December 14, 2017

AAUP Update: Department Chair Position Announcement

Hello Colleagues,

By now you have probably read the chair position announcement and have been planning accordingly. There have been many questions surrounding the announcement and the entire academic restructuring. Some of those questions have been addressed in our previous email and some have been discussed in the recent email sent by Faculty Council. This email will serve to comment on additional issues and concerns concerning this new position.

The academic restructuring process began two years ago in April of 2012. Since then it has gone through many twists and turns. While many of us, including the AAUP, were opposed to the kinds of changes that were being proposed we, nonetheless, participated in the process in the hopes of creating change that was best for students and faculty. We found the first proposals submitted ill advised, confusing, and possibly damaging to our institution and made that known to the administration on numerous occasions. The first wave of the chair piece of the academic reconstruction removed the chairs from the faculty by converting the position to administrators. Of course, we wondered at the time how the administration planned to justify the addition of 30 to 40 new administrators and the loss of 30 to 40 full-time faculty members. Many standing chairs during that period worried that if we did not fill these positions, individuals from outside of the college would be brought in to run our departments. The AAUP, working with the chapter attorney, researched legal avenues to challenge these restructuring proposals. – to no avail. As time progressed, more proposals came into the picture (i.e. the Chairs group proposal). While these proposals were unable to challenge some of the basic demands that administrative leaders were asking for, they, nonetheless, provided some much-improved alternatives to the restructuring process.

While the request for restructuring was not born from the faculty, the final proposal does represent the work of many different groups within the college. After much time and effort we find ourselves with a proposal that Dr. Pollard has accepted. The administration will begin implementing this proposal over the summer. The final proposal has elements of previous work from the last two years as well as some brand new additions. During the past several months, and under the new leadership of Dr. Rai, both the process and the outcomes have changed dramatically. The process has become far more inclusive, allowing for the voice of the faculty, and, for the first time since this all began, the perspective of the union. Some of the significant outcomes that have been gained through this relationship include:

Chair Side Letter: The creation of an important side letter in our contract that allows Department Chairs to return to their faculty position with all accrued salary in tact. The only way that a chair can be fired, rather than returned to the faculty, is if s/he does something egregious. This is true of every college employee. So although the chairs cannot be represented by the union, they have the contractual protection of returning to the bargaining unit at any time during their term(s) – so long as they complete the current semester.
Chair as Faculty: It is significant that the position of chair has been changed from administrative to faculty, albeit non-bargaining.
Workload: The chairs are afforded three weeks of paid vacation in addition to winter and spring breaks and there will be flexibility in interpretation of the 40-hour work week.
Retirement Benefits: During the time a faculty member is chair, the 12 month salary will count towards retirement; as it stands now, overload ESH and summer ESH are not figured in retirement benefits.

We believe it is important to acknowledge these positive changes in the position and in the process; yet there are still concerns. Our hope is that as the restructuring is evaluated overtime, further changes will occur and some of these concerns will be ameliorated. Issues of concern include:

Compensation: The salary scale, while significant for some, does not make the move to the new department chair as enticing as we would like for some of our most qualified faculty. We believe that there are more equitable compensation systems that would consider past experiences brought to the position and take into account the possibility of salary enhancement for other positions in the reconstruction.
Timeline: The aggressive timeline that has been established may affect the ability to make thoughtful decisions.
Workload: The workload facing these new positions, particularly in larger and/or more complex departments will be enormous.
Grievances: The new department chair role is a grievable position.
Impact on Full-Time Faculty: Removing 36 chairs from the bargaining unit will weaken the chapter by over 7% and signficantly change the FT/PT ratio.
Governance: While we believe that the new chairs should have a significant role in governance, that role should not compromise or dilute the role of the full-time faculty

While we do not agree with every detail of the Academic Reconstruction and despite our concerns, our belief is that Dr. Rai is ultimately committed to our students and is focused on strengthening our departments. If all goes well, the chairs will come from the department faculty, retain faculty status, and return to the department in their faculty positions. Moreover, we have been assured that all pieces of the academic restructure will be carefully monitored and evaluated. We will continue to watch to ensure that this occurs.

We believe that the best possible scenario at this point is that department chairs are identified in round one: eligible faculty from our own departments who are nominated and supported by the faculty in the departments. Raiding other campuses for candidates and/or bringing in external candidates, we believe, could devastate departments and cause harm to our students and the institution. It is important to keep asking questions and to keep holding the administration accountable. Removing the chairs from the bargaining unit is not the decision we supported; it is however, the decision with which we must live. At this time, after many meetings and much discussion, we have essentially been given the opportunity to produce our own leadership. We ask that each of you who meets the requirements in teaching/counseling and leadership experience think carefully and decide, given the information at hand, whether the chair position is one that fits your life plan at this time.

On behalf of the AAUP Executive Committee,

Dan

Dan Wilson, Associate Professor
President – AAUP
Chair – Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice
Suite 224 (Room 234) Humanities Building
Montgomery College – Rockville, MD
240-567-7486 (Office)

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