Faculty overture welcomed

by Jennifer Niemela

Members of the Board of Regents say they are willing to talk about talking about tenure.
The Faculty Consultative Committee and the American Association of University Professors are sending the board an invitation to join in asking the Bureau of Mediation Services to waive the cease-and-desist order that has kept them from discussing the controversial tenure issue. Regents Thursday reacted to word they would receive such a letter.
Some regents said they’d be open to discussing the tenure issue.
“If they want to reopen talks, that’s great,” said Regent Patricia Spence. “We’d like to get this (tenure issue) behind us.”
V. Rama Murthy, president of the Twin Cities chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said Wednesday the two groups would send the regents this invitation.
“This letter is intended to begin the negotiation process,” Murthy said.
Regent William Peterson said he welcomes the faculty letter.
Peterson was not alone. Regent Warren Larson said “any move toward cooperation (between faculty members and the regents) would be viewed in a good light.”
However, Regents Chairman Tom Reagan said the board has no plans to reopen tenure discussions until the faculty votes on whether or not to unionize. The date of the faculty election has not been set because University lawyers and the FCC can’t agree on who should be allowed to vote.
“We don’t know who we’re dealing with,” Reagan said. “We have no plans of revisiting tenure” until regents know whether the faculty will unionize, he said.
The Faculty Consultative Committee and the professors’ association are reviewing the Sullivan II tenure code and plan to present their recommended changes to the board in February. Sullivan II, which is a combination of faculty and regent proposals, was passed for the Law School in November and the Morris Campus in December. It allows for across-the-board pay cuts instead of layoffs in times of financial crisis and reassignment of faculty upon termination of a department.
Spence said she would be open to negotiating minor changes to Sullivan II. “The code is a compromise,” she said. “I’d welcome consultation, but I’m not willing to get into huge changes.”
The mediation bureau placed the cease-and-desist order on the tenure negotiations in October. The order was designed to protect the faculty’s impending union election from interference by the board. Many in the faculty saw forcing union elections to be their only option in combating the more radical tenure proposal put forth by the board in September. Pro-union professors saw the tenure proposals as a threat to academic freedom as well as to their own jobs.
The cease-and-desist order had stalled tenure negotiations even as the regents became more conciliatory to the demands of the faculty concerning the Sullivan II code.