Instructional faculty seek stronger voice in university governance to improve teaching and research conditions, advocate on behalf of students
SAINT PAUL – Today, tenure-line and contingent faculty will deliver signed union cards to the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services to trigger an election to form a faculty union at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus. Tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track contingent faculty from every college of the University’s flagship campus have signed cards in support of forming a union so they can gain a stronger voice in University governance and a stronger voice at the State Capitol to support the institution.
Teri Caraway, an Associate Professor of Political Science, highlights why tenure-line faculty want to form a union: “We want to work with the administration as equal partners to help them resist the pressures that divert resources from our classrooms and labs. We are not forming a union in search of a bigger paycheck, but because our working conditions have deteriorated as resources for teaching and research have dwindled and the proportion of tenured positions has declined. We want to keep the University’s energy and resources focused on our core mission.”
Meredith Gill, a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature, explains why contingent faculty are forming a union with tenure-line faculty: “Contingent faculty carry an increasing teaching load and perform many ‘faculty-like’ advisory and service duties for which we are rarely compensated or credited. We are forming one union, together with tenure-line faculty, because we all work together as instructional faculty and have a common interest in improving the conditions of teaching and learning at the University.”
Jimmy Patiño, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies, talked about how a faculty union can improve the university for students and faculty of color: “The diversity of the university does not reflect the diversity of the Twin Cities in 2016, much less that of the region and country. We need to create a campus culture that can attract and retain faculty of color in every rank, provide support for the additional mentorship responsibilities we bear on an informal basis, and improve the learning environment for new immigrants and other students of color.”
Mindy Kurzer, a Professor of Food Science & Nutrition and Director of the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute spoke to the interests of research faculty on campus: “The challenges we face in conducting our research demonstrate why faculty at the University of Minnesota are coming together to form a union with SEIU. We need a real voice in shared governance at the University to address detrimental policies and an overall lack of transparency, as well as a stronger collective voice as academic researchers to advocate for adequate public investment.”
Once faculty file for an election, the State Bureau of Mediation Services will work with faculty and University administrators to negotiate the details of the election, including exactly who all will be eligible to vote, which may take a few months. With approximately 2,500 instructional faculty at the Twin Cities campus, this will be one of the largest single-campus faculty unions in the country.
Rick McCormick, a Professor of German in the Department of German, Scandinavian & Dutch, has been an active part of the organizing effort: “We are excited and proud to announce today that we are filing for such a groundbreaking union election with strong support from every level of faculty across every part of our university. We look forward to working out the details with the university administration soon so we can move forward with our election and form our union.”
Jason Vaysberg, a student in Communications Studies at the University of Minnesota, expressed the support of students for a faculty union: “Faculty working conditions are our learning conditions, and we see the effects of detrimental decisions in our classrooms every day. Class sizes continue to grow while course offerings decrease, and tuition dollars are increasingly funding layers of administration and bureaucracy instead of departments, classrooms, and research. We are encouraged by faculty members standing up for teaching, learning, and research, and we support their efforts to form a faculty union.”
U of M faculty began organizing to form a union last year. Adjunct faculty at Hamline University voted overwhelmingly to join SEIU Local 284 in June of 2014, and reached a tentative agreement for their first union contract last month.
MN Academics United is an affiliate of SEIU Local 284. Faculty at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus are coming together to form a union for a stronger voice in shaping our University’s direction and priorities, our working conditions, and the future of higher education in Minnesota.