Status Quo, Part 1

Status is one's employment level. Certain rights and/or protections whether implied or actual are associated with one's status.

The discussions about visiting status have been illuminating and expansive, and often referenced other issues such as: FT: PT ratios, peer review, evaluation, promotions and/or changes in status. It is clear that all of these considerations are inextricably linked to one another, and are all imbedded in notions of advancement. Pratt's faculty get very little recognition, and very little reward for their contributions. We function within an employment structure that is bereft of standards, fraught with inconsistencies and virtually broken. We work within a climate where administrative improvisation passes for practice and administrative boilerplate passes for policy. Advancement and change of status are one and the same.

I am presently trying to ascertain just how many faculty members have been dismissed for lack of competence? How many current instructors are teaching courses they are ill equipped for? How many faculty members are not giving 100%? How many faculty members have been unduly promoted and/or granted status change without qualification? Any academic "problems" seem to be administrative, not faculty based. If there is any incompetence within the faculty ranks, then shame on the Administration for tolerating this. They have had all of the means necessary to initiate and properly administer fair and equitable practices of employment, including evaluation and review — practices that would reward academic excellence and dignify those who the Administration claims are a priority; those of us who teach. These means are at their disposal, yet they have chosen not to exercise or implement them. Why? The answer is simple, they don't have to. We the faculty, have been too busy, and too distracted to notice that the tables have been turned. We are now left holding the bag. We must take the initiative and seize this moment — not necessarily to clean up the mess the Administration has created — but to create for ourselves, a more equitable and fair work environment. If not the faculty, who?

We cannot separate out nor afford to separate out, each issue from the whole myriad of issues that comprise the conditions of our employment.

The following remarks were originally triggered by the visiting status discussions. They are now intended to broaden the conversation to include all strata of faculty at Pratt: visiting, adjunct, adjunct w/CCE, full-time, full-time tenured. What do each of these status' mean? How does one attain a change in status? What protections, and/or benefits if any, are granted with status change?

Pratt Institute has become a feudal system, a system based on class; of the ever-growing underclass pitted against one another in subtle and insidious ways. As awareness grows amongst the faculty ranks, I sense that more and more faculty members are less inclined to take this bait. Educating ourselves about the conditions of our employment is the single most effective way in which to create the momentum that, if harnessed properly, can initiate real and meaningful change. Change that will benefit the faculty and reform current practices that are divisive and destructive.

There are certain realities about the hiring, firing, evaluation and promotion of the faculty at Pratt we should all hasten to remember when determining from where we've come, where we are presently, and where we are headed.

Reality #1: Pratt Institute has a Faculty Union, as well as a collective bargaining agreement that does grant protections to the faculty. However, the contract is not worth the paper it is printed on or certainly the principles it is predicated on if we and the Administration do not mutually agree to recognize each other, deal, and act in GOOD FAITH. Without vigilance, the Faculty Union will continue to be short changed, and left reeling from one lost pursuit after another. Contract matters and language are moot by design and open to interpretation. Without vigilance and determination, one side's interpretation sets precedent and establishes practice. Consensus and compromise are only possible if reasonable actions prevail. How do we in good faith and by way of fair practice, achieve consensus and compromise? For one, by recognizing when the Administration engages in practices of obfuscation, stonewall and delay and by not tolerating them. If the Administration chooses to subvert protocol, it must be challenged forthright and with strength — faculty strength in numbers, and in shared convictions. The strength of a robust membership cannot be overstated. Creating and maintaining a united Faculty Union presence is by far the most important tool the faculty has for implementing change.

Reality #2: Good faith, and fair practices are becoming negligible and practically nonexistent. The Administration has been very successful in shaping the debate, in establishing precedent, and in overriding faculty initiatives. The faculty needs to change this dynamic, through the force of its convictions — convictions that are predicated on fairness, equity and good faith practice. The Administration has been vigilant, strong and effective in denying the bare minimums to its faculty. They have done this with their eyes wide open and a clear vision of what is possible. They have overrun us because we have been weak, because we haven't been paying attention, and because they could. There is a pattern here, a history of behavior that is habitual and ultimately destructive to the Institute as a whole. One need only note the recent Middle States report to see that institutionally and administratively, Pratt is seriously challenged. When its all said and done, there is no system of checks and balances if the Faculty Union is divided, distracted and disaffected. We have an opportunity NOW to take the initiative.

Reality #3: There are no, or few guarantees enumerated in the contract. This applies to hiring, firing, evaluation and promotion. In a word, we all serve at the pleasure of our chairs. This statement is not to ascribe any ill intent on the part of these chairpersons, it is to point out and emphasize the tremendous discretionary powers instilled in this administrative level of closest contact to the faculty. No one determines your hiring, firing, workload, evaluation for promotion and/or chances for advancement more than your chair. You serve at the pleasure of your chair, as they serve at the pleasure of the Administration.
The Administration has been very crafty in defining and redefining "faculty" when it serves their interests, i.e., FT: PT faculty ratios. When you add some twenty-two chairpersons to the full-time faculty ranks you most assuredly slant the number of full-time faculty in the Administration's favor. The Administration likes to include chairs and other administrative personal (including even deans) when determining allocated spending for faculty, all under the rubric of "teaching." By including faculty chair salaries for example, which are significantly higher than full-time Professors at the same rank and with similar years served, it most definitely inflates this overall number in the Administration's favor. Yet, the Administration knows full well that chairs are administrators, and explicitly excluded from the CBA. You cannot bring forth a grievance towards one who is within the bargaining unit.
A chairperson serves at the pleasure of the Dean who serves at the pleasure of the Provost who serves at the pleasure of the President who serves at the pleasure of the Board of Trustees. This is the administrative chain of command.

(continued, The Status Quo, Part 2)