Faculty contract set for vote

Karen Grennan

Quinnipiac University teachers will be turning in more than just the grades next week. Members of the Quinnipiac Faculty Federation (QFF) AFT Local 3394 will vote on a new contract proposed by the administration. Dec. 9 is the last day for faculty to turn in ballots.
Quinnipiac faculty have been working without a contract since June 30. Negotiations have been ongoing since last March, but all previous proposals made by the administration have been rejected by QFF because of a new system the administration wishes to implement that will change the way in which faculty salaries will be based.
According to Lynn Bushnell, vice president for Public Affairs, the negotiating team made its “best, last and final offer” on Nov. 6.
“Quinnipiac will not make any further offers and negotiations are concluded,” Bushnell said.
Bushnell said the intent is to phase out the step system and use the merit and market system.
The administration plans to eliminate the step system, which salaries have been based on for 25 years, and replace it with merit pay.
Merit pay is a system in which the administration would have more control over each individual faculty member’s salary, since compensation is based on the amount and quality of work that a faculty member does.
Charlotte Hammond, QFF President since last May, said merit pay is becoming an issue that raises many questions.
“What makes certain teachers better others?” Hammond said. “Is it their knowledge? Is it that they motivate students to learn more? Is it that they are understanding and compassionate? Is it because they are scholars and have published a text? Will gender or race be an issue?”
Hammond said that the California Faculty Association has shown that after five years of merit pay, male faculty are paid 12.8 percent more than women faculty, and in some campuses, Latino and African American faculty receive less merit pay than Caucasian faculty.
“From these statistics, the merit system doesn’t work,” said Hammond. “Instead of motivating people, it’s going to be very discouraging.”
For the past six years, 70 percent of the faculty members have received an average raise of 2.9 percent, which is just over the inflation rate of 2-3 percent, despite the increase in enrollment in the freshman classes over the past two years.
“The increase in students has really made a difference in our lives,” said Hammond. “We have more students in the classroom, more advisees and the school has wanted us to do more.We continue to teach four, three-credit courses, unlike many of our colleagues in universities.”
Hammond also said Quinnipiac faculty continue to improve scholarship with shared office space and no research laboratories. She said she is worried that when laptops are required of all students next year, the faculty will be responsible for showing the students and their parents that this expense was not an unnecessary waste.
“The faculty is feeling very overburdened and undervalued,” Hammond said.
The administration first offered contract proposals at the end of May. The Executive Committee, composed of five people, got together to inform the faculty of what the proposals would be.
According to Professor Ron Heiferman, chair of the history department and member of QFF, there were two contract proposals. The first was a renewal of the existing contract and the second was an increase in salary based on current market conditions. Both proposals were rejected by 74 percent of the QFF members who voted on Sept. 18.
Heiferman said that the last proposal that the administration offered was similar to the original two and included a 2.5 percent salary increase per year.
Heiferman said that, theoretically, the previous contract terms are theoretically in use, but there are no salary increases and, essentially, no contract.
In a situation like this, Heiferman said there are three steps that can be taken. The first step, he said, is to vote, the second step is to accept or reject the proposal, and the third is to strike. He said, however, that he does not believe these negotiations will lead to a strike.
“The university is not a corporation,” he said.
He also said that the main issue surrounding the contract negotiations is not the salaries, but the issue of control. Past contracts have worked well because the terms of them were well-defined, he said. However, this time around, he said the terms are not as well-defined.
Like Hammond, Heiferman thinks the unclear definition of merit raises an important issue relating to control. Those in control are the ones defining merit.
“For a moment, merit seems to suggest that certain areas are better than others… it seems to devalue what many do,” he said.
Union members have been wearing QFF pins, and earlier this semester, some faculty members chose not to attend the Majors Fair on Oct. 24, sponsored by Career Services.
The decision to boycott the fair was made by QFF members on Oct. 22. Marla Buono, assistant director of career programs at Career Services, who was in charge of the fair, believes that the absence of certain faculty members impacted the attendance for the event.
She said that 300 students were expected to attend, but only about 100 students actually showed up.
“We had students who came in who didn’t think it was happening,” she said.
Buono said she was upset that she was given such short notice about the decision of some faculty members not to attend. She said the purpose of the fair was to have faculty members sell their majors and the fact that some did not attend is unfortunate.
Flyers were put up at the fair explaining QFF members absence and provided the appropriate faculty to contact at a later date.
“It’s not an ‘us-against-them’ thing, not at all,” Buono said. “I respect that they have to do what they have to do. I wish they had just honored the commitment they had made and [made their statement] with something else.”
Hammond said this was the only labor action taken by QFF.
“QFF did not do more because the faculty are committed to the Quinnipiac students,” said Hammond.

Campus News Editor Marina McGowan and Staff Writer Eric Jackson contributed to this article.