UVM administration, faculty union negotiations stall

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The University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. (Jimmy Emmerson, DVM / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Negotiations between the University of Vermont and the school’s faculty union over how the campus has reopened for fall 2020 have reached an impasse, according to statements from both sides.

The negotiations, which began in early July, have been focused on the reopening’s effect on faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, United Academics, UVM’s faculty union, said the Administration has ‘declined to address’ the following areas:

  • Faculty choice to teach remotely due to health and safety concerns
  • Limiting the use of student course evaluations during the pandemic against faculty in promotion and reappointment decisions
  • Including compensation for the weeks of off-contract training and course preparation required to shift courses for the fall semester

“Our union bargaining team had hoped the administration would be more willing to establish policies to support and protect our faculty and our community,” said Julie Roberts, United Academics President. “We have seen other employers proactively support working parents, job insecure employees, and those with deep and understandable concerns for their safety and that of their families.”  

The UVM Administration said it was disappointed over the stalled negotiations, and outlined their position on the union’s demands.

“Prior to class registration, faculty were asked to indicate their desired teaching formats – remote or online only, in-person only, or mixed. UVM carefully balanced these preferences when making workload and modality assignments,” the University stated in a press release. “It is not acceptable—nor is it fair to students—for faculty to independently, unilaterally, and permanently change course modality.”

The University added that it is important to continue using student course evaluations regardless of the pandemic, because it is “important to receive input from students regarding what is working well and what might be improved so the university can facilitate change that will enhance the learning experience for students and the teaching approaches of faculty.”

According to United Academics, future negotiations will take place with the assistance of a mediator.

“We hope that during the next stage of this process the university administration will develop a fairer and more humane approach to working with faculty,” Roberts said.

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