- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Members of the University of the District of Columbia’s faculty union today will vote on whether to accept an employment contract that offers a 6.4 percent pay raise but would undercut the job security of teachers, including tenured professors.

The faculty, who have not had a cost-of-living adjustment since 1998, welcomed the salary increase. But some union members yesterday balked at parts of the contract that would expose faculty to layoffs and firings, sometimes without the right to challenge the actions.

The administration is “offering the 6.4 percent [raise] to get other things,” said a faculty member who asked not to be identified. “It’s a carrot.”

The faculty’s proposed pay raise equals that given in June to nonunion workers, including Law School faculty, some hourly laborers, career service employees and education support staff. A similar pay raise for UDC’s highest-paid executives was rescinded after The Washington Times reported about D.C. Council opposition to it.

Faculty members said today’s vote could be close and reveal a rift in the union. A coalition of senior professors is opposing the contract’s ratification, citing the proposed loss of job security. But union President Leslie Richards, who negotiated the deal, is pushing union members to ratify the contract.

Miss Richards could not be reached for comment yesterday, but union members said she has begun collecting absentee ballots via e-mail to support ratification.

Members of a faculty committee yesterday wrote a memo critiquing the administration’s offer and supporting most of the contract’s 33 clauses, but rejecting key provisions that would affect job security. The memo was widely distributed among the faculty in preparation for today’s 12:30 p.m. vote in the university auditorium.

One of the memo’s authors said the absence of tenure for assistant professors, lack of recourse in tenure decisions and easing of restrictions on layoffs are “deal breakers.”

Emanuel D. Chatman, a UDC accounting professor who worked on the memo, said the offer of a 6.4 percent raise means “nothing, especially when they open up the window to get rid of you.”

Most university professors and assistant professors already enjoy the lifelong job security that comes with tenure, though UDC does not call it “tenure.” Instead, most faculty are entitled to reserved interest status, which the courts have recognized as the equivalent of tenure.

The contract would create a tenure system, but deny tenure to associate professors and put them on a three-year probation during which they could be fired without the right to challenge the action through the school’s grievance process.

The grievance process also would not apply to decisions to award or revoke tenure, and the status of being tenured would not protect professors from layoffs, according to the contract, which is titled the Fifth Mast Agreement.

The Times has obtained a copy of the 55-page contract.

The contract is the product of negotiations between university administration and the UDC Faculty Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. Contract negotiations, which had dragged on for years, nearly collapsed earlier this year after the union rejected the administration’s offer of a 1 percent pay raise.

The three-year deal that union members will vote on today is UDC’s first faculty contract renewal since 1993. If ratified by the union, UDC’s board of trustees would have to decide whether to accept the deal, and then the D.C. Council would decide whether to approve it.

UDC President William L. Pollard applauded the efforts of both sides of the labor negotiations.

“They simply refused to walk away until a proposed agreement was reached,” Mr. Pollard said in a written statement. “This is clearly a new day for the university and a new opportunity.”

The stalled contract negotiations were one of several problems that have dogged Mr. Pollard during his first year as president of the city’s land-grant university.

Mr. Pollard has been criticized for his spending priorities, hiring of friends for high-paying jobs, inattention to maintenance needs at the university and violations of NCAA rules that recently forced the UDC men’s soccer team to forfeit most of last year’s winning season.

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance is investigating whether he has violated city ethics laws by hiring a family friend as the school’s provost.

The Times first reported in June that students and faculty threatened a walkout this fall after the administration gave a 6.4 percent raise to the school’s nonunion workers, including the executive management team hired by Mr. Pollard, many of whom earn more than $100,000 a year.

Following reports in The Times that D.C. Council members said they would oppose the raises for high-paid administrators, the board of trustees on July 1 revoked the raises from all school officials earning more than $90,000 a year.

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