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Faculty Union Wants Incoming President to Stick Around, Address Contingency

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Amid high turnover rates in leadership at University at Albany in recent years, a statewide labor union is hoping to work long-term with administration under incoming President Havidán Rodríguez to address contingent labor.

Rodríguez did not mention how long he plans to serve as president, but noted the importance of both consistency and reducing turnover in administration and faculty.

“We need a sense of security and stability, and I know the community wants that as well,” Rodríguez said.

Aligning with this desire, United University Professions, a higher education union focused on improving working conditions, hopes for stability in the coming administration.

UUP Albany Chapter President Aaron Major said that for the union to accomplish its goals, it needs a long-term UAlbany president and administration that is committed to addressing contingency among other labor issues.

“I’m hoping that the new president is in it for the long-term,” Major said. “We just haven’t had a lot of stability in upper administration for many years.”

The union president said that UUP aims for a cooperative working relationship with administration to address contingency. Some of UUP’s proposals include increasing the percentage of tenure-track faculty, promoting salary equity, improving stability for contingent employees, and moving contingent faculty into full-time appointments.

Stating how he would address these proposals, Rodríguez said, “We need to find ways in which we can assure [contingent faculty] of the stability of their jobs and their compensation as well.”

Rodríguez said the first step would be to take a comprehensive look at the state of tenure-line and contingent faculty to establish a plan and move forward.

UUP published a report on contingent labor in 2015 that detailed the disparity in tenure-line and non-tenure-line faculty that had grown over the past 20 years. It also included ten proposals to address job insecurity and issues of compensation.

Since 2015, the union has seen an increase in allocations for contingent faculty. The previous union president, Bret Benjamin, wrote in the May union newsletter that increased membership participation is a success, but that the issue of contingency will need continued advocacy.

In terms of advocacy, Major said that once Rodríguez is situated in his new workplace, he looked forward to discussing UUP’s function as a labor union on a unionized campus.

According to Major, UUP seeks to negotiate with administration on issues such as faculty workload. Under President Jones’s administration, a panel was dedicated to creating recommendations to benefit part-time and contingent faculty. Interim President Stellar chaired this panel in 2015 as provost.  

The day he was announced president, Rodríguez said that the issue of contingency was something his administration will “pay very careful and special attention to.”

The announcement last week was preceded by the SUNY Board of Trustees vote to raise tuition by $200 for students ineligible for the Excelsior Scholarship.

Major said that the impact of tuition increases on contingent faculty was not entirely clear, but that the climate in which campuses face tight budgets makes it difficult to resolve contingency issues.

What might help this difficulty, Major said, is a cooperation between UUP and a stable administration over time. This cooperation might entail UUP and administration working together to advocate for increased state funding to SUNY. Major indicated that working in this way could be a “productive partnership.”

During the presidential search, part-time faculty were unable to participate due to guidelines for such searches on state-operated campuses.

UUP had no role in the presidential search, but is interested in increased transparency when the search winds down to the finalists.

In an email, former UUP President Bret Benjamin said, “We believe that the public interest in evaluating the record and ideas of final candidates for an executive position at a state university campus far outweighs any individual concerns for confidentiality among candidates.”

 

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