Kudos to Joseph Chernisky!

A letter from Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of The NEA Foundation was sent to Leeward CC Chancellor Manuel Cabral along with a monetary gift for the college. 

Opinion Piece by UHPA President Duane Stevens in Advertiser (10/12/09)

Duane Stevens is President of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.

Before pointing the finger of blame, consider what is happening across all 10 UH campuses. As a result of budget cuts, lecturer positions have been eliminated and faculty teaching load has increased. This means less time for individual students. Faculty at some campuses are beginning to see higher failure rates. The budget cuts have also reduced course offerings, and students must extend their time in college to meet academic requirements. Ironically, all of this is occurring at a time of record-high enrollment — more than 58,000 students — in the UH system, particularly in our community colleges. Clearly, students have the most to lose.

What is particularly troubling is the apparent lack of vision in running our state higher education. The UH system is a major economic driver in the state and is the only state institution that generates revenue. In 2008, UH faculty attracted $450 million in revenue for research and training from external funding sources. These funds depend on retaining high-caliber faculty members.

The faculty vote made our position loud and clear. We simply do not see a commitment to the quality of higher education and to the university’s central mission and values by the UH administration.

Our UHPA collective bargaining team has diligently and creatively worked to address the university’s budget shortfall. Since April 2008, the faculty have presented different options to the UH administration, including salary reductions in the form of loans to the UH, reducing faculty base salaries with a freeze on hiring additional administrators, and a number of other reasonable suggestions.
Unfortunately, virtually every proposal has been ignored or rejected.

Perhaps most disturbing is that this “budget crisis” is self-induced.
Once an advocate for a knowledge-based economy, Gov. Lingle chose to arbitrarily restrict funds appropriated by the Legislature to the university, and legislators acquiesced. Further, the governor refused to expend special state funds or reduce the restrictions. She also refused to consider or propose increases in the general excise tax.

The only response we received was a “last, best, and final offer,”
which was also the UH administration’s first contract proposal to the faculty. The terms of the UH administration’s proposal came with an unwritten caveat. According to a Q&A by UH President M.R.C. Greenwood, posted on the UH Web site, “even with a 5 percent pay reduction, a payroll lag, tuition increases and our other efforts, the university will still face a budget shortfall of approximately $16 million.” In our negotiations, UH administrators told faculty there would be further reductions in both programs and personnel to make up that $16 million.

Many faculty have worked too hard and too long to build the UH into a highly rated research and teaching institution. The UH can rightfully boast having a top-ranked astronomy institute, with the potential to be the first university in the world to design, build, launch, and control its own satellites. We have unparalleled knowledge and expertise in marine biology. The graduate program in international business also garners praise. It took years of dedication to attain these rankings and we can do much more to excel, but all of this can be destroyed overnight.

The bottom line is if we desire a world-class university for our state, then we must invest in it. Withholding funds and threatening faculty, the life-blood of the UH system, are all counterproductive and will cause irreparable damage to the reputation of the UH as a Tier 1 research university.

When we return to the bargaining table, we hope the UH administration will be open to suggestions that keep in mind our shared values of academic freedom, intellectual rigor and institutional integrity. With help from legislators and others who care about higher education, we can preserve the quality of higher education in our state.

TV Campaign Begins on October 12th

We used animated graphics to draw greater attention to our message about the faculty’s commitment and united effort to provide quality public higher education in our state. The commercial will also be shown during Wahine volleyball games on KFVE on October 14, 17 and 23.

Click here to view the commercial.

Faculty Vote Overwhelming Against Accepting the UH Administration’s “Final” Contract Offer

For more details on the next steps, an update has been prepared by Karla Hayashi, Chair of our Collective Bargaining Committee and J. N. Musto, UHPA Executive Director and Chief Negotiator.

Click here to link to our YouTube video.

A Response to Professor Dan Boylan’s Midweek Article

The following is a response to Professor Boylan’s article.

Dear Dan:

I am an UHPA member and also serve on its Board of Directors. We don’t consider ourselves better than the K12 teachers, or any of the other unions caught up in Governor Lingle’s mess.

The governor may not be responsible for empty hotel rooms, etc., but she is responsible for placing the problem of lower state revenues squarely on the backs of public workers.

By rejecting a 5 percent pay cut and the so-called “last, best, final offer,” UHPA is saying no, UH, you have not bargained in good faith with us.  It is the only offer you have made. Come back to the table and negotiate.

Although we welcome the salary minima and scholarships offered in “LBFO” (which we suggested as two points on a wish list early in contract talks), it seems to me that they are low-cost concessions meant to distract and divide faculty. The truth is that most of us are facing cuts of at least 12% per year, with no guarantees that the University will not retrench, or eliminate, entire programs after June 30, 2010.

Not only our livelihoods, but the quality of our institution is at stake.  I hope you, too, will say NO and send a clear message to the employer that a decent conversation has not yet been had.

Sincerely,

Paulette Feeney
Assistant Specialist, UH Manoa

Important Information Regarding EUTF Dependent Eligibility

EUTF sent a confusing letter to health plan participants.  While seeking to verify dependent eligibility for coverage, a return form entitled “Dependent Benefit Coverage” was included.  If you sign the form, it will remove any dependent from coverage, even those that are eligible.

The form should be signed only if you have dependents that do not meet the criteria outlined in “Definition of Eligible Dependents”. This must be done by October 23.  These dependents identified will lose coverage as of October 31, 2009.

If your dependents meet the eligibility requirements, you will receive a letter in November that requests documentation to confirm eligibility.

Questions regarding dependents should be made to the Secova Call Center (808) 566-0868.  This is the firm hired by the EUTF to verify dependents.

Retired Hilo Faculty Member Speaks Out on Hurting Students and Faculty!

Dear Editor,

Too many folks can’t see the forest for the trees in the mess between public sector unions and the State of Hawai`i. Here is my perspective as a retired history teacher and lifetime member of the University of Hawai`i Professional Assembly:

Governor Lingle and legislators claim they value education, but they are hurting students, faculty and staff by trying to reduce education salaries at all levels.  Many other solutions are available before these cuts should be implemented. 

Before the Legislature convened, the Governor said all options were on the table, but by February she said no revenue increases would be considered.  Legislators immediately caved; maybe they were only too happy to blame her for having less money.  As the year wore on and things got worse, legislative leaders and the governor refused to call a special legislative session to deal with the new reality.  The decision had been made to bleed public workers and so they stayed the course no matter what.  Instead of searching honestly for alternatives, they trotted out the phrase “shared sacrifice” to deflect responsibility from their own narrow shoulders.

Unions pleaded with state government to augment revenues.  Our excise tax is one of the lowest in the country and has been for 40 years.  A two-cent-on-the-dollar increase would solve the current crisis.  Increasing taxes on visitors and “sin” items also would have been better than squeezing education.

Unions also pointed to other ways to save money, such as cutting administrative costs, providing early retirement incentives for workers, reduction of services, retrenchment of UH programs, and so on.  These proposals were rejected by state “leaders” and administrators who do not have the courage to either raise revenues or choose which services to cut.  They want it all, on the backs of workers.

UHPA, for example, points out that UH administrative costs are about the same as other state systems with nine times the number of students.  Duplication and other inefficiencies are everywhere you look, and we have pleaded for years for the administration to get its house in order. UH administration continues to propose adding more administrative positions paying a minimum of $100,00 on various campuses while at the same time telling faculty they need to cut their salaries to make up for the governor’s budget restrictions. They must either fail to care or fail to understand the impact this has in classrooms as resources that could directly assist students are siphoned off.

In Hilo last night, new UH President Greenwood gloated that she’s asking for $29 million dollars for a new College of Hawaiian Language building for UHH (front page of the Friday, 10/2 Hawaii Tribune-Herald).  What a wonderful surprise she thinks it is, and according to the reporter the announcement met with “warm applause.”  This is the same leader who says she has no money and so all her workers must accept lower pay.  She even told faculty the other day that she wants to have a pleasant conversation with them–about the bleeding process! Talk about missing the forest for the trees!  (What were folks thinking when they applauded?)

Some folks blame DOE teachers for not teaching on forced days off without pay.  Excuse me?  No one can really expect to spend millions and millions fewer dollars and get the same value as before. To paraphrase a colleague, the state government would treat educators the way coal companies used to treat miners. 

Lastly, no one on either side thinks the government’s proposals will do any long-term good.  Governor Lingle admitted early in the process that she’s only trying to get through this recession and she has no plan for the future.  UHPA and other unions are trying to hold on to the progress the University and the union made since 2000, and to keep our goals alive. We want to build for the future.  The bad news is, to succeed; we need partners who can see the forest.

John Cole
Mountain View, BI
968-0814