New proposal adds to representation issue

By Kevin Lyons and Jami Peterson

The intrigue surrounding NIU’s proposed temporary faculty union continues as a new suggestion circulates around Lowden Hall.

NIU’s nearly 400 temporary faculty members will vote Oct. 14 to determine whether the University Professionals of Illinois will represent them at the administrative bargaining table. However, the vote may not be necessary if a “mystery” proposal slides through.

Management Instructor Brad McDonald, who is a member of an ad hoc committee to review faculty rank and structure, said a proposal regarding temporary faculty members is floating among NIU’s top administrators.

McDonald said the proposal is not “top secret,” but he would not divulge its content. But he added, “We want to get some feedback before (the proposal) is attacked.”

The committee finalized the proposal and it should go public within the next few days, he said.

“It hopefully represents most of the concerns of the temporary faculty,” he said. “I think it’s a fair proposal.”

If there are no problems, the proposal will pass to the Faculty Senate for approval. The proposal will sway opinions on both sides of the issue, McDonald said.

“If this proposal goes through, I don’t really see the need for implementing a union,” McDonald said. “I’m more hopeful than ever before that this proposal will get through the governing system.”

Darlene Whitkanack, a temporary faculty member in the mathematics department, began fighting for union representation last April along with about eight temporary faculty members.

The group passed around voting cards and said over half of NIU’s nearly 400 temporary faculty members authorized UPI to represent them. The Illinois Relations Board mulled over the proposal this summer and scheduled an election.

Whitkanack said she is optimistic the majority of the temporary faculty will vote in favor of the union.

“Between now and the time of the election, we will continue to talk to people and find out how much support we have,” she said. “Out of the people we contacted, less than ten percent were no’s.”

Whitkanack said NIU sent a list to UPI claiming about 140 temporary faculty members eligible for the vote. In order to be eligible, faculty members must have taught at least two semesters.

A union will help temporary faculty receive better treatment and coordinate with the administration on job security and benefits, she said.

“A lot of things will be spelled out a little more clearly (with a union),” she said. “There is a lot of confusion and disparity in each department.”

Sandra Flood, an instructor in the physical education department, also worked with the original union-pushing group.

Although salary grievances subsided when temporary faculty members received their portion of an across-the-board salary raise, UPI will help give faculty adequate notification about their jobs, Flood said.

“Some people don’t know until the day before (the semester begins) whether they have a job or not,” Flood said. “We want the union in order to coordinate with the administration on issues.”