Oakland University as we know it is changing.
Even before starting the 2012-13 school year, the school has a hefty ‘to-do’ list to check off and many unsettled issues to resolve, including finalizing the university budget, finding a home for the 200 already displaced students who plan to live on campus next year and settling the American Association of University Professors contracts.
However, nothing is settled yet.
Typically, budget negotiation and tuition increases for the university are decided mid-June or July every year. This year, however, we were taken aback when we found out the meeting to discuss the budget had been postponed until August 6 — a mere month before school begins for the fall semester.
We were also surprised to find out that, three months into summer, housing for next year is already over capacity. Considering the fiasco that took place last year when 100 male students were forced to spend their semester living in an off-campus hotel, we had hoped the university would have been more careful with planning this time around. Then again, perhaps this interest in on-campus living is exactly what housing leaders need to finally get their new (and much needed) housing facility.
In addition to figuring out budget and housing needs, another more serious issue remains at large: Contract negotiations between Oakland and AAUP officials are currently underway and — judging by the tone in the AAUP budgeting diary — they still have a long way to go.
Every three years, Oakland and AAUP bargainers work to negotiate a three-year contract for all university professors. In 2009, teachers went on strike after the university bargaining team presented a contract that included a three-year wage freeze along with cuts in health insurance benefits. Classes resumed after a week and professors got what they wanted — pay raises and the protection of their intellectual property.
Though negotiations this year do not focus on pay increases, we’re still worried about how they’re going to play out.
The two main issues for this year are the university’s maternity policy and salary compression, which is when senior faculty at an institution are paid less than recently appointed junior faculty.
Karen Miller, AAUP president of the Oakland chapter, said the compression issue has increased since the 2009 contract. In order for them to create a proposal, Oakland needs to release information from subscription national databases only available to universities. Failure to comply could result in a lawsuit from AAUP.
As far as the maternity policy goes, well, it’s non-existent. It’s currently a decision made by the department in context of the time of year.
The university should take the initiative and formulate a set maternity policy, thus preventing sloppy and incoherent rules each time an instructor is expecting. This will bring a standard to the maternity debate, allowing expecting instructors to plan ahead.
OU should also release the necessary salary compression documents to avoid a lawsuit at all costs. However, the teachers should take in to consideration the context of the economic climate, especially in Michigan. At best, we are on the tail end of a recession, and since we are in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates, professors should choose their fights wisely.
With the decisions of all three issues looming in the distance, we hope decisions will start to be made soon.
The staff editorial is written weekly by members of The Oakland Post’s editorial board.