Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Faculty contract approved

Members of RWU's faculty union voted overwhelmingly earlier tonight to approve a new four-year contract; the current contract officially ran out over the summer. Pending approval by the board of trustees the contract will go into effect for next semester.

The new contract includes a number of revisions such as an increase in the amount of merit pay available to faculty, and changes in medical benefits. Possibly most important is that the faculty teaching load (the number of classes faculty are required to teach per semester) has been reduced from 4/4 to 4/3. Smaller course loads are common at established universities.

A late addition to the contract, the reduced load means that additional teachers will have to be found for 1/8 of the courses currently offered. It is unclear at this point how the university plans to deal with the disparity. One possible temporary solution is that faculty would be unable to take their course release until the fall of 2009.

The new contract was approved by 71% of the votes according to an email sent out to union members. After months of waiting, faculty received the proposed contract only a few weeks ago and have been debating it ever since then. The contract was discussed at a Nov. 7 union meeting, and its approval was by no means a forgone conclusion. According to a source close to the negotiations, the contract was the most controversial since faculty at RWU became unionized.

Part of the reason that it may have been approved --even as many faculty members agreed it was weak-- was the slumping economic climate. Many felt that faculty lacked sufficient leverage to play hardball at this moment. Had the contract been voted down, new negotiations would have taken place in the midst's of a time when RWU is coping with the loss of around 18 million in endowment.

Expect more updates on this as the story unfolds

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