Bentley University’s adjunct faculty union reached a tentative contract agreement with the institution just three days before a planned protest over stalled negotiations. The four-year deal includes increases in per-class pay, more consistency in teaching assignments from semester to semester, a professional development fund and assurances of academic freedom. The contract describes an additional process for reporting workplace conflicts and violations.
“We are pleased to have this settled so we can all move forward,” the university said in a statement. Bentley adjuncts are affiliated with Service Employees International Union and had been planning a protest for Monday to coincide with the 40th anniversary celebration of the university's Center for Business Ethics. Campus adjuncts voted to form a union in early 2015 and said negotiations were taking too long.
“Negotiations like these are never easy, but both faculty and the administration remained committed to the process,” said Summar Sparks, a bargaining team leader and adjunct professor in expository writing, said in a separate statement. “After Friday’s marathon mediation session, I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement that we can bring back to our colleagues for a vote.”
A faculty report about the climate at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley describes a pervasive “culture of fear” exacerbated by poor campus communication, according to The Monitor. The 23-page report, produced by the campus Faculty Senate, outlines the enduring difficulties of merging Texas’s former Pan-American and Brownsville campuses, including a “number of major issues that interfered with the ability of faculty and staff to perform their responsibilities efficiently.” Rio Grande Valley enrolled its first students in fall 2015.
Among concerns raised are a lack of administrative communication with faculty, staff and students, compensation, and impeded efficiency. “I’m not aware of any culture of fear,” President Guy Bailey told The Monitor,attributing faculty worries to the ongoing transition from two institutions to one.
“The first semester was fraught with significant glitches such as payroll errors, flawed advising processes and commencement exercises that were lacking in both pomp and circumstance,” reads the report, which also alleges that department chairs have in some cases suppressed discussion of potentially contentious subjects. “The second semester was smoother on the surface; however, major issues continued to permeate the campuses, which need to be addressed if [Rio Grande Valley] is to flourish and succeed.”
Students may no longer apply to the Master’s International program with ties to the Peace Corps on any campus, The Keene Sentinelreported. The corps reportedly has outgrown its goals for the program and will be retiring it. Master’s International was created to pair graduate students “holding advanced sector-specific training and skills with relevant Peace Corps volunteer opportunities,” Emily Webb, corps spokesperson, told the Sentinel. Now, however, she said, the corps is attracting “remarkable numbers of highly qualified [applicants] and has created in-country trainings for volunteers that are far more robust and focused than they were in 1987,” when Master’s International began.
The corps has partnered with more than 90 U.S. academic institutions as part of the program, allowing students to pair their master’s degrees with relevant service. The program’s end won’t affect currently enrolled students or those who enroll by September.
It remains unclear whether a majority of non-tenure-track faculty members at Northwestern University this week voted to unionize with the Service Employees International Union, The Chicago Tribune reported. A preliminary count found 210 votes in favor of unionization and 146 against, but another 134 votes were challenged. The National Labor Relations Board will now determine whether a hearing is needed on the contested ballots.
Columbia U announces major pay increases for graduate student workers ahead of a major NLRB decision on their union eligibility. The would-be union is happy but says collective bargaining is still the way forward.