In the last issue, we profiled an AAUP chapter—at the University of Akron—that was founded almost eighty years ago. This time, we look at a chapter that is just one year old, founded in 2009 after numerous disagreements with the administration about the faculty’s role in governance and in response to what the faculty perceived as unilateral cuts in benefits.
The chapter has twenty-five members, out of a total of about 175 full and part-time faculty members at Goucher, a small independent liberal arts college in Baltimore. It is a traditional advocacy chapter: it does not engage in collective bargaining but provides a vehicle for faculty to organize and advocate for their rights. Despite its relatively small size, the chapter has been very effective— demonstrating again that even where unionization is not possible, organization is crucial.
What is the biggest concern of faculty at your institution right now?
Compensation. Retirement contributions have been cut, salaries frozen, and health-care costs continue to rise.
What is your chapter’s proudest accomplishment?
We have persuaded the president to reconsider decisions he made on cuts to our TIAA-CREF retirement contributions. The administration has already made restitution of some of the disputed funds.
Best strategy for recruiting new chapter members and leaders?
Show them what you have accomplished and are doing. No one wants to belong to a dormant organization.
Most divisive issue within the chapter?
Rhetoric. Some members favor an aggressive stance, others are put off by this.
Biggest challenge facing higher education now?
The disproportionate number of contingent faculty members.
Worst idea had by the administration or trustees in recent years?
Cutting TIAA-CREF benefits in July and August of 2009 in violation of our contracts.
Best thing done by the administration or trustees in recent years?
Agreeing to give them back.
What one thought or piece of advice would you pass on to other chapters?
Meet regularly. Solicit feedback from faculty to make sure they agree with AAUP chapter actions.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known two years ago?
The administration pays attention to organized faculty!
What projects would you like to undertake if you had more funds?
We’d hire a budget and legal consultant to give another perspective on the administration’s views.
What other elected faculty bodies exist on campus—for example, a faculty senate or faculty council? How does the chapter work with them and how does its work differ?
We have faculty governance— there’s a faculty chair and a member at large. Then we have several committees, some of which (Budget and Planning; Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure; Faculty Affairs) deal with faculty status and compensation. The faculty chair and member at large perceive a mandate to work with the administration and the faculty; the AAUP chapter focuses on faculty compensation, academic freedom, and related matters. We’d like to work with the administration but will not be disconcerted if battling it is necessary.
Information provided by Michelle M. Tokarczyk, chapter president. Would your chapter’s story make a good profile in Academe? Send an e-mail to Gwendolyn Bradley.