Regent’s professors miss target on crucial points

by Eville

We appreciate the concerns for the University expressed by many of the regents’ professors in a Daily advertisement. They have not, however, proposed any substantive measures to alleviate current problems or toward recovery of our national ranking.
Although we concur with some of the points made by the regents’ professors, we do not agree with many others, and wish to make clear our point of view on the matters they raise for discussion.
We agree that things may have taken a turn for the better with the appointment of Mark Yudof as president, but he will have to make major changes in the culture of the administration and culture of the Board of Regents for that to actually come true.
We know that the Boards of Regents can indeed change, but in the immediate past it has been for the worse. We also hope that the new board will improve our prospects, but that remains to be seen.
In neither case, however, do we see collective bargaining as an impediment to their activities on our behalf.
Regarding greater public understanding of the faculty’s centrality to the University, it has come about to a large extent by grassroots activities of the faculty, by meetings with legislative leaders and groups, informing the public by interviews with and letters to the media, and by talking to friends and neighbors. The Senate committees and members of the AAUP-UFA have played a significant role in this.
The regents’ professors claim that a sensible resolution to the tenure code issue is imminent. This is decidedly premature. The University Senate has recommended substantial changes in the Sullivan II code and these have yet to be discussed with the regents. Many faculty are concerned about the ambiguity of the financial stringency’s provisions.
There is no evidence for the claim that collective bargaining will jeopardize public support for the University, which depends on the excellence of the faculty and its perceived ability to meet the needs of the students and the public alike. Support for the unionized Duluth campus remains strong!
Collective bargaining cannot reopen controversial tenure issues; they have never been closed. The Senate’s recommended changes to the Sullivan II code have not, we reiterate, been accepted by the regents.
The regents’ professors state that the first faculty contracts will require many years of negotiation and will be arduous and contentious. The national office of AAUP informs us that the recent contracts have generally been negotiated within a year, presumably because of collective bargaining history and experience available from many institutions. Minnesota labor laws require that the parties negotiate in good faith. We promise to do so, and expect no less of the regents and the administration.
It is claimed that faculty time and effort will be drained away by collective bargaining. Certainly, greater efforts are required to protect academic freedom, empower collegial governance and secure the future of the profession. We expect the faculty to shoulder the burden cheerfully, as they have done with many less important tasks.
Contrary to the regents’ professors claim, we believe that the University’s supporters are much more likely to base their contributions on the excellence of the University and its faculty than on whether we bargain collectively, particularly in a “labor” state such as Minnesota. There is historical support for collective bargaining in this state.
Finally, there is the regents’ professors fear of an uncertain outcome to contract negotiations. Of course, the outcome is uncertain just as is the entire future of the University in these uncertain times. What we are certain of is the outcome of the past 20 years of declining support, inefficient and top-heavy administrations and poorly prepared regents: it is the decline in our institutional ranking from 16th to 23rd among research universities. It is time for a change.