Letter to the Editor: American Association of University Professors – WC

By the AAUP-WC Executive Committee

Thank you for reporting on the ongoing efforts of the Washington College faculty to hold a vote on unionization. Collective bargaining is a topic that is sometimes misunderstood, and we believe it deserves both clarification and discussion on our campus.

As the elected representatives of the Washington College chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP-WC), we wanted to offer a few additional points about the unionization campaign. Above all else, the faculty are dedicated to the mission of the college, to provide an excellent undergraduate education for our students. Unlike many top administrators who spend only a few years at the College, faculty spend decades at Washington College, and we want to see the institution thrive for employees and students alike.

We believe that a union would strengthen shared governance at Washington College. Shared governance is a set of systems and processes that are designed to include the voices of relevant constituents in college decision-making. While we applaud the recent attention to shared governance by the Board of Visitors and Governors, those efforts alone do not provide faculty any assurances that shared governance structures will be upheld. A union would provide guarantees that shared governance procedures would be followed, particularly in the domains that affect our terms of employment and working conditions. As the article noted, failures in shared governance have been a source of concern for faculty. Such failures culminated in 2020 when the Board and administration unilaterally implemented a range of austerity measures that impacted faculty and staff compensation. We experienced cuts to faculty and staff that were both unfair to our employees and negatively affected our students. The Board and administration also initiated a plan to fire tenured and tenure-track faculty in violation of the conditions set forth in the Faculty Handbook. Not only did that initiative violate our agreed-upon terms of employment, it also threatened to undermine the system of tenure, which is central to academic freedom and a vibrant college. While the unionization effort was catalyzed during a time of difficulty, we see the union not as redress for grievances but as a tool to build a stronger institution.

In many ways, a union would not change shared governance at Washington College. Most of the committees that develop and implement policies and support the educational mission of the college would be unaffected. It would, however, improve financial transparency and stability and provide employees more security. It would grant faculty a seat at the table during discussions and decision-making about salaries, benefits, and compensation for additional work. We believe a union would improve compensation equity across race and gender, help us recruit and retain the best faculty, and bolster faculty morale. In these ways, a union would not only benefit the faculty who are fighting to create it but would present real advantages for students and the college as a whole, as well.

Sincerely, the AAUP-WC Executive Committee: Erin Anderson, President; Martín Ponti, Vice President; Clayton Black, Secretary and Treasurer; Emily Steinmetz, At-Large, tenured; Meghan Grosse, At-Large, untenured; Flavio Hickel, At-Large, untenured; Ken Schweitzer, Former President

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