Author: Tony Floriani

17 Jun The Town Hall We Should Have Had | Juneteenth Safe Space

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  • The Town Hall We Should Have Had: Join us at 6pm this Thursday, 6/18, for a union-hosted town hall connecting the workers of our many campus unions together.
  • Juneteenth Safe Space: We will host a Safe Space on Zoom for faculty of color to discuss their personal experiences from 12-2pm, Friday 6/19, in honor of Juneteenth, the day commemorating the historic end of slavery in the US.
  • Bargaining This Week: Our reconstituted bargaining team will meet the administration for renewed impact bargaining on Thursday.

 

The Town Hall We Should Have Had
Many of us who attended the provost’s or chancellor’s town hall meetings over the past few weeks left feeling unsatisfied. That’s why our coalition of campus unions, UIC Unions United, a coalition of UICUF, UIC GEO, SEIU and INA, will be hosting our own Town Hall this week, 6pm, Thursday, 6/18, on Zoom.

Town Hall Zoom Link
Town Hall Facebook Event Page

This Town Hall will be different. We are intentionally prioritizing transparency and interactivity, so that our union members can interact with each other, and union leaders, directly. A representative from each of our unions will briefly introduce themselves, and then yield the floor to questions from any members who wish to ask them. We believe that by foregoing the careful curation we’ve seen from the administration in such meetings, we can communicate with our members in the clearest and most authentic way possible.

Juneteenth Safe Space
As previously mentioned, we will host a Safe Space on Zoom for faculty of color this Friday in honor of Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the historic end of slavery in the US. This safe space will be reserved for people of color to discuss their personal experiences and will be hosted by Mary Anne Mohanraj, Clinical Associate Professor of English and one of our elected UICUF Representatives from LAS/Humanities. We invite faculty of color to drop in any time between 12-2pm this Friday, 6/19:

Safe Space Zoom Link

Bargaining Resumes This Week
We began impact bargaining months ago, almost as soon as the COVID-19 crisis began. Since then, we’ve marked some victories, but many outstanding questions still remain, especially as we shift from emergency response to plotting the course for Fall semester and beyond. We anticipate returning to questions of campus safety, faculty autonomy, workloads and compensation, and intellectual property among other things.

While this meeting will not be open to observers, we will keep you informed as bargaining progresses.

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We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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12 Jun Addressing Police Violence and Our Vision for a Safe Return to Classes

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  • Addressing Police Violence: UICUF has signed in support of our Students’ Demands that UIC divest from aggressive policing and invest in our community. Please join us in supporting this effort by signing as an individual faculty member.
  • UICUF Vision for a Safe Fall: Qualified health experts among UICUF’s membership have crafted a vision for a safe and equitable return to Fall classes that prioritizes combining current health best practices with specific insight from faculty, staff, and students.
  • Upcoming Events: Many important events are coming up next week including the union-sponsored “Town Hall You Should’ve Had,” and union-sponsored Juneteenth activities! See below for details.
  • Bargaining Resumes: We will return to impact bargaining with our newly reconstituted bargaining team on Thursday and will report back on proceedings.

 

Addressing Police Violence in our Communities
While the university has made a statement supporting racial justice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, UICUF has joined our students’ calls for more concrete action. This open letter calls for the university to divest from aggressive policing practices, and to reinvest in supporting and enriching our community, especially through anti-racist education and initiatives. UICUF is committed to standing strongly behind the leadership and expertise of those most affected by this ongoing crisis of police violence: our students and faculty of color. Our Representative Assembly has signed on in support of these demands, and we encourage all faculty to consider signing them as well.

UICUF Presents a Vision for a Safe Return to Classes
Among our membership, we count hundreds of qualified academic experts in a wide variety of fields, including public health and epidemiology. We’ve asked some of these experts from our own ranks to present a vision for what a safe return to classes might look like as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This is the first in a series of planned white papers written on contemporary issues affecting our university and community.

You can download the statement on our website, and we have printed it in its entirety at the end of this email for your convenience.

Upcoming Events
Next week, there are a variety of union-sponsored and union-adjacent events that we highly encourage you to check out if you have time.

 

  • Monday 12-2pm: UIC Social Justice Initiative presents Police, Politics, Power and Race, an online discussion on how the current movement for Black Lives has led to defunding police in certain cities, calls for massive investments and new economic models for community empowerment.
  • Thursday, 6-7pm: UIC Unions United, our coalition of campus unions, will host the Town Hall You Should’ve Had, a space to voice your concerns and hear the concerns of our fellow unions.
  • Friday: Friday is Juneteenth, the date that marks the end of slavery in the United States. In honor of the occasion, UICUF will be hosting a Safe Space for Faculty of Color: UICUF invites faculty of color to come together in a virtual space on Juneteenth to share experiences, support each other, and learn more about how all of us are doing in this difficult time. The space will be hosted & facilitated by a faculty member of color.

 

We’ll send out more details of these events early next week!

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We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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UIC UF Vision for Moving Forward, Fall 2020
Health & Safety Statement
Approved by the UIC United Faculty Executive Board

We are in uncertain times.  There is not one right answer or best strategy for moving forward in all contexts.  Scientific knowledge and understanding of the pandemic virus changes daily, demanding that we keep abreast of the best evidence to inform our judgment and decisions in planning the 2020-2021 academic year. We also must act in accordance with UIC’s own guiding principles and the interests of our community, so we must ask ourselves—Whom does UIC serve?  What are our values?

UICUF values the health and safety of all UIC students, faculty, staff, their families, and their communities, and is committed to ensuring that health and safety are the foundation for all decisions related to University operations during this pandemic and its potential endemic transition.   This is the umbrella under which any world-class university must provide its education; this is a matter of right and justice for all students, faculty, and staff.

UICUF opposes any request by UIC for exception to state and municipal rules or guidelines, as the upper administration has suggested it will seek.  Additionally, accepting state and local guidelines as a minimum, we expect that the UIC administration will work with faculty to establish COVID-19 specific policies and procedures aligned with the health and safety of all students, faculty, staff, their families, and their communities, to insure educational engagement and success.

What should be our rules for “re-entry”? Above all else, caution. Premature lifting or release of any feature of the current guidelines set by the state and/or city is unacceptable. Current health and safety evidence demands adequate control of COVID-19 transmission in order for universities to resume functioning.  Drawing on the expertise of our many members in healthcare, UICUF wishes to promote a clear and transparent vision for re-opening the UIC campus that explicitly articulates what measures will be taken to protect the community. Practically, this means a full program of mitigation across all campus spaces, including structural and resource support for:

  • Hygiene—hand washing, surface disinfecting
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)—use of gloves and masks/face shields
  • Social distancing—while 6 feet is the current recommendation, that length is somewhat arbitrary and could change with time. Distance safety is related to characteristics of the space including temperature, humidity, and air circulation, as well as the disease prevalence and social risk acceptance. Particular requirements for our high-rise, commuter campus will involve specific consideration for elevator use and stairways.
  • Surveillance of transmission:
    • Screening—symptom assessment and reporting
    • Testing—at this point, there seem to be two basic options a) testing every person at regular intervals; b) testing with adequate sampling.
    • Contact tracing—along with a robust system of quarantine for cases/contacts
  • Quality and management of indoor air: indoor air management has not received as much attention as social distancing with COVID-19, but we know from hospitals the importance of indoor air management for infection control.  Negative airflow technology and HEPA filtration systems are established practice in health institutions, and some type of air quality measure is important for all institutions.  The simple truth is that public health authorities have not yet established best COVID-19 practices for non-health care settings.
  • Expertise and a clearly tailored set of operational procedures: given the various and unique needs of buildings and social spaces across campus, it is important to incorporate the insights and perspectives of faculty across disciplines about how to adequately address the various structural and social contexts ensuring the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff.   Currently, there does not appear to be an established university health and safety task force or committee providing guidance, as the Chancellor has promised.

 

Ensuring the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and their families and communities does not stop at the campus boundaries.  This commitment necessitates attention to and respect for an individual’s specific life circumstances and relationships. Vulnerable populations abound in the UIC community in relation to the high number of intergenerational, working-class/essential worker households that often include populations with statistical likelihood of increased risk factors, such as underlying health conditions.  This is also in many ways the case with the faculty as well. Our commitment also obliges consideration of and accommodation to related transportation and technology needs. A truly inclusive environment takes into account all these types of medical and social vulnerabilities.

While these are difficult and trying times, they are also times for innovation and creativity.  UIC has the opportunity to create a SAFE CAMPUS and contribute to SAFE COMMUNITIES through policies and procedures that minimize infections and maximize lives saved. We urge the formation of campus policies with, above all, these points in mind, and with the administration recognizing both the need and the desirability of full shared governance with all relevant stakeholders in the formation of such policy.

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03 Jun Update on Raise Pools and Reappointment Notices

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  • Raise pools are guaranteed in our union contract, which is legally enforceable even if administration offers no campus wage increase.
  • Notice of deferred reappointments are required by the contract, but choice to postpone reappointment decisions rests solely with academic units.
  • UICUF is investigating notices sent to those currently under multi-year appointments
  • We encourage you to join us at the Chancellor’s Town Hall, 4pm, Wednesday, 6/3/20.

 

Raise Pools are Guaranteed by our Contract
Many faculty have signalled concern, after reading President Killeen’s Financial Update this afternoon, that he has stated that there will be no merit raises for the 2020-2021 academic year. We want to reassure you that our contract, which guarantees 2% merit raise pools, 2% compression & equity raise pools, salary minimums at all stages of seniority, and raises tied to promotion, is legally enforceable and cannot simply be disregarded by the university administration. Any changes to the compensation structure laid out in that agreement must be brought up in negotiations, and the union cannot be compelled to give up hard-won raises.

At this time, we are seeking clarification as to the intent behind this statement and will keep you informed as to the administration’s response.

Deferral of Reappointments are Being Investigated
We’ve received a large number of concerned messages indicating faculty have received notices deferring decisions on their reappointment to July 15th. Some people receiving these notices are currently under multi-year appointments. We want to first remind everyone that this notice is a postponement of renewal decisions, not a decision to non-renew. It is also important to note that while our contract stipulates that you must be informed if a decision is postponed, the choice to postpone this decision is solely at the discretion of your academic unit.

We are actively investigating the circumstances around which faculty received these deferrals, especially if you are on a multi-year appointment. Our contract protects faculty in multi-year appointments from non-renewal, and we ask you to please reach out if you have any concerns at all about the status of your appointment.

It remains UICUF’s policy to advocate via impact bargaining for full renewal of all full-time faculty for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Chancellor’s Town Hall Tomorrow
We highly encourage all faculty to join Chancellor Amiridis’s town hall webinar at 4pm, Wednesday, 6/3/20, and use the Q+A section to ask any questions you may have. You should have received a link to participate via your UIC Email.

***
We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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29 May UIC Admin Has a Responsibility to Bargain

**URGENT ADVISORY**

Many faculty received notices today deferring a decision on their reappointment to July 15th. This notice is contractually required only if your academic unit is unable or unwilling to make a renewal decision by June 1st, and nothing in the union contract prevents units from reappointing faculty before this deadline. Deferral of a decision does not imply non-renewal. Please let us know if you received a deferral letter today so we can have a better understanding of what’s happening in various units.

It remains UIC United Faculty’s position to advocate through impact bargaining for immediate renewal of all full-time faculty appointments.

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  • Demand Action on Bargaining: Please click here to send an email demanding that UIC Admin return to the bargaining table with all of its campus unions for meaningful and productive negotiations
  • Failure to Bargain in Good Faith: The UIC Administration has a legal responsibility to bargain impacts of COVID-19, but has consistently chosen to act without union input, and to treat bargaining as an informal advisory rather than a serious legal obligation.
  • Unfair Labor Practice Filed: UICUF will be filing Unfair Labor Practices regarding admin’s failure to bargaining in good faith over changes sweeping the university due to COVID-19.

A Legal Obligation to Bargain
UIC’s administration has a legal obligation to bargain over changes to working conditions (yes, we’ll say it again!). This principle holds true even when changes come as a result of events beyond either party’s control. The process is called impact bargaining, and it is not optional.

UICUF called for impact bargaining back in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in earnest. Unfortunately, from the start, top administrators did not even acknowledge our meetings as formal bargaining, choosing instead to waste time while they continued doing whatever they wanted. And while we can draw clear lines from our proposals to actions later taken by the administration, like extending professional development fund deadlines, university officials refused to formalize even these agreements. Ultimately, the administration outright told us they had no intention of discussing further “contract enhancements.” This is not how healthy negotiations work.

Unfair Labor Practices
By failing to respect a formal bargaining process, enacting changes to working conditions without formal agreements, and refusing to discuss further impacts to our contract, the UIC administration has been committing unfair labor practices. We have therefore decided that, in order to best protect the rights of our members, we must file an official notice of violations with the Illinois Board of Labor. We hope this action highlights the gravity of the administration’s choice to pursue a strategy of obstruction and unilateralism rather than bargain in good faith with its faculty.

A Fresh Push for Negotiations
Despite taking this action to call out unproductive practices by our counterparts, we still sincerely believe that we can work together with the administration during this unprecedented crisis. Faculty bring both substantial expertise and rich perspectives to the table as we consider the future of working and learning at UIC. Everyone–including the administration–will benefit from our sustained participation in all formal dialogues relating to the university’s future, but our administration cannot acknowledge us only when it is convenient.

We are therefore reconstituting our remarkable bargaining team, once again drawing on faculty from every college in our bargaining unit, to restart the impact bargaining process. We are also calling on all faculty members to click here to send an email demanding that the administration return to productive bargaining immediately. If needed, the committee will also advise on further escalating pressure on our administration counterparts to bargain fairly. We will keep faculty informed as this process continues. Of course, if you have questions or want to highlight particular issues, email us here at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

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We issue regular updates via email, FacebookTwitterYouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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22 May Provost Office Hours | Course Credit Manipulation

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  • NTT Caucus: NTT Faculty will bring questions and concerns to Provost’s office hours 1pm today, 5/22/20. Follow up meeting next Thursday, 5/28 at 10am.
  • Fall Planning Task Force: UICUF will attend weekly Fall 2020 Planning Sessions, sharing member stories, concerns, and questions
  • FTE/Course Credit Manipulation: Be on watch for manipulation of course credits and FTE per course. UICUF views these as violations of our contract, and encourages you to contact us ASAP if you are asked to agree to such changes.
  • Email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com with your experiences and to get involved!

 

Highlighting NTT Faculty Issues at the Provost’s Office Hours
We invite our members to join us in bringing concerns to the Provost’s upcoming office hours from 1-2pm today. In particular, we hope to foreground the issues NTT faculty face, as uncertainty about Fall 2020 grinds on. Critically, we are concerned that faculty are being asked to prepare for classes that they may not be employed long enough to actually teach. If you were in the NTT caucus meeting, you have already gotten additional updates on our plans for the office hours and will receive an invitation to a follow up meeting of the NTT Caucus. If you would like to be included and were not in that meeting, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

Fall Planning Sessions Continue with Union Involvement
UICUF Executive Vice President Aaron Krall attended last week’s session of the Provost’s Fall Planning Task Force, joining the subcommittee on Preparing Faculty. These meetings, and meetings of the subcommittee, will continue weekly throughout the summer, and while we won’t report every detail, we will attempt to maintain clarity and transparency on what this Task Force is working on.  

Manipulations of Course Credits/FTE
We have begun hearing reports from members about administration attempts to manipulate course credits and FTE related to their courses, effectively increasing their workloads. We strongly encourage faculty who observe such issues to contact us immediately. UICUF views any changes to course credits or percent time as a fundamental change in working conditions that cannot be made without the administration reaching an agreement with the union through impact bargaining.

Your Stories Inform Our Vision
UICUF believes that any future vision for UIC must be grounded in care for our students, colleagues, and community. That vision is informed by the outpouring of members sharing their stories, their priorities, and their hopes for the future since the COVID19 crisis began. Please continue sending your stories to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With permission of the authors, we are posting these on our website, and sharing them with the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force.

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We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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15 May NTT Face Urgent Challenges, UICUF to Attend Fall 2020 Planning Meeting

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  • NTT Caucus: Over 100 faculty participated in our first NTT Caucus this week, discussing urgent issues around job security, classroom safety, and the expectation of unpaid labor.
  • Unemployment Eligibility: 150 NTT faculty appointments will end TODAY. Those whose appointments have lapsed are encouraged to file for unemployment ASAP. UICUF remains committed to full renewal of NTT appointments going into Fall 2020.
  • Fall 2020 Planning Task Force: UICUF has been officially invited to the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force, meeting today. We will report on this meeting early next week.
  • Your Stories: Faculty input informs our actions on planning committees, in bargaining, and in the UIC Senate. Select stories are being published and distributed (anonymously and with permission) to highlight the personal impact of this crisis. Email your story to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com!

 

NTT Faculty Gather to Discuss Urgent Issues
While we are all coping with uncertainty around the pandemic and its impact on our work, NTT faculty face especially urgent challenges. For that reason, we convened our first NTT Caucus this week, with over 100 NTT members attending. Many of these faculty face the prospect of a summer filled with uncompensated preparation for courses in the Fall that they have no guarantee they will actually be hired to teach. Some will be without an official appointment, and therefore without pay or health insurance, by the time you read this message.

At this time, the Caucus is contemplating a number of possible actions to encourage the administration to do the right thing and make reappointment commitments ASAP. The first upcoming opportunity to make our needs known will be the Provost’s office hours this coming Friday, April 22nd. Email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you want to be involved, or simply log in to share your concerns directly.

For those facing lapsed appointments right now, we strongly encourage you to file for unemployment benefits until such time as your appointment is renewed. You can learn more and file a claim at the Illinois Department of Employment Security website. While we cannot directly assist you with unemployment claims, you can email UICUF for advice on how to ensure your claim is processed fairly and efficiently. UICUF has already pushed for, and remains committed to, an across-the-board renewal of appointments for full-time faculty at UIC.  We will continue to advocate for this demand front and center during  our current Covid-related impact bargaining.

Invitation to the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force
Thanks to the pressure brought by hundreds of UIC United Faculty members, we have now (finally) been invited to participate in the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force. The task force should be meeting this afternoon, and our Executive Vice President, Aaron Krall, will be in attendance. This is a significant step forward in holding the administration accountable, but we intend to wait and see how this planning session unfolds before reporting back to you early next week. Among other things, we hope to point out the urgent issues NTT faculty face this summer as a truly time-sensitive priority the administration is obligated to address.

Faculty Share Our Stories
UIC faculty care deeply about the safety and success of our students, our academic peers, our university, and our community as a whole. UIC United Faculty is dedicated to enacting that vision of care and excellence, even under these truly unprecedented circumstances.That work is driven by your stories. We have encouraged you to send us your concerns and personal stories about how the COVID-19 Crisis has impacted you over the past few months, and the response has been overwhelming!

These are the stories we use to shape our internal decision-making as a union, and we felt that it was time to share some of them–with the administration, with the planning committee, and publicly on our website. All stories were published with the consent of the faculty members who sent them and have been anonymized to protect their identities. We want to encourage you to keep sending us your thoughts, your concerns, and your stories, so we can continue working toward a vision of UIC that is vibrant, safe, and strong moving forward.

 

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We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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11 May Words are Not Enough

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  • Provost Poser publicly agreed to union and senate representation on the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force.
  • Despite repeated prior attempts by UICUF to put forth a candidate for this forum, administration has failed to follow through on their promise of access.
  • UICUF cannot accept this issue as settled until a representative is SEATED AT THE TABLE.
  • Please sign our petition to demand the administration meet their words with actions by accepting a union representative on the committee. Even more important: all possible future changes in work conditions must be negotiated with the union via ongoing impact bargaining BEFORE THEY ARE IMPLEMENTED

 

Saying One Thing and Doing Another
If you were present for the Provost’s virtual town hall earlier today, you will have heard that UICUF, as well as the University Senate, will now have formal membership on the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force. Thank you to the hundreds of union members who sent questions on this point prior to and during the meeting for pushing administration on this issue!

You will also have heard, however, that the Provost had already offered UICUF a seat at the table with no response from the union. After UICUF brought this demand to Impact Bargaining weeks ago, our officers immediately responded that they would participate (and we have the emails to prove it). We reinforced this in writing at that time, and then again restated our intention to participate in writing when administration later claimed they’d received no response. To date, they have not followed through on the offer to seat a union representative at the table.

This is a problematic pattern of the administration saying one thing and doing another, even as UICUF has worked strenuously to build a collegial and constructive dialogue during this crisis. They have spoken a great deal about coming together as a community, and now we expect them to stand by those words.

Words are not Enough
The major victory of our having a seat on the Task Force is, however, not nearly enough. Even more importantly, the administration has a legal obligation to return to the negotiating table for impact bargaining (see article XXII of our contract) – forging legally enforceable agreements about changes in our work conditions caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

To confirm that the administration is now indeed committed to working in a more constructive fashion with the union, we are demanding that the administration respond, immediately and in writing to the union’s Impact Bargaining team, confirming receipt of our intention to participate on the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force. We cannot consider this issue to be resolved until a union representative is SEATED on this task force.

To this end, we are launching a petition demanding that the administration respect the Faculty’s voice through our union, both in Fall 2020 planning, and at the impact bargaining table. We can no longer accept words alone on these points, but must see real action. Please sign our petition via the link below:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/give-faculty-a-voice-in-fall-2020-planning/

More Work to Do
As you know, access to planning committees and impact bargaining are tools that we can use to give faculty a voice on the unprecedented changes the university is currently undergoing. We need your participation, and your thoughts, to give these actions meaning. Of critical importance, we will shortly be inviting faculty to participate in our own NTT caucus, to formulate plans on protecting and supporting faculty without the benefit of long-term contracts. We also highly encourage you to send your thoughts, concerns, and any unanswered questions from today’s town hall, to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com after you sign the petition, so that we can best represent you in these forums.

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We issue regular updates via email, FacebookTwitterYouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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06 May Victory on PD Funds, Admin Declines to Negotiate on Other Issues

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  • UICUF has won a victory on Professional Development funds – Admin agreed in writing to release travel funds for other uses, and to roll over unused travel funds into the 20-21 Academic Year!
  • Labor Relations is now saying they will not move on any other impact bargaining issues, perhaps closing the door to further productive negotiations.
  • UICUF is committed to continuing a productive dialogue if possible, and escalation remains an option if meaningful negotiations are not forthcoming.

 

Union Victory on Professional Development Funds
UICUF has been negotiating around professional development funds since March, primarily asking that the funds earmarked for travel be released for broad PD use, and that unused funds be rolled over for use in future academic years. We have now received notice that the Administration has agreed to both of these demands. Per Provost Poser, the following has been posted to the university’s somewhat buried COVID-19 page on policy changes, and will be communicated to Heads and Deans:

According to the contract, the amounts provided for research and/or professional development are $900 for TT and $600 for NTT faculty. Faculty may seek reimbursement for professional development expenses that involve purchasing equipment, particularly to allow them to teach online more effectively. I have told the deans this and asked them to ensure their department heads and chairs are aware. The other question that has come up is the use of travel funds for both TT and NTT faculty. There are 2 issues:

  1. Because of the pandemic and the inability to travel, some faculty want the option to use travel funds for professional development related to online teaching, whether that is for equipment or something else.
  2. If there are travel funds left over from FY20, faculty are requesting that they can carry over any remaining travel funds to next year, since travel is impossible right now.

 

In light of the unique situation we find ourselves in, we are approving these uses of travel funds on a one-time basis. Thus, for example, the ability to carry over travel funds will only be allowed this one time (from FY20 to FY21) and may be used for professional development expenses as stated above through June 30, 2021On July 1, 2021, we will revert to the provisions of the contract as written, i.e. travel funds may not be carried forward and can only be used for travel, as stated in the contract.

In short, you can now keep your $600 travel funds to apply toward expenses in the 2020-2021 academic year, and all PD funds will be opened to broad professional development and remote teaching enhancement uses until June 30th, 2021. Please check with your department for pre-approval of funds to ensure your intended use is covered, and we encourage you to contact us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you encounter any problems using your PD funds. That said, we will also continue to push the administration to cover the cost of all expenses related to online teaching–that is an administrative expense, not one related to professional development.

Admin Refuses to Make Any Further Agreements
While Labor Relations has avoided language directly stating they won’t negotiate further, they have said that they will not make further changes concerning our impact bargaining issues. This isn’t surprising from an administration that only recently acknowledged their obligation to bargain. They continue to ignore the fact that they are making changes affecting our contracts that legally must be bargained over, and instead prefer to label our proposals as unearned “enhancements.”

This dismissive attitude leaves key questions on the table, notably on issues of faculty retention and union representation in decision-making. On the former, they have chosen to prevaricate or provocatively hint at slashing budgets, outright rejecting any concern for NTT faculty whose contracts are expiring on May 15th and who may soon thereafter be cut off from health insurance. On the latter, they have indicated that they do not at this time intend to add a union representative to the campus committee handling COVID-19 issues. These are not satisfactory responses, and we are now considering options away from the bargaining table to encourage the Administration to negotiate productively.

If you are interested in getting involved with planning and promoting actions around impact bargaining and the many critical issues facing us during this crisis, please email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com

***
We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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01 May Time for Admin to Take Bargaining Seriously

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  • UICUF continued negotiating the impacts of COVID19 with the administration this week.
  • While we have convinced admin to reconsider policies like reopening the library against all public health advice, they have made it clear that they are not interested in putting any agreements in writing.
  • While UICUF is committed to being a good partner in working with university administration, our role is above all to advocate for faculty, as well as the students we serve.
  • We will, therefore, begin mobilizing for action around our key demands: The extension of all NTT contracts for one  year, the release of PD funds for broad use (including hiring student assistants), and transparency/inclusivity in planning for the next academic year.

Productive Conversation, or Meet-and-Ignore?
We met once again with representatives of the university administration this week to discuss our demands over the impacts of COVID19 policies on our contract, most of which we submitted in writing over a month ago. To date, we have convinced the university to reverse course on bad policy decisions, like reopening the library against all public health advice, and we have successfully pushed them to take positive actions like extending tenure clocks.

Unfortunately, we’ve had little traction on our most critical and time sensitive issues. At this point it does not appear that the university is willing to consider putting anything in a written form that can actually be signed as a binding agreement. That is to say that they are not acting as though they recognize our right to bargain these issues, despite the legal obligation to do so. This most recent session has made it clear that the administration may put our ideas in practice when it is convenient for them, but on serious issues like job security for vulnerable faculty, they’re perfectly happy to continue a policy that looks suspiciously like meet-and-ignore.

Three Key Issues
We currently have three key issues on the table which can only be adequately addressed through written agreements, negotiated via the impact bargaining process:

  • Expanding the use of Professional Development funds: we are by far the closest on this, having secured Provost Poser’s agreement in principle to allow PD funds intended for travel to be rolled over to the next academic year. We have proposed that ALL PD funds be opened up for broad teaching and research development purposes, including hiring student assistants (a common and uncontroversial practice that Labor Relations is digging its heels in over). These funds are already budgeted, but cannot be used under the current travel restrictions UIC has in place. The administration has told us to expect a response on this important matter soon.
  • Guaranteeing the Reappointment of NTT Faculty: over 100 NTT faculty appointments will end as soon as May 15th, with up to 200 more potentially ending in August. NTT faculty are the backbone of many departments, teaching the vast majority of first-year classes, and are an indispensable component in UIC’s teaching mission. While we acknowledge that budgets are tight, UIC must do everything in its power to retain qualified faculty, in order to protect jobs, retain expertise, and provide a stable learning environment for students. We have proposed that the administration commit to retaining all full-time faculty, and to do so ASAP to avoid confusion and uncertainty. If you are concerned about your own contractual status as an NTT faculty member, please reach out to us immediately so we can discuss how we might be able to help you.
  • Representation in 2020-2021 Planning: According to President Killeen’s recent announcement, a system-wide planning committee will be convened to plot a future course amid the pandemic, and a UIC committee will also meet under Provost Poser’s direction. Notably absent from either of these committees is the presence of any union representation, even though their work will de facto impact our union contract. Decisions impacting our contract must be made in discussion with the union. For this reason, we are demanding a seat at the table.

Preparing for Action
As we’ve said, these are demands that can’t simply be satisfied by an email announcement. With seemingly little appetite on the part of Admin to address these issues with binding agreements, if we want to move forward we must prepare to take more significant action. Our staff team and leadership are working on potential activities that will send the clear message: Administration cannot ignore its obligations to its workers.

They have told us that everyone will be expected to make sacrifices, but they seem to expect those sacrifices to be made by employees with no voice in those decisions. They must make a clear and public commitment to faculty — the heart of the university — that they will engage us before decisions are made, and they must commit to retaining ALL of the faculty who make this university work.

If you are interested in getting involved with planning and promoting actions around impact bargaining and the many critical issues facing us during this crisis, please email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com

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We issue regular updates via email, FacebookTwitterYouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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23 Apr Solidarity on Use of Student Evaluations

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  • UIC recently announced that faculty will have a choice of whether or not to have student evaluations from this semester included in their merit and promotion reviews.
  • Given the already imperfect nature of student evaluations, and the further disruption to teaching caused by the pandemic, UICUF has discouraged the use of student evaluations as tools to evaluate faculty, now more than ever.
  • While individual faculty have the option to use or not use evaluations, we believe discussing this choice with your peers at the academic unit level is warranted, and encourage faculty to make this choice as a group where possible.

 

The Current Student Evaluation Policy
To briefly summarize the current policy, UIC will give faculty the option of whether or not to use student evaluations from this semester in their merit or promotion considerations. While this policy is far from perfect (unit heads and chairs still have access to evaluations even if they are not technically allowed to use them), it does acknowledge how evaluations this semester may be skewed by radically altered teaching conditions.

The policy as it was published, however, doesn’t explain how faculty should go about making this declaration. This leaves open questions about the process, which in turn open questions about the implications of faculty members’ choices to exercise their options.

A Time for Collective Decisions
Since no details on implementation are explicitly laid out, it is likely that they will be made by each academic unit or college separately. If there is an opportunity to make recommendations through shared governance, we highly recommend faculty to engage in this option, and for units to include all faculty, including NTT faculty, in that decision-making process. More broadly, however, we want to encourage faculty in each academic unit to have a frank discussion with your peers about how to proceed, even if not in a formal shared governance context.

We recommend group decision-making on questions of when and how to opt in or out of using student evaluations so that no one, especially our more vulnerable members, can be singled out for their choice.

Questions to Consider
Certain questions may come up as critical points when discussing how to respond to the new policy:

 

  • When must a decision be made: should faculty make this decision before, or after, seeing their evaluations? Is there a deadline for such a decision to be made?
  • How should your decision be communicated and to whom: While a broad decision made through inclusive shared governance would be optimal, we recognize that may not be possible in all situations. If faculty must make this decision individually, what steps must be taken and who must be notified?
  • Opt-in or Opt-out: Are evaluations assumed to be usable for merit and promotion reviews, or are they presumed to be excluded? If you have influence over this question in your unit, we strongly encourage a presumption of exclusion of student evaluations, to minimize stigma against those who wish to exercise the right not to use them.
  • Can your unit decide as a group: as mentioned earlier, group decisions protect more vulnerable members from making decisions that could be stigmatizing. Even if you do not have the opportunity to recommend policy through shared governance, we highly recommend seeking a consensus among colleagues in your department.

 

UIC United Faculty’s staff are on hand to help you think through your options, or to organize a discussion or forum on these important questions within your academic unit. Email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you would like assistance!

A Brief Word on Impact Bargaining
To quickly update you on bargaining related to the impact of COVID-19 on UIC working conditions, we are still discussing a variety of issues with Administration. We have, in particular, had productive conversations about releasing professional development funds to be used for purposes beyond conference attendance and travel.

It is the union’s stance that these funds should be open to any use mutually agreed upon by a faculty member and their academic unit. Moreover, we’ve proposed that these funds should be automatically approved for any traditional professional development use, including hiring assistants and purchasing technology relevant to your work. While Provost Poser has signalled an agreement-in-principle on opening these funds, we hope that next week the administration will agree to put this in writing so that faculty can make full use of the funds to which they are contractually entitled.

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We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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