Memorandum of Understanding: Frequently Asked Questions

Please note that the full text of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) can be found in the right-hand column under “Categories.” The MOU amends and adds to the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) or “contract,” which can also be found to the right.

1. Q: One thing that the MOU seems to do is to “fix” (and also therefore “cap”) the number of CCE’s and Adjuncts (MOU sections 4 &6). There is also a small provision for transitioning three CCE’s into full-time tenure-track positions (MOU section 5). What is unclear to me is whether this is a “give” or a “get” for us. In part this will depend on whether the remaining teaching needs are fulfilled by additional full-time tenure-track hires or by additional visiting hires. What is the rationale for fixing the number of faculty in these two “intermediate statuses” and how does it relate to the provision of 50% healthcare to CCE’s and adjuncts? How does this change relate to the union’s overall goal to improve the work conditions of contingent faculty?

A: A “minimum” now for CCE (100), and for adjunct faculty (250), is a more accurate description as opposed to these numbers being “caps.” They are not. Truth be told we are not happy with having to countenance such ‘minimums’ but recognize that CCE and adjunct titles (much like “full-time”) are not limitless. BTW, how many full-time faculty should there be at Pratt? I’m certain 100 CCEs feel they should be full-time. Problem is, how does this happen when the union has absolutely no ‘hiring’ or ‘staffing’ authority? Therefore, there is nothing the union can do to counter what is an administrative prerogative other than try and keep such MINS as high as possible. In other words, the employer determines who and how many employees there shall be, the union then protects those on the ground through enforcement of the Contract. Interestedly, effective 9/01/12, there will be 134-136 full-time faculty, a minimum of 102 CCEs, and upwards of 290 adjuncts (without CCE) institute-wide. Pratt’s “plan” or better yet “report” to Middle-States/NASAD is that 30% of student credits delivered will be taught by full-time faculty, 20% by CCE, 25% by adjuncts, and 25% by visiting faculty. Knowing well how Pratt has “staffed” faculty in the past, objectively, this looks like a reasonable landscape, although you and I would probably like that full-time percentage to be higher, say 50%+…??

2. Q: In reference to the “fix” provisions in MOU sections 4 & 6, how will this affect the APRT process for those who are applying for change in status from visiting to adjunct or from adjunct to CCE? What happens if 20 faculty submit successful applications for CCE via the ARPT process but there are only ten “open” slots available? Who gets the promotion, and what happens to the applications of those who do not?

A: As a first principle, in the ARPT process as outlined in Article 16, faculty ARPT committees make recommendations on promotion in status (from Visitor to Adjunct, from Adjunct without CCE to Adjunct with CCE) based only upon the academic criteria developed by those faculty. The Administration has and has always had the sole prerogative to incorporate “staffing” criteria into its recommendations to the Board of Trustees (16.3: “Review and determination shall also take into account enrollment trends, distribution, and budgetary considerations”). This always has been, and will continue to be the case. The faculty do not base its recommendations on these issues. According to 16.10, if any recommendation by the administration is shown to be “arbitrary and capricious,” including the portion of Article 16.3 outlined above, it may be subjected to the grievance process, outlined in Article 7.

3. Q: MOU section 8 seems to really clamp down on adjunct status, making it critical that people with adjunct status maintain a regular commitment to the Institute. This change will cause one of two things to happen: either more people will start teaching more courses or a lot of people are going to drop down to visiting status. What does the union leadership anticipate will be the effect of this change? A proliferation of visiting status appointments or a re-consolidation of the adjunct faculty (or both)?

A: It is impossible to predict what will happen. It would seem logical that if the Adjunct status generally entails teaching more classes, the Visiting faculty will shrink, and more classes will be taught by more established Pratt faculty, both full and part time. The establishment of a minimum workload of 50% for Adjunct status (which is actually the maximum workload for Visiting status) is in part tied to New York State requirements for minimum workload for the provision of health benefits to Adjuncts, perhaps the most important gain in this CBA.

4. Q: Section 9 is a concern for me because I feel that in order for Pratt to become more administratively functional we need to have more full time faculty around to tell the administration what to do (sorry, but that is where I am coming from so I need to blunt here — part-timers overall do not have the time and/or security to engage in the kinds of battles necessary to change this place). Obviously it is also better for everyone in the Union if we share roughly the same benefits, so I would like to see more of my part-time colleagues get full-time status. What is the rationale for this “give” to the administration on maintaining faculty lines? Aren’t we just giving an administration with a severe procrastination problem a pass on this one? Doesn’t the school need to up the number of full-time hires to satisfy Middle States? What is the rationale for MOU section 9?

A: This provision is in place just for the length of this contract. You may consider this a “win” for the administration. According to the Union’s lawyers, it is not uncommon to make this kind of agreement for a fixed period. This does not mean that involved faculty cannot continue to challenge the Administration on this crucial issue. Anecdotally, it appears as if Pratt is moving towards increasing its full-time faculty, not decreasing it.

5. Q: MOU sections 11 & 12 are interesting… they seem to indicate that the administration intends to actually maintain faculty quality in accordance with the contract, something that they seem to have neglected for years. Is this a “heads up” provision — make sure that you hold office hours and go to department meetings — or does this portend something more aggressive on the part of the administration? [Also note that it appears to me that MOU section 11 should read “Article XX, Section 20.6” — if it does apply to Article XXX that suggests a far more aggressive stance on the part of the administration].

A: We think it means just what it says: faculty are expected to attend meetings, and Chairs are expected to hold them. You may interpret this as you wish; it could indeed reflect a change in culture towards a more professional, more regular, more academic workplace. This is good for the faculty, since we do see ourselves as professionals who want to be involved in the workings of our respective departments. On that note, see the new line added to Article 3, the “Academic Freedom Article” (a true gem in our contract) that stipulates faculty participation in curriculum development: “Departmental faculty shall have appropriate input to new or revised curriculum within their departments.”

6. Q: MOU section 18 seems to be a balance between a give (higher threshold of service to attain more full leave benefits) and a get (longer period of leave benefits for those with more service). Is this an accurate description of the compromise in this section?

A: That is an accurate assessment of this Article, which also more clearly defines medical leave and disability than the previous CBA.

7. Q: Regarding MOU section 8, part iv: The phrase “academic competence” makes me a bit nervous, because of past instances of chairs using this idea of competence to effect retribution (trying to push someone out of a class or a department, even). Plus, this can be very uneven: someone deemed “incompetent” by one chair can be understood as “competent” by another. In turn, upper administrators don’t really know faculty members, so neither can they sort out who’s “competent” for what. At the end of the day, who determines what “academic competence” is? And, given all this, isn’t the phrase “arbitrary and capricious” too broad?

A: This is an excellent question. First of all, the new language in 23.3b shall be added to the existing language; it shall not supplant it. The existing language of that article, taking seniority into account, remains. The question of what determines “academic competence” to teach a course must be determined in part by the curriculum for that course. As Pratt faculty get more involved in curriculum, they should have input in, logically speaking, determining what competencies would be needed to teach that course. Vague terms like “arbitrary and capricious” work in the Union’s favor in conducting grievances because they leave a wide field for interpretation. The Chair will determine “academic competence” (based upon the faculty-generated curriculum), but must also provide valid reasons for these decisions.

8. Q: Regarding MOU sections 4 & 6: These new “caps” (this was the word the questioner used) of 100 CCE faculty and 250 Adjunct faculty: how do these numbers reflect on the growth of the institute?

A: These “caps,” which the Union reads as minima, must be interpreted in light of the success of the growth of these categories over the past decade. In 2003, there were in the neighborhood of 30 CCE’s; there are now over a hundred. There are currently approximately 290 Adjuncts, and 102-104 CCE’s. In the next 5 years, we understand that the Administration will be hiring more Full-time faculty (with at least 3 of those positions going to existing CCE’s, per this MOU). While you may see these as caps, they may be seen as a move to “lock in” these more established Part-time positions, which we have gained over these past 10 years through faculty diligence in applying for promotion and Union encouragement and support, that come with significant benefits (now health benefits for Adjuncts with a 50% Administration contribution; health benefits with a 75% Administration contribution and TIAA-CREF plan for CCE’s, as well as a 75% workload)

9. Q: Chairs come in, stay for six years, and then get dropped into Full Time positions. Will this change at all with the new contract?

A: These provisions remain the same; they were unaffected by this negotiation.

10. Q: Regarding MOU section 23: We now have a new sentence added to our Academic Freedom article (Article 3): “Departmental faculty shall have appropriate input related to new or revised curriculum within their departments.” What does this mean for faculty, what might we do with this new addition?

A: This is a great gain for the faculty! It memorializes faculty participation in the development of curriculum, since this is the essence of academic freedom. It will be incumbent upon faculty to make sure that structures like curriculum committees are established in their departments to make sure that they exercise this right to have input in curriculum development from the bottom up.

11. Q: Regarding MOU section 8: If an Adjunct Faculty with CCE chooses not to take their health benefits, will they loose their CCE status?

A: Absolutely NOT. There is no mandate whatsoever to take health benefits offered by Pratt. This goes for faculty in all statuses.

12. Q: Relates to MOU sections 1 & 2: The salary minimums didn’t change at all with this MOU. Why aren’t they being bumped up to reflect current average salaries?

A: It’s a long story and countless hours were devoted to this at the negotiating table. Various schemes were tried to address pay disparities for both FT and PT. Given the amount of money that was realistically available, the negotiating team opted for excellent percentage increases across the board for 4 years (including one year of retroactive pay for 2011 and 2012—should the contract be ratified, EVERYONE will see a retro check in August) and a targeted equity fund for Full-time faculty as the best way to “spread the wealth” around. With salaries at far higher levels than they were in the previous two negotiations, increasing minima became a blunt instrument in fixing inequities, especially in the Full-time area. While at first glance 3 and 3.25% increases don’t sound like much, if you do the math, it really adds up! In addition, these percentage increases should be seen as a MAJOR gain for every single faculty member—Visiting, Adjunct, or Full-time—in a economic climate in which many Unions are getting nothing or 1%. In other words, this is a good deal.

13. Q: Regarding MOU section 1: Will I get my back-pay for the academic year 2011-2012 in a lump sum?

A: Yes, you should receive it before the start of the 2012-2013 academic year (as long as the membership ratifies the contact!).