Columbia’s part-time faculty union, P-Fac, and representatives of the administration have been negotiating a new contract since March 2010 and are streamlining their teams so that only two members are representing each side to simplify the decision-making process.
“Progress is being made in the negotiations,” said Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs, who became part of the college’s larger decision-making panel and will attend meetings based on availability.
Diana Vallera, P-Fac president and adjunct faculty member in the Photography Department, was upbeat about
“[Smaller negotiation teams] just changed everything,” she said. “And it really helped our relationship with the college. It was a good move. We don’t have any attorneys at the table, and we’ve had much more productive, open conversation and bargaining.”
A federal mediator recommended a small group setting, said Vallera.
The administration’s team now consists of Len Strazewski, interim associate provost for faculty affairs, and Barbara Calabrese, Radio Department chair. The adjunct faculty negotiating panel consists of Vallera and Dale Chapman, P-Fac secretary and adjunct faculty member in the Film and Video Department.
Calabrese replaced Michael Niederman, Television Department chair, who has moved on because of “other commitments,” according to Annice Kelly, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel.
Kelly, Ellen Krutz, vice president of human resources, and John Wilkin, associate vice president of budget management, are no longer sitting at the table on behalf of the college.
P-Fac representatives who are participating in the negotiations from afar are Bill Silver, special higher education organizer of the Illinois Education Association; Susan Tyma, P-Fac negotiations chair and adjunct faculty member of the Math and Science Department; and Christina Gonzalez-Gillette, P-Fac membership chair and adjunct faculty member of the Dance Department.
The college and the union agreed to keep all discussion at the negotiations table confidential. A session was held on Sept. 16, which clarified the evaluation process of adjunct faculty, remains under discussion at the bargaining table.
“We have had substantive and productive discussions about the appropriate language [of the evaluation procedures],” Strazewski said.
According to Kelly, the faculty evaluations haven’t changed in the 18 months of the negotiation process, except now they can be accessed online.
Vallera expressed concerns about the new academic prioritization program and what she called the college’s ambiguous financial crisis.
“Are we in a financial crisis? Are we not? And if we are, then show us exactly why,” Vallera said. “They seem to compare things always to 2008 [which] seemed to be the year that we were, I believe, at our peak.”
The September 2011 newsletter stated that several part-time faculty members from a number of different departments report a decrease in the number of classes they are assigned to teach.
However, she did mention that the cuts aren’t affecting every member of the union. “What we’re really starting to see is that not every department is like that,” Vallera said.
Collaboration with full-time faculty members in the American Association of University Professors chapter is a big improvement the union has undergone, Vallera said.
She also mentioned the new training for grievances and labor management P-Fac members have been receiving.
During the last four months, the union gained members and revamped its website, PFac.org, improving member communication, Vallera said.
The union has not filed any new unfair labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board since August 2010. Previous grievances concerned reductions in credit hours, allegations of retaliation against P-Fac members, credit hour reduction in a Photography Department course and reductions in course loads of more experienced adjuncts in favor of newer faculty members.
Some of these charges were withdrawn and the NLRB ruled that reducing credit hours in the Photography Department requires collective bargaining.