Monday, January 25, 2010

Non-Economic Articles

We met with the UO on Thursday to receive their counter-proposals on our non-economic articles. While the UO wasn't exactly leaping to accept our language, the session went pretty well. At this point, the team is relieved that it looks like we can get good agreements on all the non-economic articles.

Here's the run down on the big ticket items:

Article 9 - We proposed that departments have "Specific, objective, and quantifiable" requirements for maintaining satisfactory academic progress, instead of the "general" requirements that the contract now requires.

The UO accepted the word "specific," but balked at "objective" and "quantifiable."

Our main difference seems to be over what these words mean. We have offered grade point average or passing exams by a certain time as perfectly objective measures of progress. The UO fears that someone might interpret grades or failure to pass exams as "subjective" because there is judgment involved. Moreover, the UO seems to want to reserve to the departments the right to have subjective criteria, but they couldn't think of any that would be acceptable to them, as they had already agreed that no decisions about academic progress should be "arbitrary."

In a different section of Article 9, we proposed that all departments would have to have a policy regarding the maximum number of students who could be assigned to teaching GTFs.

The UO rejected our proposal.

Their main objection seemed to stem from the idea that GTF time is already governed by the hours limits of Article 21. They seemed to believe that any GTF who was assigned too many students could report this to the department and have their teaching/grading burden reduced. We're not exactly sure what they were driving at, because we pretty strongly rejected the notion that it was easy for GTFs to approach their departments with hours complaints. Moreover, we pointed out to the UO that departments might be, one day, theoretically tempted to assign a very high number of students to a GTF with the assumption that the GTF would over-work their hours in an attempt to actually do a good job (I know, would never happen right?) and this language would help avoid such a situation.

The UO then fell back on the argument that departments needed flexibility to go over the limit (that they set) should an emergency or unforeseeable circumstance should arise. Given that the department sets the limit, they could set it higher than they really need to deal with such a situation, or the UO could propose "emergency circumstances" language. We feel like we can make progress on this idea.

Article 10: We had proposed language that would make the UO assign GTF help to GTFs who work as instructors of record the same way that GTF help is assigned to other faculty.

The UO rejected the idea on the grounds that full professors have so many difference factors that determine what they teach and how much support they get that they are just not comparable to GTFs.

The bargaining team will take this into consideration and take another look at the language.

Article 17: We proposed that grad students who apply for GTF positions, but don't get them, would be able to request as statement as to the reasons why they were not hired and their rank in the applicant pool (departments are required to rank all applicants based on their written criteria and give out GTF appointments based on these rankings).

The UO rejected the idea. They offered two reasons: One, this just isn't done at the UO. Second, it might be possible that telling a GTF their ranking in the applicant pool might, theoretically, reveal someone else's ranking and therefore violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974.

The FERPA argument is interesting and complicated. We didn't pursue it much at the bargaining table during the session, if only because arguments about FERPA can take everyone down a long, twisty road that is not terribly productive. Plus, this argument seemed to come from UO attorney Doug Park and we were not convinced that the rest of his team necessarily agreed with him, so the conversation about FERPA could have been long, twisty, unproductive, and meaningless.

We offered what I thought was a strong rebuttal in that grads who apply for GTF positions and don't get them often have no idea if they are anywhere close to possibly getting one next term, next year, or not at all. Because GTFs are the UO's main source of funding for grad students, we feel it is particularly important that they have as much information as possible to decide their future. Applicants to graduate school might not want to come here if they know they have little hope of receiving funding.

That's basically it. We had some small quibbles over minor issues, but these were the substantive disagreements. And not that bad of disagreements at that.


Steve McAllister (Biology) said...

Hi Dave!
This is more of a request than a comment; I attended what I could of the last bargaining session, but didn't have a clue what was being discussed because I didn't have a draft of the contract for reference. Where can I get one? Is it possible to have a few copies printed out for spectators to use/share? Thanks!

dave3544 said...

Good question, Steve.

When we propose articles, we bring extra copies for the audience. The UO is under no such obligation.

I will bring copies of Articles 21, 22, and 23 next time, although the economics should be easier to understand.

Any suggestions on how we can better communicate and/or make what is going on clear to the audience would be appreciated.

You can always access the CBA at: