A year later: full-time faculty union contract “amiable”

Written By Mick Stinelli, Co-news Editor

Point Park faculty and administration are still working on defining language in the union contract that was finalized in August of last year after an extensive negotiation period.

Issues concerning compensation for certain faculty activities and defining key language have continued to be the subject of discussion, according to Karen Dwyer, faculty union chair and associate professor of creative writing. 

Paying faculty for projects like serving on graduate committees and reading theses have remained undefined by the union contract, Dwyer and Ed Meena, professor of history and union officer, said. 

“It’s certainly been a period of adjustment on both sides,” Meena said.

It’s an issue that arises from new types of work coming up after finalizing the contract, according to Lisa Stefanko, vice president of human resources at Point Park. The Ph.D program in clinical psychology, for example, was founded within the past year. Stefanko said the faculty and university would negotiate agreements on compensation by looking at the time and effort involved in an activity.

Another point of ongoing discussion is academic requirements for new faculty. In addition to accreditation requirements, hiring committees look for potential faculty who have terminal degrees – the highest degree in a field of study. 

But terminal degrees vary across disciplines and universities, Dwyer and Stefanko said. A hiring committee may look for a dance professor with a master of fine arts, or they might require someone with specific experience in a certain style of ballet. 

“We’re not looking to lock in to something very hard and fast and rigid,” Stefanko said. “In literary arts, it’s really clear and easy to tell what degrees are needed to be a faculty member there. But others are a little less clear.” 

Stefanko said some potential faculty, like business professors, needed professional qualifications alongside education. 

It’s an issue that was discussed extensively during the formation of the contract, Dwyer said. It’s a matter of deciding how to define “terminal” in a field where experience is the highest qualification.

Dwyer, who was re-elected faculty union chair last week, said she decided to stay in the position because she thought it was important to have someone in charge who helped negotiate the contract. 

The faculty voted in 2004 to unionize, and a contract was ratified last year after 11 years of legal battles and discussions spanning two administrations. In July 2015, the university dropped its legal appeals to the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Court of Appeals and announced the collective bargaining process would begin.

It wasn’t until August 2017 that the union voted to accept the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. The agreement was ratified with a 96-6 vote. 

The four-year contract represents all full-time faculty and lasts until 2021. The faculty was represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh during

“It was a long process with a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Michael A. Fuoco, president of the Newspaper Guild, told The Globe in an August 2017 interview.

Since then, both faculty and administration said the implementation of the contract has gone smoothly.

“So far, it’s been pretty amiable,” Meena said, adding that all issues have been addressed as best as they can by both faculty and administration.

The contract helps both administration and faculty, Meena said, because faculty now have a more focused opportunity to work toward tenure.

Administration is supportive of the faculty, Dwyer said, but discussions continue because the two groups have different tasks.

“It’s a deeply important time for workers to stand together in any way that they can,” Dwyer said.