Research and instructional faculty at the University of Oregon have officially launched a campaign to form their own union in order to restore the university's educational and research priorities. On Jan. 24, faculty members, research associates and post-doctoral scholars gathered at the Schnitzer Museum of Art to sign union cards indicating their support for United Academics University of Oregon, AAUP/AFT, the organization they have created to pursue collective bargaining.
"Now is the time for all faculty to have a voice in how the university fulfills its mission to serve our students and the people of Oregon," says philosophy professor Scott Pratt. "Collective bargaining will give us that voice."
Spending on instruction has stalled while administrative costs have increased dramatically. With the university growing by 4,000 students in the last five years, and class sizes swelling to the point where students are sitting in aisles and on the floor, faculty are upset with management's inability to improve learning conditions and sustain institutional support for faculty and students. University management has chosen to meet the needs of a growing student body by hiring many faculty into part-time and temporary positions, many of them having just three-month contracts and no health insurance.
"As a non-tenure track instructor, I take my commitment to teach very seriously," says Tina Boscha, an instructor of composition. "I worked on a 'temporary' basis for five years before gaining a nine-month contract, and I have yet to feel a firm commitment from the administration about my longevity at the university. Our union can help me be a better teacher and mentor for students by providing more job security."
Permanent faculty are feeling the squeeze, too. With top-down decisions affecting everything from healthcare benefits to the number of classes they can offer to meet the needs of graduating students, faculty feel they have little say in how the day-to-day operations of the university are handled.
United Academics is working to strengthen the quality of education and research at the university. A central theme of the union campaign is that "teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions." [United Academics news release]
January 26, 2012