faculty

Details on Strike-Ending Deal With Faculty Union

New details have emerged about the strike-ending tentative agreement reached between the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the faculty union for 14 state university campuses, and the State System of Higher Education, PennLive reported. The three-year deal includes raises each year, among other changes. Current professors will get a step increase retroactive to last spring, at 2.5 percent or more for senior faculty (or cash payment for those at the top step of the pay scale), and 5 percent for junior faculty, according to PennLive. All faculty members also get a general pay increase of 2.75 percent retroactive to the beginning of this semester. Next year, the pay increase would be 2 percent. Current base salary for full-time faculty is $46,609 to $112,239. Part-timers get a minimum of $5,838 per three-credit course.

Full-time faculty members will see their health care contributions increase to 18 percent of the premium from 15 percent if they participate in the Healthy U wellness program. Contributions for nonparticipants in the wellness plan are 28 percent of the premium, up from 25 percent. Drug and office visit co-payments will increase, but health care benefits for faculty retirees not yet eligible for Medicare will be preserved. Full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members must also now be notified by May 31 if they’ll be renewed the following year, and adjuncts won’t see their workload increased by 25 percent or their pay cut by 20 percent.

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Political Science Group's Report Examines Inequality

Political science has faced criticism as a discipline for not paying enough attention to the causes and consequences of inequality, beyond rising income inequality and its effect on political representation. A major new report from the American Political Science Association, under the direction of Rodney Hero, association president and professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, begins to address some of those concerns.

The Double Bind: The Politics of Racial and Class Inequalities in the Americas” examines the how race and class shape inequalities throughout the Americas and how countries respond to them, for better or worse. A major finding is that racial and ethnic minorities struggle to translate their demographic potential and political activity into meaningful socioeconomic gains due to low socioeconomic status, along with political party incentives. That’s true even in countries where minorities make up a large proportion of the active voters, according to the report.

“The report provides us with an excellent framework for thinking critically about the ways in which the racial and economic inequalities that we currently see in the Americas are the legacies of settler colonialism, slavery and the exclusionary politics that shaped the development of the entire region,” said Alvin J. Tillery Jr., associate professor of political science at Northwestern University and co-chair of the report task force, said in a statement. “It also shows that governments can develop policies to begin to ameliorate these inequalities under the right mix of conditions.” Report chapters include “Race, Partisanship and the Rise of Income Inequality in the United States” and “Learning From Ferguson: Welfare, Criminal Justice and the Political Science of Race and Class,” as well as several on Latin America and Canada.

Concern on Writing Instructor Jobs at Ohio State U

Faculty members in English at Ohio State University say 18 non-tenure-track lecturer jobs have been saved, at least for this year. The university maintains that their jobs were never at risk. Faculty members said earlier this week that Ohio State had been struggling to come up with approximately $500,000 to fulfill the 18 contracts for first-year writing instructors, which extend through summer. They organized against midyear cuts on social media and in a stock letter to Bruce McPheron, provost. Some traced the funding issue to the university’s conversion from quarters to semesters, but were unsure why it became an urgent problem now, several years after the change and well into the academic year.

Faculty members said they were told Monday that their contracts would be honored, but the university said it was always its intention to fulfill them and attributed concerns to miscommunication. Benjamin Johnson, university spokesman, said via email that Ohio State "values the role that our lecturers and other associated faculty play in supporting and furthering our overall educational mission" and that the College of Arts and Sciences "will be working with the Department of English to address these budget challenges. We acknowledge the concerns expressed regarding the associated [faculty] and regret any confusion."

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Teaching controversial topics in the age of microaggressions, trigger warnings and tweeting (essay)

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How can professors best introduce provocative material in the classroom in an age of trigger warnings, microaggressions and tweeting? Michael Bugeja tackles the issue.

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How to shine in job interviews (essay)

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Saundra Loffredo offers a four-step process to help you answer those challenging interview questions that require you to draw on previous experiences.

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Maine Prof Killed on Research Trip to Antarctica

Gordon Hamilton (at right), a University of Maine professor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences, died Saturday in a field accident while conducting National Science Foundation-supported research in Antarctica. He was 50. A university statement said that Hamilton was working on White Island in the Ross Archipelago, where he had conducted research for several seasons, when the snowmobile he was riding hit a crevasse. The NSF reported that he was killed in a 100-foot fall.

Kelly K. Falkner, director of the Division of Polar Programs at the NSF, issued a statement on Facebook that said in part, "The U.S. Antarctic Program is a close-knit corps of researchers and support personnel who carry out the nation’s program of research in Antarctica, working at the frontiers of human knowledge, but also at the physical frontiers of human experience. The death of one of our colleagues is a tragic reminder of the risks we all face -- no matter how hard we work at mitigating those risks -- in field research."

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Pennsylvania Faculty Strike Is Over

After three days, a faculty strike at 14 campuses in Pennsylvania is over. The State System of Higher Education and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties have reached tentative agreement on a new contract, the system announced.

Members of the faculty union had been working on an expired contract since June 2015.

The new contract will last until June 2018. More details about the contract have not yet been released. The system announcement said that the deal includes raises for faculty members and "important health care cost savings." Prior to the strike, union officials said the pay increases were too small, especially those for adjuncts, and that the health insurance changes would be too harmful to faculty members.

The faculty made some concessions in their health coverage, said union president Kenneth Mash, but "we were willing to do it for the quality of our students' education."

The two sides came to an agreement at around 4 p.m. Eastern Friday, although negotiators from both sides did not directly communicate with each other, said Kenn Marshall, media relations manager for the university system. Instead, they bargained through intermediaries, including Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. "I don't think this deal would have happened if it weren't for Governor Wolf," Mash said.

Further details will only be released after final approval of the deal.

The union issued a statement that said in part, "To preserve quality education, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties accepted concessions to salary and benefits in exchange for eliminating most of the 249 changes the state system proposed in June. Also for the sake of students, APSCUF agreed to a salary package that was significantly lower than that of the other unions. APSCUF will release details about concessions and rescinded items in a future statement."

"We are tremendously happy for our students," Marshall said. "Come Monday, bright and early, students will be able to return to their classes."

The photo above shows pickets this week at West Chester University.

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Layoffs at Wright State, U Minnesota at Duluth

Wright State University has announced the elimination of 23 positions, including those of six faculty members, The Dayton Daily News reported. The faculty members are instructors on one-year contracts. The university has been making budget cuts to deal with sharp declines in its reserve fund, which dropped from $100 million in 2012 to $13 million as of June 30, and is expected to be depleted by the end of the year.

Also last week, the University of Minnesota at Duluth announced 40 layoffs -- all of non-tenure-track faculty members, The Duluth News-Tribune reported. Declining enrollment has led to budget shortfalls necessitating the layoffs, officials said.

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University of Maine sets off firestorm with graduate center and mergers

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Many professors say programs are being combined without enough attention to academic issues and the faculty role.

Professors Criticize Gen Ed Changes at Concord U

Faculty members at Concord University, in West Virginia, voted no confidence in Vice President Peter Viscusi Thursday, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Professors are angry about the way general-education requirements were substantially reduced. They say that the administration tried to make the changes without any faculty review, and that when the faculty were permitted to review proposed changes, professors' views were ignored. The university's board chair said the board backs the administration.

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