AAUP Negotiation Frequently Asked Questions
Wayne State University is currently negotiating a contract with the American Association of University Professors. As will all negotiations, parties will disagree on some issues. The administration is committed to continue to bargain in good faith and we are confident that a fair and equitable agreement will be reached.
Our goal is to agree on a contract that is commensurate with the important contributions of our faculty, and positions the University to meet the increasing demands for accountability, flexibility, and innovation.
A great deal of discussion has ensued regarding various proposals currently under consideration in the negotiations. Below are answers to several questions that have surfaced during these discussions.
Why is this contract being negotiated now?
It has been approximately 10 years since the contract was negotiated in its entirety. Since that time, the world—and higher education—have changed in many ways. If Wayne State is to uphold the standards of excellence it has maintained throughout its history, while also meeting the higher expectations of an increasingly competitive world, it is necessary to examine the entire contract.
What are the administration’s goals in these negotiations?
The administration entered into negotiations guided by three key principles.
Student focus: Student success is our top priority. We are continuously seeking ways to improve the total student experience, from the processes, to the classrooms and the labs. Faculty play a critical role in student success.
Accountability: Higher education is increasingly being called upon to be accountable for its performance. This includes: meeting our commitment to students for their success in gaining an excellent and affordable education; responsible fiscal stewardship, as measured by efficiency, equity and cost competiveness; and individual performance of job responsibilities.
- Innovation: Higher education must adapt to an increasingly technological and interconnected world, where change is rapid, competition is fierce and expectations of and from students are high and growing. Universities in general, and WSU in particular, must be flexible to discover and implement creative solutions to new challenges.
We seek an agreement that honors these principles, and facilitates an environment of scholarship and learning for both faculty and students.
In some ways, this is becoming the focus of debate. All agree that the vast majority of faculty is excellent. For the small minority who are not, we must have the ability to identify situations quickly and resolve them efficiently – for the sake of our students and our University. Our current process is antiquated and cumbersome, and it can take years to resolve even the most serious situations.
We also need flexibility. The explosion of technology, expectations, and competition makes it critical that WSU have the flexibility to innovate and adjust to a changing world. New subjects, new discoveries, new methods of teaching and learning, new demands for accountability and transparency – all require that we adapt and build in the flexibility to lead rather than follow. Wayne State has a long history of adapting to a changing world, and we must do so today.
Is the administration trying to get rid of tenure?
Absolutely not. As President Gilmour noted in his message to campus, “Faculty tenure is an important aspect of academic freedom, and we support it.”
What are we asking for?
The administration has shared a proposal that strengthens our ability to resolve performance issues, first, by instituting performance reviews, and second, by making the process of dealing with issues more efficient. Currently, addressing performance issues—even egregious issues—can take several years. This is harmful to the students and the University.
The administration’s proposal for evaluation is more efficient, while continuing to be driven by the participation of faculty peers. The proposal maintains the ability of faculty and academic staff to grieve, and continues to allow for arbitration of disagreements.
Several other respected research universities around the country evaluate faculty performance. What we are proposing is neither drastic nor unprecedented.
How did the issue of tenure even come up?
The AAUP has maintained that once a member of the faculty has tenure, he or she is not subject to evaluation except for purposes of annual raises. The proposal would create a process for periodic peer-reviewed evaluations, with the expectation that faculty and academic staff would participate.
Because faculty could be held accountable for consistently poor performance, the AAUP views several of the proposed reasons for cause as an attack on tenure. To be clear, the administration does not want to end tenure. It is requesting the ability to evaluate tenured faculty, and, on the rare occasion when it necessary, to take action in a timely manner.
Why does this matter to the administration?
While the vast majority of Wayne’s faculty are dedicated and committed, there are a small number who do not perform at the level that students and taxpayers are entitled to expect. During the life of the present contract, we have experienced a small number of faulty who have persistently failed to execute their responsibilities. It is extremely difficult to address these failings in a timely and effective manner.
What kind of protections would faculty have?
The protections afforded faculty would remain extensive. For example, Wayne State recently had the misfortune of having to remove an untenured assistant professor who had engaged in academic misconduct related to his research. Such cases are rare but very important, since research-related misconduct undermines the credibility of scientific research as well as the institution. The charges were investigated in detail for nearly a year by a faculty committee that interviewed more than a dozen witnesses and reviewed a large amount of data. The professor testified and presented evidence to the committee and was represented by a lawyer and the AAUP. Before that report was final, the professor was allowed to review the report and comment on it.
Under the present contract, if the same professor had engaged in the same conduct but was tenured, he very likely still would be employed, simply because of the length and complexity of the existing process.
Would the administration’s proposals affect academic freedom?
Not at all.
The AAUP says academic freedom entitles teachers to “full freedom in research and in the publication of the results,” “freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject,” and “when they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.”
We agree and fully embrace academic freedom.
No administrative proposal mentions or interferes with academic freedom at all. We are proud of and fully support our faculty’s teaching and research.
The contract expires on July 31. Will the University agree to an extension?
Certainly. On July 27, the University offered to extend the current contract to September 30. We believe this will give us sufficient time to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement.