PSU profs say new contract is Step 1 in combatting creeping corporatization

Casting ballots in person April 15 and 16, members of American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at Portland State University (PSU) voted by an overwhelming 97 percent margin to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement.

Casting a ballot for the contract. (Photo courtesy PSU-AAUP)
AAUP member Allison Brown, instructor of Applied Linguistics, casts a ballot for the contract. (Photo courtesy PSU-AAUP)

AAUP represents 975 full-time faculty at PSU. [Part-time faculty are represented by a separate union, American Federation of Teachers, which ratified a contract earlier this year.]

The new AAUP contract will provide greater job security to hundreds of faculty who have been working on renewable one-year contracts: PSU commits to give two- or three-year contracts to 80 percent of faculty members who’ve been at the school at least four years.

The contract also includes raises that total at least 6.5 percent by its Nov. 30, 2015 expiration, plus a new salary floor of $40,000 that will bring compensation up even more for those below it.

AAUP had great difficulty getting an acceptable agreement through the normal bargaining process. Only after faculty authorized a strike and set an April 16 strike date did the PSU administration back off of regressive proposals to strip the union of any say over policies on evaluation and promotion and give administrators the right to change anything not spelled out in the contract.

AAUP calls the agreement a first step in a campaign it’s undertaking to change PSU’s direction. PSU’s administration has adopted a corporate mindset, says AAUP spokesperson David Osborn — in which growing numbers of over-paid managers see themselves as the principle decision-makers. And the vision they’re seeking to implement involves expensive capital projects that are aimed to attract out-of-state and foreign students — because they pay higher tuition. But Osborn said those choices are diminishing the value of a PSU education, and making tuition unaffordable for the kind of non-traditional first-generation college students that PSU has historically served. A case in point is that actual classroom instruction has declined to just 33 percent of the university’s budget; AAUP wants it back up to 50 percent.

“Instruction is the core mission of this institution,” Osborn said. “It doesn’t seem unreasonable to have half the dollars going to that.”

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