WEB EXCLUSIVE: Trustees approve AAUP contract agreements

Jessica Rothschuh

The Kent State University Board of Trustees approved collective bargaining agreements between the university and the Kent State chapters of the American Association of University Professors today.

In a special session, the board met with bargaining units for both the tenure track and non-tenure track faculty, approving separate contract agreements for each. The contract agreements will remain in use for three years, expiring in August 2008. The memberships of the Kent State units of the American Association of University Professors approved the contract agreements Aug. 18.

President Carol Cartwright said the university recognizes the importance of investing in its faculty and staff.

“The university has a long-standing commitment to being competitive and to develop compensation programs that are good for our faculty and staff,” said Cartwright, adding that those programs must be created within the limits of “fiscal reality.”

The agreement with the tenured track bargaining unit, which represents roughly 850 faculty on Kent State’s eight campuses, included provisions for salary increases of 3 percent annually for the length of the contract and adjustment to the base salary of 2 percent for 2004-2005. It includes changes in health benefits that require all members to pay a premium, which hadn’t been the case in the previous contract.

The tenure track agreement also included revisions to the governance, work overload, grievance and appeal procedures of the benefits package.

Tenured faculty have near-lifetime job security and do more research and committee work than non-tenure track faculty, who teach more courses. The job security is standard for professors across the country and is designed to protect academic freedom.

Provost Paul Gaston said the agreement will require an objective review of departmental handbooks and will allow the union to propose a vote to the faculty whom it represents on whether to impose a mandatory representation fee, called “fair share,” to all those represented.

The key provisions to the contract agreement negotiated with the non-tenure track bargaining unit are a 3-percent salary increase annually for the length of the contract and health care benefits consistent with those of other university employee groups. The non-tenure track unit represents 235 faculty on the eight campuses.

Gaston said the agreement with the non-tenure track shows enhanced recognition of their contributions and will include merit-based incentives to encourage continued professional development.

The agreement ends more than a year of sometimes acrimonious negotiations. In July, AAUP members rejected one proposed settlement by a 10-to-1 margin. The union was in the midst of a strike-authorization vote when agreement on this contract was reached.

“As a board, we’re just very pleased that we’ve come to an agreement,” said Douglas Cowan, Kent State University Board of Trustees chairman.

Cartwright said the university has struck a balance between give and take with the new agreements.

“We’re now focused on moving forward,” she said.

Contact news correspondent Jessica Rothschuh at [email protected].