News

12 Apr Fighting for NTT Job Security

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  • Unresolved Issues with NTT Renewal: UICUF has done much to improve NTT job security, but there is still a long way to go. The time is right to consider ways that NTT faculty can be made more secure without new negotiations or rewriting of any statutes.
  • Join the Cause: We want to keep our members informed as we roll out a campaign to address this issue. If you are interested in receiving more information and/or action notices specifically on this topic, let us know here.
  • Statement Demanding NTT Job Security: Our Executive Board has produced a statement Supporting NTT Job Security and demanding UIC take action on this issue.

Dear Members,

Our NTT faculty are indispensable to the teaching and research missions of UIC and to their individual units, yet too many remain in precarious employment positions. In many ways, the precariousness of even full-time NTT faculty is the result of the university pursuing a just-in-time staffing model that harms not only faculty, but also our students. UIC can, and must, reconsider this model. There are a number of ways we believe our university can immediately ensure job security without renegotiating contracts or rewriting statutes.

As we are less than two months away from the first re-appointment notice deadline in our contract (June 1), we are calling on our members to get involved in supporting greater job security for our NTT colleagues. You can sign up to get action notices and information specifically on this topic by submitting your name and email here. You do not need to be an NTT member to sign up. In fact we need all the support we can get from more senior tenure-track and tenured faculty, so please consider signing up even if your position is secure. The loss of experienced faculty affects everyone.

Below is a statement from the UICUF Executive Board, which includes specific demands for our university to better support NTT faculty:

UICUF Executive Board Statement on NTT Job Security

As faculty committed to our university’s teaching mission, we affirm the importance of non-tenure track faculty to that mission and the wellbeing of the UIC community as a whole. Retention of non-tenure track faculty must be a top priority in any budget decisions. NTT teaching faculty are frequently the first people incoming students come into contact with, and their hard work as teachers and mentors creates a crucial foundation for students’ experiences at UIC. 

We demand that the UIC administration, including the Chancellor, Provost, and deans, ensure the following as they create and implement budgets and planning for the coming academic year: 

Maintain the current number of NTT teaching faculty positions

Notify all faculty of reappointment by the initial contractual deadline on or before June 1

Ensure transparency around budget and reappointment decisions

For this year, suspend the 3-year limit for visiting faculty 

Maintaining current numbers: We know first hand that UIC has long used a just-in-time hiring model to employ the minimum number of faculty needed to teach the maximum number of students. During the pandemic, this has led to extreme uncertainty for non-tenure track faculty and increased class sizes,despite clear guidelines that online instruction should include smaller classes. It is essential, both for the quality of education we are providing to our students and for the security of our faculty, that we at least maintain the current number of teaching faculty. By prioritizing faculty retention, we can ensure our students’ needs are served with appropriately sized classes, while providing greater job security for faculty who are foundational to undergraduate education at UIC. 

June 1 notification: The UICUF collective bargaining agreement requires units to notify non-tenure track faculty of reappointment by June 1, but allows exceptions based on budget uncertainty. We urge the administration to forego these exceptions, and provide notice to all NTT faculty on June 1. This is a time of increased uncertainty for everyone, and by postponing this decision, the university is pushing even more uncertainty onto both NTT faculty and the units that rely on them, including the faculty who will have to fill the gaps on short notice should they not be renewed. This practice is unacceptable and must be addressed. We must reappoint our faculty now to be prepared for fall enrollment and determine class sizes based on pedagogy and best practices instead of sacrificing our faculty for the sake of short-term cost savings. 

Transparency: Over the past months, faculty have heard many contradicting rumors, constantly changing plans, or–too frequently–nothing at all about what will happen to their jobs in the fall. We understand that there is currently a high level of general uncertainty, but it is still crucial to clearly communicate with faculty about what is happening around reappointment and to include non-tenure track faculty in the decisions that affect their employment. This is true at the campus level with decisions around budgets that affect hiring, as well as at the unit level. 

3-year visiting faculty limit: Ordinarily, there is a 3-year limit to visiting faculty positions, with the requirement of a national search before they can be converted to long-term positions. Given the limits on searches and hiring during the pandemic and the extra challenges of the academic job market at this time, the 3-year limit should be lifted for the coming academic year. It is in our students’ interest that UIC continue employing their teachers who have spent the past year honing their skills in COVID-era instruction, rather than hiring less experienced faculty to replace them solely because of a rule designed for non-pandemic conditions. The limit on visiting faculty appointments is not statutory or contractual; it is housed in the Faculty Handbook and the Faculty Affairs Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines and is therefore under the purview of the Provost’s office. All policies related to visiting faculty are collected here

We urge the University administration to take the measures outlined above as a way of demonstrating their commitment to the faculty who make UIC run, the students those faculty teach, and the colleagues who rely on them. 

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We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

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 SAFER place to work and learn!

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05 Apr Meeting Recap and Survey Results

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  • Membership Meeting Recap: Key themes from our meeting (slides can be viewed here) included confronting racism and violence in the UIC community, a bargaining update, NTT job security, and a strategy for ensuring campus safety through benchmarks and enforcement this fall.
  • Survey Results: We have produced a report on the results of our Safety and Reopening Survey. Takeaways include a deficit of trust that UIC is doing all it can to meet safety needs, and concern over preparedness for and efficacy of Hybrid Classes.

Dear Members,

This week we held our Spring Membership meeting, where we discussed a number of key issues, from the need to remain vigilant and active in confronting racism in our community, to promoting NTT job security as fall planning gets underway. We also discussed bargaining, which has halted as the administration (illegally) refuses to return to the table pending outcomes of hearings on Unfair Labor Practice charges we’ve filed against them. Last but not least, we reviewed the findings of our Campus Safety and Reopening survey, which garnered 486 responses, about a third of our bargaining unit.

NTT Job Security
While some of the concern over budget cuts appears to be easing with further aid from the recently passed American Rescue Plan in Congress, UICUF is far from satisfied that NTT jobs are as secure as they could or should be. We still must address a legacy of some units not providing timely notice of renewals and a general resistance to transparency in decision-making, both in terms of individual renewals and overall staffing levels. Members agreed — and stepped up — when asked to stand in support of our NTT members without whom UIC could not function. Support from TT faculty has been, and will be especially important. If you would like to volunteer to help, we especially need testimonials on the indispensable work these faculty are doing in your own units. Email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

Bargaining
As a reminder, despite the administration refusing to negotiate actual agreements through impact bargaining, we know that our work in this arena has produced many positive outcomes for our members. These include tenure roll-backs, IP protections, and expanded use of PD funds. We continue to push to make these agreements grievable, and to extend them at least for as long as pandemic conditions remain in place at UIC.

It is also important to point out that while we formed a bargaining team just for the purpose of impact bargaining, the next round of full contract bargaining is just around the corner, with our current contract expiring 8/15/2022.

Per our Bargaining Chair, Aaron Krall, the timeline for bargaining our next contract looks something like this:

 

○ Now: Assemble a bargaining committee

○ Fall 2021: Survey members and begin drafting proposals

○ Spring 2022: Demand to bargain

○ Summer 2022: Bargain a new contract

 

So if you are interested in helping with bargaining in any aspect, please message us at UICUnitedfaculty@gmail.com. As in the past, we will build a diverse and inclusive team to meet at the table, and can always use more support behind the scenes with research, communications, etc, if you wish to contribute in different ways.

Survey Results and Benchmark Proposals
Our Benchmarks Committee put out a survey last month to measure how faculty feel about their risk factors, campus safety measures, and plans to teach hybrid/hyflex classes. The results are in, and we have a full analysis here.

The results give a strong impression that faculty are concerned about reopening plans, both in terms of safety and pedagogy. The following highlight some of the most revealing outcomes from the survey:

 

  • 89% anticipate returning to campus with an average of 6 classes each. This could mean as many as 2300 classes meeting at least partially in-person this fall.
  • Fewer than half (47%) are confident that UIC is doing enough to make the campus safe.
  • Only a slim majority (52%) have been consulted on moving to hybrid classes.
  • Less than half (47%) are confident in teaching hybrid/hyflex classes, and 40% do not believe hybrid/hyflex models are effective.
  • 29-40% of faculty surveyed have underlying health conditions putting them at high risk from COVID. 28-32% say they live with or care for someone with COVID risk factors.
  • Only 27% of faculty feel that the current process to opt-out of in-person work is reasonable.

 

In order to address these concerns, UICUF is currently developing benchmarks to ensure a safe and effective re-opening of campus. Based on an instant poll at the membership meeting, there is broad support for UICUF to independently authorize an expert review of safety conditions at UIC and develop a stakeholder committee that will hold the university accountable to safety claims for the sake of both workers and students.

We thank everyone who was able to make it to the meeting this week, and encourage anyone who couldn’t be there to message us if you want to comment or get involved in the above endeavors.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

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 SAFER place to work and learn!

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26 Mar UICUF Spring Membership Meeting Next Wednesday 3:30pm

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  • Membership Meeting: UICUF will hold its Spring Membership Meeting next Wednesday, 3/31/21, from 3:30-5pm. All members are welcome and should have received login info by email message us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you didn’t receive that info, or you wish to join the union.
  • Meeting Agenda: We will be discussing the results of our recent Safety and Reopening Survey, updates from the bargaining table, and updates on organizing for NTT job security.
  • UIC Senate Addresses Student Evals, NTT Sabbaticals, Tenure Rollbacks: The senate recently weighed in independently on a number of issues UICUF is currently working on. They have resolved against using student evals in faculty reviews, proposed new NTT sabbaticals, and supported automatic tenure rollback extensions for all who want them!
  • Teaching Modifier Update: We now have the statutory language, approved by the Board of Trustees, that will allow for the new “Teaching” modified titles. Notably the language leaves the conversion process to colleges and departments to decide.

Dear Members,

Our Spring Membership Meeting will be next Wednesday, 3/31, from 3:30-5pm (see full login information for this remote meeting below). Among the topics under discussion, we will hear from our COVID Benchmarks Committee on the results of the Safety and Reopening Survey, and benchmarks to ensure a safe campus reopening in Fall 2021. We will also discuss bargaining, which appears to be stalled as Unfair Labor Practice charges filed against the administration for failure to bargain in good faith move forward. In addition, we will hear from members organizing to fight for stronger NTT job security.

UIC Senate Resolutions
UICUF and the Senate have separate and distinct roles in policy-making at UIC, and we are always excited to see those roles complement each other in supporting faculty. Recently the Senate has been particularly active on issues that UICUF has been working on independently, and we think UIC faculty will benefit greatly from the new motions just passed. In particular, the Senate has passed a resolution against the use of student evaluations in upcoming faculty reviews, directly acknowledging both the flawed nature of these evaluation measures in general, and the distortion of metrics under the stresses of the pandemic. They’ve also proposed NTT sabbaticals for the first time in UIC history, laying out a roadmap to start the process and amend the statutes so that teaching faculty can take advantage of this much sought academic privilege. Finally, while the administration has announced that tenure rollbacks are to be extended in a general statement, the senate has gone farther, specifying that these rollbacks should be automatic for any who want them, rather than at the administration’s discretion.

It is worth pointing out in the wake of these resolutions that the administration has frequently attempted to drive a wedge between faculty by asserting, falsely, that certain issues are the sole domain of the Senate, and not appropriate for bargaining. Though UICUF retains full rights to bargain over working conditions, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our colleagues in the Senate on these issues sends a strong message of unity to the administration. We will, of course, keep up pressure on the administration to follow through on these resolutions and to work out and sign agreements at the bargaining table.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

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 SAFER place to work and learn!

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19 Mar UIC Admin Punts on Reopening Concerns, Calls Halt to Bargaining

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  • UIC Admin Side Steps Reopening Concerns: Chancellor Amiridis issued this statement in response to our open letter on reopening concerns, carefully avoiding addressing the problematic decision-making process on reopening, or any other specific issues raised.
  • Labor Relations Halts Bargaining: In a separate (and illegal) move, Labor Relations has signalled their unwillingness to negotiate further over COVID and reopening, pending results of upcoming Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) hearings on charges filed by UICUF.
  • ULPs and Illegal Actions: UICUF filed ULP charges last summer over unilateral decisions made by admin that affect our contract. They are repeating those illegal patterns in their approach to planning for this fall.
  • UICUF Demands a Return to Bargaining in Good Faith: We are disappointed with admin’s protracted approach to bargaining, but we continue to believe it is the only appropriate venue to address ongoing effects on our members’ working conditions.
  • COVID VACCINE UPDATE: Chicago is on track to start phase 1C of vaccine distribution, which includes postsecondary faculty, on 3/29. Vaccine appointments will be offered via MyChart, and both the administration and UICUF encourage you to set up accounts.
  • COVID SAFETY AND REOPENING SURVEY ENDS 6PM TODAY: You still have until 6pm today to complete our Safety and Reopening Survey. The results will be presented at our member meeting, 3:30pm, 3/31. Zoom link to follow closer to the date.

 

Dear Members,

Last week we sent an open letter to the Chancellor, asking him to address concerns around the decision-making process that led to an announcement on reopening classrooms in the fall. We also expressed concerns over the implications of those apparent plans, in particular the impact of shifting most classes to what looks like a Hybrid/HyFlex model of course delivery. Hybrid course delivery means presenting course content simultaneously to students both in person and via remote learning, while Flexible models are those that allow students to choose how to attend class while offering the same learning outcomes regardless of in-person or remote venues.

This week, we received a response that is, unfortunately, quite disappointing. We can appreciate the optimistic approach of hoping most faculty will be vaccinated by fall, and that the university can return safely to some level of in-person instruction. But hope is not a plan, and optimism is not an explanation for how these plans were made. UICUF continues to hope that the university will include faculty voices in reopening plans, but since that does not appear to be on the agenda, we are and will continue exploring other options to advocate for our members and the university as a whole.

Labor Relations Halts Bargaining Process
One major avenue we have pursued since the beginning of the pandemic has been collective bargaining. This is, UICUF believes, the only appropriate venue for negotiating plans that will impact our members’ working conditions, which are contractually protected. Unfortunately again, admin has not engaged with this process in an earnest and collaborative way. Indeed the administration apparently plans to celebrate a year of obstruction with an indefinite halting of ongoing negotiations.

Labor Relations is now saying that they have no interest in further bargaining sessions until after the resolution of Unfair Labor Practice hearings set for later this Spring (though the proceedings may continue into the summer, or even beyond). These ULP charges are, perhaps ironically, themselves a direct result of the administration’s pattern of obstructing bargaining and taking action on issues under negotiation without reaching agreements with the union.

To be clear, refusing to bargain by insisting future negotiations are contingent on a judicial process, and refusing to render agreements on changes to contractually protected working conditions into writing, are illegal actions by the administration. UICUF is demanding that the administration return to the table in good faith and finalize an agreement–which was making slow, but steady progress up to this point.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

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 SAFER place to work and learn!

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18 Mar Chancellor’s Response on Reopening Concerns

Last week, we published an open letter outlining concerns our members have expressed over recently announced reopening plans published by the administration. In particular, we have heard frustration over the lack of transparency and inclusion in the decision-making process that seems to have completely bypassed faculty committees formed explicitly to consider this topic, and concerns over what appears to be a move toward Hybrid/HyFlex models of course delivery.

Unfortunately, the response we received seems to carefully avoid addressing these concerns, leaving more questions than answers in its wake. For full transparency, we have reproduced that response from Chancellor Amiridis in it’s entirety, here:

Dear Janet,

Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding UIC’s return-to-campus this fall.  We too are cautiously optimistic about vaccinations – in fact, we expect to start vaccinating the remaining faculty and staff within the next 2-3 weeks – and we hope that we can finally get a handle on the pandemic.  Of course, the situation remains fluid, but it now appears that we can begin our transition back to on-campus learning, consistent with national trends in higher education and relying on guidance from appropriate medical and government entities. 

We recognize that many details still need to be worked out, both on a macro and micro level.  But we are confident that those details will be worked out within the Colleges and the departments with guidance from the Provost office, and that faculty members and their Chairs/Deans will effectively communicate and reach appropriate arrangements to return to on-campus teaching without compromising safety. 

Should any particular issues arise that you feel require more discussion, please do not hesitate to reach out to Nancy or Andrew, and they will include me and Susan as appropriate. The University sincerely appreciates the commitment and flexibility of all our faculty during these challenging times, and we will continue to work with you to achieve our ongoing critical missions for our students and our community. 

Best wishes,
Michael

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12 Mar Open Letter to Chancellor Amiridis on Announced Reopening Plans

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Dear Chancellor Amiridis and Provost Poser,

Monday’s email to students, staff and faculty, “Fall 2021 Information for Undergraduate Students,” has raised many serious questions and concerns – and added substantial confusion as we are trying to plan for fall.

A key concern and source of confusion is how the administration went from asking colleges “to create a set of contingency plans, based on several different scenarios, that maximize the number of students attending class on-campus” (February 26, 2021) to saying this about Fall 2021:

Most sections of classes with enrollment of fewer than 100 students will meet on campus and follow all public health protocols, including required masking and distancing. This will mean that for most on-campus classes, all of the students enrolled in the class will not be able to attend in-person every day, so they will have the ability to view recorded/streamed lectures when not present in the classroom.

The second sentence is confusing in terms of what it even means for teaching: for example, how will this all work, even with additional technology and tents?  Is the plan even viable, much less pedagogically responsible? Also of significant concern, there does not seem to have been much — if any — shared governance or true engagement with the faculty in developing this proposal before it was issued. Moreover, in reading this, we suspect the plan will add substantially more uncompensated work, time, and preparation, adding significantly to the burdens of already greatly overstressed faculty while not providing commensurate benefits to students. It also begs the question: is this something students want (much less understand)? Because most students who will be with us in the fall are here now, we wonder if they have been consulted, as they very clearly should have been.

Most urgent to us now are the requests of faculty to determine their mode of teaching, which is understandable given upcoming registration.  But in doing so, faculty are being asked to “justify” why they chose any mode that is not face-to-face. Some are being told that they will need to apply for approval to teach online through the Office of Access and Equity, following ADA requirements. While we are optimistic about vaccinations and getting a handle on this pandemic, there still is great uncertainty and many unknowns about what the pandemic will look like in the fall. How are faculty to make these determinations without any significant guidance?  More importantly, why are they having to do this right now? We fear that this strategy is motivated by a perceived need to be competitive or to appeal to incoming applicants rather than to do what is best for UIC faculty, staff and current students.

We have heard from many faculty that the administration’s approach is quite upsetting to them. That said, we do want to be clear: we the United Faculty at UIC very much want to work with the administration toward the common goal of returning to campus and meeting the university’s mission of equity and excellence in education. To do so requires collaboration and communication before decisions are made and not after the fact.  We had hoped that the last year would have, by this point, inspired much more of a commitment to genuine collaboration.

We would welcome meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss these matters.

Best regards,

Janet Smith

President, UIC United Faculty

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05 Mar Teaching Titles Now Available, Open Potential 3rd Rank

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  • Teaching Professor Titles: As you may have read in a recent university announcement, UIC can now offer titles with “Teaching” modifiers to NTT faculty–an item we bargained hard for in our last contract, but which was held up pending changes to UI Statutes.
     
  • Third Rank: The new titles open opportunities for some NTT faculty with larger teaching responsibilities to earn a third rank, not currently available on the Lecturer track. We encourage members to discuss title conversions via shared governance in their units. 
     
  • Fall Plans Refocus on Hy/Flex: In an announcement last week, the Provost’s office walked back reported plans for mandatory in-person classes, though the plan now appears to prioritize (and budget for) a hybrid/flexible delivery model with its own complications.
     
  • Bridge-to-Faculty Showcases: UIC is showcasing Bridge-to-Faculty scholars’ research this spring, and we encourage you to attend. The B2F program is intended to create a pipeline to tenure lines at UIC for scholars from underrepresented groups.

 

Dear Members,

At the very bottom of an email sent on February 22 regarding changes to Promotion and Tenure, new teaching titles for NTT faculty were announced. This is a potential game-changer, with new ranks including Teaching Assistant Professor, Teaching Associate Professor, and Teaching Professor. These ranks could allow faculty with significant teaching responsibilities currently limited to a single rank progression, from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer, the possibility to earn promotion to a third rank. 

An Achievement Years in the Making
This has been a long-sought goal of UICUF, and we pushed hard to include these new ranks in our contract but were ultimately held back by limitations in the U of I statutes at the time. Since then, the UICUF caucus within the Senate worked to make the statutory changes ultimately adopted by the Board of Trustees late last year. Importantly, though, there was no specific process outlined for transitioning teaching faculty into these new titles, seemingly leaving the decisions to be made at the academic unit level. 

This is a meaningful opportunity for many of our NTT colleagues. We highly encourage our union members to bring transition plans up for discussion through shared governance in your unit. We hope this effort will include all faculty, not just those who might directly benefit from the new titles. If you are unsure of how to discuss this and would like some help initiating the conversation, just email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com, and we will offer any support we can.

Fall Planning Still in Flux
As we reported last week, some of our members, especially those in LAS, were given guidelines appearing to mandate in-person classes based on class size. After both the Senate and UICUF forcefully questioned these guidelines, the Provost announced that the only mandate at this time is the need to keep large, 100+ student classes fully remote. The remainder of classes will prioritize in-person attendance at the discretion of the Deans with supposed input from faculty. To support this priority, the email announcement that followed outlined a potentially large outlay of spending to equip classrooms for hybrid/flexible learning, where students may be in-person or remote simultaneously in real time, or may rotate between the two. 

UICUF is, at a minimum, calling on the administration not to repeat the same frustrating process of last year, when decisions were made without input or transparency, only to be walked back at the last minute. We also believe that financial priorities for spending CARES Act and other federal relief funds should not just be used to improve our technology but also classroom ventilation and campus safety. Most importantly, though, we need to make sure this spending doesn’t come at the expense of our members, who are still reporting potential financial contingencies in their units, including job cuts that could severely harm non-tenure-track faculty. 

 Bridge To Faculty Showcases
We here at UICUF want to spotlight work being done by our colleagues in the Bridge-to-Faculty program, a program intended to ultimately improve diversity in the ranks of UIC’s faculty. The university will be hosting a series of presentations this fall for the B2F scholars to share their research (see link above), and we highly encourage our members to drop in and engage with these scholars and the new program. There are currently 10 scholars in the program, but it is set to expand with a new cohort of 20 or more next year.     

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

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 SAFER place to work and learn!

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25 Feb Fall Reopening Plans Dictated, Then Retracted

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  • Policies Made, Then Retracted: 48 hours ago, UICUF began receiving documents outlining instructional methods (in-person v. remote) for a fall reopening. The Provost has since walked back these plans after being questioned by the Senate and the Union.
  • No Consultation: The parameters described would’ve stripped members of instructional autonomy and denied workers and students the chance to choose safety for themselves and loved ones. Neither our union, the Senate, nor Student Government were consulted.
  • This Kind of Decision Making Must Change: Though the plans shared with units were seemingly walked back by administration, they’re emblematic of the unaccountable and opaque decision making we’ve been fighting since before the pandemic.
  • What We All Deserve: Every person, from students to faculty, deserves the right to choose safety. Moreover, we have the right to be a part of decisions made about our safety, and our working and learning environments.
  • What You Can Do: We encourage you to join us for our Representative Assembly Meeting next Wednesday, 3/3/21 from 12pm-1:30, where we’ll discuss these issues in detail. If you are privy to other directives regarding fall reopening, please email us

 

Dear Members,

Starting about 48 hours ago, we began receiving convincing documentation indicating that plans had already been made to mandate course delivery methods (in-person v. remote) for Fall 2021. These documents came from multiple units, several featuring identical language, which strongly suggested a broad policy had been created. That policy appeared in particular to dictate that all classes, labs, and sections under 50 students would be forced to meet on campus.

After our colleagues in the Senate Executive Committee pushed back yesterday, the Provost seemed to acknowledge that she had made broad policy decisions about reopening the campus this fall without any pretense of shared governance. She asserted, however, that the specifics in the emails shared with faculty were inconsistent with those policy decisions. Today, at a meeting of the Academic Planning Task Force, which UICUF has a seat on, we learned that the plan is to give Deans the authority — and with input from faculty — to determine modality for classes under 100.

As the dust settles, the administration hopefully now recognizes that it must communicate thoroughly–and responsibly. We are seeking some kind of confirmation as to whether any policies have been finalized, and what those policies actually may be.

This Kind of Decision Making Must Stop
Regardless of the outcome, it certainly appears that despite assuring a variety of stakeholders that they would be consulted in the decision-making process, the administration simply decided to make more unilateral decisions and let us know after the fact. These plans and/or policies were made without the input or knowledge of UICUF or the UIC Graduate Employees Organization, even as we are both currently conducting impact bargaining over these exact issues. The decisions were also apparently made without the prior knowledge or consultation of the University Senate, the undergraduate leadership, or even the planning committee formed by the provost herself explicitly to handle these exact questions. At this moment, it’s not entirely clear whether the administration intends to actually engage with these groups, or simply back off to replan again in isolation from the people who are most affected by these decisions, and who also have crucial knowledge and perspectives essential to sound decision making on these issues.

We have, sadly and frequently, been here before. Less than a year ago, union members pushed to have the administration adopt safety benchmarks and assure workers and students of the autonomy to choose methods of instruction based on their personal needs and professional judgments. The administration chose at every phase to resist a transparent and participatory planning process, keeping thousands of workers and students in the dark until just days before the start of the academic year.

Every person in the UIC ecosystem, including students, staff, grad workers, and faculty, deserves the option to choose safety in real time, and an assurance from administration that the right to safety will be upheld. Moreover, we all deserve a say in decisions being made that will affect our health, our work, and our education. We have, and will continue to call on the administration to make any reopening planning transparent and participatory for all stakeholders involved.

What You Can Do
We are continuing to seek more clarity directly from the administration. We are also in discussion with stakeholders from all the aforementioned affected groups. We cannot, however, simply wait until another tone-deaf policy memo appears in our inboxes. So we are asking that you join us at our Representative Assembly Meeting next Wednesday, 3/3/21, from 12-1:30pm, to discuss this issue, and how we can reimagine the decision-making process at UIC that led to this chaotic series of events. All members are welcome, and we will plan further actions around this issue with further input from that meeting.  If you are not able to attend the meeting, we also welcome you sending your thoughts and concerns to UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

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 SAFER place to work and learn!
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18 Feb Spring Member Meeting & Check-Ins

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  • Save The Date: Our Spring Membership Meeting will be held via Zoom on Wednesday, March 31st from 3:30-5pm. All members are invited to join us in discussing UIC budgets and faculty retention, as well as planning for Back-to-School in the Fall.
  • Bargaining Update: We met with the administration again last week and received some responses to our impact bargaining proposals, though it’s clear there are still wide gaps in expectations, especially around enforceability of agreements.
  • Member Check-Ins:.As we register ongoing concerns over department budgets, job retention, and fall reopening plans, UICUF staff and reps will be checking-in with members by phone to learn more about your thoughts, questions, and concerns.
  • Health Concerns: We know that many faculty members are currently working on campus, even if they are not teaching. We want to invite members to message us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you have any health/safety concerns at this time.

 

Dear Members,

Our Spring Membership Meeting is now scheduled, from 3:30-5pm on March 31st. The meeting will be held via Zoom, and a link will be sent to each UICUF member closer to the event. All members are welcome and encouraged to attend as we discuss the implications of hinted-at budget and job cuts for 2021-2022, as well as plans for potentially re-opening campuses in the Fall. There will also be bargaining updates, as we continue to work toward contractually enforceable agreements with the administration.

Bargaining Updates
We met again last week to bargain over ongoing COVID-19 policy impacts and were given responses to a number of our proposals. While the administration is at least offering written responses now, it is clear that we still have a ways to go before a mutually agreeable framework can be signed. Perhaps most important of the remaining issues is that of enforceability of the agreement. The administration does not appear to think that our existing grievance and arbitration process, which was negotiated and agreed to by all parties in regular bargaining, is an appropriate venue to enforce agreements in a COVID-19 agreement. This goes back to the core issue in our Unfair Labor Practice filings, now scheduled for hearings this semester: the administration’s broad failure to negotiate enforceable written agreements within the collective bargaining framework. We hope that agreements can be reached in a meaningful timeframe, but are willing to go through the full ULP proceedings if that is what’s required to ensure that this critical function of labor relations is taken seriously by the administration.

Member Check-Ins
As we face ongoing uncertainty around important topics like Fall reopening plans, whether department budgets will be cut, and how that will affect faculty retention, UICUF will be doing a series of member check-ins. You may receive an email or phone call from a union representative, and we hope you’ll take a moment to let us know how you are faring this semester. As ever, anything you share with a union representative will be confidential, and will help us better understand what our members are experiencing, so we can best represent you.

You can, of course, always reach out to us proactively at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com, or via one of your elected college representatives, or by dropping into one of our virtual weekly office hours from 12-1pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays every week (see links at the bottom of this message).

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

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 SAFER place to work and learn!

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12 Feb Remembrance and Recognition

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  • Remembering Karen Lewis: Former CTU president and titan of the labor movement, Karen Lewis, passed away this weekend. CTU is holding a remembrance event followed by a religious service on zoom from 5-7pm tonight for all who wish to attend.
  • CTU Reaches Reopening Agreement: After almost a year of negotiations and tense moments over the past couple of weeks, CTU and CPS have reached and ratified a far-reaching agreement to reopen schools, raising the bar for COVID accommodations.
  • Union Accomplishments in the COVID Era: UICUF’s negotiations are progressing, and Unfair Labor Practices filed this summer will be heard in April, but we’ve already won a lot, like PD fund extensions, tenure rollbacks, and $1 million in prep compensation.
  • IFT/AFT Scholarships: Every year, our affiliates offer scholarship funds to the children of union members in good standing. IFT’s Porter and Megel scholarship applications are due March 5th. AFT Scholarship applications will open soon.

 

Dear Members,

It saddens us to bid farewell this week to Karen Lewis, a former President of the Chicago Teachers Union, and an inspirational leader whose impact on labor politics in Chicago and around the country cannot be overstated. The Chicago Teachers Union is holding a virtual Shiva, an event to remember and honor her life and contributions to our shared cause. The event will begin at 5pm with a memorial service and end with a religious service at 6:30pm. All who wish to attend are welcome. Among the many tributes, this one from CTU’s Jackson Potter provides a great history and memory of Karen.

CTU Reaches Reopening Agreement
Many teachers across the country have been forced back into classrooms this season, despite surging COVID cases and questionable or non-existent mitigation measures to protect workers and students. CTU held the line, demanding that the district negotiate a safe return, not just a quick one, even threatening to strike if teachers were disciplined for continuing to work remotely. This week, those efforts prevailed, as both sides compromised to reach an agreement that goes farther than almost any other such deal in the US. The deal was approved this week by the membership of CTU, and includes:

 

  • Phase-in reopening plans tied to vaccine distribution
  • School closures if needed for safety, defined by strict health metrics
  • Vaccination plans for all district employees
  • Remote-work accommodations for all employees with medical risks, frameworks for accommodating those with at-risk household members or childcare needs, and unpaid leave available for any worker not in the above groups, pending vaccination
  • Frequent testing to catch cases before they spread
  • Strict protections against unsafe conditions, including guaranteed PPE, ventilation, and other standards. Spaces not meeting these standards will not be used, and standards will be enforced by safety committees at each school including union representatives
  • Technology support for families that wish to keep their children learning remotely
  • Full Reinstatement for all workers previously locked out of classrooms

 

Many of these agreements are groundbreaking when taken individually, and together they will provide unprecedented safety and peace-of-mind for CPS workers and families.

UICUF Accomplishments in the COVID Era
While certainly modest compared to the exceptional agreement outlined above, UICUF has managed to secure significant accommodations for faculty as well since the pandemic began. These include safety considerations, such as pressuring the administration to confirm anyone wishing for remote teaching accommodations could have them before the start of Fall Semester, holding the line on working conditions, such as enforcing faculty’s academic freedom over classroom formats and recording of lectures, and financial considerations, like the extension of professional development funds, and a $1 million outlay for prep work to move certain classes into remote learning.

These victories are not without their flaws and compromises, not the least of which is the failure of the administration to yet put anything in a written agreement, enforceable under our contract. This is the most fundamental reason impact bargaining has continued: to ensure that concessions made by the administration are not merely lip-service. For the most part, this has not been a problem, but we have kept and will continue to keep them honest in executing COVID-related agreements, especially as we look at Fall semester planning and the deep uncertainty around budgets and in-person reopening schedules.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

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 SAFER place to work and learn!

WeHeartUIC - Logo

Read More