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U. of Oregon, Faculty Reach Union Contract Deal

September 20, 2013

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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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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