Faculty rejects contract extension

AAUP committee chair resigns over listserv access

Contract negotiations will now take place this summer, after faculty voted 273-159 to reject the university’s proposed one-year contract extension.

The university offered a 3 percent raise for faculty, no change in health care costs and domestic partner benefits with the extension.

“We made a proposal and it was turned down, so we’ll proceed with negotiations,” President Lester Lefton said.

Lee Fox, American Association of University Professors president, said she “wasn’t surprised” by the outcome of the vote. Fox sent an e-mail April 14 to faculty listing reasons why they should vote against the extension.

Of the 600 faculty who received electronic ballots, 72 percent voted. The e-mail urged faculty to reject the vote because the 3 percent raise would not close the gap between salaries and inflation and because Kent State faculty salaries have been falling behind those of other public Ohio universities.

Molly Merryman, associate professor of justice studies, resigned as chair of the AAUP’s action and media committee after the union would not allow the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to send a mass listserv e-mail to the union representing its side of the issue.

“My reason for resignation is I can’t be part of an organization that goes against who I am as a person,” she said, citing a need for both sides to be heard.

Fox would not comment on the reason for Merryman’s resignation.

“I can’t make somebody serve if they don’t want to serve,” Fox said. “If she insists, I won’t keep her.”

Instead, Merryman said the LGBT group – about a dozen people – sent e-mails to listservs through their respective colleges and campuses, but those e-mails did not reach everyone.

“Given that council put forward a recommendation of how people should vote, it was no surprise the faculty voted how they did,” Merryman said.

Merryman said domestic partner benefits have been used as the “sacrificial lamb” in past negotiations, and now the responsibility to ensure they be included in the new contract lies with Lefton.

“He’s the only person now who is in the position to correct this inequity,” she said, citing this as a situation where minority rights do not succeed in a democratic vote.

In addition, Merryman said the non-tenure track faculty’s vote on the same extension, which is expected to be completed by May 5, could change the scope of the situation if it approves the extension. The non-tenure track unit of the AAUP sent the contract extension offer to its members without a recommendation.

While the two units have had the same benefits in the past, Merryman said the non-tenure track faculty could receive the domestic partner benefits if they approve the contract extension.

Fox was not sure when negotiations would begin. She said in the past, preliminary meetings between bargaining teams took place a week or two after finals.

“Teams have met sort of in a preliminary way to establish ground rules, rules that govern how negotiations will play out,” Fox said. “Then the schedule is set for bargaining itself.”

From there, Fox said negotiations can take place in a number of different ways.

“They can set up general topics and both sides would come with their topics,” she said. “In some circumstances they come in with a full proposal and sometimes piece by piece. There’s quite a bit of variation.”

Faculty Senate chair Cheryl Casper will be the chief negotiator for the AAUP. Fox said the university has yet to name its bargaining team.

Contact academic affairs reporter Kristine Gill at [email protected] and administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].