News

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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21 Apr An Example of Workload Policies Created by UIC Faculty

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  • UICUF has recommended faculty use shared governance to adopt workload policies protected by our contract ASAP.
  • We’ve just received a copy of the newly approved workload policy for the English Department, which we hope can be used as a template for other academic units.
  • Contact us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for assistance in requesting and/or creating policies through shared governance.

 

The current UIC United Faculty Collective Bargaining Agreements require that each academic unit have a written workload policy developed through shared governance practices. Given the uncertainty around many aspects of work due to Coronavirus, we are recommending faculty begin working on creating these policies as soon as possible. We wanted to share a quick example of one department at UIC, the English Department, which has finalized one such policy. You can view a copy of the English Department’s workload policy on our website. We’ve also reproduced this policy below for your convenience.

It is our hope that this policy can serve as a template that will help other faculty groups craft policies of their own or review policies they already have in place. If you need help initiating this process, or determining if your department already has a workload policy in place, you can reach out to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com or to your college’s union representative any time.

UIC English Department Policy on Workloads
Tenure Track Faculty:
The standard teaching load for tenure track faculty is two courses per semester (2-2). Tenure track faculty are expected to teach a range of courses across the curriculum, 100-500-level. Class size will vary, depending on the course and course level, with smaller seminars at the 400- and 500-level and larger classes for general education courses and English major core courses. In general, though not in all cases, classes that are larger than 25-30 students will be assigned a graduate TA.

In addition to teaching, tenure track faculty are expected to carry out a substantial course of research leading to publication and to perform substantial service for the department and university. Service expectations rise in accordance with rank, with Full Professors expected to take on the greatest service obligations and responsibilities.

Faculty taking on major administrative responsibilities will be granted comparable course release, unless otherwise negotiated.

Non-Tenure Track Faculty:
The standard teaching load for non-tenure track faculty is three courses/sections per semester (3-3). Class size will vary, depending on the course and course level, but, in general, courses/sections taught by non-tenure track faculty will not exceed 25 students. In general, though not in all cases, classes that are larger than 25-30 students will be assigned a graduate

In addition to teaching, lecturers; senior lecturers; and clinical faculty are expected to perform substantial service for the department and university. Service expectations rise in accordance with rank, with Senior Lecturers and Clinical Full Professors expected to take on the greatest service obligations and responsibilities.

Faculty taking on major administrative responsibilities will be granted comparable course release, unless otherwise negotiated.

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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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16 Apr Uncertainty in Academia and How You Can Prepare

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  • Our contract offers many protections on issues ranging from workload policies to evaluations, but faculty must take advantage of them through shared governance!
  • While we bargain the impacts of COVID19, we strongly recommend faculty review departmental workload, evaluation and reappointment policies and go to work now on creating them if they don’t already exist!
  • Contact us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for assistance in requesting and/or creating policies through shared governance that will be guaranteed by our contract!

 

It’s no secret that academia is facing a great deal of uncertainty right now, and faculty will very likely face changes in the future that we can’t immediately predict. While UIC United Faculty has a right to bargain new contractual agreements over the impact of COVID-19, we want to remind our members that we already have a variety of tools to ensure fair treatment in these unpredictable times. Specifically, we fought for and won provisions in our current contract that give faculty the right to shape workload, evaluation, and reappointment policies through shared governance in their departments.

UICUF strongly encourages any faculty member reading this message to consider how they can ensure that their department has policies in place for workloads, evaluations, and reappointment processes. We want to further encourage you to reach out to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com or to your college’s union representative for help crafting these policies if they are not already in place.

Defining Workload
After our current contract was finally settled, we emerged with robust protections for workloads. This was one of the hardest fought issues in our negotiation with the administration, and represents a powerful tool for faculty to exert influence over working conditions. Critically, the contract stipulates that workloads must be defined through shared governance at the academic unit level, and that once defined, they can’t be changed without faculty input. Of course, to enjoy the benefits of this contractual protection, your academic unit has to first take steps to create the policy!

In light of current conditions, we strongly recommend that even if you already have a written policy in place, you consider revisiting it. This policy should address the number and size of classes expected to be taught in a semester/academic year, as well as any administrative, research, or service duties faculty are responsible for. At this time, we also recommend considering how this policy might be used to define fair conditions for remote work.

Reviewing Evaluation Policy
All academic units are required by contract and University policy to have a written policy in place regarding how evaluations are done. Per university policy, FPPG Section 701, there are a number of things that every academic unit must include, such as self-evaluations, and the policy must be reviewed every 5-7 years through shared governance. In light of current guidance on the use of teaching evaluations, we strongly recommend faculty review their academic unit policy before evaluations are administered this semester.

Reappointment Procedures
Per our contract and University policies, reappointment procedures MUST BE DEFINED in unit bylaws. Unfortunately, many departments have not met this minimum standard. If your department has not defined this procedure, now is a critical moment to do so.

We highly encourage any faculty member reading this to get involved, and to contact your union via our general email, UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for information and support.

 

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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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10 Apr Impact Bargaining: NTT Retention and a Seat at the Table

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  • UICUF sat down for a second meeting with the Administration this Thursday to bargain the impact of COVID19 on faculty working conditions.
  • We’ve already won some victories over the last several weeks since bringing our demands to the Administration, and have new movement on other items, like reaffirming  intellectual property rights.
  • Despite some additional agreements around items like extending tenure clocks, we are still advocating for a broad commitment to faculty retention and for a seat at the table on decisions affecting faculty.

 

A Good Start
UIC United Faculty sat down via Zoom for our second session with the Administration Thursday, to bargain over the impact of COVID-19 on faculty working conditions. Over the weeks since we presented our demands, the Administration has updated policies or changed direction on a number of issues. Some examples include closing the library after union faculty organized against reopening under unsafe conditions, and clamping down on questionable work-from-home agreements that were being demanded by some departments.

New Agreements and Understandings
Today we secured some additional agreements and confirmed understandings on issues we’d been advocating on over the last few weeks:

  • Provost Poser agreed to proactively remind Deans of faculty members’ exclusive intellectual property rights to course content, including classes made for online delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Provost said that equipment and technology purchased to aid in online course presentation are reimbursable under the new CARE Act. If you have made such purchases, we recommend submitting those expenses to your unit head or business office ASAP with a note that they are related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Nancy Freitag welcomed suggestions from us on some alternative ways contractually mandated professional development (PD) funds  may be used while conference travel remains disrupted. If you have ideas to contribute, please send them to UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com
  • Probationary faculty can now opt-in to extend their promotion and tenure clocks by up to a year. We’ve also confirmed that this will NOT impact a faculty member’s options for roll-back or hold of their clocks for future interruptions. IMPORTANT NOTE: the first deadline for filing your extension paperwork is May 15th. Please check the above link to see if the May 15th deadline applies to you!

 

Faculty Retention
We still have a number of significant issues to work out, the most important of which is a broad commitment to faculty retention. UICUF has asked that the administration commit to re-appointing NTT faculty for the next academic year, both to protect the jobs of faculty members in this time of uncertainty, and to ensure UIC is prepared to meet student needs in the fall and beyond.

We understand that the university is in a place of great uncertainty around budgets and enrollment, but fulfilling UIC’s educational mission by retaining excellent faculty must be a top priority. Beyond protecting faculty jobs, we believe it’s critically important to plan for a future in which enrollment may rebound or even surge. The Administration should demonstrate its commitment to teaching by protecting UIC’s most precarious faculty members, many of whom teach first year classes. It is also possible that in-person courses may resume under new social distancing guidelines, necessitating more sections for the same number of students. Since the administration has expressed the importance of returning to physical classrooms and in-person, hands-on education in the future, it seems counter-intuitive not to prioritize retention of our exceptional faculty now.

A Seat at the Table
We appreciate that the Administration has had to move quickly to make important decisions in the context of the covid-19 pandemic, and that it will need to continue to do so as conditions continue to change. At the same time, UICUF leadership has conveyed to the Administration our need to be involved in that decision making in a proactive manner, so that we are not left simply reacting to their decisions, as happened with their initial decision to reopen the Library after spring break. Union representatives will bring the perspectives of front-line faculty, and they are uniquely suited to understand how changes in working conditions interact with the terms of our collective bargaining agreement. Any administrative decision affecting our working conditions or other terms of our contract must be formally bargained, but proactive consultation with UICUF before decisions are made will make that process much smoother.

We have not set a return date for bargaining, but will continue to advocate for faculty, and keep you informed of your rights.

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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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08 Apr The Inequities Exposed by COVID-19 are Hardly Novel

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  • COVID-19 may present many new challenges for UIC, but it’s also exposing and exacerbating inequities that have been here all along.
  • As we join together to protect the health and safety of our community, unequal access to the internet, lack of practical spaces for remote work, and the precarity of both students and workers remind us that a lot of folks were struggling even before the pandemic.
  • For these reasons, we think that “back-to-normal” isn’t good enough.
  • IMPACT BARGAINING: Our first session with administration will be tomorrow morning. We will report on the proceedings in a separate update.

 

It has been several weeks since the COVID-19 crisis caused UIC to shut down most in-person activities, and the second week since classes have resumed in mostly remote formats. While the situation is far from normal, some of the initial shock has begun to wear off, and the UIC community is doing its best to get back to at least some sense of normalcy. The big problem though, is that normal for a lot of faculty, students, and staff, wasn’t that great to begin with, and conditions under the pandemic have only exacerbated many peoples’ struggles.

Some of the clearest and most intractable examples come from the stories of people trying to adjust to their new work-from-home realities. In an ideal world, we might imagine students and faculty simply going back to their comfortable, internet equipped homes, secluding themselves in their office or bedroom, and logging in to class. But that’s not the reality for everyone, or even most people.

In reality, even some of the best case scenarios are fraught with challenges, like trying to take care of and even educate children while schools are closed. And it gets harder if, for example, your school district doesn’t have the resources to make remote-learning practical. And that’s not even touching on the possibility that your home may simply not be a suitable place to work at the best of times, which these are clearly not.

For the more precarious, COVID-19 may mean your position, your funding, or your scholarship may be about to expire with no promise of renewal or apparently even much empathy from your employer. Or maybe you have to go to work knowing your work is so invisible to those in charge that they haven’t even thought about how to protect you as you come in contact with potentially sick people.

COVID-19 and the move toward remote work may be new territory for all of us, but too many of the injustices we’re now seeing really clearly have been here for a long time. Going “back-to-normal” without looking these societal issues in the face would be a grave failing indeed, even as there is great pressure to ignore anything beyond the immediate health crisis before us. But we as educators do have choices and agency in how our institutions function, and we can choose to fight for a better new “normal” than the one that came before.

While we won’t be changing the world overnight, tomorrow UICUF will be going into our first official impact bargaining sessions with the administration. We intend to push for, among other things, a much broader commitment to faculty retention, especially for our most vulnerable members. We are also working on this and other issues with our campus union coalition. Look out for more updates in the coming days.  

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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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