Several notes from recent and upcoming elections and initiatives of the Abington College Faculty Senate.
First, the Constitutional reforms of 2014 were approved by a vote of the faculty by a margin of 38-9, or 76.4%-23.6%, and are now at University Park, where the UFS’s Unit Constitutions Subcommittee will review them, possibly as early as their next meeting on January 13. The proposed reforms are highlighted in red in the attached copy of the Abington College Faculty Senate Constitution. If these are approved by mid-semester, we will proceed with spring elections in accordance with approved reforms for the 2015-16 Senate year. I wish to express my profound thanks to the co-chairs of the ad hoc committee on Constitutional reform: Program Chair of Art and past Senate chair Bill Cromar and Head Librarian Dolores Fidishun; as well as committee members Jake Benfield, Yvonne Love, and two distinguished past Senate chairs: Tramble T. Turner and Eric Ingersoll.
Second, the results of the election for the position of Chair-elect of the Abington College Faculty Senate are as follows. With 75 votes cast, or 56.82% of the faculty participating:
Dr. Dolores Fidishun, Head Librarian, 61 votes or 81.3%
Dr. Karen Halnon, Associate Professor of Sociology, 14 votes or 18.7%
Third, we have just been informed by University Park that the most recent census of the Penn State faculty gives us one additional University Faculty Senator, moving our number from four to five. Accordingly, we will hold an election for not two but three open University Faculty Senate positions in January. In order to be able to conduct the election, we require five candidates. Currently we have three. The top three candidates will become university senators while the fourth-leading candidate will become a designated alternate in the case another candidate cannot serve. The roles and responsibilities of a University Faculty Senator are attached. Please read these carefully and submit any agreed nominations to me, or any member of the Abington College Faculty Senate to pass on to me, by January 1, 2015.
Fourth, the Finance and Faculty Affairs committees will soon begin deliberations on a proposal to increase the number of tenure-line faculty at Abington College, both in terms of a percentage of the full-time faculty and in absolute numbers, with many if not most of those additions being in the senior tenured ranks, to begin to address twenty years of decreased tenure lines and increased reliance on fixed term faculty (see attached data from the UFS Committee on Inter-University Relations. Abington College’s ratio of tenure lines to fixed-term faculty currently stands at 1.43-1, lower than the Commonwealth College average of 1.55-1).
Last, as we enter the holiday season and enjoy some time away from academic duties, please take a moment to recall our departed friends and colleagues: Ayoub Ayoub, Howard Medoff, and Deb Andress, and to remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who remain on active service, every day and night, at home and overseas.
December is when we elect our representatives to the University Faculty Senate. The election itself will be scheduled as soon as we hear of the latest Penn State faculty census, expected any day now. We have four excellent candidates already on the slate, and more may become necessary as a result of the upcoming redistribution of seats based on the new university-wide faculty census.
While we’re on the subject of redistribution, on Thursday, November 20, the Abington College Faculty Senate unanimously approved a motion to raise the salaries of all adjunct faculty to $4,000 for a three-credit course, beginning on July 1, 2015. We expect a formal response to this motion from the administration in January. This motion followed on an extensive comparative study of adjunct compensation at surrounding colleges and universities, which found that Abington ranked near the bottom. Such a raise would allow for our highly-valued adjunct faculty to just about touch the national poverty line by teaching a 3+3 load at Abington, and echo similar movements around the nation to lift the wages of working class Americans.
This issue was brought home starkly by protests against Walmart, which has begun to organize food drives to feed its own employees, similar to the advertisements on our campus television monitors to support local food banks that benefit, in part, our own students, staff, and faculty who seek, through education, to join the American middle class. “Walmart won’t pay its employees enough to afford Thanksgiving dinner, so they’re holding food drives for their employees… It’s been reported that an Oklahoma City Walmart set up bins for underpaid associates to donate canned goods to other underpaid associates.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/on-black-friday-americans_b_6233576.html
This is not a new fight. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on signing the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933, said: “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”
We cannot exercise influence on the national trend towards a living wage, but we can do everything possible to change for the better the wage and working conditions of our fellow faculty members on this campus. This the Abington College Faculty Senate has done and will continue to do and, through our unanimous vote for regional equity for our adjuncts, implores the college administration to do the same.
At September’s meeting of the Abington College Faculty Senate, the Senate approved an extended Common Break for the ACURA program for Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
Revisions to the policies, procedures, and timeline for promotion and tenure at Abington College were also approved, with modifications, and these will be forwarded to the faculty list as soon as they receive approval from University Park.
The reforms to the governing documents of the Senate itself were also ventilated. Standing Rules changes were approved by a margin of 16 votes in favor to 1 against, while reforms to the Senate By-Laws, including a reduction of appointed Senate committees from nine to six and elected committees from three to one, were approved by a margin of 15-2.
The By-Laws reforms will be submitted to the University Faculty Senate once our local Senate continues its discussions and proceeds to a vote on reforms to the Constitution itself, scheduled for our next Senate meeting on Thursday, October 23, 2014. If this vote prevails, the Constitutional reforms will be subject to a majority of faculty voting in a special ballot, whereupon they will be referred to the University Faculty Senate.
The changes to the Senate’s Standing Rules become effective immediately, including the following revised Order of Business to speed along the business of regular Senate meetings:
The order of business at a regular Faculty Senate meeting shall be as follows:
a. Adoption of the agenda
b. Consideration of the minutes of the preceding meeting(s)
c. Announcements by the Chair
d. Unfinished business
e. New business
f. Communications from College Administrators
2. Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
g. Communications from University Senators
h. Communications from the Student Government Association
i. Reports from Standing Committees
j. Comments and recommendations for the good of the order
Following an excellent report from the President of the Student Government Association with regard to ongoing transportation issues, Senate moved in camera for an extended discussion of several faculty issues, including those related to promotion and tenure, the ongoing adventure of our academic facilities, and the pay and benefits of our esteemed yet harshly undervalued adjunct faculty colleagues.
As we look forward to a new Senate year, we begin by planning for the next several years of critical representation of Abington College in the University Faculty Senate. With the terms of two University Faculty Senators set to expire in the spring, we will need at least three candidates to stand for election to these two four-year terms that commence in Fall, 2015. Nominations for these four-year terms (2015/16-2018/19) can be made to me by any member of the faculty.
The first full meeting of the Abington College Faculty Senate will take place later this month on September 25th. With much on our plate, we plan to suspend regular order so that extended consideration can be given the Constitutional reform proposals authored by the Ad-Hoc Committee for Senate Restructuring, and expect as well to review reform language related to the Promotion and Tenure process.
We also expect to extend the discussions of academic classroom and faculty office and research space begun at the faculty forensic held on August 15th. This meeting revealed, inter alia, that our academic classroom space has been allowed to degenerate to less than 60% of current requirements (a gap soon to widen as we transition to a residential campus), while the space the faculty requires to do its work properly has been allowed to shrink to an appalling 9% (that’s correct: 9%) of what we require.
Such figures remind us of the shocking 2011 Core Council letter that found that our instructional costs were just 35% of total college expenditures—the lowest percentage of any of the campus colleges (the median was over 42%); that Abington had the lowest percentage of all campus colleges of full-time faculty generating student credit hours (53%); and that our students take longer to graduate than students at other campuses (we have the lowest six-year graduation rate of any campus college).
Taken together, this mosaic represents a systemic failure to provide even remotely adequate academic and faculty facilities, and in fact represent an historic theft from our students, who annually pay to Abington College more than $15 millions beyond the sum required to operate the college. The recent and long-overdue announcement that University Park will finally address our crippling budget model is something, as is the return to our students of one million of their own tuition dollars. But these moves, absent further fundamental reform, are too little and far too late. Decades of settling for scraps off UP’s $4.5 billion dollar table has brought us to our current intertwined space and hiring crises.
Abington College requires an immediate plan to leverage 100% of our student’s tuition until such time as we have 100% of the academic classroom space and 100% of the faculty office and research spaces we require to do our jobs, along with a competent plan to address both our short-term and long-term growth.
The faculty and the student body of Abington College need, deserve, and have paid for, far better.
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The faculty will gather on Friday, 15 August, at 0800, for a forensic meeting on the state of college facilities, as one result of the situation of special Faculty Senate concern declared by the co-chairs of the Senate on 6 May.
After continental breakfast outside Sutherland 8 at 0800, we assemble in Sutherland 8 at 0845. We will begin with a brief tribute to our departed friend and distinguished colleague, Dr. Ayoub Ayoub. Following this, Dr. Ellen Knodt, our recently-elected member of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the President of the University, will offer her thoughts on shared governance in the college and university.
From 0925-0945, we will have an update from our FT-2 representative and Faculty Affairs committee member Mitch Sargen on adjunct faculty issues arising from the Affordable Care Act as well as the Equal Pay Act. We will then introduce the incoming chairs of the Senate’s standing committees, who will in turn speak to their charges in the coming year and seek help with them.
From 0945-1015, Past Chair Bill Cromar will brief us on the status of current planning for academic facilities management–both the planned residence hall (a report on which is attached) but more importantly such progress as has been made this summer towards a new academic facility for Abington. You will recall that in the Senate’s facilities survey earlier this year, over three-fourths (77.5%) of respondents sought for a new academic building to be prioritized within the next 3 years (50% “immediately”; 27.5% “1-3 years”). This forensic is another step on that road.
After a short break, at 1030 the Chancellor will join us to introduce some of the UP individuals responsible for the design of the new residence hall as well as overall Commonwealth College asset management. After introductory comments of 20 or so minutes, the faculty will then have more than an hour to directly question and interact with the capital planners and representatives from the Office of Physical Plant at UP. At noon, we have invited these representatives to join us for a Senate cook-out at the Duck Pond to continue these conversations more informally. This is our best chance to date both to learn, as a faculty body, about these projects and processes, and to influence the direction of the physical plant over the next decade.