The SCFA’s work in the past year has, as in recent years, been largely conditioned by the ongoing funding crisis in public education in California, and its ongoing consequences for faculty research, teaching, and welfare. Online education, which was once conceived as a potential fiscal fix, has been a primary focus. The SCFA is uniquely positioned in the system due to the extent of its bargaining rights and authority, and this means that what we accomplish in our contract negotiations will have system-wide significance in this domain. We have continued our work as liaison and information provider regarding system-wide issues such as health and retirement benefits, and have also worked with other unions on campus—particularly the UAW, representing graduate students—on matters of joint concern. It has also been a year of significant leadership turnover. Shelly Errington, who has served for more than fifteen years as Chair of the Executive Board, and Joel Primack, who served as Treasurer for almost ten years, have stepped down from their positions. Thankfully, Shelly will remain on the Board as Vice-Chair, with Joel serving in his capacity as professor emeritus. We discuss this further down in the personnel section of this report.
Faculty Welfare and Work Environment
We joined with CUCFA in expressing concerns about adverse impacts of budget cuts on healthcare and pension plans, and continue to monitor the impacts these changes have had on faculty. The Degradation of Faculty Welfare and Compensation The precipitous introduction of UC Care, combined with the discontinuation of earlier plans, has had considerable impact on faculty, and many have reported that they were suddenly unable to continue with healthcare providers from previous plans, or that in order to do so they faced higher co-payments. There have also been reports of adverse changes to prescription drug policy. Our work on these issues depends on maximum faculty input, and we encourage faculty to report to us issues with healthcare or other benefit coverage. Important Changes in UC Health Care 2014
We began conducting an online survey, the Budget Impact Survey, about effects of budget cuts on instruction, and are in the process of compiling results for a report. UC Santa Cruz Budget Impact Survey
In the 2012-2013 Academic Year, the University acknowledged that online course delivery by UCSC faculty, with Coursera or any other online provider, was subject to labor relations negotiations and thus within the purview of the SCFA. This was a highly significant development for the SCFA, and we have been working for the past two years on developing a policy position on online education aimed at preserving maximum faculty rights over course content and instructional delivery in general. We have met many times with Renée Mayne, UCSC Employee and Labor Relations manager, and formed an Online Education Committee, whose members are Ben Carson, Shelly Errington, Ronnie Lipschutz, and Joel Primack. UCOP is, as faculty may be aware, in the process of instituting the Innovative Learning Technology Initiative (ILTI), which will cover various platforms for online education delivery, including those managed by the university and by the private sector. The SCFA holds that the ILTI must also be subject to labor relations negotiations. Over the past two years, our work in online education has involved forum participation, consultation with lawyers, and coordination with faculty associations on other campuses. This issue has been, and promises to continue to be, a primary area of concern. SCFA’s ongoing discussion concerning UCSC’s contract with Coursera, SCFA response to the University re: Proposed Campus Online Education Contract, SCFA letter to Labor Relations in response to the new Coursera contract 3-10-14
The committee’s primary work in the past year has involved negotiations, still ongoing, over the Coursera Course Development Agreement, Instructor Agreement, and general issues regarding the campus partnership with Coursera. Several UCSC faculty have signed or are considering signing agreements with Coursera. In addition to our ongoing negotiations, the university is asking us to work out interim arrangements before a final agreement is reached, so that these faculty are able to participate as they would like to. There remain many outstanding issues of concern. Since online education became an issue in 2012-2013, there have been significant changes in the policy and implementation environment. Initial enthusiasm has been tempered by rational and measured assessments of its efficacy and cost-benefits. President Napolitano has herself expressed reservations, and several of the main providers have altered their business models and projections. Nevertheless, online education appears to be here to stay, and it is essential that in these early stages, faculty rights are protected to the maximum degree. This is a matter of concern both for the Academic Senate, with whose relevant committees we have been in close contact, and the SCFA. The SCFA’s concerns include the length and nature of contracts, the relationship of online course development and delivery to faculty workload and the personnel process, and, at the crux of our negotiations, intellectual property. The SCFA maintains that faculty should have exclusive rights over the use and dissemination of the instructional materials they develop. We insist that faculty be considered in contracts as creators of, not contributors to, online coursework. These rights, we are told, could potentially be in conflict with Coursera’s, or other content providers’, business plans, and we of course insist that faculty rights be the paramount concern. Since it is not possible to wholly disaggregate software infrastructure from course content, we are concerned that the no contract prevent faculty from using material they develop, or from discontinuing the use of material they develop, in a manner of their choosing.
Relations with the UAW and Graduate Student Strike Activities
The SCFA maintains close and cooperative contact with other unions on campus, AFSCME (service workers), UC-AFT (instructors), and the UAW (graduate students), and we support the rights of all campus employees to organize, including those researchers who are not yet unionized. UC Faculty Call on UC Administration To Negotiate in Good Faith with Student-Worker TA Union. We consulted with and advocated with UCOP in support of AFSCME, and were pleased that AFSCME was able to successfully conclude contract negotiations and avert a strike. An Open Letter of to the Chancellor and EVC commending them for their part in settling the UAW grievances During most of the 2013-2014 Academic Year, the graduate students union was working without a contract, which proved to be a significant impediment to grievance resolution, and which negatively impacted graduate students’ working environment. Due to the centrality of TA work to the faculty’s instructional mission, this was an area of particular concern. We met often with graduate student union representatives, and expressed our solidarity to the UCSC and UCOP administrations. We prepared informational materials for faculty concerning graduate student issues, and mobilized faculty support. Along with the Faculty Organizing Group, we made policy recommendations regarding University policing of student strikes, and, expressing our support for a labor relations environment free from intimidation of graduate student labor actions and attendant student protest, we advocated for lenient treatment of and dismissal of charges against students arrested during the graduate student strikes. The UAW finally was able to successfully conclude contract negotiations, and we were very pleased with this outcome. Unfortunately, issues of criminal charges and disciplinary proceedings for arrested students remain unresolved, but we feel that our positions on these matters were registered with the University and with Campus Police. Faculty letter urging that charges against students be dropped 4-2-14,
SCFA Personnel and Membership
Outgoing board president Shelly Errington will remain on the board as Vice-Chair, and outgoing board treasurer Joel Primack will serve in advisory role as professor emeritus. We all owe a great debt to Shelly and Joel for their long years of dedication to the SCFA. Shelly’s tireless leadership through tough negotiations on a number of issues over the years has been central to our achievements, and she is an inspiration to all of us. Joel has been especially important to our work in online education, as well as other issues, and although he will be missed on the board, we will be grateful for his continued advice. We all owe them both many thanks.
Ronnie Lipschutz has agreed to take on the role of Chair of the SCFA and Chris Connery will be Secretary. We are all grateful for their tireless and effective work for the SCFA. Ben Carson and Elizabeth Stephens will continue their current terms on the Executive Board. Cindy Cruz has been re-elected for a term beginning fall 2014. We welcome Hunter Bivens, Deborah Gould, and Vanita Seth who have now been elected as members of our Board and took office October 1, 2014. We thank them for their willingness to contribute time and energy to our Association.
We remain especially grateful to Deborah Rosenberg, who runs our office and staffs the organization, and who has been a great support during an event-filled and difficult year. We could not function without her. Eric Hays, on the CUCFA staff, has also been great to work with, on university-wide and on local issues.
We remind our members that the union makes us strong. The more members we have, the more we can do, the more resources we will have—intellectual property lawyers are expensive!—and the louder our voices will be. We encourage all members to actively recruit among your colleagues, especially new faculty members. And we encourage all faculty, members and non-members, to share your concerns with us, and let us know what we can do for you.
Wishing you all the best for the coming year,
The SCFA Executive Board.