MASA Responds to Campus Assembly "P&A Issues" (January 30, 1999)
Under the vague and innocuous-sounding agenda item "P&A Issues," the UMM Executive Committee has made plans for a very important Campus Assembly vote -- a vote that has the potential to affect vote rights and Assembly membership for all members of UMM's academic staff. The vote will be taken at the Monday, February 8, 1999 meeting, and all the voting members of UMM's Campus Assembly owe it to themselves to know the facts behind the issue.
Because no motion has yet be brought forward, we do not know whether the vote taken will be a straw poll or a binding resolution. Either way, the Executive Committee has announced its intention that its future consideration of this issue will be based on this vote. Every vote will make a difference at this meeting.
What are the historical facts?
In 1984, a new constitution for the UMM campus was under consideration by the UMM Campus Assembly. Among other changes, the proposed constitutional language recognized the University's new P&A employee classification, which had been instituted by the Regents in 1981 and was just beginning to be used at Morris. The constitution that was initially proposed for the UMM Campus Assembly's consideration included only the "P" group (Academic Professionals) and not the "A" group (Academic Administrative) for voting membership. However, this language was amended on the floor of the Assembly, and the amendment that was passed tied the Academic Professional category and the Academic Administrative category together under the phrase "academic staff." The amended constitution then went on to be passed by the entire Campus Assembly and became the constitution in use today at UMM.
UMM's Constitution specifically assigns these rights to "faculty (including academic staff):"
- Voting membership in the Campus Assembly (Article III, Section 1, A).
- The responsibility to serve if appointed to Assembly committees and their adjunct committees (By-Laws, Article I, Section 2, D).
- The right to be nominated for election to the Campus Consultative Committee and Executive Committee (Article IV, Section 1 and Article V, Section 1).
There is no factual basis for any contention that some members of the academic staff have been given Assembly membership through carelessness or error. The minutes of the 1984 Campus Assembly meetings clearly indicate that the constitution intends all members of the P&A staff to make up the "academic staff" group, seated as voting members with full Assembly rights.
BACK TO TOP
Who are the "academic staff" at UMM?
There are currently 50 members of the academic staff category at UMM. It happens that 25 fall into the Academic Professional category, and 25 into the Academic Administrative group.
The Academic Professional category's members include a number of individuals whose primary responsibility is teaching. Most of UMM's coaches are Academic Professionals. This category also includes people whose positions are traditionally considered to be "faculty-like" to the extent that they are eligible for faculty seats in the University Senate. Positions in this category include advisors, counselors, and library professionals.
The members of the Academic Administrative staff are campus professionals who are most often unit directors. Academic Administrative staff members are generally recruited to the Morris campus by a search process fundamentally identical to a faculty search. These individuals often have specialized expertise and advanced degrees in their fields; they are dedicated professionals who have made a personal commitment to UMM. Their departments provide the support and services that allow the institution to achieve its mission.
The academic staff P&A category does not include any of the Civil Service or union staff at UMM. Academic staff members belong to the University of Minnesota P&A employment category, which was separated from the faculty category by the Board of Regents in 1981. UMM's employment figures show that there are currently 97 UMM staff members in unionized bargaining units and 42 in the Civil Service category. Unionized staffers are not eligible for Assembly membership; the 42 Civil Service UMM staff are represented by five voting members of the Assembly.
UMM's P&A group is quite small compared to those on the other three University of Minnesota campuses -- a reflection of the "lean administration" that we take pride in at Morris.
What is the explanation for the expanding P&A numbers?
At the Campus Assembly meeting on January 25, 1999, Margaret Kuchenreuther reported membership numbers that seemed to imply a rather dramatic rise in academic staff membership in the Campus Assembly.
N: total Assembly membership. Fac: faculty. P: Academic Professionals. A: Academic Administrative. CS/US: Civil Service/United Staff Association. Stu: Students.
It is important to note some of the factors that led to these changes.
1. Faculty members were reclassified as P&A academic staff. This applied not only to the coaches and athletic program personnel, but also to certain full-time teaching positions that are in non-tenure lines, and to some unit directors and librarians who had faculty status before the creation of the P&A employment category. We estimate that approximately 20 of the current members of the Academic Professional staff are in positions that were reclassified from faculty to P&A. This means that, since some of the 99 faculty members listed in 1983 were in fact academic staff, the actual effective increase in faculty memberships in the Campus Assembly is much larger than the apparent increase of 17 positions between 1983 and 1998.
2. Civil Service staffers were also reclassified as P&A academic staff. One of the reasons that the Civil Service numbers declined from 8 in 1983 to 5 in 1998 is because some department directors were in the Civil Service category in 1983, and those individuals have guaranteed Assembly voting rights under Article III, Section 1, C. All director positions have now been reclassified to P&A. Some assistant directors and upper-level professional positions were also converted from Civil Service to P&A between 1983 and 1998. Such conversions took place only at the recommendation of UMM administration and with the permission of the employee in that position at the time. We estimate that about ten of the current members of the Academic Administrative category are in positions that were classified as Civil Service in 1983.
3. New P&A positions were created, both in teaching and administrative areas. The number of teaching faculty classified as P&A was zero in 1983 but is substantial today. Because University of Minnesota employment practices make it easier to create a P&A position than a faculty position, UMM has often classified teaching personnel into the Academic Professional category since 1983. By our count, about half of the current Academic Professional category are teaching staff belonging to one of UMM's four academic divisions. New administrative positions were created as well, reflecting support needs that were associated with the concurrent increases in faculty and enrolled students over the same period.
The Winter 1996 Campus Assembly roster provides an enlightening comparison. In winter 1996, the P&A membership in Campus Assembly totaled 43. Today, it is 50. Of the seven new P&A members added in those three years, only one is in a new Academic Administrative position, while six are in teaching positions with divisional membership in the Academic Professional category.
BACK TO TOP
What is being proposed in Campus Assembly?
One of the frustrations of this process has been that there has never been any specific proposal made with regard to changing the status of P&A members of the Campus Assembly. Since fall 1995, various faculty members have lobbied the Executive Committee to research and clarify the rights and roles of academic staff members on the Campus Assembly. Both the 1995-96 Executive Committee and the 1998-99 Executive Committee responded with research demonstrating that all members of the academic staff are properly seated as Assembly members with full voting rights. This should be an end to the issue, but because a small number of tenured faculty seem unwilling to accept the historical facts, we continue to have efforts to deny rights to academic staff at UMM.
The vote at the February 8 meeting may be a straw poll or it may be a vote on a motion; either way, the Executive Committee will take it as an instruction about whether to continue to consider this issue.
The only way any members of the Assembly can be unseated, or their voting rights changed, would be by an amendment to the UMM constitution. Such an amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote. If the issue is returned to the Executive Committee, it is impossible to predict exactly what type of proposal and restriction of rights they might bring forward for Assembly consideration.
BACK TO TOP
Why should you vote against this effort?
First, it has been clearly demonstrated now that nobody has been improperly seated or listed as a Campus Assembly member. This is the question that touched off the current debate, and now that it has been resolved, the matter should be laid to rest.
Consider carefully whether anybody who has Assembly membership should be involuntarily removed from the Assembly -- particularly if it is through no wrong-doing on their own part. The fundamental cruelty of such an act cannot be ignored.
Don't be myopic about the makeup of the academic staff members of the Assembly. We are a diverse group who, for the most part, consider our positions to be faculty-like. We teach credit courses and we provide essential student services and support. We are as dedicated to the life of the institution as any tenured faculty member.
Roll call votes have proven that the academic staff members do not vote as a bloc and have never blindly supported administrative proposals. We are independent thinkers who represent a wide variety of interests and views about the quality of academic life at UMM. We are qualified, contemplative professionals who do not deserve to be dismissed as puppets of UMM's administration.
Academic staff professionals are profoundly affected by the curricular decisions on which they sometimes vote. For example, when the future of Inquiry was in question, a number of students spoke at Campus Assembly about the course's effect on racial understanding and tensions on campus. Even though this was a curricular matter, people such as residence hall directors, counselors, and Minority Student Program staff have a great stake in campus racial harmony and education. Their votes and voices needed to be heard.
Recognize that UMM's Campus Assembly is a group that was formed to provide a more inclusive, representative governance system than the former UMM Faculty Assembly. There are faculty members at UMM who fondly remember the days when no students or staff had the right to vote on any matters of governance or curriculum. If we begin eliminating the voting rights of Campus Assembly members, who is going to guess where it might end?
On behalf of the Morris Academic Staff Association, we urge you to attend the February 8 Campus Assembly meeting and send the Executive Committee a message to close this matter once and for all.
-- John Bowers
-- Karen Fischer
-- Tom Mahoney
BACK TO TOP