13 Oct 2020

UConn-AAUP Opening Statement for Negotiations


Opening Statement for Negotiations

October 6, 2020

As we open the next round of negotiations to improve the working conditions of our faculty and coaches at the University of Connecticut, UConn-AAUP shares the commitment of the National AAUP to address the national crises of inequality, systemic racism and implicit bias within large institutions of higher education. While we acknowledge the University’s past efforts to diversify the faculty ranks and to provide benefits and protections consistently across those ranks, we believe that more work remains to be done to combat inequalities and inequities across the university.

For example, progress in the realization of greater socio-economic equality among all Americans, particularly women and racial and ethnic minorities, has too frequently lagged or even reversed. At UConn, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion reports that racial and ethnic diversity among full-time teaching faculty largely unchanged from 2014 to 2020. In 2014, 21% of full-time teaching faculty at UConn identified as minorities and 22% did so in 2020. Higher education has special obligations to lead the country and the state of Connecticut back onto that path of progress.

We’ve had a preview of what this takes– at Rutgers, in its last contract. The administration committed $40M through 2024 in order to support efforts to hire, mentor and retain faculty from diverse backgrounds. Unfortunately, the process at Rutgers was very contentious, with a strike threatened and posturing afterwards as to who `won’. Together, we have the opportunity to learn from that example.

To remain competitive, UConn should have its own diversity initiative. An option often pursued to increase diversity is a hiring initiative — but retention and cultural change can be equally important, likely more cost effective. We argue for a broad context, to best optimize financial resources and to balance the delicate interplay between diversity and equity, as further expressed, below.

We can establish a holistic process, both for shared goals and productive negotiations. UConn-AAUP has heard from its members this year about interest in increasing diversity, including proposed contractual options, some of it requiring few if any resource commitments from the Board of Trustees. We believe we have a unique opportunity for cooperative change, which will advance our shared desire to make UConn a racially, ethnically and socially more equitable campus.

We also need to make progress in promoting economic security among all of the University’s faculty and coaches.   Recently, new faculty positions have been disproportionately posted in the tenuous non-tenure track positions. Over 50% of the full-time non-tenure track teaching faculty at Storrs are not only not tenured or tenure-track faculty, but they have only annual appointments. While some of these faculty may eventually be offered multi-year appointments, they now face up to six years of annual appointments and must bear the associated professional and personal risk and uncertainty. The instability of annual appointments is a negative for both the institution and the individual. Our best recruitment efforts are dashed by our poor attention to retaining diverse hires on annual appointments. It will be hard to solve diversity issues if we continue to rely on one year appointments.

We also share a desire, with the Board of Trustees and the administration, to maintain and enhance UConn’s position as a leading public research University. Unfortunately, state budget problems over the last decade have taken a toll on mid-career research faculty. While new faculty at the university have generally continued to be hired at competitive salaries for new faculty, pay freezes in half of the twelve years since — in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018– mean that salary growth for the core research faculty has failed to keep up with peer and aspirant institutions. UConn-AAUP is too aware of cases where successful faculty, who the university has invested in for over a decade leave to accept better offers elsewhere; and has heard from many other members how salary compression and inversion saps morale and can undermine diversity efforts. The time-scale for teaching and research excellence is different than it is in many professions. More often than not, losing faculty after a decade or two can be the most costly to an institution: losing faculty in the middle of productive careers certainly fails to re-capture that investment, but it also socializes newer faculty (if they are also productive) to spend more time keeping an eye on the door. It’s no way to run a business, much less a university.

Connecticut is a wealthy and productive state. And it long has been. But perhaps now more than ever, the state’s future economic prosperity depends on a foundation of creativity and technological innovation to drive prosperity. If the administration, the board of trustees, and the state of CT truly want to expand the University’s contributions to this state, the nation, and the planet we all share, it cannot allow the faculty foundation to crumble any further. Re-establishing salary competitiveness throughout the ranks of the existing faculty is essential for the UConn nation to move forward.

Forty-four years ago, the Board of Trustees and UConn-AAUP entered into its first collective bargaining agreement. Ever since then, the parties have come together to improve the working conditions for faculty and coaches. In that time we have built UConn into an international university. With the country in a state of crisis, the parties have a responsibility and an obligation to address these deficiency in our UConn institution through these negotiations.

We are hopeful that these negotiations will continue the traditions of being respectful of each other’s responsibilities, moving forward in good faith towards an agreement, and reaching as many win-win improvements as possible. Where necessary, we will attempt to trade on win-lose items. As always, we are determined to do what is best for the students we are entrusted to educate and the research we are so passionate to pursue. We look forward to forging a new contract with you.