Minutes from the November 11, 2015 General Membership Meeting.
This past Monday morning, December 7th, several members of your OU-AAUP Executive Committee met with trustee Mark Schlussel (our BOT Chair), President Hynd and Provost Lentini. While this was not a meeting with the Board of Trustees, it was a meeting offered by Trustee Schlussel and accepted by me and other members of your chapter's Executive Committee.
Of course, we talked about the recent Chief Operating Officer (COO) hire. Trustee Schlussel and President Hynd continue to assert that this hiring decision was wise and represents no conflict of interest violations. Those from the Executive Committee reaffirmed that the faculty overwhelmingly feel that due diligence required that the Board first define the position and explain its need, and then conduct an open search. Furthermore, Oakland University's faculty do not understand the need to compress the COO search process merely to provide a hasty outcome.
The absence of an open search has been particularly troubling in light of the fact that our new COO was drawn from the Board of Trustees. In several public forums, faculty members have raised questions whether it is appropriate for Board members to accept high-salaried administrative positions with the university. Many are not assuaged by the Board's insistence that its own conflict of interest policy was not violated. We noted again that the perception of conflict of interest can be as damaging to the university's reputation as a confirmed conflict of interest. Faculty overwhelmingly hold this opinion because we are a public institution of higher education, and we have a mandate to rigorously follow open hiring practices and refrain from any actions that could be perceived as cronyism.
We also took the time at the meeting to contextualize the hiring of the COO from the faculty's perspective. The faculty's experience with the previous president had undermined both trust and cooperation. While we welcomed the establishment of a new presidential administration that touted its support for the faculty and professed its desire to improve the working environment, the experience of negotiating the current faculty contract revealed little change from previous negotiations. This disconnect between the assertion of support and the administration's stance during bargaining left many faculty disenfranchised even before the appointment of the COO.
Trustee Schlussel, Provost Lentini and President Hynd emphasized their desire is to improve the focus on academics at Oakland University and stated that they consider the support of the faculty to be essential to this goal. They hope that faculty would work with them to move the university forward in this new direction. We in turn, indicated that the faculty are fully dedicated to improving the educational experience for our students.
So, what can we do moving forward? We acknowledge that the faculty cannot force the Board to hire transparently; the Board is responsible for enforcing its own policies. We can be skeptical about the stated intentions of our Board and the administration. We can, at the same time, follow Trustee Schlussel's request to "have an open mind" as we observe the actions of the new COO. Regardless of these choices, we have the duty to object when we think things have been done badly and applaud the good actions of our university. At this juncture in President Hynd's term of office, very skeptical faculty members are still waiting for actions that match the rhetoric. This point was also communicated at this Monday's meeting.
As the president of the OU-AAUP, I will continue to read emails from faculty, respond to questions from journalists, discuss with my colleagues, and talk with our students to develop an understanding of the community's attitudes. I will pass on pertinent information to the administration so that they may act in a more informed manner. I will continue to identify those issues that we can affect and will use the contract to defend the interests of our membership.
Oakland University AAUP Chapter President
An important and hard-won decision was recently reached in an AAUP/Oakland arbitration, a decision that has significant impact on every Oakland faculty member. The grievance concerned a faculty member who, on the basis of a student’s recording of the faculty member’s remarks in class, was issued an order of persona non grata and summarily removed from campus on Sept. 27, 2013. On the basis of the student’s recording alone, without interviewing any other member of the class or the faculty member, the administration judged the faculty member to be a threat to the safety of others on campus. The persona non grata order, issued by the OU Police Department, also mandated that the faculty member undergo certain medical and psychological exams.
Understandably, the AAUP grieved this action. Not only did the administration's action violate contract provisions that are specifically designed to deal with such a situation, but the claim of an immediate threat to the campus community, followed by rapid removal from campus, seemed a clear violation of principles of due process and fairness.
The Arbitrator, agreeing with the AAUP's reading of the contract, found that the administration violated Agreement Article IX, 66 c. and d. by failing to give notice to the faculty member and the Association prior to effecting the action, and by failing to state in writing (to the faculty member and the Association) the reasons for the action.
The Arbitrator also found that the administration violated Article XXXIII, 216 by failing to disclose relevant information "within a reasonable time after receiving a request."
The issue of a hearing is not directly addressed in the Agreement, but was based on Oakland University ordinance 9.04. This ordinance reads as follows:
Any individual who violates these ordinances and whose actions pose a threat to the health and/or safety of the university community, or to university property, or whose actions constitute trespass may also be referred to the university administrator designated by the president for a hearing which may result in an order denying the offending individual access to the campus for a specified period of time.
On this issue the Arbitrator found that use of the word "may" indicates that a hearing is not necessary, and therefore found for the administration.
The Arbitrator's ruling marked the conclusion of a lengthy grievance and arbitration, extended in part by the administration's delays in turning over information and in scheduling arbitration dates. The Arbitrator's finding on behalf of the Association regarding the timely disclosure of information is therefore particularly gratifying and encouraging.
The other part of the Arbitrator's decision in favor of the AAUP is an important one, as it supports the Association's understanding of the plain language of Article IX. Significantly, the Arbitrator found that the faculty member did not, in fact, pose a health or safety threat to anyone on campus and therefore the administration needed to adhere to the advance notification requirements of 66 c. and d.
Had the administration's actions been upheld in this case, our protections against extreme disciplinary actions would have been significantly eroded.
The Association is pleased to report the outcome of this grievance, particularly as current labor laws tend to favor management positions. We also want to acknowledge the hard work on this case of both our Grievance Officer, Kevin Murphy, and our attorney, Robert Fetter.
Kevin T. Grimm
Many of you have expressed concern at the increase in your portion of the health insurance premiums this year. The increases, particularly for members with spouses or families, are dramatic (in most cases, around $200 per month increase over last year). We want to explain to you how and why we are in this situation.
The primary cause of the increase is the contractual formula for calculating the administration's contribution to the health benefit premiums. In 2013, the administration continued the terms of previous contracts and contributed 100% of the most expensive HMO plan (HAP). In 2014 that changed to 110% of the least expensive HMO (Priority Health). This year, 2015, OU's contribution is 95% of the least expensive HMO (still Priority Health).
Two things are important to understand. First, the administration came to the bargaining table in 2012 demanding a reduction in their contribution to 80%, leaving faculty members to contribute a full 20% of their own health premiums. Moreover, the administration sought to eliminate the $175 match to the Health Reimbursement Fund. Fortunately, your AAUP 2012 Bargaining Team negotiated the University up to its final offer of 95% of the low cost provider, which, while undesirable, is far less onerous than the administration’s initial assault on the health benefit.
If one looks at the last four years, here is the monthly contribution that the administration has made toward the health premiums of faculty members (example based on family coverage premiums):
|YEAR||Full-Time Faculty||Special Lecturers = 4 yrs||Special Lecturers = 5yrs|
Second, the AAUP bargains with the administration. The administration negotiates with the health insurance providers. The AAUP has no control over the rates and therefore we have to rely on the administration to negotiate with the insurers and encourage them to compete by offering lower rates. We are concerned that the lowest cost HMO (Priority Health) increased their rates by the smallest percentage (2.3%), while BCN, for example, increased by 8.5%. (HAP rates increased by 3.1%.)
We recognized that the adjustments in the formula would have a significant impact on faculty members' health premiums. We did not anticipate that it would be this severe.
There is still one work week left in the open enrollment period that ends Friday, Nov. 21 at midnight. We are including in this message a link to a comparison of Michigan HMOs (from the Consumer Reports website), which may assist you if you are considering a change. I also note that one of the criticisms of Priority Health when it first became available was the relative restriction of its physician network. That has expanded somewhat in recent years; last year, for example, the Henry Ford system was added.
Comparison of Michigan Private HMOs http://www.consumerreports.org/health/insurance/NCQA-rankings.htm?state=MI&planCategory=privateHMO
We hope this helps in clarifying the context of our current premium increases. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me—firstname.lastname@example.org—or Scott Barns—email@example.com.
Kevin T. Grimm President, AAUP-Oakland Chapter
July 9, 2014
The faculty of Oakland University are pleased to welcome Dr. George Hynd to the OU community. His extensive experience as a teacher, scholar, and administrator have prepared Dr. Hynd to lead OU as we negotiate the challenges facing institutions of higher learning today.
We look forward to working closely with Dr. Hynd in the coming months and years, and we wish him and his wife a smooth transition from South Carolina to Michigan.
Kevin T. Grimm
President, AAUP-OU Chapter
May 26, 2014
In my last message to you I omitted the fact that I had the opportunity to meet with Trustee Mark Schlussel on Wednesday May 21st. At that time Trustee Schlussel acknowledged that an increased level of communication regarding the search was warranted. He further committed that a message would be forthcoming.
In retrospect, I should have waited to communicate with you until Chairman Kramer had the opportunity to send this message on behalf of the Board.
I was also advised that all of the candidates in the pool have doctoral degrees. Further, Trustee Schlussel has informed me that another round of interviews is being conducted next week so that all candidates who applied by May 15th will receive a fair hearing on their potential to lead our university.
In our meeting, Trustee Schlussel reiterated that the best candidates would be unwilling to put their careers in jeopardy by participating in open campus meetings. The Board remains committed to finding the best qualified candidate to be our next president.
I hope this clarifies my previous message to you.
Kevin T. Grimm
President, AAUP-OU Chapter
May 22, 2014
I want to keep you informed on the status of the current search for a new President for Oakland University. I am sorry to say that despite the formation of a broadly representative Presidential Search Committee, the search process does not seem to be unfolding in a clear and transparent fashion, hence the need for this message.
Let me be clear that I believe we as faculty are very well represented by our three colleagues on the committee, and other members of the committee, staff, administrators, and some board members, have argued for a process that conforms to traditional, transparent academic searches. However, as was made apparent at the May 7th Board of Trustees meeting, the Board leadership seems to be driving the search, and it is not clear that they have yet articulated a clearly defined process.
A few facts:
I want to stress that we appreciate the challenges of conducting a presidential search, we recognize that the search and the hire are the responsibility of the Board of Trustees, and we understand the importance of maintaining confidentiality throughout the process. Nevertheless, the complete absence of any kind of communication regarding process and timeline, at a minimum, is striking and a significant concern.
We will keep you informed of developments in the search as they become public.
Kevin T. Grimm
President, OU Chapter, AAUP
April 17, 2014
I thought I should take this opportunity to give you a brief description of a current grievance that is moving toward arbitration that could potentially impact all OU faculty. I mentioned this at the last General Membership meeting, but thought it important enough to share with you in an email.
On September 27, 2013, a faculty member was escorted from campus and designated persona non grata: the faculty member was excluded from campus, from all contact with students, and was directed to take several medical and psychological exams by the Oakland University Police Department. Here’s what we know and can share:
We are seriously disturbed that a faculty member could be removed from campus without any opportunity to know what exactly had been alleged or what triggered the action, and hence without any opportunity to present any explanation in self-defense. Of significant concern also is the fact that the documents released to the Association do not include any minutes or record of the meeting(s) of the Behavior Concerns Committee. In fact, the University maintains that no such documents exist.
The faculty member has not been put on leave, is still drawing salary and benefits, and is attempting to pursue a scholarly career from home. We remain shocked, however, that such a situation could even arise at OU.
I realize that if this is the first you are hearing of this situation it must seem quite alarming. Our purpose, though, is not to alarm, but inform, and keep you apprised of situations, no matter how unusual, that potentially affect us all.
Kevin T. Grimm
President, AAUP Oakland Chapter