Graduate assistants at the University of Connecticut, who have organized in affiliation with the United Auto Workers, won union recognition last week from the State Board of Labor Relations. The board verified that a super majority of graduate employees signed cards authorizing the Graduate Employee Union, or GEU-UAW, to represent them in collective bargaining. The unit is made up of 2,135 students, and bargaining will focus on work place issues, not academic ones. Stephanie Reitz, a university spokeswoman, said via email: “The university has been, and will continue to be, neutral with regard to this effort. Individual graduate students are free to make their own decisions.”
A former assistant professor of medicine and anatomy and cell biology at Wayne State University is accusing the university of fraudulently obtaining more than $169 million in federal grant dollars in a whistleblower lawsuit, the Detroit Free Press reported. Christian Kreipke says the university falsely reported research costs, such as grossly exaggerating the cost of lab rats ($235,000 for 300) or lab technicians' salaries. Kreipke says he reported the alleged fraud, and was later fired in retaliation for being a whistleblower. He filed the complaint in 2012 and it only recently was unsealed in a U.S. District Court.
Wayne State has not been charged with any crime, although federal investigators are familiar with the case and in court documents have expressed an interest in following the lawsuit, according to the report. In a statement, Wayne State officials said: "“The author of the litigation — an individual who was terminated from his employment for research-related misconduct — has attempted to challenge his termination multiple times using several approaches. Without exception, every such attempt has failed decisively. Should Wayne State be served with this latest claim, we will defend aggressively, and we are confident that it will result in dismissal, as have all of his earlier attempts.”
Rudy Fichtenbaum, professor of economics at Wright State University, will remain president of the American Association of University Professors for a second term, the organization announced Thursday, along with the other winners of its recent election. Fichtenbaum defeated Jane Buck, a past president of the AAUP, 2,114 to 1,964. The other top three officers also are incumbents. Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of history at the University of California at East Bay, will stay on as first vice president, while Susan Michalczyk, professor in the Honors Program at Boston College, remains second vice-president. Michele Ganon, professor of accounting at Western Connecticut State University, is treasurer.
All four candidates ran on a platform called “Organizing for Change,” advocating for collective bargaining for faculty where possible and building strong advocacy chapters elsewhere. A full list of vote tallies, opponents and other elections results is available here.
Via email, Fichtenbaum said that today the need for a “bigger and stronger AAUP is greater than at any time since the founding of the AAUP nearly 100 years ago. The corporate attack on public higher education has led to dramatic declines in state support for higher education and ballooning student debt, particularly for working class students and students of color. The values and principles of academic freedom, shared governance and economic security for all of the members of our profession are foundational, because they enable us to fight back against the corporate agenda and ensure that higher education serves the common good.”
Fichtenbaum added: “It is gratifying that our entire slate was reelected and I think it shows our members believe the changes we are making will help strengthen the AAUP.”
The University of Illinois at Chicago has agreed to a tentative contract with the United Faculty Union, whose members went on a two-day strike in February seeking what they called a living wage for full-time, non-tenure-track professors and better pay for tenure-line faculty, among other goals. The union, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, announced the agreement Wednesday but said details are embargoed through the end of next week, when members put it to a vote. In a news release, the union said "[m]any aspects of faculty work life and professional conditions are dramatically improved under the new agreement," and that it "averted" the possibility of a second strike planned for April 23.
University Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and Provost Lon Kaufman said in a joint statement: "We are pleased that the university and the union representing bargaining units for tenure-system and non-tenure-system faculty have reached tentative agreement on final contracts. Both sides in this long process have been focused on the teaching, research and service missions of the university, and this agreement will allow us to move forward together to serve the city and the state and, most of all, our students." The statement noted that the agreement is tentative is "subject to ratification and approval by both sides."
Ball State University is planning to toughen post-tenure review to weed out "chronic low performers" on the faculty, The Star Press reported. Under the plan, faculty members whose performance is unsatisfactory two years in a row or three years out of five will be given a year to improve or to face termination. Ball State officials said that only a very small share of faculty members fit this category, but that failing to deal with them creates extra work for other professors. Dave Pearson, chair of the University Senate, said, “It’s a very, very small problem, but it can cause real problems in small departments.... I think the faculty have bought into this."
Inside Higher Ed is today releasing a free compilation of articles and essays -- in print-on-demand format -- about the flipped classroom. The articles and essays reflect key discussions about pedagogy, technology and the role of faculty members. Download the booklet here.
On Thursday May 8, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman will conduct a free webinar to talk about the issues raised in the booklet's articles. To register for the webinar, please click here.