Welcome to the Oakland University AAUP Chapter web site

The Oakland University faculty, through the American Association of University Professors, plays a vital role in:

For more information, contact:

Scott Barns, Executive Director
201 Pryale Hall, Oakland University, Rochester, MI 48309
(248) 370-2005; Fax: (248) 370-2004
E-mail: barns@oakland.edu

Recent News:

Holiday Axe

I’m sure most of you are aware by now that our campus safety initiative has generated a considerable amount of attention in local, national, and international media. I am proud of the work that the AAUP Executive Committee has done to contribute to this important conversation concerning the security of our classrooms both here at Oakland and across the country. Our union has launched an important dialogue regarding how best to insure that students and their teachers are prepared in the contemporary climate we live in. We hope and we pray that our pucks are never thrown in fear but instead serve as a reminder to all of us to be aware, be prepared, and to open up further dialogue about making our classrooms safer places for teaching and learning.

If you’ve read the media coverage, then I’m sure you’ve seen a great many opinions expressed regarding the significance of what we’ve done. However, I want to point out just a few of the very concrete things that this campaign has accomplished:

First, if you teach in South Foundation Hall you will find that your classroom now has an interior door lock. It is simple, elegant and exactly what was needed to avoid the situation so poignantly demonstrated in the Run, Hide, Fight video where a faculty member has to exit the classroom to secure it. We are now developing a plan, in coordination with facilities, the police and the provost’s office, to begin to outfit the rest of the campus with similar locks as the funds become available.

Second, I have been asked by the national offices of the AAUP to provide a summary of our campaign to share with chapters across the country. At one point in the last week they asked if we wanted help generating more publicity. The folks in Washington regard our initiative as a tremendous success and hope that our insights in living through it can serve as a model for both the advocacy and collective bargaining chapters of the Association.

Finally, this campaign has caught the attention of sympathetic legislators in Lansing. I have been asked by OU’s State Relations Director to provide them with hockey pucks. This is still evolving at this point and I hope to have more to share after the first of the year but apparently the spectacle of students and faculty fund raising to provide for basic necessities has raised some awareness regarding the woeful funding we receive from the state.

This is also a good time to let you know that the Executive Committee has voted for a dues holiday to take place in December. Ordinarily I would caution you not to spend it all in one place but in this instance I am making an exception: the door lock account (33395) of the All University Fund Drive. This is the last week to receive a match for your donation and while the university has released a statement indicating that they would be contributing to this fund, I believe it is still important for us to make a strong statement with our donations.

Finally, I want to offer my sincerest thanks to everyone who reached out to offer their encouragement and support. I have heard from colleagues, students, staff, community members, the leaders of other unions, and alumni from across the country all voicing their admiration for our effort to publicize this important issue. I also want to recognize that there are some elements of this campaign that could have been done better. As I reflect on it over the holidays, please be assured that I will be looking for ways to improve on what has been done. It has been an honor to represent you in this effort and I look forward to a bright 2019 (once exams are graded).

Tom Discenna
President, Oakland University Chapter AAUP

Axes of November

Thank you to everyone who attended the fall General Membership meetings. Our primary focus at both meetings was the ongoing classroom safety initiative. If you were not able to attend I offered to members a summary of the origins of this initiative as well as an outline of what it has accomplished already and our hopes for it in the future. Below is a synopsis of what I presented to our members at those meetings:

As you will recall the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took place while we were on our winter break. When I returned to classes following that break a student asked me to please lock the door because she was “freaked out” by what happened in Florida. This was not the first class I have held following a highly publicized act of violence but it was the first time I have been asked to respond to it. Her request compelled me to sign up for the Active Shooter Training offered through CETL. I found the information presented at that session with Chief Mark Gordon to be alarming. The “Run, Hide, Fight” video was bone-chilling to anyone who holds a Z key. (It instructs faculty to leave the classroom to lock the door from the outside.) I immediately requested a meeting with the Chief and then with President Pescovitz and Provost Lentini.

The training offered through CETL was excellent but it was apparent that the faculty needed faculty-specific training and that CETL was not the right venue for that to take place. At my meeting with Mark Gordon, he told me about the classroom training he had developed with this staff. I suggested that we try this training with the AAUP Executive Committee. After that meeting with the Chief, I met with the President and Provost and asked for two things: 1. Locks on classroom doors that could be easily used in the case of an emergency and 2. Training for all members of the faculty. Karen Miller attended with me and we offered whatever resources we had to offset the costs that had hindered such efforts in the past. We were told that senior administrators were also very concerned about the classroom safety issue and that they train for what they should do in such circumstances. We were also told that they were looking into online training packages for faculty. Finally, we were told that they would "look into" new door locks.

In May the Executive Committee received classroom active shooter training from OU Police, and we decided that this training should be made available to the whole faculty. The EC members who had been through both the CETL version and the classroom session agreed that what the Police were doing in the classroom was far and away superior to what was available elsewhere. It was during that training session that we asked the Chief what faculty might use to enact the “fight” portion of the ‘run, hide, fight’ protocol. The Chief very thoughtfully recommended a hockey puck. His answer was not flippant, and it was consistent with ‘best practices’. I have spoken to other officials and have heard similar recommendations about the use of similar projectiles, including billiard balls. I understand it may strain the imagination to think about throwing objects at active shooters, but this is the situation we are in. Following the Chief’s recommendation, the Executive Committee voted to provide hockey pucks to our members. We also decided that we would use the All University Fund Drive to raise money to offset the costs of providing locks for the entire campus, and that we would advertise the fund number for locks on the hockey pucks.

At that point the entire initiative took shape: provide training to all faculty organized by department, raise money for installation of serviceable locks using AUFD number 33395, and provide hockey pucks to raise awareness. AAUP Vice-President Amy Pollard and I met with OU Student Congress President Ryan Fox and Vice President Brittany Kleinschmidt to bring students into our effort. This has proved enormously successful and the students have embraced this initiative wholeheartedly. The OUSC has committed to help fundraise for locks and to buy hockey pucks.

We have also learned that the cost of outfitting all 37 classrooms in South Foundation Hall with new locks will be about $5,000, or about $150 per door. Administration officials have consistently told AAUP leaders that the cost of providing new locks was “prohibitive.” Now we know how the administration defines that term.

I realize that all of this is quite unusual, but I want to make it clear that the entire effort has been thoughtfully considered. We consulted with AAUP chapter attorney Bob Fetter at every juncture. He assures us that no part of our efforts are legally problematic. Moreover, we have clear goals for what we expect to achieve, including:

  1. Make the campus safer. Every piece of this initiative is designed to make us all safer in the performance of our jobs: the training, the improved locks, and the hockey pucks will all make OU a "harder" target (to use the relevant terminology). Workplace safety is a core mission of our union; this is our most pressing workplace safety issue.
  2. Uniting campus groups. At various points our classroom safety initiative has united almost the entire campus and its constituencies. We have worked with our most important allies and our students, to bring them into the planning and implementation of this initiative. We have also partnered with the OU Police, Facilities workers, the Development staff and others. We will also be meeting with our Chief Operating Officer this week to bring in even more allies.
  3. Change the narrative. This project has already done much to alter perceptions of our union. We received very positive coverage in the campus newspaper and, more importantly, a front page story in the Oakland Press, complete with a photo of yours truly and my office doorknob. If you read the story you will see that the union determined the narrative and, for the first time that I know of, the administration had to respond to us. I would also hasten to add that, in our efforts to reach out to students, I have spoken to both the Student Congress and the Residence Halls Council. In both fora I was warmly (indeed, once, tearfully) thanked for raising this issue and "thinking of them."
  4. Highlight the issue. We will continue to publicize this initiative as we move forward with it implementation. My fervent hope is that the spectacle of a bunch of historians, biologists, philosophers, engineers and their students carrying around hockey pucks for classroom protection will shine a light on the absurdity of a culture that does nothing of consequence in response to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Virginia Tech, and Northern Illinois, among many others.

The hockey pucks have arrived. I want to thank especially Amy Pollard and Mike Latcha for their work in getting them to campus. Please be on the lookout for a hockey puck in your mailbox in the coming weeks. Fund number 33395 is active. A gift of $100 will, when matched, pay to replace a lock on a typical classroom door. If you have any additional questions about this effort, or any other issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Tom Discenna
President, Oakland University Chapter AAUP

UPDATE: Open Enrollment

A number of people have approached us as members of the Executive Committee to clarify some information regarding benefits Open Enrollment. There seem to be two areas of uncertainty related to the packets that were distributed last week.

  1. 1. For Priority Health, the cost of two-person coverage is higher than for larger families. This is not a misprint or error. I would direct you to the Staff Benefits office and Eric Herprich to clarify why this difference exists but a number of members had assumed that is was an error and it is not.
  2. The lowest cost health insurance is now Blue Care Network and not Priority Health. However, before you switch you should know that there are some substantive differences between the two plans;
    1. Blue Care Network uses a “closed formulary” for prescription medications. Essentially, if your physician prescribes a certain medication, BCN will have you use a preferred brand first before allowing you to go on the brand that your doctor identified. PH has an “open formulary” so that you should be allowed to take the brand of medication prescribed by your physician.
    2. BCN also has a referral system that requires you to see your primary care provider before seeing specialist. PH allows appointments to specialists without being seen by the primary care doctor.

Again, as you make your selection during this open enrollment period, please be aware of these differences.

Update: Classroom security

We received some very good press coverage of our classroom security initiative last week. Thank you to everyone who attended the General Membership meetings to hear the details. I think these articles will help to clarify things even more:

https://www.theoaklandpress.com/news/local/students-faculty-buy-interior-classrooms-locks-training-for-shooters-during/article_93f7f8ae-d963-11e8-a453-43fa94ce4508.html
https://www.theoaklandpress.com/news/local/students-faculty-buy-interior-classrooms-locks-training-for-shooters-during/article_93f7f8ae-d963-11e8-a453-43fa94ce4508.html--

Tom Discenna
President, Oakland University Chapter AAUP

October Axe

Correction:
In my welcome back message in September I badly misquoted Bob Marley. In the song “More Axe (small axe remix),” the actual lyric goes “if you are big tree, we are a small axe, sharpened to cut you down” not “coming to chop you down.” I apologize for any misunderstanding this error may have caused (and of course the grave mistake of misquoting Bob Marley) and present to you some further updates from the AAUP to help sharpen those axes.

Campus Safety Initiative:
After receiving training from OU Police Chief Mark Gordon on how to prepare for an Active Shooter Event, the Executive Committee determined that improving the safety of our classrooms will be our first priority for this academic year. Our efforts towards making this a safer campus for ourselves and our students include the following three things:

Training: Some of you will already have gone through the training that the Executive Committee received over the summer. All of our fall sessions are full but we are making preparations for the winter to offer more training to all faculty who want it. If your department chair or other unit administrator has not scheduled this training for you, please let them know that you would like to receive it. If for some reason that isn’t working please contact us so that we can schedule you into a session. I can’t say enough about the importance of this training and the professionalism that Chief Gordon brings to it. Also, we all owe an enormous debt to our Vice-President Amy Pollard who has been instrumental in working with the Chief, the chairs and the faculty to arrange these sessions.

Locks: If you have had the Active Shooter training or have seen the “Run, Hide, Fight” video produced by the OU Police you will certainly have gotten the same chill that I had when confronted with the scene where a faculty member has to walk out of the classroom in order to lock the door. As anyone who holds a Z key knows, most of the classrooms on this campus can’t be locked from the inside and this fact puts us all and our students in grave danger should the unthinkable happen. This problem has been with us for years, my predecessors have requested the OU administration retrofit doors with appropriate locks since at least the time of the Virginia Tech shootings and nothing has been done. At our summer retreat the Executive Committee decided that it was time to stop asking. As part of the All University Fund Drive, a fund (33395) has been established that will be used for the sole purpose of putting interior locks on doors. We are asking anyone who is interested in doing so to make a donation to this fund to help insure our safety. As a way to kick off this effort, the Executive Committee voted to make an initial donation of $5000 to the AUFD. According to Chief Gordon this amount will cover the costs of providing a serviceable, easy-to-use interior lock for all the classrooms in South Foundation Hall. In addition, we have been working closely with the OU Student Congress on this project and as a result of our efforts they have voted to contribute $5000 to the same fund.

Fight: Again, if you’ve seen the video or received the training you will know that if it comes down to it, your chances of surviving an active shooter situation improve if you fight back if you have to. The advice offered by our law enforcement professionals is to throw whatever you have at hand at an armed intruder in your classroom. At our training in June members of the Executive Committee asked Chief Gordon what might work best as something to throw. He suggested that if he were in that position he would want to have a hockey puck available. Hockey pucks are portable, can be used as paper weights, and hurt like hell when they hit someone. In coordination with the Oakland University Student Congress, the OU AAUP will be providing hockey pucks to all of our members and many of our students. I have discussed this project with the OUSC and with the Residence Halls Association and both groups have committed to providing hockey pucks to students so that all of us have at our disposal the means to fend off an attacker. The pucks will be printed with our logo and a QR code that will take you directly to the AUFD page to facilitate donations.

Living Post-Janus
In my welcome back message, I mentioned that the Supreme Court’s Janus decision has radically reshaped the landscape for unions and the right to collective bargaining. I would like to direct your attention to two recent items that speak to working in this post-Janus world. First, and closest to home, our faculty colleagues at Ferris State University announced a strike at the beginning of the fall term. The administration at FSU sought an injunction and a judge ordered the faculty back to work. As of today, the FSU faculty are working without a contract while holding informational pickets to press their issues with the administration. I have reached out to our colleagues in Big Rapids to offer our encouragement and would ask that if you know anyone at FSU to do the same. Also, there was a fine article on the Janus decision and its implications in the September edition of Harper’s. You can read one article on the harpers.org site for free and this one is well worth your time.

Fall General Membership meeting
If you didn’t have them before, I suspect you might have a lot of questions now. We will again hold two General Membership meetings this month. Pencil in either October 23rd or October 24th. We will send out information on locations soon. I hope to see you all and address any concerns you may have. We hope to have hockey pucks, some t-shirts to give out (we’ll take orders for a second run if you miss out) and, of course, good old union egg rolls.

Tom Discenna
President, Oakland University Chapter AAUP

Welcome Back

On behalf of myself and the members of the AAUP Executive Committee I want to welcome you all back to campus for the start of 2018-19 academic year. I hope that everyone had a restful and productive summer and that you return to Oakland with renewed energy and hope for the coming year. Your union leadership has had a busy summer preparing for the upcoming year and helping to make OU the kind of institution that makes us proud to come to work.

I want to update you on just a little of what we’ve been up to:

No news is…
Well, not bad news anyway. In the first two years of the merit scheme imposed by the administration my email inbox was stuffed with complaints on or about August 20 when the merit reports came out. We successfully grieved Oakland’s misapplication of merit standards and their poor reading of the contract. Well, August 20 came this year, I held my breath and…lo and behold no deluge of complaints regarding altered scores! I hesitate to suggest that lessons were learned but for the first time in three tries it looks like we won’t have to file a grievance. I do note however that the forms you received included a category for a zero score which contradicts both the letter of the contract and the arbitrator’s ruling on this matter. Please be aware that it is not possible for Oakland to assign zero scores and we have already taken them to task for the implication that it might.

Back to Business as Usual
Many of you will recall that last winter we learned from a number of units conducting searches for new faculty that the Provost’s office had ordered those units to no longer submit their preferences in the form of a list of candidates in ranked order. We attempted to dissuade the administration from taking up this violation to both board policy and the principles of academic freedom but were refused. We promptly filed a grievance and while Oakland denied our claims, they acquiesced to our remedy and going forward all searches will be conducted according to board policy: faculty should rank their preferences when presenting them to the Provost’s office. We are once again indebted to our Grievance Officer Kevin Murphy for moving swiftly to bring this matter to an acceptable resolution.

AAUP Campus Safety Initiative
In June the AAUP Executive Committee participated in an Active Shooter and Lockdown Training with OU Police Chief Mark Gordon. This is a different training than the one some of us have received on campus and the members of the Executive Committee were fully convinced that it needs to be made available to all of our members. Chief Gordon is graciously making time in his schedule to present two such trainings every month for the 2018-19 academic year. Each session can accommodate 30 faculty members and should take about an hour. Our Vice-President Amy Pollard is working with unit chairs to schedule faculty into these sessions. I can’t impress on you enough both how eye-opening this training is and how important. If you don’t hear from your chair in the first few weeks of the semester, please let them and us know that you would like to have this training. Also, if you have not done so please include in the syllabi for all your classes the statement on the OU Police website regarding emergency preparedness. It is under the Emergency Management tab. The Executive Committee worked with Chief Gordon and the OU Police on this statement and we think it reflects the best practices we have at our disposal. Finally, as part of our Campus Safety Initiative we have in the works some other projects that we will be sharing with you later in the term.

Janus Decision
Also in June the US Supreme Court handed down its ill-considered decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case. This decision had been long anticipated and so I had already discussed its ramifications with our chapter attorney Bob Fetter. The long and short is that because we are covered under state labor law the Janus decision will not have much of an impact on our chapter. Due to the equally ill-considered “right to be exploited” legislation that was passed in Michigan some time ago we have been living in what folks at the national AAUP call a “post-Janus” world for some time. However, as chapter President I do have some concerns. We pay a good deal of our member’s resources to the national AAUP and in return we receive very little by way of services. My worry is that the Janus decision compels the national to cut back even further on their already meager support. Please be assured that we will watch this situation closely and communicate what we learn directly to you our members. In the meanwhile, my hope is that the Janus decision compels the national to recognize what our local chapter has known for some time: in a world in which collective bargaining rights are being assaulted at almost every level imaginable it is the obligation of all of us as leaders and members of unions to insist on the relevance, indeed, the necessity of collective bargaining to insure decent jobs and working conditions. In short, the post-Janus world is one in which it is our obligation to work harder to make our unions the vital forces for public good that we all know them to be. As Bob Marley put it: “if you are a big tree, we are a small axe…coming to chop you down.” Pick up your axe, this thing will fall.

Where do I get one of them slick t-shirts?
Hopefully by the time you read this you will start to see around campus some folks sporting our newest fashion accessory: The OU AAUP: The Faculty Voice t-shirt! This faculty designed and union printed haute couture item is sure to be a must-have for the wardrobes of all of our faculty fashionistas. The first batch will be distributed to our newest faculty members, the hard-working folks on the AAUP Advisory Forum, and our Executive Committee members. If you’d like one for yourself let us know so we can gauge demand for a second printing.

Once again, welcome back to what I know will be an exhilarating academic year. As you can see we have a lot on our agenda and I look forward to working with all of you. As we begin this new academic year please don’t hesitate to reach out to me (Discenna@oakland.edu), Scott Barns (barns@oakland.edu), our Vice-President Amy Pollard (pollard@oakland.edu) or any member of the Executive Committee with your issues, thoughts or ideas. You can always find our names and contact information on the AAUP website: oaklandaaup.org

Tom Discenna
President, Oakland University Chapter AAUP

Oakland University AAUP Update

Colleagues:

If you had your merit score adjusted, I'm sure that you have received by now your letter from Oakland explaining why your merit score was reduced. I have heard from many such recipients that this letter, like my own, includes no meaningful feedback regarding the merit adjustment and no feedback concerning what actions can be taken to move forward. In consultation with our chapter attorney the executive committee will determine the most effective recourse in light of the prior arbitration ruling and the plain meaning of the contract. At this point it seems clear to me at least that the administration's response to the arbitration does not conform to either the spirit or the letter of our collective bargaining agreement.

On the bright side, I learned late last semester and confirmed last week that there will now be a faculty representative to the Behavioral Concerns Committee. As you may know, there have been instances where the BCC has been used by the administration to remove faculty members from campus. As of now it is not clear who the representative will be nor how that individual will be chosen. In a meeting with Academic Human Resources I provided the names of members who the Executive Committee believes would be valuable members of such a committee. I wish to thank these individuals for their willingness to lend their valuable time and expertise to this endeavor. It is this level of commitment on the part of our membership that makes my role as president a rewarding one.

Also, you should be aware that in two separate meetings Oakland has announced that it is seeking to contract with an "online program management provider" similar to the one currently being used at Eastern Michigan University. If you have not already done so please update yourself on what is happening at EMU. I have included a link in this email that provides some more information. You should be aware that I have been in contact with my counterpart at Eastern who has agreed to provide us with whatever resources they have concerning this issue. We will be monitoring this effort closely to insure that our contractual rights are not violated and that whatever course Oakland chooses to take we can insure the preservation of academic freedom on this campus.
Setting Limits on Academic Outsourcing

Finally, we have two general membership meetings scheduled this semester: Thursday March 8 at Noon in Banquet Room B and Monday March 12 at 2:30 in Gold Room B. We will have four openings to fill for at-large representatives to the Executive Committee and nominations from the floor are welcome at either meeting. In addition, there will be treasurers report to the general membership.

Hoping your semester is off to a great start and looking forward to a great year.

Tom Discenna
President, Oakland University Chapter AAUP

AAUP Message: End of Year Report

December 18, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

As the semester lurches to its finish I wanted to take a minute and review some important items of business that the AAUP has been working this past semester.

First, the settlement of the Grievance that we won earlier in the term has been signed. Zero scores should no longer be assigned under any circumstances and those members who were assigned them in 2015-16 and 2016-17 have already received notification of their corrected salaries. All of us who have had our merit scores lowered should receive a written statement indicating why the score was lowered which cites both your merit report and you unit's rubric. If you receive a report that does not cite these documents please alert us as soon as possible so that we can take the proper corrective measures to insure that you receive the feedback you are owed and that is necessary for you to do your best work.

Next, we have been spending a good deal of time working with the administration to improve the Behavioral Concerns Committee. As it stand right now there are some open questions regarding its function and operations in regards to faculty. We are attempting to have some faculty representation on this important committee when it deals with faculty concerns. I will hope to have more to report in the future, its been something of a slog as you might imagine.

Along those lines both I and members of the Executive Committee have had meetings with our new President and have found them to be helpful and productive in airing our concerns. We all look forward to further discussions and to improving the climate of the institution and faculty morale.

In addition, I would hope that you all are following the events that are unfolding at Eastern Michigan University where our colleagues in the AAUP and AFT which represents their contingents are battling EMU's efforts to privatize much of what is offered by way of online education. Apparently, a similar scheme is underway at OU and we are trying to stay ahead of it instead of playing catch up. Please use the following link and lend whatever support you can to our EMU colleagues as they fight this important battle:

Eastern Michigan University Leadership: Send the AP deal to EMU faculty for a thorough review

Finally, and with apologies, the dues holiday that we typically enjoy this December has been postponed solely due to a clerical error on my part. We will make up for it in February which seems to me like the time when the Lego bills come due. Again, my apologies for the inconvenience but rest assured that it is coming.

Its been an honor to serve as President this semester and to work with our excellent colleagues on the Executive Committee and Scott Barns our Executive Director. Please enjoy this bit of a respite between semesters and I'll look forward to seeing many of you in the new year to come.

All best,

Tom Discenna
President
Oakland University Chapter AAUP