Below is a summary of a few key rights embedded in our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Readers should keep in mind that the CBA is a living document, shaped by past practice and often particular to the legal language in which contracts are written. Therefore, if you want to better understand these or other Articles in the CBA beyond what’s discussed here, or if you think you may have a grievance, you should contact the UFCT Grievance Team.
Article 3: Academic Freedom and Responsibility
This article goes to the heart of what it means to be a professional educator. The reasoning behind this article is that the administration has the duty to “manage” the institution, including its finances, which in recent decades throughout the country has led universities to be run more and more like corporations. We should be at peace with the fact that this is the job of the administration, but should fight equally as hard for our own interest: educational quality. The responsibility of the faculty is to speak out and stick up for what should be our sole interest: the quality of education that is provided to the student. This article protects — in addition to “free discussion of material relevant to a course… consistent with the published syllabus and established curriculum” — the faculty’s right to speak out on broader educational matters in ways that may contradict the interests — often financial interests — of the administration. This right is not exactly the same as the First Amendment; rather, here, “freedom and responsibility” pertain to the faculty’s responsibility and right to freely and openly address issues related to our professional field of expertise: education. As the article says, “academic freedom is inseparable from professional responsibility and ethics…”
In the last round of negotiations, the Union gained an important addition to this Article: “Departmental faculty shall have appropriate input related to new or revised curriculum within their departments.” This new clause enshrines our right to develop and contribute to new curriculum and curricular changes—a responsibility that is central to our role as educators, and to maintaining a healthy department. This article underscores the importance of having Curriculum Committees at the departmental level by which faculty can have appropriate input.
Article 7: Grievance and Arbitration
This article provides us with a clear process by which to address and rectify violations of the CBA. Having such a process is central to any CBA — without it, there is no way to insure contractual rights are being honored. If you realize that your CBA rights are being violated and you do not bring this to the Union to evaluate your situation to determine whether you have a grievance, it is as if you do not in actuality possess those rights. This is an intimidating step for many to take; often, faculty “don’t want to make trouble” or “fear retribution.” To address these fears as effectively as it is possible to do so, the article includes the following: “7.4: Every employee or group of employees shall have the right to present grievances through the Union to the Administration free from interference, coercion, restraint, discrimination or reprisal.” In other words, if you feel you are being retaliated against because you filed a grievance, you have the basis for another grievance. I know it sounds Kafka-esque, and hopefully it would never go this far, but these are your rights. From the Union’s perspective, if a faculty member has a valid grievance and chooses not to pursue it, this weakens the CBA for all faculty, since over time, such infractions will come to be condoned. The CBA starts to lose its efficaciousness and becomes a piece of paper.
Article 16: Appointments, Reappointments, Promotions, and Tenure (ARPT)
This article clearly lays out the faculty’s responsibilities in the ARPT process in making recommendations pertaining to their colleagues, and establishing the standards that form the basis for these recommendations. A poorly-understood part of this article is embedded in 16.3, known in shorthand as the “right to append and affix.” The faculty member should promptly receive his or her recommendation letter from the Chair, the Dean, and the Provost, in order to allow the faculty member sufficient time to compose a letter addressing any discrepancies or disagreements in the recommendations. Imagine that there is an error, or an intentional misrepresentation, in one of the recommendation letters: this article gives the faculty member the opportunity to set the record straight. The faculty member’s response to the recommendation letter must be forwarded with the application to the next level.