Goal set for contract completion

Maria Nann

Kent State and Kent State’s branch of the American Association of University Professors have agreed on July 31 as their ideal date for the completion of contract negotiations, according to a June 17 memo from leaders of the faculty union to its members.

The two groups have conducted several meetings already for the negotiations, which eventually will outline the terms of employment for Kent State’s tenure track faculty, including wages, health care and other benefits.

“Negotiations are underway,” said Willis Walker, chief counsel for the university, who added that both parties have agreed to “jointly do statements of progress.”

On June 2, Kent State’s Board of Trustees approved an agreement between the university and full-time, non-tenure track faculty members, which extended the terms of their contracts by one year and offered domestic partner benefits to the one track.

The tenure track voted down the same resolution when offered to them.

“The extension of domestic partner benefits to bargaining unit faculty was added to the administration’s original contract extension offer at AAUP-KSU’s request and it continues to be a high priority for the Association,” the memo said.

Both the university and AAUP have announced their bargaining teams for negotiations.

Gayle Ormiston, associate provost for faculty affairs and curriculum, is the chief negotiator for the university. When the university announced its team members May 27, they included Ruth Capasso, associate dean at the Stark Campus, Fred Martone, director of university benefits and compensation, Richard Rubin, director of the School of Library and Information Science and Mark Weber, dean of the College of Library and Media Services.

Martone, however, recently was replaced by James Kurek of the Cleveland law firm Millisor and Nobil, which specializes in labor and employment law. Kurek is the only member of the university’s negotiation team who is not otherwise employed by the university.

Neither Martone nor Kurek could comment on the replacement.

“I can’t comment on anything in regards to negotiations,” Martone said.

Ormiston confirmed the replacement but was unable to comment further.

Walker said that Martone “isn’t being replaced” by Kurek. Kurek was added, he said, because Martone’s job with the office of benefits and compensation wouldn’t benefit the committee at this time “because they’re not discussing benefits and compensation every day.”

“He (Kurek) was actually on the committee during the last negotiations,” Walker said. “He knew all the parties involved, so it seemed like he was the natural choice.”

Cheryl Casper, former AAUP president and former Kent State professor, has been named the chief negotiator for AAUP. On her team will be Paul Abraham, associate professor in mathematical sciences, Jennifer Larson, professor of modern and classical languages, Kara Robinson, associate professor of libraries and media sciences and Kathy Wilson, professor of economics.

“It is unlikely that the parties will discuss salary and benefit issues until near the end of the process,” the union memo said.

Casper said she hopes the two teams can reach a quick and easy decision, but it is too soon to tell.

“Negotiations involve two parties,” she said. “Certainly, I am optimistic.”

Contact principal reporter Maria Nann at [email protected].