Eleventh hour talks to be held today

11/25/2014 update: The GTFF has sent its leadership team to meet with the State appointed mediator, presumably for the last time. No word if the UO administration has sent anyone with the power to cut a deal, or just $300-an-hour zoning easements attorney Jeff Matthews and the usual low-level administrators. Meanwhile UAUO President Michael Dreiling has an op-ed in the RG in support of the grad students:

Why do we support the federation?

On Nov. 5, UO President Scott Coltrane explained to the University Senate why attracting, supporting and retaining graduate students is essential to meeting our academic ambitions. The UO is doing poorly in this respect.

Recent data show that our total number of graduate students has declined. Many universities with which the UO competes already provide paid sick leave for their graduate employees. The UO cannot afford to fall further behind them. Better pay and a humane sick leave policy would make the UO more competitive, and we urge the administration to move on these proposals.

He’s got a point. UO needs more grad students to stay in the AAU, as Board Chair Chuck Lillis discussed in his meeting with the faculty Senate. It’s not happening, and we all know pay and benefits are part of prospective students’ decision. Here’s the last 10 years or so of enrollment data (includes professional students). We lost 100 or so last year alone:

11/24/2014 update: Unions post updates on strike, what to do about grades, AAUP support

The United Academics faculty union’s website includes some useful info about grading, and a letter of support from the AAUP for the “dilute and degrade” legislation and opposition to the administration’s confidential strike plans, here. This message is particularly strong:

The campus is caught up in confrontation and brinksmanship. Regardless of where anyone stands on the issues between the GTFF and the administration, we all have right to expect our administration to provide creative leadership in these difficult times. We are not getting this leadership from our colleagues in Johnson Hall.

The GTFF grad student union post is here, and among other things they have a letter of support from a major German trade union, reassuring the UO administration that:

“Parental leave, maternity protection and sick pay are not equivalent to socialism, but are self-evident principles.”

Now that this matter of principle has now been cleared up, perhaps the UO administration will finally agree to a deal with the GTFF. Rumor has it that the mediator from the Oregon LRB is willing to try one more time, tomorrow.

11/22/2014 update: Blandy and Altmann’s admin costs up $1.1M or 50%, in just two years

And Scott Coltrane doesn’t know where to find the $300K to settle with the GTF’s?

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And from what I can tell UO’s General Counsel’s office has spent another $150K on outside lawyers in the last two months, suggesting that HLGR’s Sharon Rudnick and Jeff Matthews may be approaching $250K in billings for the GTFF bargaining. (Dave Hubin’s Public Records office is still hiding the invoices, which I paid him for almost 2 weeks ago.)

11/22/2014 update: The well known Crooked Timber blog follows up on the Chronicle report with a complete dissection of the UO administration’s dissembling about the grad student strike, here.

11/21/2014: $530,000 in Vice Provosts not enough to figure out “X” grade

For some reason UO has *two* “Senior Vice Provosts of Academic Affairs”, Barbara Altmann and Doug Blandy, each pulling in paychecks of ~$190K, plus a regular VP of Academic Affairs Ken Doxsee, paid ~$150K. But apparently three’s not enough to do the job. While we all know Blandy has some unusual but lucrative ideas about what an A grade means,

it seems that Academic Affairs is also now confused about the X grade:

Date: November 21, 2014 at 6:08:49 PM PST
From: “Senior Vice Provost” <srviceprovost@uoregon.edu>
Reply-To: srviceprovost@uoregon.edu
Subject: Academic Continuity Planning Update 11/21/14

Dear colleagues,

Preparations continue for a possible strike by the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation on December 2, 2014. Earlier communications provided information about the implications of an X, Y, or I grade. We now have additional information. In particular, please note that these strategies are not feasible for thousands of students and grades. As well, please see information below on hiring additional help and on GTFs who are research assistants.

We are updating our information daily and will communicate as frequently as possible during this challenging time.

Sincerely,

Barbara Altmann Doug Blandy
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Questions and answers:

Is an X grade a viable strategy during the strike?

No. The registrar’s office places an X in a student’s record when no grade is recorded by the instructor. In earlier stages of preparation, we believed that X grades might be a viable solution; however, upon further investigation with the registrar and financial aid staff, we determined that that is not the case.

For financial aid purposes, an X grade is considered a non-passing grade. Further, in certain circumstances, federal regulations require that the university return federal student aid to the U.S. Department of Education for non-passing grades. Moreover, some students with X grades would lose eligibility for their winter term aid.

Any X grades need to be cleared manually by faculty by using DuckWeb. There is no simple automated administrative solution to the potential grading backlog.

That’s what they say now. But of course they don’t provide any evidence, and two weeks ago their leaked memo said the opposite:

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Or maybe our many VP’s aren’t incompetent, but are deliberately spreading doubt and confusion among the undergraduates, in hopes of frightening them into not supporting the graduate students?

Nice try, but UO’s Financial Aid website says the X grade won’t hurt financial aid, so long as you report that the student participated in class (Thanks to a well known strategic consultant for the link, which will presumably be disappeared shortly):

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Fortunately it seems our undergraduates understand exactly how Coltrane’s administrators are trying to play them:

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77 Responses to Eleventh hour talks to be held today

  1. idiots says:

    This place is administered by idiots. Just idiots. Good thing it’s the faculty who actually run things.

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    • anon says:

      Unless it drives faculty away, like the “Eds” in Psych.

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  2. Sun Tzu says:

    According to the registrar’s office, a grade of X does NOT impact financial aid as long as a class participation report is filed (http://financialaid.uoregon.edu/participation). Why is Blandmann lying to the faculty, students and staff at this university? How can the administration expect to be respected when they continue to be actively disingenuous? Is it too difficult to tell the truth? Or is this a win-at-all-costs fight?

    Me thinks the latter as the administration has been itching for a fight with the GTFs since the beginning of contract negotiations. The GTFs have been asking for a very reasonable salary raise and a small amount of sick/family leave time. What they have received in return from the administration is condescension and patronization from Day 1. the administration’s counter-offers have been minimal to non-existent and latest flex-time offer is a re-wording of what the GTFs already have. The administration’s disrespect for our GTFs and for academic integrity is pathetic. Coltrane should fire Blandmann for lying and settle with the GTFs immediately before the University’s national reputation is sullied even more.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    This communique is full of doublespeak, weasel-words, and misdirection. Let’s close-read, shall we?

    “In earlier stages of preparation, we believed that X grades might be a viable solution; however, upon further investigation with the registrar and financial aid staff, we determined that that is not the case.”

    What does “viable” mean in this case? A “solution” according to whom? As Sun Tzu notes, the UO’s own Financial Aid website says that an X grade doesn’t automatically mean a cutoff of financial aid, so it’s not necessarily “nonviable” from the point of view of protecting undergrads. It may well be a good solution from the point of view of a faculty member wishing to avoid undermining the strike. It’s from the admins’ point of view that this is a nonviable solution. All that’s changed is the admins’ strategy. But since we know their goal (break the union), why should we care if a strategy is viable in terms of that goal? Our goals should be to protect our grads, protect our undergrads, and protect ourselves. The administration’s strategies don’t seem to be serving those goals right now.

    “For financial aid purposes, an X grade is considered a non-passing grade.” True, according to the FinAid website. But:

    “Further, in certain circumstances, federal regulations require that the university return federal student aid to the U.S. Department of Education for non-passing grades.” Is an X grade one of those certain circumstances? “Further” doesn’t say that. Probably because it’s not necessarily the case. But they’d sure like us to think so.

    “Moreover, some students with X grades would lose eligibility for their winter term aid.” Again, the phrasing is the tell. “Moreover” suggests that this statement isn’t strictly intended to be understood as a consequence of the previous two – i.e., they can’t actually say it is – but they’d sure like us to think so.

    “Any X grades need to be cleared manually by faculty by using DuckWeb. There is no simple automated administrative solution to the potential grading backlog.” Red herring. Any faculty opting for an X is surely aware that s/he will have to go back later and enter a grade. Who, besides the admins, is looking for “a simple automated administrative solution”? This is irrelevant.

    Maybe there really is a legitimate but previously misunderstood point of policy in here, but it’s so badly written that I for one don’t feel justified in taking that meaning from it. Instead, everything about the phrasing suggests that the admins simply changed their minds about X grades. At first they thought it was a strategy that would serve their ends. Now they don’t think so. But why should faculty think the administration’s ends are the ones that need to be served here?

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    • anon says:

      Honestly this is a trend I’ve noticed through out the whole ordeal. The emails sent to undergrads have also been almost completely contextless, to the point that any student uninformed about the strike happening would only be made more confused by reading them. It’s honestly a little disturbing to me that the administration would be so set against simple, straight forward, transparency in a situation like this.

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    • Clueless says:

      Amen. Notice they did say they were changing policy. So, what will actually happen if faculty do not submit grades. I think they will have to put in an “X”. What else could they do? Would they really choose another option and then blame faculty?

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    • Dog says:

      maybe its useful to clarify what X and Y grades are supposed to be used for.

      A grade of X is something that is temporarily assigned if no grade is turned in for a student. X is a clerical error grade (the faculty either intentionally or unintentionally didn’t submit a grade)

      A grade of Y is turned in when there is no participation by the student at all. Y is generally a grade given to students that make a registration mistake and never realize they actually registered for the class.

      Grades of X generally trigger, within a few days an email from the RO asking you to submit a real grade for that student.

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      • Dog says:

        addendum

        if faculty simply don’t turn in grades then all students on their course roster would automatically receive an X.

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      • Clueless says:

        Yes, clear information is so refreshing. Too bad our “leaders” are intentionally sowing confusion so that faculty who are actually worried about their students might become unwitting pawns in negotiation tactics. This is nothing less than immoral, despicable behavior from our “leaders”.

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      • Anonymous says:

        In our teaching we have an ethical obligation to assign grades that reflect merit. If the university does not provide adequate support to do that, the only ethical thing is not to turn in a grade. Let the university assign an X and take responsibility for its action.

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        • Clueless says:

          Yes, yes, yes. This is so clear that the debate is over.

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  4. Sue Kennedy says:

    Though it can’t be said that the GTFF’s communication with undergraduates in its FAQ is any less duplicitous. “Snow day” indeed.

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    • Clueless says:

      We should expect much more from highly paid, “experienced” administrators than from GTFF.

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      • Tree says:

        Not to mention Sue’s gross misrepresentation: the GTFF says that the strike COULD be like having several snow days. Look up past graduate student strikes and eliminate the outliers and you’ll see that the GTFF is offering a generous guesstimate.

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    • GTFatLarge says:

      Snow days were an analogy. If classes get canceled or if assignments get pushed back, the world does not end. Those are exactly the kinds of things that happen during snow days, and the University knows how to manage that. The Winter quarter of 2012 had finals week messed up specifically due to snow days. No one lost their financial aid because of it. Panic and threats are not necessary. The Administration is making a choice to try confuse and scare faculty, undergrads and grad students.

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      • anonymous says:

        Yes. In fact, the “confidential” memo says exactly that.

        Incidentally, I misspoke below. The “confidential” memo doesn’t mention canceling classes, but the “Academic Continuity Plan” does.

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  5. Faculty Clubber says:

    Rumor at last night’s faculty club cotillion is that Phil Knight freaked over the “X” grade, because it might affect his footballers eligibility to play in BCS championship games after the quarter ends. So Blandy and Altmann were told to change the story ASAP, hence the emergency Friday evening email.

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  6. anonymous says:

    It might be a dopey analogy to compare a work interruption to snow days, but recall that the “confidential” memo did propose canceling classes during Dead Week. I don’t see anything in the GTFF letter that approaches the level of disinformation coming from the administration.

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  7. Jack London says:

    The admins are really gunning to win the “comically and hypocritically evil” award this year. Tough competition at UVA, Marquette, and Urbana-Champaign… skoducks!

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    • anonymous says:

      I would totally love to see what Around the O says when UO comes out on top in that competition.

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  8. Bring back Russ Tomlin says:

    Seriously. He was a screwup, but he never lied as badly as these 3. Cheaper too.

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  9. The real price tag says:

    This is so frustrating. All this mistrust and bad blood (between faculty and admin) is not going to magically disappear at the end of this term and at the end of this round of negotiations.

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  10. anonymous says:

    If Chuck Lillis is serious with his rhetoric about peace and goodwill with the faculty, then the very first order of business needs to be cutting the salaries and budgets of every single one of these people, from Associate Dean up, to 99% of what the same level administrators are getting at comparator institutions. Let them get paid more after they’ve earned it.

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  11. Old Man says:

    Chuck Lillis is smart. If he is serious about Peace and Goodwill he will do whatever is needed to bring the ratio (Administrator salaries)/(Everyone else’s salaries) in line with comparator universities. The existing disparity is lethal.

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  12. Confused Undergrad says:

    Very interesting post. I’ve been trying to follow the events and statements regarding the GTF strike, but unsurprisingly the administration’s emails don’t really give a great picture of what is going on. One thing that noone seems to be talking about is how much the proposal that the GTF’s have given, and where that money would come from.

    You mention it would be “$300K.” Do you have a source for this? Perhaps I’m naive, but I find it hard to believe that the administration would deny our GTFs their basic benefits and risk a disastrous strike over such a paltry sum.

    The only good argument I have heard in favor of the administration is a rumour that they would have to raise undergraduate tution to fund the GTF raise. Is there any truth to this?

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    • Oryx says:

      The cost of the benefits the GTFs have requested is, as you correctly write, “paltry.” Estimates I’ve heard are even smaller than $300k. The reason the administration doesn’t want to grant the benefits, I’ve heard from several people who seemed to know what they were talking about, is that doing so would set a precedent for greater benefits to adjuncts and other non-tenure-track faculty. I don’t really understand why this would be the case, and why the GTFs are pawns in all this. You’re certainly not the only one who is confused!

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    • anonymous says:

      It ain’t about money. It’s about control.

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    • anon says:

      Confused, if the admins were so concerned about tuition, they wouldn’t have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to refuse the GTFFs demands. That’s >$100,000 in legal fees, an equal amount or more in admin time, and what will be even more to bring in workers to fill in during the strike. No, it more likely the usual unfortunate reasons-they don’t want to look soft and are happy to spend your money to look tough because there are other unions and future negotiations to worry about, they want to be able to point to this as taking measures to reduce expenses when talking to the board or state (even though they are actually spending more money), they didn’t think much about it and hate to admit they might have been wrong.

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    • GTF what the what says:

      the University has a significant budget surplus, funded primarily by tuition increases (I believe – correct me if no). I can think of no reason – other than continuing to pit under-represented classes against each other – that the administration would blame (another!) tuition increase on the GTFF CBA.

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      • uomatters says:

        True – the surplus is so large that they are desperately trying to spend it down with wasteful administrative bloat like that at VPAA, and things like the UOPD and athletics.

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    • Exhausted GTF says:

      Rember they have a 65 million dollar surplus, this is not a time of austerity. I teach a masters class and when you factor out the money for heat and maintenance, classified staff, and my wages they are still profiting over $100,000 from my class alone. GTFs are not charity cases, we make them huge piles of money, tuition hikes have nothing to do with our wages (although they might lie to you and say they do). They spent $125,000 on an external lawyer (first time in bargaining history, it’s always been UO employees in the past) and the medical leave would only cost $52,000. It does seem unbelievable that they would cause all this trouble, but they went on record saying that it is not about the money “it’s the principle.” It sounds crazy because it is crazy. We started bargaining a year ago, we are exhausted but we have principles too. Our principles include basic human dignity for all workers and quality education for all, and we face losing money that we can ill afford to fight for them.

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    • GTFatLarge says:

      The GTFF estimates around $330,000 over the two years of the contract. To implement the GTFF’s leave proposal is around $52,000 for each year of the contract. That cost takes into account 5 years of insurance data to estimate how many GTFs might need leave, the wages that GTFs earn, and the actual proposal language the GTFF has written. It is a very realistic interpretation of what the University would spend on leave for GTFs.

      The other $230,000ish comes from wages. The Administration has offered 5% in the first year of the contract and 4% for the 2nd year. The GTFF wants 5.5% for both years. The cost for that 5% and 4% is
      a total of about $800,000 over the two years of the contract. Going up to 5.5% for both years is the extra cost of $230,000.

      That is where the $300,000 number comes from – cost for leave for 2 years and more money for wages. It is also on top of $800,000 that the university has already agreed to spend. Now, can the University afford that extra little bit on top of the $800,000?

      GTF compensation comes mostly from tuition and fees – something called the General Fund. Tuition and student fees gets dumped into the general fund and lots of things are spent out of the general fund. Jamie Moffitt, the University’s chief financial officer, told the Board of Trustees in September that the general fund increased by about $11 million last year. That is $11 million more money they collected in tuition and fess than was spent. Over the past 4 or 5 years, the fund has grown by multiple millions of dollars each year. At the start of this school year – before any tuition or fees were collected for this academic year – the general fund had more than 60 million dollars in it.

      The $1.1 million the GTFF is asking the Administration to invest for wages and leave is spread over two years. The Administration could easily pull this money from the general fund – and still make multiple millions of dollars in profit. Tuition should not have to be raised to cover the cost.

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      • anonymous says:

        Brief comment about “on top of” the $800,000 already negotiated. Unlike most unionized workers, GTFs don’t get an automatic cost-of-living increase; they have to negotiate for one. UO knows they’re going to have to pony up for keeping real wages at their current level when they sit down at the table.

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  13. Carla McNelly, President SEIU Local 085 says:

    A suggested records request…How many UO employees are in the hole up to 520 hours sick leave?

    http://hr.uoregon.edu/oa/holidays-vacation-sick-jury-and-other-leaves

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  14. Gina Psaki says:

    Yikes, yuck, no, and LET’S STOP. I too am distressed and angry about the impending GTFF strike, and bewildered about many university priorities, but I have to enter three caveats.

    First, we’re a university: if we can’t admit that honest people differ without one of the parties being evil, stupid, or wrong, then there’s just no hope. We have to reframe this disagreement instead of slamming and flaming.

    Second, I cannot believe that bludgeoning the SVPs of Academic Affairs is either helpful or fair. If anybody thinks either of them is lolling about by the Johnson Hall pool, sipping mai tais and reading trashy romance novels, well, they haven’t been paying attention.

    Third, Scott Coltrane has not suddenly turned into the focus of evil in the modern world. The clash between his research and his bargaining position has not escaped him, and I’m sure it pains him immensely. Let’s assume that he has not been captured by pod people and replaced with a Grinch. There has to be a way out of this impasse, and can’t we find it?

    Go ahead, bash away at me for this comment! But add your good ideas about resolving the GTFF stalemate while you’re at it.

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    • Jack London says:

      Sorry, Gina, but if Coltrane had one iota of integrity, he would go to Chuck Lillis and the powers that be and offer his resignation. Losing another president just months after Gottfredson was driven out would be too embarrassing; Lillis would cave on the spot, and Coltrane would become a hero of the GTFs, the faculty, and plenty of other constituencies overnight. Maybe he still will….

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      • Gina Psaki says:

        Well, Jack, that was a good idea, here’s hoping Lillis doesn’t read UOM or he’ll be onto it.
        How about a sick leave bank? The admin didn’t bite in 2013, but I bet a lot of faculty would give up accrued leave to GTFs. I’ve been accruing it since Fanny was a girl’s name and if I took it before retirement it would surely cost the UO a lot.

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        • Jack London says:

          Glad you like the idea. :)

          It’s unclear how Lillis’s being “onto it” would matter. It is a genuine matter of integrity for Coltrane, and it would be a genuine embarrassment for UO to let him resign over it. The stakes are the same whether they’re publicly known or not.

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    • I don not think that word means what you think it means says:

      The problem, of course, is that there’s no reason to assume that the administration is being honest. They’ve already been taken to task for potentially violating labor law by misrepresenting International GTF rights in a strike. They consistently take credit for expansions in GTF health care coverage which were secured outside of the bargaining process, and imply that this added coverage is part of some generous package offered by the administration. The Graduate School FAQ contains a number of bald assertions with no supporting data (and they have stonewalled requests for said data).

      Honest parties can disagree without being evil. The Administration has not acted as an honest party.

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    • uomatters says:

      Thanks for the calming advice Gina.

      I’ll plead guilty to naming names, and not being very polite about it. However the problem is not some vague “administration”. It’s specific administrators making bad decisions, and then refusing to take responsibility for those decisions. Attaching names to the decisions, e.g. with the “confidential” memo, makes it possible for faculty and grad students to know who they are dealing with. Same with the $1.1M increase in annual administrative costs, in just one small office. That’s a lot of money. People should know who decided to do this, and why.

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    • Michael Smith says:

      Professor Psaki,

      The SVPs may not be sipping mai tais by Johnson Hall, but let’s be very clear: Sr. Administration salaries are absolutely a legitimate topic for this debate. I was a GTF at the UO for 6 years, and I was paid about $1,000/month, which is what the Provost makes every day of the year. Even if the contested GTFF leave proposal cost the University $100,000/year, let’s call that what it is: the Provost’s summer pay. For that, the University is willing to risk a strike. As has been reported on this website and by the UO itself, average pay for Sr. Administrators has risen more than $100k per year since 2003-4. Again, the average raise for a single Sr. Administrator would likely pay for the leave policy. And if the President’s salary were corrected to 100% of salaries for Presidents at comparitor schools, the GTFF could have everything they’ve asked for with the difference.

      Secondly, this is a moral issue. The University has made it clear throughout the bargaining process that it would not consider the leave policy in any form. They have never entered meaningful negotiations about it, even though they are clearly paying their anti-union team more than the cost of the benefit to defeat it. I don’t think it’s wise to be flip about the differences in power between these two groups. This is a disagreement about a low-cost benefit for indebted student workers that the President’s research supports, opposed by millionaires in the Administration. That’s a legitimate topic for discussion.

      I agree with you that universities should foster intelligent discussion and proceed civilly. I also believe that if we fail to address injustice, especially injustice at the heart of our own institutions, we’ve utterly failed at our vocations. The President of the University is paid ~$660,000/year. The Administration has paid their lawyers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The GTFF isn’t asking for that much. We should be civil. But we have to call out injustice where we see it. And the economic and power differentials here are stark.

      Cordialmente,

      Michael Bennet Smith

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    • anonymous says:

      The path that led us here has nothing to do with honest disagreement. The GTFF’s position is reasonable and both affordable by and beneficial to the University. The GTFF is not the Teamsters; it’s a small union comprised of students who really want to be students, but who don’t think that should be used as an excuse to deprive them of a very minimal standard of living. However much a strike will hurt the University or the faculty, it will hurt GTFs more.

      The University–I won’t name names here–is unambiguously the more powerful party in these negotiations, but they have abused that power. They are sacrificing the best interests of grad students, undergrads, and faculty alike over some vague “precedent” that they’re afraid of setting.

      It’s impossible to come up with good ideas that will resolve the stalemate precisely because the University is not being honest. They’re not being honest about what exactly it is that they’re worried will happen if they accede to the GTFF. If they would be genuinely honest about that, then maybe it might be possible to move forward. As it stands, they’re just playing games and betting that they can wait out a strike.

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      • Working GTF says:

        The worry seems to be that if they grant us these benefits, other, currently non-qualifying employees would rate these benefits, as well.

        So they can’t give us a basic benefit because in denying it to us, they also deny it to others, and they wish to continue denying them this basic benefit–which costs roughly as much as they pay Dana Altman in bonuses.

        Which is about as morally bankrupt a justification for denying a benefit as one can imagine.

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        • anonymous says:

          This is what I mean by “honest.” I know there’s been a lot of speculation and insinuation along those lines, but is this really what they’ve said? Even if giving the GTFF paid leave would somehow force them to give paid leave to other employees, (1) that wouldn’t cost them a whole lot of money either, (2) it would be worked out in different negotiations with other unions, and presumably (3) it would be a Good Thing all around anyway.

          Assuming that they are rational and not completely incompetent, it’s crazy to burn through so much money, credibility, and goodwill for no other purpose than to deny their most vulnerable employees ultra-basic benefits. So what exactly are they worried about?

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          • Working GTF says:

            If you watch the video, it’s presented by Coltrane as an issue of “equity.” Setting aside for the moment the bizarre use of the principle of equity being used in service of the deprivation of benefits equally among part time employees, the implicit claim seems to be that if GTFs are granted a benefit that not all part time employees enjoy, then it creates an inequality among employees of a certain class.

            Why the existence of that inequality is (a) a basis for denial of the benefit and (b) a moral burden the GTFF must bear, is beyond my poor powers of reason to ascertain.

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          • anonymous says:

            Even if Coltrane’s nonsensical doublespeak should be interpreted as code for “we absolutely, positively don’t want to give any part-time employee paid leave, period,” it still leaves open the fundamental question of WHY???? Why is it this apparently stupid, trivial, no-brainer issue so important to the University that they’re willing to go to the mat and drag everyone else along with them?

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          • Working GTF says:

            For that I have no good answer. Bargaining in a new benefit is always hard, but for some reason, this one is being treated like it will open a hellmouth.

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          • anonymous says:

            I think the answer is pretty obvious why UO is fighting the paid-leave benefit tooth and nail – if the UO caves for this benefit for GTTFs, then the faculty union will want the same benefit this next round of bargaining, and that will be WAY more expensive…..

            I’ve been pretty supportive of the GTFs, but Dreiling’s Op-Ed in the RG today did them a disservice as to me it is suggestive of collusion between the GTFF and United Academics.

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          • different anonymous says:

            They can’t keep paid leave off the table forever–it’s even less defensible for NTTs than for GTFs.

            As for it being “too expensive,” that just means they think there is something else that is a better use of that money. OK, what exactly, and maybe there’s another way to pay for it? Or maybe there is some way to structure paid leave, such as with a leave bank, that would not be “too expensive”? But UO has consistently refused to even seriously consider any options besides saying no to the GTFF. That’s the real problem here.

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  15. Clueless says:

    I agree that we don’t need the personal attacks and name calling. Simply pointing out that named administrators have not been truthful (about “x” grades, for instance), that they have ignored shared governance on this issue, that their “principled” stance on paid leave is incongruent with their stated values and that they have directly infringed upon faculty’s academic freedom ought to be embarrassment enough.

    We should openly debate issues using clear, evidence-based arguments. That is really hard to do when the other side is not truthful and uses faculty as pawns in a negotiating game.

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  16. Gina Psaki says:

    Thanks for all this feedback. When, as Clueless puts it, we “openly debate issues using clear, evidence-based arguments” we stay on solid and defensible ground, and we may make progress. But taking advantage of anonymity to sling insults no one would sign his/her name to, actually harms the cause we care about: a fair raise and a fair (if scrawny) leave benefit for the GTFF.

    Having perpetrated more than my share of intemperate speech and ill-directed fury on the stalled negotiations, I’m in no position to blame. It’s just that the calmer and more impersonal articulation of the issues is far more persuasive, as Bonnie Mann noted in a post last week.

    As for creative solutions–surely we haven’t thrown in the towel.

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    • UO Grad Student says:

      Surely you can appreciate why it’s entirely different for a tenured professor to attach her name to a dissenting opinion rather than a GTF, especially regarding the administration’s tactics about the CBA.

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    • Anas Clypeata says:

      Some of us have tried using calm and impersonal articulation of the issues with these very administrators and their predecessors over the years, to no avail. Hence the frustration, speculation, and intemperance.

      Perhaps these administrators, and their predecessors, simply cannot follow the logic that providing reasonable benefits to employees (including student employees) of all sorts would help to attract the sort of employees (including student employees) that might transform the University of Oregon into the home of excellence for which so many people have expressed a desire in the recent past.

      Time after time we have been confronted with the administration’s inability or unwillingness (either one is unfortunate) to listen to the rational voices that have stepped forward to offer assistance, whether it was with the recent mission statement fiasco, the recent gang rape fiasco, the recent sexual violence survey fiasco, the recent GTFF bargaining fiasco, the recent cluster-related fiasco, and the recent law school enrollment fiasco. And that is just the fiascoes of the last six months. When confronted with such obdurate foolishness, a bit of vituperation from those affected, and neutral observers alike, is to be expected.

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  17. Michael Furtado says:

    Gina, I agree with you regarding the need to attempt to move away from emotional venting and name calling, but I’m sure you’ll agree there’s ample reason for those emotions. The handling of the ‘x’ grade debacle alone is sufficient to cause normally even-tempered folk to ponder pulling out some hair. I cannot imagine that someone I respect as much as Barbara Altmann would be involved in intentional duplicity, but if I am unwilling to consider that as true, I cannot help but conclude that the communication within the upper echelons of the Administration is very, very poor indeed.

    Unfortunately, I know very well what it is to feel vulnerable when faced with labor relations with the Administration. I appreciate the GTFs’ concern for their lack of power relative to tenured faculty and know that there is a distinct, palpable difference in our ability to articulate our feelings without fear of retribution. I hope that the Administration will consider the basic issues of fairness and even human dignity that these “demands” from the GTF represent, but I have great concern that they have already decided to take a very corporate approach to their dealings with labor generally. The hiring of an external negotiator, the grossly inflated administrative salaries, and the willingness to even consider, for however brief a moment, the idea of diluting academic standards in aid of breaking a strike do not bode well for any future labor confrontations here at the UO.

    I realize full well that making my opposition to the Administration and its handling of these matters could result in my losing my “career NTTF” status. But worrying about whether or not I may be tarred with the “troublemaker” brush for supporting this strike is a very real fear for me and for anyone else who does not enjoy a tenured status. Ours is a different relationship to this struggle, and one I hope others will realize may cause greater anxiety and even anger as we consider the possible long term consequences.

    I would not enjoy the position I have today without the support and action of United Academics, and I thank you, Gina, for the service I know you provided in aid of that benefit. I urge the Administration to consider the merit of a “budget-first” approach to dealing with human beings in light of our mission as an educational institution.

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    • uomatters says:

      UO now has a very strong academic freedom policy, thanks to Gina among others, and I am sure the Senate, the union, and many others will go to the mat if there is any retaliation for speaking freely about the GTFF bargaining.

      That said, tenured faculty like me have even less to worry about. Thanks for doing so without that protections.

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      • Anas Clypeata says:

        UO Matters is being naive here with respect to retaliation. Many employees, including student employees, GTFs, and OAs, work under contracts that the university can terminate without cause, or under contracts that may change or not be offered when the next academic term rolls around.

        Retaliation can be and has been delivered at the UO in a completely legal manner to employees who use their alleged freedom of speech to make statements that bother their employers. I have first-hand knowledge of such incidents.

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        • Anonymous says:

          then why hasn’t UOM been fired yet?

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          • uomatters says:

            It’s my charming personality and good looks.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Post of the week. Stop by Nike HQ for your free shoes.

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          • Anas Clypeata says:

            To state the obvious, in case the above wasn’t just trolling: because UOM does not work under a contract that allows the university to terminate without cause.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    I can’t help but feel there’s a double standard regarding the value of attaching a name to a statement.

    On the one hand, those of us who, for fear of retaliation or official harassment, don’t attach our names to our criticisms are told we’re taking advantage of anonymity to make irresponsible statements. Attaching our name would force us to make statements we could stand by; attaching our name means we stand by our statements.

    On the other hands, when administrators such as Barbara Altmann and Scott Coltrane do attach their names to statements, we’re told that we can’t judge them by those statements. We must assume that, the evidence of those statements to the contrary, they are well meaning, good-hearted people with integrity.

    Those without power are treated as irresponsible until they speak under their own names. Those with power can speak under their own names and somehow not have to accept responsibility for what they say.

    There’s an ethical issue here, but I don’t think it has to do with anonymity.

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    • Gina Psaki says:

      Thanks to everyone, anonymous or named, who is taking part in this discussion about anonymous postings. I surely do not deny the need for anonymity when colleagues without the protections of tenure take potentially risky positions. (I call that a good use of anonymity.) Nor would I suggest their words are worthless without a name-tag. I’m aware that only an accident of chronology gives me the opportunity to posture and expostulate; when I entered the profession tenure-track faculty were in the majority, by a good cut, and academic freedom was assumed to be assured.

      My only–cavil? caveat?–is that sometimes anonymity gets used to cover a degree of virulent vituperation that is at the very least rhetorically counter-productive when the university still has an opportunity to settle with the GTFF.

      That said, words fail me for the breaking-news addition of heads as instructors of record in advance of this last-minute mediation. This decision sends entirely the wrong messages: 1. that the strike is a done deal; 2. that the responsibility for any negative effects of administration’s decision not to settle with the GTFF somehow lies with faculty; 3. that an administrative decision to sideline the Grade-X possibility is some kind of force of nature, outside of anyone’s control; 4. that faculty do NOT have control of our grading (all claims to the contrary notwithstanding).

      WTF?

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      • anonymous says:

        Well, the administration is not acting in good faith, just as they have not been acting in good faith all along. It’s horrible to realize that at every opportunity they will choose an adversarial stance over a cooperative one, but that’s exactly their attitude. Grad students have borne the brunt of it because they’re easy targets for abuse of power.

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  19. Larry Wayte says:

    The latest email (11/25) from the admins about “Academic Continuity” during a strike is particularly disturbing. It casually mentions that “in order to ensure that grades can be submitted by the grading deadline, all department heads were added to courses in Blackboard.” In addition to the obvious break in protocol over faculty having exclusive control over our Blackboard sites, I also read this as a thinly-veiled threat that if faculty can’t get their grades in on time during the strike, the admins will go into Blackboard (and Duckweb, presumably) and take over the grading for those courses. Things just went from bad to way worse…

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    • Ron Bramhall - VP UAUO says:

      Yes, Larry, that is a concern. Especially given this bit of doublespeak from Around the O:

      “Faculty members continue to have academic control over their classes and may choose how to plan for end-of-term activities. There is an Academic Continuity Plan in place to provide faculty tools and options to ensure that end-of-term academic activities continue. Finals will occur and grades will be entered to complete the term.” (http://around.uoregon.edu/content/myths-and-truths-bargaining-and-strike-preparations)

      This goes to Anonymous point above about those in power not being held accountable for what they say publicly. If I carefully read the statement above, I realize it is nonsensical. Faculty members have “academic control over their classes”….until they don’t and the mysterious actor of the passive voice will make sure “Finals will occur and grades will be entered.”

      The statement is either meant to confuse by obfuscation or those that wrote it do not consider Finals and grades part of the “academic control” that faculty possess.

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    • Working GTF says:

      I have had an assistant dean made an instructor in my course.

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      • anonymous says:

        I wonder whether it’s possible to simultaneously comply with the “UO intellectual property” and “reasonable requests for information” mandates while refusing to abet strikebreaking, by, for example, adding a few dummy columns to Blackboard gradesheets that screw up final grade calculations.

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        • uomatters says:

          That would be wrong.

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        • Psakisaurus says:

          I don’t use Blackboard’s grading center as I find it confusing and annoying. Am I finally finding the advantage to being a Luddite?

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        • Working GTF says:

          Anything that can be construed as sabotage can be grieved as an unfair labor practice.

          My suspicion is that simply turning over materials as is will be a sufficient stumbling block to any admin who attempts to use them.

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  20. anon says:

    I have to wonder, who is calling the shots for the administration? Any solid theories? To me, doesn’t make sense that it would be Coltrane, Altmann, or Blandy. Who is “the decider?”

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    • anonymous says:

      Purely a guess, but I suspect CAS and COE are leading the charge on this issue since they (I think) have the greatest number of GTFs and thus their budgets will take the biggest hits.

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      • Working GTF says:

        During bargaining, we asked Jeff Matthews directly who was leading the “management team” meeting where Jeff got his directives. He told us it was Scott Coltrane.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Board of Trustees Chair Chuck Lillis also stated clearly during the University Senate meeting that the Board delegated the authority to run collective bargaining to the President. Scott Coltrane is the guy – whether that means the guy calling the shots, or the fall-guy if things go south.

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          • anonymous says:

            Yes, surely at this point, there is no question that Scott is fully apprised of the situation and the admin’s positions are being taken with his full support. Whether they hold or give will be his call too, even if he isn’t in the room to actually go through the relevant motions.

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