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  1. patrick webb

    I am going to try to suggest a way of looking at the situation from a broad context. First let me say I hope that the personal attacks regarding motivation and participation can be put aside. I assume we all are interested in a better PRATT and that we all have little time to participate in every aspect of the Institute – it is why we elect representation.

    Kye has asked us to look at the new contract as a whole and I intend to do so. He has stated that in negotiations each party arrives with a wish list. Therefore in analyzing the results I ask what wishes have been fulfilled. The union has primarily received an Agency fee, an increase in salaries, partial health benefits for Adjunct “C” (a population as yet to be defined), and exclusive control over grievances regarding the application of the terms of the contract. All these are good for the Union and the negotiating team must be commended for achieving them. The administration has gained increase control of the full time tenure track appointments in the first year, some changes in the personnel file (not withstanding the separate letter of clarification), control of the faculty housing, and a rewrite of Academic Freedom section.

    Kye has stated that negotiations reflect the history of grievances. It seems to me that the major gain made by the administration in this negotiation is in relation to the Academic Freedom section. Gerson has pointed out that in the past the Administration has attempted to use collegiality as a way to judge a faculty member and the Union has been successful at repelling such judgments because collegiality does not appear in the contract. With the new contract a host of qualifiers enter into the contract — “constructive”, “relevant”, “controversial”, “special position”, “special obligations”, “appropriate” etc. While these are not identical to collegiality their presence can only have a chilling effect on faculty autonomy. Furthermore the two phrases “ Evaluation of faculty and reward of merit must be based solely on teaching effectiveness and professional competence” (3.1) and “ To encourage creativity and constructive dissent, a faculty member is entitled to full freedom of discussion in all established Institute bodies without reprisal” (3.5) have been removed. These phrases limit the scope of what is included in judgment ( the former) and extend the protections to Institutional service ( the latter); a role that is not mentioned at all in the new contract. While I recognize Kye’s position that these items may not be grievable this document also serves a symbolic role underscoring the freedom of faculty to take education and creative search to unexpected places. I cannot believe that changes in this section do not represent for the Administration an advantage in asserting authority over the Faculty. Why else would they work so hard to change it?

    Now I come to the question of what can be done now. We are between a rock and a hard place. I strongly believe the Union should postpone the vote until late September. If nothing else time would let the rancor cool. It seems they have failed to supply the entire membership with hard copies of the MOU before scheduling informational meetings. There is not time to digest the information and make a reasoned decision. Summer is upon us. Right now we are asked to gamble; either trust the administration to return to the bargaining table if we vote “no” or trust that with the new language the Union will be able to prevent an erosion of Academic Freedoms if we vote “yes”.

    Finally one of the sad things that has emerged this last year is the accusatory tenor of argument- argumentum ad hominem– attacking the person and not the idea. It has occurred on the part of the adminstration and within the faculty. Along with it there has emerged an attack on the free flow of information by both the Union and the Administration. I plan to post this on both the union website (if I can figure out how to use it) and the academic forum. I believe in the free flow of information. Not one of the e-mails I have received included the warning one receives from lawyers about sharing information; and I hope that I NEVER receive something like that from my Union, the Administration or colleagues. The threats and efforts to control the flow of information strike me as similar to Cheney, Bush et al. and do not belong in Institute of Art, Design and higher education.

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