Ellis McGinley – Copy Editor
Contract negotiations between the Board of Regents and professors union continue as state senators get involved, open letters professors published and rallies are held across the four colleges.
“I am reaching out to you because, as President of the faculty union, I believe you have the right to know what is happening at your university. In December the Board of Regents (BOR), the entity that oversees Central, Eastern, Southern, and Western Connecticut State Universities, exchanged contract proposals with your faculty.
The BOR’s proposals shocked us because they are so extreme and because, if they prevail, they will diminish the quality of your education,” wrote CSU-AAUP president Dr. Patty O’Neill in an open letter to students.
The BOR and the CSU-AAUP negotiate university contracts every four years. The BOR is a government body composed of volunteers tasked with overseeing the CSUs: the CSU-AAUP represents university professors and faculty.
“The CSU Professors from SCSU, WCSU, ECSU and CCSU composed a letter protesting the BOR’s positions because of our commitment to the excellence of your personal education and that of all your peers,” Vivian Shipley, professor of English, said.
On March 16, professors from the four universities published “AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BOARD OF REGENTS” in the CT Inquirer, saying “the contract proposed by the BOR attacks standards of academic freedom” and addressing BOR proposals which would limit faculty’s ability to conduct independent research.
13 Connecticut senators also signed a letter to BOR Chairman Matt Fleury, saying “in these proposals, we see a clear threat to the working conditions of educators whose expertise and dedication have built the reputations of the State Universities as accessible institutions where working- and middle-class students receive an excellent education.”
The letter says the senators “must communicate our dismay at the Board’s rejection of a shared value.” “I have taught full time at SCSU since 1969 and this is [the] most serious threat to the quality of the educational process that I have ever witnessed,” said Shipley. “My major concern is that the students do not have their education ‘watered down’ by having class size increased to make more money.”
The BOR contract proposals included an increased workload of five classes per semester, or a five-five, which would bring CSU workload to one of the highest in the United States.
“A few sessions ago, the chief negotiator for the other side, for the Regents —we understood him to say they were taking their five-five proposal off the table. Well, we thought that was great news,” Cynthia Stretch, professor of English, said.
The CSU-AAUP also reported the five-five proposal had been retracted in the Session 6 update, posted on their website under “Table Talks.” “Then he sent an email to our chief negotiator, Professor O’Neill, and said ‘no, no, we said that we would both withdraw our proposals on workload.’ And we are not interested in withdrawing our proposal,” Stretch said.
The union proposal is a “three plus one,” which would give professors the option to use their fourth course for “service or creative activities. We would be able to do the kind of research that keeps us up-to-date in our field,” Stretch said.
This type or courseload is used in departments such as computer science and within the School of Business. “The current load is 4 courses and the more preparations and students the faculty member has to teach, the less time there is to give to each individual student,” Shipley said.
The CSU-AAUP has held protests regarding the proposals at Central and Eastern, with plans for more. O’Neill’s letter includes a petition for a “student, alum, friend or family member” to sign, and other professors have encouraged students to contact their representatives.
“The boots on the ground, that stuff really matters,” Stretch said. “If [representatives] start hearing from students, I think they’d absolutely pay attention.”