The signing of annual faculty contracts is on hold at the University until further study, according to an email this month from acting Provost Roy Kwon and Human Resources Executive Director Carletta Loflin.
In May and June the office of the Provost sent out two rounds of contracts to University faculty. The first contract, sent in May, was similar to one that faculty receive every year, which outlines the responsibilities of their positions. The second contract, sent in June and titled “Revised Letter of Appointment,” included a provision that faculty must be present on campus a minimum of three days a week.
“This was troubling,” said Paul Alvarez, professor of kinesiology and president of the Faculty Senate. “There wasn’t an agreement amongst faculty to do this and it caused an uproar.”
Alvarez said that there was some resistance from faculty who said that they wouldn’t sign the second contract.
So the University’s Faculty Senate got involved with the hope of finding a reasonable solution to the issue, which took into consideration the concerns of faculty, the provost’s office and the faculty handbook.
Alvarez said that the goal of the three-day mandate came from Interim Provost Roy Kwon’s desire to pursue a “One University” initiative to increase the connection between faculty and students, via ensuring faculty’s presence on campus.
Many faculty members said that while they appreciated the notion of their increased on-campus presence, they objected to the contractual mandate.
“These contracts brought up an issue of shared governance where we’re being asked to sign something that we didn’t agree to,” said George Keeler, professor of journalism and member of the Faculty Senate.
Keeler added that he is on campus generally six-to-seven days a week.
“There’s a high likelihood that someone is going to be out of their office from time to time,” said Matt Witt, professor of public administration and vice president of the Faculty Senate. “With this second contract, we end up with a policy of policing faculty presence in a climate of faculty distrust.”
Following discussions between the Faculty Senate and the provost’s office, among other considerations, Kwon and Loflin sent their letter on Sept. 6.
In an emailed interview this week, Kwon said that historically about 40% of faculty do not sign their contracts. This year, it was closer to 60%, Kwon said, adding that he discovered that many universities don’t require signed annual contracts from their tenured and tenure-track faculty. Many will send a letter outlining pay increases and other information when there is a change in title, but the signing of a contract isn’t required.
“I want to do my due diligence and make sure we explore this option,” Kwon said.
“There was a lot of relief when…HR and the provost’s office sent out an email saying that faculty no longer had to sign the second contract. A lot of them were anxious beforehand,” Alvarez said.
Keeler added that he understands Kwon’s good intentions to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild the community.
Kwon said his office has reached out to other university provosts to get insight on their current practices regarding annual contracts. He said he plans to share his findings with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and hopes to find a solution that works for all.
“We can only move forward from here with a greater vision in mind, and that is to reinforce the vibrant community that all of us love,” Alvarez said.
Taylor Fukunaga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.