There is general confusion amongst faculty members regarding the collective bargaining agreement and the so-called ‘faculty’ handbook. There are significant and important differences and functions between the two documents.
The following letter was sent to the Academic Senate regarding UFCT representation on a senate subcommittee charged with reviewing and revising administrative policy as promulgated in the handbook.
I hope my letter clarifies some faculty concerns.
Dear Pratt Colleagues:
This is a response to The Academic Senate’s wish to include representation from the UFCT in the upcoming review and revision of its publication, the Pratt Institute Faculty Handbook (FHB).
Contrary to public assertions, The UFCT Treasurer politely declined an offer to serve on the subcommittee so charged with reviewing and revising the handbook.
From my viewpoint, there are many things right with the faculty handbook although I do not regard it as a “faculty” handbook per se. It functions as the necessary institute/administrative policy document/guide it is. “The Pratt Institute Handbook” might be a more apt title?
There are significant differences between the handbook and collective bargaining agreement that must be respected. I hope all parties will agree that confusing these significant differences is both a disservice and unproductive for the faculty as a whole. Accordingly, the UFCT has a number of concerns with the handbook as presently written. I am impressed and hold the highest regard for the Pratt colleagues who will serve on this committee and look forward to communicating these concerns to them directly.
Bottom-line, for reasons of the Administration’s making — it is without a doubt an overt conflict of interest for any UFCT officer: President, VP, Secretary and/or Treasurer to serve on a subcommittee charged with writing, revising, amending and/or updating administrative policies.
A faculty colleague recently asked: “How do we make sure that the senate does not put stuff in the handbook that is contrary to the administration’s agreement with the Union?”
The answer is actually embedded in the handbook’s own foreword (paragraphs one and two verbatim): “This Faculty Handbook is intended to provide faculty members of Pratt Institute with a collection of current policies and procedures of Pratt Institute. The Handbook reflects Institute policy at the date of publication and is subject to change. This handbook does not confer any contractual right nor does it guarantee any fixed term or condition of employment. Many of the personnel policies for faculty are addressed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Pratt Institute Administration and the United Federation of College Teachers (here-after referred to as CBA). This handbook is not intended to replace or otherwise contravene any provision or any requirement of the current CBA. Thus Pratt faculty should consult the CBA on specific issues pertaining to personnel, benefits, workload, and any and all conditions of employment.”
This foreword is exemplary in clarifying the handbook’s non-application to all faculty issues of employment, the direct purview of the Union. This foreword should be strictly adhered to. Unlike the handbook, the CBA cannot be changed at the Administration’s whim. The handbook is not a legal document nor can it be adjudicated as such. For the faculty member who claims a provision in the handbook is not abided by, there is simply no recourse. However, the CBA is in fact a legally binding contract between the Pratt Administration and the United Federation of College Teachers and often adjudicated during negotiations, grievances and arbitration.
Union officials should not be coaxed into passing on, voting for and/or approving particular handbook provisions. The Administration has shown the wherewithal to use such “recognition” as wedge for supplanting provisions they find disagreeable in the CBA. The committee membership of a UFCT officer would be used most assuredly by the Administration looking for de-facto proof of Union approval for its handbook.
The UFCT avoids such ensnarement.