USM faculty senate endorses union work-to-rule

Posted on February 04, 2013 in News
By Tom Collier

USM Provost Michael Stevenson discussed sabbaticals at the faculty senate meeting on Feb. 1.
Phoebe Borden
USM Provost Michael Stevenson discussed sabbaticals at the faculty senate meeting on Feb. 1.

At the University of Southern Maine faculty senate meeting last Friday, all members raised their hands in a unanimous decision to endorse a motion to work-to-rule from the full-time union, the Affiliated Faculties of the Universities of Maine. The motion passed directly after a nearly 40 minute executive session that took place behind closed doors, in which only voting faculty members were present for discussion.

Faculty across the entire University of Maine System have been working without contracts for over two years. AFUM’s motion to work-to-rule is the result of the UMS board of trustees’ reluctance to approve faculty contracts that include cost-of-living raises as deemed possible in an AFUM fact-finding report.

Immediately after the motion passed, faculty senate member Professor Mark Lapping put forward another motion “consistent with the previous vote, that the faculty senate no longer meet” until such time as a tentative contract agreement between the administration and the faculty is reached. The senate voted to pass the motion, with only one vote opposed.

“The senate is the way in which the faculty have direct relations with the administration,” AFUM’s USM chapter president, Ed Collom, said in a statement to The Free Press.

In that manner, faculty senate endorsement of AFUM’s work-to-rule and their decision to no longer meet will cut all formal communications between faculty representatives and university administration.

However, Senate Vice Chair and Professor Tara Coste, put forward a motion which would allow for the scheduled meetings between the faculty senate’s executive council, President Kalikow and Provost Michael Stevenson in order to “keep a line of communication between the faculty and the administration.”

The faculty senators’ reactions to the motion varied. Some members believed that the executive council should still meet with USM administration, while other members proposed occasional meetings of an informal nature.

“Nations at war used to have this funny way of having somebody go to Zurich,” said Professor Wayne Cowart. “I really would like to see something established, and I really don’t care if it’s formal or informal, but I think that it’s important to keep a line open to the administration on campus.”

Yet, others believed that meetings, formal or informal, would undermine the decision of AFUM to move to work-to-rule and that of the UMS faculty representatives to the board of trustees who boycotted the board meeting on Jan. 28.

“I think it’s very important to keep our motion short and sweet and to the point,” said Professor Jeannine Uzzi. “Any additional motion we add now is going to muddy the waters.”

The senate discussed the motion at length for nearly 15 minutes, at which point, Coste chose to withdraw it entirely, with no formal vote was taken.

“Leadership on this has been taken by the first three smaller campuses, then USM,” said Lapping, who was last to speak at the meeting. “I think a strong motion from us that’s not diluted sends a strong message to our colleagues at the University of Maine. It’s my sense that if UMaine’s faculty senate goes along with what we’ve done, that will help to move the board.” In closing, he said that if there is faculty solidarity throughout the whole system, the board of trustees would face a “solid block of the faculty, demanding that they negotiate in good faith.”