Faculty in turmoil

By on February 22, 2006

In response to the January 31 surprise announcement that the Quinnipiac University administration would not negotiate a new contract with the faculty union, two university professors spoke exclusively to The Chronicle and expressed their frustration about President Lahey’s announcement.

“I felt set up by the structure of the convocation and set up regarding how [Lahey] said the faculty union was the problem,” said Sean P. Duffy, an associate professor of political science who is actively involved in the union.

During his remarks at the convocation, President John Lahey alternatively praised the university’s faculty and strongly criticized the union. The union “will continue to prevent us from achieving our full potential as a faculty and as university community,” he said.

Duffy said Lahey’s claim that there was an inability to cooperate with the faculty union was a “low blow.”

“I personally feel that I have been set up,” Duffy said. “There have been goals to get [the faculty] more involved, like revamping the university curriculum.”

Duffy said some faculty members were not surprised by the latest developments.

“All along, older faculty warned that the university could be setting us up for the Yeshiva decision,” he said. “It mattered more to us to improve the university, however.”

In 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled that faculty at Yeshiva University were managers and as a result did not have a right to collective bargaining. Although the decision was specific to the private institution in New York City, it did not rule out the possibility that professors at other colleges and universities could be considered similarly.

Recently, Quinnipiac faculty has become more involved with the operations of the university both through the planning of the core curriculum and with financial budgeting.

During the last set of contract negotiations, the faculty gave up its insistence on having a set pay scale in the contract in favor of the possibility of market adjustments to salary where needed to attract the best faculty, Duffy explained.

“We wanted to be partners in making Quinnipiac the best it could be for students and the community,” he said. “I believed flexibility would be best; if the union could work with the president on some of his concerns, it would show that the faculty was reasonable and willing to work for the betterment of the university. In both cases, we were betrayed rather than rewarded.”

Duffy said the union alleviates potential ill feelings among faculty.

“I fundamentally believe in collective bargaining,” he said. “At many universities, faculties are left alone to negotiate individual bargains with the administration. This can pit faculty member against faculty member and department against department. On the other hand, the union and a collective agreement made this a nice place to work.”

Duffy was disappointed about two crucial elements from the president’s address.

“The union allowed for a level playing field and made for a collegiate collegial bond,” Duffy said.

The president has never hid his feelings about the university having a faculty union, Duffy said.

“There was no secret that he hasn’t been a fan of the union,” he said. “But he didn’t give us a chance to know what was going on.”

In the event the faculty union does dissolve, Duffy believes that the faculty will have to organize to better work together with the university.

Duffy said business faculty could earn two to three times as much as College of Liberal Arts faculty if the union is dissolved, as Lahey said he wanted.

“Without a union it is more likely that some individuals will be better compensated than others – not based on their effectiveness as teachers or researchers so much as their value in the marketplace,” Duffy said. “This could lead to a situation, for example, where business professors are paid more than those in liberal arts.”

Duffy believes it is important for students to know that members of the faculty feel betrayed and that they were treated poorly. He does not hold out much hope for the survival of the union.

“The faculty will fight for [the union,]” Duffy said. “[But] the faculty is too committed to the students and to education to walk out.”

Dr. Jack S. Kaplan, a professor of mathematics, said he has mixed feelings about the faculty union. However, he disagrees with how opposed to the union Lahey is.

“It is a nuisance to him,” Kaplan said. “It is a good thing for Quinnipiac. That the faculty union is a major obstacle to improving the quality of education at Quinnipiac is nonsense.”

Rather than a negative, Kaplan says the union is a positive influence in the university.

“One big advantage to the union is that the faculty likes it,” Kaplan said. “It attracts people to come here.”

Kaplan said the faculty union has generally agreed to offer higher salaries to certain people.

“All full-time faculty are covered by the union – that’s part of the contract – but all full-time faculty does not have to be part of the union,” Kaplan said. “And those who choose not to be members can pay lower fees.”

Overall, Kaplan says the union enjoys support on campus.

“Outside of the business school, it would be hard to find many people who are not in favor of the union,” Kaplan said.


About Jamie DeLoma