Updated: Apr 23
Dear Union Member, I am sincerely hoping that all of you and yours are safe & healthy in these trying times. These last two-three months have been both surreal & stressful, and the uncertainty that lies ahead only exacerbates the underlying dread & anxiety.
On a personal note, my wife & I have been comfortably ensconced in our upstate schoolhouse since early March, which although idyllic wasn’t enough to shield my wife from the overwhelming anguish of having to countenance no less than seven siblings testing positive for COVID, three critical.
Gratefully, five harrowing weeks later, all have recovered; including my 90 year old mother in law.
Sadly though, as you might have heard, two of our esteemed colleagues in Architecture, Bill Menking & Lou Goodman have both passed due to COVID complications. Which reminds me that my family’s experience is not unlike far too many, and we are all in this together.
We are a Union, a democratic collective dedicated to defending all earned Faculty rights, protections and terms & conditions of employment as enshrined in a legally binding collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Pratt Administration. So with the semester over, we now await word from our employer Pratt Institute on what awaits us come fall ’20.
Let me state unequivocally that I honestly have no more insight than any of you about what the fall portends.
As Union President I am in regular contact with the Provost’s Office & HR. For what it is worth, there exists a respectful, professional & productive relationship between the UFCT Local 1460 & Pratt Administration.
Thus, fear mongering & rumours to the contrary, there has been NO conversation, much less any negotiation, between Union & Adm about Faculty “furloughs”, terminations and the like.
Whatever plan Pratt might or might not be entertaining (presently or ultimately) employ come fall, said plan will have to comport with ALL external State & Federal mandates, and be in compliance with our CBA.
Therefore, whatever the case may be with other comparable higher-ed institutions, let’s stay focused on the particulars of Pratt Institute — an art & design higher-ed college located in New York City, where roughly 70-75% of courses taught are “studio” in orientation and “hands-on”– thus normally ill suited for distance learning.
Yet, distance learning will almost certainly be the case in fall. As such, I counsel calm at this juncture as none of us knows definitively how this will be effectuated, or what the student enrollment numbers will be in late August / early September.
Moreover, what RISD, LIU, CUNY or New School may or may not do has nothing to do with us.
My conservative estimation is that Pratt could easily be facing a 10-15% drop in enrollment. What happens to a course, discipline, program, department or school when there is such a drop in revenue? This will be the landscape we’ll have to navigate together.
This is where one’s employment level or (faculty) status makes all the difference in the brave new world of diminishing returns we find ourselves. If tenured, FT or CCE, the deluge or hemorrhaging of students — which translates to the amount of work there is to be offered — would have to be rash; upwards of 40% for any tenured faculty member to be vulnerable to such austere measures.
For our brethren who are relatively new to Pratt; many esteemed Visiting Faculty & Adjuncts WITHOUT a CCE, I’d be dishonest in saying there is nothing to worry about.
This fall will commence the 5th year of the current 5 year CBA. There is NO reason to not expect the Pratt Adm to abide by the CBA — wherein ALL incumbent Faculty (FT & PT) “shall” receive a 3.25% increase in salary & 7% admin contrubution to our TIAA accounts.
COMMUNICATION I am doing my best to answer all email & phone calls, and assure you I will respond in due time if I have not as yet. That said, my personal cell is: 631-662-8508 (I will not be in the Union office for the foreseeable future). Therefore please do not hesitate to email email@example.com or call as you may need. Although I do not generally answer when I do not recognize a number, if you leave a clear voicemail with your phone number I will get back to you.
Moreover, in the interest of fostering greater communications, Holly & I will conduct at least two Zoom sessions* for all members: Tuesday June 9th, 12:30-2:00 & Wednesday July 8th, 5:00-6:30 and schedule more when and if needed. Please stay tuned. *email UFCT1460@gmail.com for links to the Zoom meetings.
As noted in the Provost’s last communique, Pratt will announce its fall plan no later than June 30th, so we’ll have much to discuss.
A few topics of interest:
FACULTY ACTIONS I was just forwarded the faculty action (ARPT) report for AY ’19-’20 by the Provost’s Office. All who have conscientiously served their respective PRC or engaged the ARPT process should appreciate the fruits of your labors:
1) all 10 FT tenure track faculty applying for reappointment were rightfully reappointed; 2) all 6 FTers applying for tenure were in fact conferred tenure; 3) 12 adjuncts were conferred CCE; 4) 37 visitors granted adjunct status; 5) 45 promotions in academic rank
Best part: no denials!
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS There have been many queries about unemployment benefits for those of us who regularly teach summer.
In any usual year, summer teaching falls outside of “regular” fall-spring teaching; regarded as “extra” so no one can claim a right to compensation or any workload should a summer course or courses not enroll. Additionally as a higher ed institution Pratt is NOT on a trimester schedule.
Whatever CARE Act or Relief funds Pratt might have received, no funds were earmarked for Faculty much less those of us who rely on summer income.
That said, if you (like me) teach studio classes normally and would be teaching this summer absent the pandemic & the Institute’s decision to only offer more suitable non studio courses online, you may qualify for unemployment benefits.
I will be applying for unemployment myself, and although not confident that I will necessarily qualify; I have been assured by Pratt HR that they will not contest any claim should it pass bureaucratic muster.
Let’s stay connected.