AAUP-Utica explained: What the chapter does for Utica faculty

AAUP-Utica President Leonore Fleming posing outside of the Philosophy department bulletin board.

Diana Sidorevich

AAUP-Utica President Leonore Fleming posing outside of the Philosophy department bulletin board.

Diana Sidorevich, Contributing Writer

AAUP-Utica’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expired on Jan 31, 2023 and the faculty has been working without a contract since.

After the announcements of a confidential presidential search and proposed sunsetting of 15 majors at Utica, students began to see AAUP Utica stickers, One Faculty buttons and t-shirts, and signs saying “STOP THE CUTS. STRONGER TOGETHER.”

Philosophy Professor Leonore Fleming, AAUP-Utica’s President and Governing Board Officer and Negotiating Team Member, and Mathematics Professor Xiao Xiao, recently spoke to The Tangerine in a question and answer session.

What is the AAUP-Utica?

AAUP stands for American Association of University Professors. Utica’s chapter of AAUP was founded in the 1970s when Syracuse University tried to sell Utica College to the state of New York. It is a Utica faculty union that represents full-time faculty, librarians and Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) counselors.

What does the AAUP-Utica do?

The unit was founded in the 1970s to fight Syracuse University’s sale of Utica University (then, Utica College) to the state of New York and has remained as the sole bargaining agent for the college’s academic professionals, according to aauputica.org. With its contract, the unit ensures the place of academic professionals in shared governance at the university. As a chapter of the American Association of University Professors, AAUP-Utica helps fight locally and nationally for academic freedom, for the continued quality of American higher education and for protecting the livelihood of those individuals who dedicate their lives to teaching, service and research.

During the pandemic, the AAUP fought hard for safe working conditions for faculty and safe learning conditions for students. Although the AAUP has existed for a long time, their influence has recently been highlighted by the student newspaper after the announcement of a confidential presidential search and sunsetting majors.

The AAUP is concerned with the effects this would have on faculty and the lack of opportunity for students’ voices to be heard on these matters. The administration has been ignoring students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

What is a Collective Bargaining Agreement? 

A Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is an employment contract between the employer (Utica University in this case) and the union representing all of its members. A CBA is usually the result of a lengthy negotiation between the employer and the union. It contains a variety of content related to terms of employment such as work load, working conditions, pay, benefits, etc.

When did the CBA expire?

Utica’s CBA contract expired on Jan. 31, 2023.

What does the expired agreement not affect? 

Faculty pay, benefits and rights are still in place. However, an expired agreement allows the faculty to act collectively in a variety of ways. They can adjourn Faculty Senate meetings, hold information pickets and rallies, such as the rally on Feb. 17, and ultimately, can go on strike.

Why did the faculty allow the agreement to expire? 

AAUP-Utica and Utica University have been negotiating a new contract since June 2022. For the last 7-8 months, the union has been creative and made proposals to the university in hopes of reaching a mutual agreement. During that time, they extended the CBA on multiple occasions. But after receiving the most recent offer from the university, which they could not accept, the governing board of the union felt an extension of the current CBA was not warranted at this time. The union is still very interested in negotiating with the university to get a new CBA in place and will continue to negotiate in good faith.

What did the AAUP try to achieve? 

The AAUP-Utica was upset about the lack of transparency regarding recent recommendations as the university has given no real information on why certain decisions are being made and are not delivering promised data.

The union believes there is a lack of rationale behind certain resolutions, including proposed program cuts that do not seem to offer financial benefits but hurt the university.

When do you (AAUP) predict the faculty contracts will be reinstated?

We don’t know.

What would it take for the faculty contracts to be reinstated? 

We hope the university will come to the negotiating table with genuine efforts towards a new CBA.

How is the faculty morale doing considering they are working without a contract? 

Faculty morale is very very low at the moment. Part of it is due to working without a contract, but there are other important reasons as well such as the recent proposed elimination of 15 majors. However, working without a contract is not unprecedented at Utica University.

Does this affect students in any way? 

In the short term, this may not affect students in any direct way. Members of the union are still working as hard as usual and are trying to give the best education opportunity as they possibly can to the students of the university.