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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Proposed AAUP contract rejected in vote

NMU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) rejected a proposed contractual agreement with the administration in a vote on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

The vote was 132 against, 107 for ratification. There were two disqualified votes and two abstaining votes. Out of the 296 members of the AAUP there were 243 votes.

“We weren’t sure how this was going to go; the faculty voiced a number of concerns and we debated the merits of them,” said Ron Sundell, geography professor and president of NMU’s chapter of the AAUP.

Sundell said that the next step for the AAUP is to return to negotiations with NMU administration. The faculty will continue to operate under the conditions of the 2006-2009 contract for as long as that is agreeable to both the AAUP and the administration. Sundell said that a major point of contention for faculty members in the contract was how the principal of shared governance was addressed. Shared governance is the shared participation of faculty and administration in running the university.

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“The faculty considered [shared governance] critical to the health and well being of the university,” Sundell said. “We really feel that it’s important that the faculty . should have a say in how the university is run.”

Brent Graves, biology professor and the information officer for the AAUP, said that he was not surprised by the result of the vote. He said that he had heard faculty members express concerns about the vagueness of some language in the contract, specifically, wording in the proposed contract which could possibly mean that teachers would be required to perform additional responsibilities on top of their workloads.

“The time that that requires would have to come from somewhere, and the only place it can come from is putting less time in doing a good job with our teaching, and that’s something that our faculty is very concerned about,” he said.

Graves also said that language addressing promotion and tenure standards is not clear regarding what professors need to do in order to keep their jobs.

“The proposed language can be interpreted in a lot of different ways, and we need to know exactly what we need to do,” said Graves. “The requirements need to be clearer.”

Rebecca Mead, history professor and vice president of the AAUP, said that the vote wasn’t just about pay.

“While money is important, there are other issues as well, things like working conditions . and the fundamental issue of respect,” she said.

In the proposed contract, professors would recieve a two percent pay increase for the first year, with a zero percent increase for the next two years.

Mead said that the rejection of the contract did not necessarily reflect on the efforts of the AAUP’s negotiation team.

“Turning down the contract is a clear expression of dissatisfaction, but most of us seem to feel that our negotiation team did the best they could under difficult circumstances,” said Mead.

Mead also said that the rejection of the contract does not mean that a conflict is pending, and the AAUP will continue to negotiate with the administration.

“Some people think that you go straight from a failed contract to a strike, but that’s not true,” said Mead, “[Striking] is a very serious thing that no one does without thinking about it very seriously and exhausting all other options.”

Cindy Paavola, NMU’s director of communications, said that the administration fully hoped that the contract would be ratified.

“We felt the administration brought a strong contract to the table, and we’re extremely disappointed that it didn’t pass,” she said.

Paavola said that the next step is to clarify the language within the proposed contract and then bring the proposal back to the table so that it can be ratified in the future.

“Hopefully, the two parties aren’t that far apart. Hopefully, we can reach a compromise or some negotiation can take place so that we can get a contract that can be ratified,” Paavola said.

Representatives for the AAUP and the administration were not able to offer a projected timeline for when negotiations will resume.

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