

The other problem that’s emerging (at least in our department) has to do with reassigned time to do quasi-administrative work. English is a large department and there’s really no way that one official administrator– our department head– can do all the various administrative things that need to be done. So what we do is grant release time to some faculty to be program coordinators to take on some of this quasi-administrative work. I’ve done this before and I was getting ready to do this again for the Written Communication program. The work involves a lot of recruiting and advising (particularly with graduate students), more meetings, more paperwork, more responsibility, etc. What this has meant is program coordinators teach two instead of three courses a semester. I’m pretty sure there are similar arrangements in other departments at EMU, particularly larger departments.

Well, based on the way things are moving right now, this arrangement is potentially going to go away: that is, because of the ways these equivalencies might or might not be applied, the reassigned time of being a program coordinator might not be enough to continue what has been the practice for decades in our department. Given that there is no contractual obligation for faculty to step up to be program coordinators (this is an internal arrangement in departments), reducing the release time dramatically reduces the reasons why anyone would volunteer to be the program coordinator. In theory, all of the quasi-administrative work being done by the coordinators– and there are I think eight faculty in my department who are coordinators right now– I assume would fall on the desk of the department head.

Oh, and let’s not forget the first year writing program. There’s a director of that program who is on a half-time release from teaching and an associate director (that’s me right now) on a third-time release from teaching to do all of the things that need to be done to run a large first year writing program. Depending on how this plays out, that’s all in jeopardy right now.

So yeah, Longworth being named Provost– while perhaps inevitable– doesn’t exactly make me optimistic that this equivalency mess is going to be solved anytime soon.