Representation issue debated

By Peter Schuh

With the election to determine how NIU faculty will be represented less than a month away, the opposing factions are taking their stances and addressing the issues.

On April 21, faculty members will decide between union representation under the University Professionals of Illinois and a no-representative bid being advocated by Professors for Shared Governance. The three issues sparked by UPI and PROF-S concern NIU’s shared governance system, faculty salaries and faculty course load requirements.

The organizations’ views have clashed on the issue of faculty salaries.

PROF-S claims the faculty of Illinois universities who are represented by unions have lower salaries and less annual pay increases than those of NIU.

In reply to the claim, Kevin McKeough, professor of Political Science and UPI’s NIU chapter president, said, “PROF-S is making invalid comparisons and they’re not telling the faculty the truth.”

McKeough said PROF-S is comparing two different types of universities. He said the American Association of University Professionals scale rates NIU as a “category one” or “doctoral level” university. He added that because the Board of Governors universities are ranked as “category 2” universities, their salary levels cannot be compared with “category 1” schools such as NIU and Illinois State University at Normal.

Opinions are also different in regard to NIU’s shared governance system, which consists of such bodies as the Faculty Senate, the University Council and the Academic Planning Council.

Neil Rickert, professor of Computer Science, said the unionization of NIU’s faculty could be detrimental to NIU’s shared governance system.

“Over the last few years with the new NIU constitution we have made great improvements in the shared governance system,” he said. “We will lose all that if we go to a union.”

Rickert added that if a decision to unionize was made, although he did not know what their fate would be, faculty-involved governing bodies such as the UC “would have no power because everything would be negotiated.”

However, McKeough disagreed. “We do not have meaningful shared governance at NIU,” he said. “I see it (UPI) as strengthening the shared governance system we already have. I see it as making shared governance a reality rather than a myth.”

As evidence of his position, McKeough said, “There are FS and UC members affiliated with UPI. If it (UPI) is so bad for shared governance, how come the shared governance professors are supporting UPI?”

The third issue which the organizations disagree on are faculty teaching loads.

“One of our big concerns is if you look at the university contracts for the Board of Governors they have regulated course load,” Rickert said. “The course load at NIU will most likely go up. It will be campus-wide.”

McKeough argued that was not the case. He defended his position using the AAUP system of ranking colleges.

“We are a category one doctoral institution,” he said. “Those are not. The teaching loads at a category two institution are going to be higher than those at a category one institution.

“What Northern faculty want to propose after they win on April 21 is what will end up in the contract. Faculty workloads would not go up unless the NIU faculty voted to negotiate that.”

In addition, McKeough said the result of a decision by NIU faculty to unionize would give the faculty more governing authority.

“With a collective bargaining agreement the administration would have to bargain with the faculty—a power which the faculty do not now have,” he said.

In regard to UPI and collective bargaining, Rickert said, “The fallacy of the whole idea of a union is you can go get better salaries, but who are you going to bargain with? The state legislature gives out the money and if the union were to try to bargain with them they would simply laugh in their face.”