March 5, 2013
The SCFA learned last week that the University signed a contract with Coursera without including them in the discussion. The SCFA, as the bargaining agent for UCSC faculty, should be consulted whenever there is the potential for a change in the relationship between the University and faculty, that could therefore be subject to collective bargaining. The SCFA is not taking a position at this point on the desirability or undesirability of working with Coursera. Their concern, at this stage, is the maximal protection of faculty rights and authority, whether faculty participate or not in Coursera-hosted on-line courses. A Request for Information has been made to the university.
This issue touches on many curricular and academic issues including faculty ownership rights to their lectures. In 2000, CUCFA successfully lobbied for legislation establishing that individual professors, and not the University, own the intellectual property in their live performances and course materials. The effect of this legislation is to treat the recording and reuse of courses in the same manner as other forms of faculty publication, and to establish that the University has no more right than a note-taking service or a student with a video camera to publish our courses without explicit written consent. Viewed within this legal framework the contract template [Exhibit G-1] that faculty will be expected to sign before their courses can become available on Coursera appears to put the UCSC campus in the position of becoming the publisher of this material on Coursera and other platforms. “I hereby irrevocably grant the University the absolute right and permission to use, store, host, publicly broadcast, publicly display, public[sic] perform, distribute, reproduce and digitize any Content that I upload, share or otherwise provide in connection with the Course or my use of the Platform, including the full and absolute right to use my name, voice, image or likeness (whether still, photograph or video) in connection therewith, and to edit, modify, translate or adapt any such Content (“Content Enhancements’) for the purposes of formatting or making accommodations to make Content accessible to persons who have disabilities.” Moreover, both Exhibits G-1 and G-2 contain language indicating that the University’s rights to publish “Content” would include distribution to “persons” and “entities” other than Coursera.
Any proposed contract between UCSC and members of our bargaining unit for publishing their courses online could be considered a change in the terms and conditions of that faculty member’s employment that is, at least arguably, subject to mandatory collective bargaining before the proposed contracts are offered to and signed by individuals. In deciding whether to invoke its right to bargain, SCFA would naturally be interested in the specific terms of such contracts (e.g., their revocability, exclusivity and the rights of signatories to participate in and be informed of any monetization that occurs). And in deciding what our collective bargaining position should be SCFA will also be interested in the consequences of permitting and incentivizing individual members of our bargaining unit to agree to terms under which new or existing UCSC courses will be made available online to students on our own campus and/or at other institutions (including for-profits) where they might, at any time in the future, be taken for credit toward a UCSC degree. Depending on the campus administration’s answers to these questions, the foreseeable consequences could affect the terms and conditions of employment for members of our bargaining unit, whether or not they as individuals agree to participate in Coursera. Finally, there is the question of what incentives might be given to present and especially future faculty to make the campus a publisher of their courses online. Any system of incentives to publish courseware through the campus (whether in the form of carrots or sticks) would almost certainly change the employment relation between the UCSC campus and all members of our bargaining unit.
These issues were not discussed with the SCFA, the exclusive bargaining unit for the UCSC faculty, prior to the signing of the contract between Coursera and UCSC. Since contracts to be offered by UCSC to individual instructors will constitute new terms of employment for members of our bargaining unit, we ask that all contract negotiations between the University and members of our bargaining unit be halted until the SCFA has received sufficient answers to its informational requests (including but not limited to those below) in order to determine whether to seek collective bargaining.
To expedite our consideration of collective bargaining we submit the following Request for Information:
•Was there a confidentiality agreement between Coursera and the campus? If so, at whose initiative was such an agreement undertaken? Who were the parties to this agreement on UCSCs side? If any Senate faculty were parties to the agreement, does the administration consider them to have been acting on behalf of the Senate? Was there any other form, official or unofficial, in which the Senate was consulted prior to signing the contract with Coursera? [SCFA has a responsibility under HEERA to determine in what manner the Senate was consulted, and on what range of issues, before determining how broad or narrow its role as a collective bargaining agent can be.]
•Has any member of SCFA’s bargaining unit, other than administrators, signed the agreement needed to post their classes on Coursera? If so, we hereby request copies of the executed documents in addition to a full report of any side-letters and/or additional understandings about the nature and amount of any consideration offered or expected. More generally, SCFA asks that the UCSC administration, as a signatory to the contract with Coursera, clarify its view of the UCSC/Instructor agreements provided as Exhibits G-1 and G-2 attached that contract. Are these “forms” of agreement required by Coursera subject to negotiation and modification with individuals and/or (potentially) with SCFA? If so, would the campus expect such modifications to take the form of a change in the release document provided by the campus to Coursera or the form of a separate agreement setting additional terms and conditions on the employment relationship between the instructor and the campus? [This request is material to our need to know the new terms and conditions of employment that have been or will be offered to at least some members of our bargaining unit. To the extent that such terms have already been offered and accepted without notice or consultation with SCFA, we will need to determine what further requests to make regarding the actual commencement of such courses while discussions about bargainability take place.]
•What contracts have been signed by other campuses and/or UCO) with other online providers, including but not limited to EdX and Udacity? [While we do not assert the right to be involved in contracts other than those between the UCSC campus and UCSC Senate faculty, we believe the terms and conditions of these other contracts, which should be a matter of public record, will be directly relevant to our eventual assessment of whether the terms that UCSC has negotiated with Coursera are advantageous or not.]
•What plan does the campus have for monetizing its contract with Coursera? In what form, if any, does it expect participating faculty and/or the faculty as a whole to benefit from that plan? •What plan does the campus have to reduce instructional costs as a result of its contract with Coursera? In what form, if any, would members of our bargaining unit benefit from that plan?
We consider this letter to place the campus on notice that some of the issues arising out of its contract with Coursera may be collectively bargainable and that it should cease implementation of those aspects of that contract until the issue have collective bargaining has been addressed in future meetings between us.