- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - While striking graduate teaching assistants bargain with University of Oregon administrators, faculty members are protesting the way grades are being handled during the walkout and say the university’s board of trustees is trying to usurp their authority over academic matters.

The graduate assistants reported Tuesday that talks lasting until 2 a.m. hadn’t produced an agreement. The two sides are divided over wages and the teaching assistants’ proposal for paid medical and maternity leave.

Bargaining resumed later Tuesday morning, and there was no immediate word about the results.

Meanwhile, the executive committee of the University Senate convened an emergency meeting Monday night over a proposed policy declaring that the trustees’ decisions supersede “all related and existing university authorities, policies and procedures.”

Faculty members said that would supersede the UO constitution, usurp faculty authority over academic matters and even repeal part of the university’s 1876 charter.

The university’s interim president, Scott Coltrane, said the board didn’t intend any of those things, but he acknowledged communication failures and said he would convey the message that there’s mistrust and fear of a power grab.

“We are in a broken place, a place where things aren’t going very well,” he said. “The board is trying to figure this out. They’re learning as they go.”

Last year, prominent alumni led a successful move to get the school removed from the jurisdiction of the state Board of Higher Education and governed by a board appointed by the governor. The new board took over at midyear. It’s to take up the language on its powers at a meeting Thursday.

Tensions between the administration and faculty have come to a head as the strike by the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation stretched into finals week, with hundreds of tests and papers to be graded.

Some faculty and department heads said their authority to grade students has in some cases been abruptly withdrawn by the administration.

The administration removed Bonnie Mann, chairwoman of the philosophy department, as one of the instructors of record for seven classes, with a combined 226 students who had been taught by graduate assistants.

The university required Mann and other department heads to either enter grades for the students based on work done before Dec. 1, or else hire somebody else to do the grading.

Mann said she couldn’t do a responsible job of grading the students and hiring wasn’t practical “since we don’t have a lot of people with Ph.D.s in philosophy running around Eugene.”

W. Andrew Marcus, interim dean of arts and sciences, said the graduate assistants were expected to leave behind grades for the papers, tests and performance of students up to the day the strike began last week. One of the options after that point, he said, was for those assigned as teachers of record to enter provisional grades that could be modified later.

He said Judith Baskin, a professor in religious studies and an associate dean, was assigned to Mann’s grading duties.

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