U. of Oregon, Faculty Reach Union Contract Deal

The University of Oregon’s new faculty union reached its first contract agreement with the institution this week, following 10 months of negotiations.

In addition to an average salary increase of nearly 12 percent spanning the 2-year agreement and the creation of a salary floor for adjuncts, union members said the contract protects both academic freedom and freedom of speech. The union and the administration had clashed over language concerning such protections in negotiations, with the administration wanting to address each protection in separate clauses and include expectations of “civility.” Faculty involved in negotiations said divorcing academic freedom from freedom of speech could leave faculty who spoke out against the university vulnerable to potential punitive action. They also objected to the civility expectation.

The final contract’s statement on speech protections does address free speech and academic freedom separately, but explicitly grants faculty the right to engage in internal criticism -- something an earlier university counterproposal did not. It does not include expectations of civility.

Deborah Olson, a full-time adjunct instructor of special education who served on the bargaining committee for United Academics, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, said administrators “moved considerably on those positions from their first proposal, so for the first time at the table we’re very happy.”

Tim Gleason, dean of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication and a member of the institutional bargaining team, said it never tried to limit academic freedom for faculty, and that language in earlier proposals reflected the university’s attempts to protect both robustly. “That’s what we do at Oregon,” he said.

Bill Harbaugh, a professor economics who blogged from negotiations from a faculty perspective, said he felt the final agreement didn’t go far enough. Language proposed last year by the Faculty Senate, which is still being reviewed by senate leaders and administrators and expressly guarantees faculty’s right to engage in internal criticism “without fear of institutional discipline or restraint,” would have been better, he said.

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Penn State backs down on health insurance requirements that set off faculty revolt

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Amid faculty uproar, university abandons requirement that those who don't comply with annual health testing -- and complete a detailed health profile -- pay $100 a month.

Tufts Bans Professor From Research on Human Subjects

Tufts University has found one of its professors guilty of ethics violations during a study of vitamin-enriched rice in China, National Public Radio reported.

In a report released Tuesday, Tufts says that Guangwan Tang, associate professor of nutrition science and policy, failed to comply fully with federal regulations for research in human subjects in her study of so-called “golden rice.”

The rice, which contains high amounts of Vitamin A, is designed to treat malnutrition. But Chinese activists last year accused Tang and her Chinese partners of failing to notify parents of children involved in the study that the rice also was genetically modified. Nature reported that Chinese journalists said the information had been withheld from parents purposely because some involved in the project felt it was “too sensitive.”

Tufts says Tang will be banned from research involving human subjects for two years, followed by a two-year probation in which all human research must be overseen by a colleague.

Tang did not respond to a request for comment.

In an e-mail, a Tufts spokeswoman said that although Tang’s positive results regarding the effectiveness of golden rice in addressing malnutrition were still valid, “[w]e regret that deviations from certain approved protocols and standards occurred. Tufts has strengthened our policies and procedures to prevent recurrence of such problems, and we remain committed to conducting research of the highest quality, with rigorous oversight.”

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AAU Protests Efforts to Cut Federal Funds for Social Science

As Congress debates over a stopgap spending measure to keep the government open past October 1, the group representing America’s elite research universities on Tuesday issued a statement protesting efforts by Congress impose restrictions on or ban federal funding for social and behavioral science research.

The Association of American Universities said called those efforts “disturbing” and “inappropriate,” arguing that they would “relegate such research to second-class status in federal research funding.”

Congress in March approved a ban on the use of National Science Foundation funds for political science research. Proponents of the measure, which was sponsored by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican, argued that federal dollars should flow only to research projects that involve the physical or biological sciences or technology fields. A House subcommittee earlier this year approved a measure barring economic health research at the National Institutes of Health, but it was not included in this year’s legislation to fund the government.

“Even in the context of federal budget constraints, we believe that actions by Congress to de-fund or stigmatize entire disciplines of research would severely cripple, in principle and practice, the federal government’s historically productive commitment to the funding of basic research across all disciplines,” the statement said. It also said that social and behavioral science research was important to addressing the nation’s challenges in a variety of areas such as national security, public safety and transportation. 

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Quick (1-sentence) tips for success as a faculty member

Advice can be pithy. Kevin Brown offers guidance for new faculty members trying to make their way in higher education.

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A Plan to Honor Howard Zinn at Purdue University

This summer, the Associated Press revealed that Mitch Daniels, while governor of Indiana, tried to discourage the use of the books of the late Howard Zinn, a leftist historian, in the state. In a new effort to defend Zinn's legacy, scholars have announced plans for a "read in" of Zinn's work, to take place at Purdue University, where Daniels is now the president. Efforts are under way to organize readings at other colleges and universities in the state that day to give Zinn's work more visibility. The events will take place on November 5, the 158th anniversary of the birth, in Indiana, of Eugene Debs, the socialist leader.

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Colleges start new programs

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$100,000 Gift Offer Has Unusual Condition Attached

Madison Area Technical College is turning down an offer of a $100,000 gift because of a condition attached to it, The Capital Times reported. David Peterson, a long-time instructor, pledged the money if the college would change the name of the Bettsey L. Barhorst Welcome Center by removing the name of Barhorst, former president of the college. To drive home the point, Peterson said he would turn over the funds specifically for the lettering currently used in the welcome center. Peterson explained his rationale to the newspaper. He said he was offended by the "decadent display of self-promotion." A welcome center, he said, should be "functional, not personal." College officials say, however, that the welcome center wasn't just named to honor the former president, but because she and her husband made a donation. Having accepted funds and agreed to name the center, officials said, they can't remove the name.


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Faculty Leaders Decry Tactics of Anti-Petraeus Protests

The hiring of David H. Petraeus, the former military leader and ex-director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to teach at the honors college of the City University of New York this year angered many faculty members when word leaked that he would be paid $200,000 for a single course. In response Petraeus agreed to teach the course for only $1.

But the University Faculty Senate is now defending the right of Petraeus to teach, and to walk to his class, following protests in which his critics shouted at him repeatedly, calling him a war criminal and vowing to follow him to every class session. A statement released by the Executive Committee of the body said: "Because they disagree with Professor Petraeus' views, these demonstrators intend to deprive him of his ability to teach and the ability of his students to learn from him.... Professor Petraeus, and all members of CUNY's instructional staff, have the right to teach without interference. Members of the university community must have the opportunity to express alternate views, but in a manner that does not violate academic freedom."

Here is video of the protests Petraeus has faced:




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Purdue Calumet Rescinds Layoffs of 7 Faculty Members

Purdue University's regional Calumet campus has rescinded layoffs ordered for seven faculty members, The Journal & Courier reported. Administrators had said that enrollment declines necessitated the layoffs, but now officials say that more encouraging enrollment projects mean that there is no longer the need to eliminate positions.



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