Part-time faculty members at Emerson College’s Los Angeles campus voted 16-0 to form a union affiliated with the American Association of University Professors, they announced Monday. The new bargaining unit has 22 members. Part-time faculty members at the college’s main campus in Boston already are represented by AAUP.
Citing state budget cuts and declining enrollment, officials at Western Illinois University said last week that they plan to eliminate 50 faculty positions, Northern Public Radio reported. Other cuts are planned as well. The faculty union is pledging to study the plans when they are released to be sure they are consistent with contracts.
The College of Saint Rose on Friday announced plans to eliminate the jobs of 23 faculty members -- some of them tenured -- and 27 academic programs. The college announcement said that the changes were needed to "reprioritize academic programs to meet the changing needs of students, increase enrollment and secure the college’s financial future." The college said it would be able, with these cuts, to make investments in other programs without hurting the institution's liberal arts mission.
Many faculty members are speaking out against the cuts, saying that the plan was made without sufficient faculty input and questioning the elimination of the jobs of tenured faculty members. (A Saint Rose spokesperson, asked about eliminating the jobs of tenured faculty members without declaring financial exigency, as is required by the American Association of University Professors, said that the cuts were consistent with provisions in the Faculty Handbook.)
The college said that it was eliminating programs with low enrollments, but faculty critics say liberal arts offerings are being gutted. Among the bachelor's degrees being eliminated are: American studies, economics, geology, philosophy, religious studies, sociology, and women's and gender studies. Petitions are circulating calling for the resignation of Carolyn Stefanco as president. A website called Saint Rose Anonymous features posts from those whose jobs or programs are being eliminated. Students and faculty members have been holding rallies against the cuts they feared would come, and on Friday vowed more protests.
Non-tenure-track faculty members at the University of Chicago voted 96 to 22 to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Wednesday. More than 10,000 faculty members at dozens of colleges and universities have voted to form SEIU-affiliated unions in the past three years, and the Chicago union is one of several to include full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members, in addition to part-time faculty members.
A university spokesman said the university would begin collective bargaining proceedings with the new unit. Eric D. Isaacs, provost at Chicago, said in a statement, “I greatly value the contributions of every member of our community to our shared mission of intellectual engagement, teaching and research, and I thank you for your dedication to our students and to the University of Chicago community.”
A growing number of institutions are seeking to require background checks for employees, but a policy for the California State University System has the faculty asking to put it on hold, according to the Los Angeles Times. The policy for all new hires took effect in August and requires criminal records checks as well as verification of past employment, education and references. Credit checks also could be part of the deal for some candidates. While current employees are generally exempt from the new policy, some who change jobs within the system could be subjected to it, along with student workers and consultants.
In a resolution last month, the systemwide Academic Senate asked Chancellor Timothy P. White to suspend the new policy and establish a task force to examine how background checks are to be used in hiring decisions across the 23 campuses. In light of faculty concerns about privacy and fears that the policy could drive away qualified candidates, administrators have said they'll monitor how the policy is working. But they haven't suspended it. They're also pointing out that the policy already has uncovered one faculty applicant’s past conviction of a lewd conduct involving a minor.
Lori Lamb, vice chancellor for human resources, told the Times, "This is exactly the reason we have this policy. … I would hate to be in my job and have something negative happen to a student or visitor and then learn a person had a conviction for that.” Lamb said the policy was developed over a two-year period with the input of the faculty union, but that they the Academic Senate is invited to participate in the monitoring process. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania court blocked the State System of Higher Education's attempts to begin background checks for all employees as a policy that must go through collective bargaining with the faculty union, pending review by a state labor board. (Note: This story has been corrected from a previous version to note that the background check policy was not put on hold, despite the Academic Senate's request.)