Agreement between AAUP and OU only tentative

The faculty strike is over, and a 2009-2012 contract agreement has been reached between the Oakland University administration and the union that represents about 600 OU faculty members. But the agreement, which union leaders say was a compromise, is only tentative, and the majority of faculty members must vote yes on the agreement to make it official.


This will not happen for at least two more weeks.


Lizabeth Barclay, management professor at OU and grievance officer of OU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said AAUP’s bylaws says a meeting, announced five days in advance, must be held to inform the faculty members of the changes made. Then there has to be a seven-day period when members review the changes, and then a 24-hour voting period will be held.


If the majority vote to approve the new contract, then a majority of OU’s trustees have to approve it at a board of trustees meeting before it becomes fully official.


Joel Russell, chemistry professor at OU and president of AAUP, said the informational meetings are on Monday, Sept. 21 and Thursday, Sept. 24, both at noon in the Gold Rooms in the Oakland Center.


This means the faculty may not vote on the new contract until around Thursday, Oct. 1.


Barclay said the actual wording or language of the changes will not be made public until it’s been shared with the union members, but there is a brief summary of the major changes on


Russell, in an interview with The Oakland Post, clarified these changes.


OU said it will not release the new contract until it becomes official, and as of press time, declined to confirm or deny the details released by AAUP because its policy is to not comment on ongoing contracts.


Members of OU’s bargaining team also declined to comment.


“Negotiations are done, we have a tentative agreement, so there is no our side vs. their side,” said William Connellan, former OU faculty and member of this year’s OU’s bargaining team.


“We are extremely pleased to have found common ground on the issues that had been standing in the way of an agreement,” said Virinder Moudgil, OU’s senior vice president and provost, in a press release. “With a new contract in place, we can once again focus on doing the work that has made Oakland University the outstanding institution it is. Most importantly, we can look forward to getting students back to class, where they’ll benefit from the valuable academic programs we are committed to delivering.”


To reflect the four school days missed by the strike, OU is not adding on more days to fall semester, but changed some deadlines on the academic calendar. 


Shared faculty governance:

Throughout the strike, the union said this was the most important issue, and that the faculty was holding out on this not only for themselves, but for the students.


“We’re doing this for you,” Russell told students at a rally during the strike.


AAUP said that one of OU’s demands was to void an agreement president Gary Russi signed in 1999.


AAUP tried to use the agreement as legal defense for an unfair labor practice suit it filed against OU, and was told by OU that without the board of trustees signature, the agreement was null. A judge ruled earlier this summer in favor of AAUP, but OU has appealed the decision. AAUP said OU also demanded that AAUP withdraw the suit.


OU declined to comment on this because of its policy not to comment on ongoing litigation.


AAUP said it was wary of OU administration trying to take more control of academic governance, and said reducing faculty input would hurt the students because faculty know more about academics than the administration does.


In the tentative agreement, AAUP said there are “no changes to the protection of governance processes,”  which Russell said meant OU is no longer demanding voiding the agreement or withdrawing the suit, and that under the proposed agreement, faculty and administration will share governance as before. 


Salary raise/docked pay:

AAUP said the tentative agreement would give faculty no raise this year, but a one percent raise in 2010, and a three percent raise in 2011.


Russell said there is a 50-day period when the 2011 raise amount is open to renegotiating by both sides, but if a new agreement isn’t reached, the old language will hold.


“From our point of view, it’s a three percent minimum,” he said.


He also said the fact that the union’s team agreed to a 0 percent raise this year showed that the faculty governance was the key issue, and not finances.


But Russell still asserted that OU can afford to give students a lower tuition and its faculty a higher raise. He said AAUP compromised on the finance issues to gain more on other issues.


“It’s a bad thing OU chose not to give raises when they have the funds for it,” he said. “In the future is makes us much less competitive in hiring.”


This summer, OU announced that about 500 administrative personnel not represented by a labor union will not get raises this year. And through contract negotiations, it was decided that OU’s police sergeants union and police patrol officers union will also not get raises this year.


Members of Campus Maintenance Trade and Professional Support Services, unions that represent about 300 maintenance crew and clerical/technical staff, have been working without a strike while negotiating for their contracts since last summer, and it’s unclear if they will get any retroactive raise for last year or any raise this year.


Russell said the tentative agreement says OU can dock the pay worth two days because of the strike, even for the faculty who only missed one period, as well as those who missed no periods (like faculty who teach only Monday classes). He said OU doesn’t have to dock the pay, but can if it wants to.


He also said initially OU wanted to pay less for faculty teaching summer classes, but the tentative agreement said they’ll be paid the same amount as before.


The 2010 and 2011 raises in the proposed contract will have no merit pay.


In contrast, in 2008, the faculty had a 3.3 percent raise, Russell said and 1.7 percent of that was guaranteed for all faculty across the board for cost-of-living increases, and the rest was merit pay for faculty who meet some performance criteria. 

New faculty hires:

AAUP said OU wanted to hire less tenure-track faculty in the future, and instead hire more adjunct, non-tenure track faculty, and that because less-qualified faculty would be hired, this would significantly decrease the quality of OU’s education.


Russell said OU wanted a 20 percent increase in adjunct (non-tenure track) faculty hires, but AAUP agreed on a five percent increase. Up to 21 adjunct faculty can be hired. Three are reserved for the school of health sciences, three for the school of nursing, and the other 15 can be hired anywhere.


Russell said no changes are being made to tenure-track faculty, and like before, there is no limit of how many of them can be hired.


“Our standards for hiring faculty will be maintained,” he said. 


Health care:

AAUP said OU first wanted to give all faculty three health care providers, but under a “healthy living” plan that would make faculty members considered “less healthy” pay more insurance. At a rally during the strike, Russell said AAUP would not tolerate such a discriminatory policy.


The tentative agreement says faculty can now choose if they want a regular insurance plan, or the “healthy living” plan that allows “more healthy” faculty to pay less. HAP is the only HMO that is not changed from the previous contract, and the others insurance providers will have the “healthy living” plan. 


Intellectual property:

AAUP said OU wanted more rights-ownership of faculty’s intellectual property like research and even lecture materials, which are typically owned by faculty. AAUP said the tentative agreement doesn’t require this, and the rights would stay where they are now. 


Research/travel pay:

AAUP said OU initially wanted to give no increase to OU’s current $516,000 per year research and travel money pool, but the new agreement would increase this amount by $10,000 per year.


Russell said $216,000 of this was for research grants last year, and $400,000 was for traveling to conferences and other professional purposes. He said more than $10,000 per year was needed because more faculty will be competing for the same amount of money, and that the proposed increase “probably won’t cover increases in faculty or inflation.” 

Medical school faculty:

AAUP said it wanted information from OU about how to incorporate the faculty of the upcoming OU William Beaumont School of Medicine, but under the tentative agreement, the medical school faculty will not be represented by AAUP.


OU is a public school, but the medical school, which was officially announced last summer, will be a private school. It was planned to open in 2010, but recently it was delayed to 2011.