Connecticut State Faculty Rally Against Contract Take-Backs

Today hundreds of faculty members from Connecticut State University (CSU) and their supporters rallied in Hartford outside a meeting of the Board of Regents of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities demanding that the regents abandon draconian contract proposals that would bring to Connecticut the kinds of anti-education and anti-union measures that failed Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker enacted in Wisconsin.  The Connecticut State University AAUP (CSU-AAUP) represents faculty, librarians, and counselors at the system’s four main campuses.

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Faculty and Supporters Demonstrate Outside CSCU Regents Meeting, December 3

“We’re in for a real fight here. Know you have friends,” Rep. Peter Tercyak (D-New Britain) — the House chairman of the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee —told the crowd. “It’s nice to yell at system leadership as they go through the door. We should never miss that opportunity to yell at them…We need to empower them how to do their job better. This is how we do that. We need a bigger crowd next time.”

Tercyak told reporters his presence at the protest outside the regents’ monthly meeting should be a signal to the governing board and Board of Regents President Mark Ojakian that legislators are watching the contentious labor negotiations. As chair of the committee that oversees such matters, he has the authority to call a public hearing at the state Capitol on the issue. The legislature also has the authority to reject any contract for public employees, something that is rarely done.

“Please dear God, let’s resolve this before it takes me to become an expert on every proposal being made here,” Tercyak said. “Let’s hope we don’t have to get involved.”

In support of the rally, the national AAUP issued a statement signed by AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum, AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress Chair Howard Bunsis, and AAUP First-Vice President and Chair of Committee A Henry Reichman, which was read to the regents.  The statement declares:

This Thursday, December 3, faculty members from the Connecticut State University (CSU) system and other higher education institutions in the state are gathering in Hartford, outside the offices of the state Board of Regents, to declare their unwavering opposition to draconian contract proposals presented by the regents’ representatives to the CSU-AAUP. On behalf of the national AAUP, we join their protest and urge the regents and Governor Dannel Malloy to abandon these shameful proposals, which would bring to Connecticut the kinds of anti-education and anti-union measures that failed Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker enacted in Wisconsin and would all but destroy the CSU’s ability to educate the next generation of students.

Among the proposals presented by the regents are measures to:

• Enable elimination of academic programs for undefined “economic and programmatic conditions” as determined solely by management, without involvement of AAUP or the University Curriculum Committee.

• Permit transfer of faculty members from one university to another without their consent.

• Establish a new category of faculty evaluation based on adherence to an ill-defined Code of Conduct, and require service to the department and university to be “collegial,” even though the term is not defined.

• Remove tenure eligibility for all newly hired librarians and counselors.

• Eliminate the long-established Mediation Committee and Termination Hearing Committee, making it easier for management to fire tenured faculty.

• Bar the AAUP union from using the university’s email system to communicate with faculty, and nearly eliminate released time for union work (e.g., representing faculty in grievances or in disciplinary charges).

These and other proposed changes to the university’s collective bargaining agreement with the CSU-AAUP would, if implemented, violate long-accepted standards of academic freedom and university governance, as defined in the 1940 Joint Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. We therefore call upon the regents and Gov. Malloy to withdraw these proposals and return to the bargaining table for constructive dialogue with the CSU-AAUP in the best interests of the CSU’s students and the citizens of Connecticut.

And we call upon our faculty colleagues in the CSU, as well as other higher education institutions in Connecticut and nationally, to support the CSU-AAUP in its struggle to defend academic freedom and shared governance and maintain the high quality of their state’s system of public higher education.

Rudy Fichtenbaum, President, AAUP
Howard Bunsis, Chair, AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress
Henry Reichman, First Vice-President, AAUP; Chair AAUP Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure

Ojakian, the governor’s former chief of staff with a reputation for lowering the temperature in heated situations, responded that much of the drama is over misunderstanding of where he stands.  “We are not looking to privatize public higher education. We are not looking to corporatize public higher education. We are not looking to shift instructional delivery to an online platform. We are not looking to reshape the workforce so that tenured faculty are replaced by adjuncts and other contingent employees. We are not looking to strip or otherwise eliminate tenure rights. We are not looking to terminate important faculty programs,” he said. “Our objective in these negotiations is to produce a financially sustainable agreement that balances the interests of faculty, the students and the taxpayers.”

Protesting faculty hang signs along the route regents walk to their monthly meetings

Protesting faculty hang signs along the route regents walk to their monthly meetings

But as the Connecticut Mirror noted, “His remarks will soon be tested.”  At present the regents’ attack on faculty is limited to the state university, but under one of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s most controversial “reforms” the state’s community colleges are now part of the same system as the CSU.  And Ojakian’s administration is expected to propose changes to the contract for their faculty and staff in the next several weeks.

“We are bracing. We don’t know if they will be as draconian as those proposed to our brothers and sisters at the state universities,” said Bryan Bonina, the president of the union that represents faculty at the 12 community colleges. “He said he is looking for a fair and flexible contract. Based on that, then we are expecting something less drastic.”

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