The University of San Francisco Faculty Association (USFFA) staged its first passive protest at the Major/Minor fair on Thursday, Oct. 20. Early last week, USFFA President Elliot Neaman sent an email to the professors, advising them to avoid university commitments that are not included in their contract. Some professors declined to volunteer, some sent proxies and those who did attend donned buttons that read “Respect Your Faculty.”
In the faculty’s contracts for the 2016/2017 year, they were offered only a six percent salary increase, which is not adjusted to the increase in the cost of living in San Francisco since the contract was last negotiated three years ago. USFFA entered federal Mediation with USF on Sept. 28 to resolve the dispute, and are continuing to negotiate the contract. “Things like the Major/Minor Fair are a possibility for faculty to express unhappiness with the refusal of the administration to make a better contractual offer and therefore withheld their service from the fair,” said Neaman.
Professor of International Studies John Zarobell described the protest as a work slowdown. As the director of the International Studies program, Professor Zarobell was present at the fair, but has already declined two invitations for extra commitments with the University. “We’re trying to convince the administration that we need to take faculty concerns seriously,” he said.
Professor Roberto Varea, professor of Performing Arts, Latin American Studies, Chicano Latino Studies and Critical Diversity Studies, did not take the decision to attend the fair lightly. He wrote to all of his program chairs and asked for their input, and they replied that there was no consensus on whether professors from their programs would attend. Professor Varea chose to attend to support his programs. “It was about reaching out to some of the students, especially when some of our departments are failing on enrollment, which is the case of Chicano Latino Studies which I am representing,” he said. USF and USFFA returned to federal mediation on Oct. 26. Neaman expressed optimism for the outcome. “We are hopeful that we will get a contract soon, if not, these kinds of actions will continue, as well as planned rallies,” he said.
David Philpott, USF Director of Employee and Labor Relations, issued a statement to faculty and librarians on Monday regarding the mediation on Wednesday. He explained that USF will proceed with transparency, and offered to host a forum to discuss the University’s financial challenges. The financial challenges were listed as the following: the increasing cost of financial aid, maintenance of the physical plant, restrictions on endowment spending, required security and upgrades to information technology infrastructure.
Philpott also included that the annual increase amounted to about 3.5 percent per year over the next three years, which is above the Bay Area Consumer Price Index. “Faculty and librarian salaries have increased 25 percent at USF (not including steps), compared to a comprehensive merit pool of just 20 percent at Santa Clara University,” said Philpott.
USFFA founder Mike Lehmann happened to stop by the fair on the way to his car, and was available for a quick discussion. He founded the association in 1975 and retired in 2004, but returned to the school as an adjunct professor. “The University is trying to impose a new normal, which is constant chronic perpetual erosion of the standard of living for the faculty,” said Lehmann. He predicts that faculty will not settle for the “new normal,” and that the union will continue to fight until a fair contract is achieved.
Photo Credit: Pawin Sae Chen/ Foghorn