Tuesday, May 18, 2010

FRPE open letter to VP Carol Carrier

Over 200 people have signed our open letter to VP Carol Carrier! The text of the letter is below. You can sign here:



Dear Vice President Carrier:

We write as concerned members of the faculty, including P&A colleagues, to voice our objections to the proposed policy, "Modifying Appointments of Academic Professional and Administrative Employees for Financial Stringency."

It is commendable that the most egregious provision in the proposed policy has now been eliminated, namely, item 4, which declared that the University administration may "take other actions...in [sic!] its sole discretion." We are also pleased to learn that item 3, "postpone compensation," will be changed to "postpone compensation increases" (according to the minutes of the April 27 meeting of the Faculty Affairs Committee and of the April 29 meeting of the Faculty Consultative Committee). However, in our view the policy still requires substantial modification.

We are told that this policy is being proposed in order to enable the administration to implement, for P&A employees, the 1.15% temporary pay cut that was approved by the Faculty Senate at its March 25 meeting. But if that were so, the policy need not be written so broadly as it is. Even with the changes made thus far, the proposed policy authorizes the administration to cut the pay of all P&A employees at any time, forever into the future, without permitting the affected employees any means to challenge the decision. If the letters of appointment for P&A employees are considered to be contracts, this policy effectively declares, "Your employer may violate your contract in these ways, whenever it pleases, and you have no right of appeal, nor have you any right to expect that your employer will honor the terms under which it hired you."

P&A employees are granted no vote under this policy, as faculty are under Section 4.5 of the tenure code. At the March 25 Senate meeting, P&A members of the Faculty Senate were enfranchised specifically so that they could participate in voting on the temporary pay cut proposed by the administration under Section 4.5. The proposed policy, however, would rescind even the right granted them on that occasion to assent to their pay being cut, by establishing a policy separate from Section 4.5 to cover P&A employees.

Meanwhile, the policy lacks any requirement that the University administration justify a decision to cut P&A compensation. Whenever financial stringency makes it difficult to, say, make payments on stadium maintenance, or fund some new strategic initiative that is carried on outside the control of academic units, the administration may try to make ends meet by squeezing a few dollars out of the low wages paid to contingent faculty and other P&A employees for their essential work carrying out the University's mission. No one, with the possible exception of the Board of Regents, is empowered to challenge the administration's declaration of financial stringency, or to insist that the University's obligation to pay its employees the compensation they were promised takes priority over all discretionary expenditures.

While we acknowledge that the administration may need the flexibility to impose temporary pay cuts on P&A employees, as well as other employee groups, in order to address what it calls "budget challenges," the proposed policy violates the norms of employment relations and the principles the University purports to uphold. The administration says that it values consultation with employees. If this is true, then it should adopt a policy under which it is required not only to consult with P&A employees prior to reducing their compensation, but to provide a clear justification for implementing such a reduction, and to demonstrate that all other reasonable economies are already being implemented to reduce the University's expenditures.

We therefore recommend that the policy be rewritten to require the administration to a) bring any proposal to reduce the pay or modify the appointments of P&A employees to the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators for a vote, b) justify any such proposal by demonstrating that all other expenditures have already been reduced as far as may be done without impairment to the University's academic mission. Such revisions would provide some assurance that budgetary problems will not be solved by forcing the employees who are the most under-compensated, and who work under the most precarious terms, to bear the burden of addressing the University's financial difficulties.

The proposed policy deservedly attracted an extraordinary amount of criticism in its draft form, with the result that some improvements have been made. The policy requires further revision to bring it into accord with fair labor practices. We urge the administration to redraft the policy accordingly, to present the University community with the revised policy, and to provide a fresh public comment period before putting it into effect.

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