Lipstick Won’t Help This Tenure PIG Mess

Permitted Interaction Group (PIG) or Wild Pig

On Friday, September 10, 2021, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents posted their agenda and meeting materials for the September 16, 2021 meeting.  Included on the agenda was the report of the Tenure PIG.  Based on the February 18, 2021 BOR meeting, the Tenure PIGʻs purpose and scope was to review and investigate the issue of tenure in areas including the history and purpose of tenure at IHEs, particularly regarding the University of Hawai‘i (UH); the evolution of, and current views and developments on, tenure at institutions outside of UH; and the current process, criteria, and decision making on tenure at UH.  We question Tenure PIG Chair Ben Kudo whether the report submitted by the Tenure PIG meets the purpose and scope of its original intention.  Nevertheless, the following is UHPAʻs critique of the proposed changes to UH Regents Policy RP 9.202.

Donʻt Forget What We Stand For

The University of Hawaii was founded in 1907 under the Morrill Act of 1862 and 1890 which allows States to set aside federal lands to create colleges to benefit the agricultural and mechanical arts.  These acts allowed for the creation of institutions of higher education focused on agricultural and mechanical arts without excluding other scientific and classical studies.  Today, land grant universities across the nation offer many other academic fields of study in addition to those of their required foundational focus on agriculture and mechanical arts.  While land grant university systems continue to evolve through federal legislation, the primary focus remains the same, which is the three-fold mission of its breadth, reach, and excellence in teaching, research, and extension.  The University of Hawaii is one of the one hundred and twelve (112) land grant institutions across the nation. Instructional, research, and extension agent faculty all fulfill, meet, and contribute to the University of Hawaii fulfilling the original legislative intent, mission, and vision of the Morrill Act.  

In addition, the 1969 Legislatureʻs transfer of the trade and technical schools from the Department of Education to the University of Hawaii Community College System ensured its continuation to fulfill the needs of Hawaiiʻs business and industry community.  Today, there are seven (7) community college campuses across the State in which community college Faculty provide essential services and support to its students such as instruction, continuing education and training, academic support, and counseling.  

We cannot and should not lose focus on the very foundation of why the University of Hawaiiʻs was originally created, how it has evolved, and what it stands for.

Wholesale Revamping the Faculty Classification System

The Tenure PIGʻs findings and recommended changes to RP 9.202 Classification Plans and Compensation Schedules is to simply reduce the type and number of tenure classification schemes to Tenured and Tenure Track Faculty, Librarians, Support Faculty and Extension Agents, Renewable Term Faculty, and Non-Compensated Faculty.  According to the Tenure PIGʻs report, they believe these changes might improve, modernize, and simplify the tenure classification system without further details, criteria, objectives, goals, and even explanation as to how it will improve and modernize for the benefit of the University.  Simplification in and of itself does not necessarily mean improving and modernizing.  Furthermore, it makes the erroneous assumption that what Faculty do and perform on a daily basis is basically simple.  As the saying goes, “If it were only that simple….”

Faculty are not interchangeable

Faculty are subject matter experts in their field of specialization and study which should be evident that each Faculty member brings to the table unique knowledge, skills, and expertise.  In addition, the business and operational needs and demands of Faculty at the community college versus the four year campus are distinctly different and unique.  Moreover, the Faculty at UH Manoa have different demands, expectations, and experience from the Faculty at UH-West Oahu and UH Hilo.  Because Faculty are all uniquely different, the UH has classified them according to their field of specialization and study and has developed a unique classification system for the faculty at UH Manoa, the faculty at UH-Hilo and UH-West Oahu, and for the faculty at the Community Colleges.  A simple glance at these classifications will reflect that there are different and diverse in the minimum qualifications and duties and responsibilities.  Thus, whether you change the classification schemes from “I”, “J”, “M”, “C”, and “R” to “F” for Tenured and Tenure Track Faculty you will still need to develop a “sub-classification” schemes to outline and define the minimum qualifications and duties and responsibilities for the faculty position.  This is essential for any organization since it plays an important role and factor in defining the hierarchy and salary structures of the organization.  It systematically groups the workforce effectively as per their duties, responsibilities, skills, and experience, thereby ensuring proper uniformity to the structure of the organization.  As the saying goes “You canʻt make a zebra by painting stripes on a horse.”

Making Faculty Universal

We question the reasoning and rationale behind the Tenure PIGʻs findings and recommended changes to RP 9.202 Classification Plans and Compensation Schedules.  The 2 ½ page report is invisible on any clarification and/or details over the intent and desired outcomes for changing the faculty classification plans other than to reduce the type and number of faculty classifications.  Is it the recommendation that all faculty at the UH be universal and equal among its peers?  Will the community college faculty be now expected to be equal and in alignment with the 4 year campus faculty in regards to minimum qualifications, duties and responsibilities, teaching equivalencies, compensation, etc.?  Is the intent to change all community college campuses into 4 year campusʻ like UH-West Oahu and UH-Hilo?  

Impacting Support Faculty and Extension Agents

The Tenure PIGʻs findings and recommended changes to RP 9.202 Classification Plans and Compensation Schedules advocates that Support Faculty and Extension Agents who are not engaged in direct instruction shall not be eligible for tenure but may be eligible for employment security characteristic of other public employees.  However, what those employment security characteristics are not described or defined, neither is defining how frequent or infrequent direction instruction must be performed to be determined as tenure or ineligible for tenure.

Nevertheless, we further question the Tenure PIGʻs recommendation and rationale on limiting tenure for Extension Agents when land grant universities are predicated on teaching, research, and extension especially in areas of agriculture and mechanical arts.  We question if there was any examination of whether there was a problem with granting tenure to Extension Agents and the impact both negative and positive that will become of the recommendations.  This matter should be examined if it wasnʻt as we should all be concerned about the impact this recommendation will have on the Universityʻs ability to fulfill its Extension promise.  Bottom line is that we have many questions surrounding all of the Tenure PIGʻs recommendations and rationale.

Are We Top Heavy?

History will show that all great and successful universities are led by their faculty who view intellectual production and pedagogy as their primary mission for higher education and not profit margins and/or the doing more with less mantra.  Unfortunately, over the past decade we have witnessed and experienced a growth and additional layers of administrators while our faculty positions and ranks have been diminishing under the premises of budgetary cuts.  Data and statistics reflect that just during 2016-2019 executive/managerial (E/M) positions at the UH increased 27%.  Woefully, during the period 2014-2021 UH faculty positions were decreased by 19%.  Adding further to the problem is these newly minted administrators have no academic background or experience and are mainly career managers who either downplay or disregard the importance of teaching, research, and service.  Sad to say but todayʻs modern universities are led by boards of corporate-minded regents and administrators who are profit-driven and entirely disconnected from faculty and the fundamental mission of why universities exist.

Here We Go Again On Tenure Battles

“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
— Winston Churchill

Permitted Interaction Group (PIG) or Wild Pig

On Friday, September 10, 2021, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents posted their agenda and meeting materials for the September 16, 2021 meeting.  Included on the agenda was the report of the Tenure PIG.  Based on the February 18, 2021 BOR meeting, the Tenure PIGʻs purpose and scope was to review and investigate the issue of tenure in areas including the history and purpose of tenure at IHEs, particularly regarding the University of Hawai‘i (UH); the evolution of, and current views and developments on, tenure at institutions outside of UH; and the current process, criteria, and decision making on tenure at UH.  We question Tenure PIG Chair Ben Kudo whether the report submitted by the Tenure PIG meets the purpose and scope of its original intention.  Nevertheless, the following is UHPAʻs critique of the proposed changes to UH Regents Policy RP 9.213.

Destroying the basic tenets of tenure and academic freedom

On October 16, 1981, almost 40 years ago, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents unilaterally adopted a policy entitled, Evaluation of Board of Regents Appointees, otherwise known today as RP 9.213, Evaluation of Board or Regents Appointees. This caused the UHPA to file a prohibited practice complaint (PPC) with Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB) alleging violation of Chapter 89, HRS, more specifically subsections §89-13 (a)(1), (2), (3), (5), and (8).  UHPA challenged the policy on the basis that it implemented a post-tenure review system, which, in effect, modified or eliminated the tenure rights of faculty members as set forth in the Unit 7 agreement that former UHPA Executive Director JN Musto proclaimed as “…aimed at destroying the basic tenets of tenure and academic freedom.”

Disguised as an assessment tool and not a rating instrument

The UH President at that time, Dr. Fujio Matsuda, stated that the policy would allow the administration to:

  1. Provide assurances to the University and its constituents that professional staff resources and particular areas of expertise are being used to the best advantage;
  2. Provide for the systematic recognition of excellence and develop incentives for superior performance, and
  3. Provide means for the improvement of performance in furtherance of the Universityʻs mission.

Dr. Matsuda also proclaimed that the proposed policy would not be a rating instrument per se, but an assessment tool to indicate strengths and weaknesses in an employeeʻs work. However, HLRB did not buy this argument. 

HLRB rules faculty evaluations are negotiable

HLRB Decision 199 specifically noted that “While we agree with the BOR that it may implement its evaluation procedures, we are not convinced that the impact of an “unsatisfactory” rating in and of itself would not affect working conditions to a degree so as to constitute a negotiable matter.” 

UH was required to negotiate with UHPA over the implementation of its desired five-year evaluation policy.  During the negotiations process, UHPA maintained its original position that while it did not disagree with the administration’s right to discipline tenured faculty members or to remove faculty members if they fail to perform their duties, the burden to show such failure solely rests with the administration and that other faculty peers should not be involved in the review process.  Furthermore, that it should not be considered a tenure review process or a reapplication of tenure since there should be an automatic presumption that a faculty member has met all the duties, responsibilities, requirements, and performance of a tenured faculty.

The UH administration and the UHPA essentially agreed a tenured faculty memberʻs five-year review will be an evaluation between the tenured faculty member and the respective Department Chair.  If itʻs deemed “satisfactory” by the Department Chair, a memo is sent to the Dean/Director for filing.  If itʻs deemed “unsatisfactory” by the Department Chair, the Department Chair and the tenured faculty member would develop a Performance Development Plan (PDP) that is then given to the Dean/Director.  In most situations, the PDP satisfactorily resolves the Department Chairs concerns and thereafter a memo is sent to the Dean/Director for filing.  In those unusual situations in which the PDP is unsuccessful, a memo is sent to the Dean/Director by the Chair depicting that the PDP hasnʻt met its desired outcome in addressing the tenured Faculty memberʻs performance concerns.  Thereafter, the five-year review process is closed and management can begin the process under the Unit 7 Agreement to begin taking appropriate administrative actions, including termination of a tenured faculty memberʻs appointment, for failure to meet the performance requirements of the position.

The five-year review has worked just fine

For the past 40 years, the five-year review under RP 9.213, Evaluation of Board or Regents Appointees has met its desired purpose and intent.  It provided the avenue that Dr. Matsuda was seeking through the negotiated process between the UH administration and UHPA.  

History will attempt to repeat itself

While every single historical moment is distinctly different from the past, if we do not learn from our mistakes, we risk the chances of repeating it.  Four decades later, we have a different political, social, and leadership climate.  Unfortunately, there are a few individuals interested in revisiting RP 9.213, Evaluation of Board or Regents Appointees to again bring into the conversation the ability for management to use it as a rating tool and to take disciplinary action against those tenured faculty members who they believe are not meeting the performance requirements of the position.  UHPA believes that this is an unnecessary and ill-advised tactic since we have already gone down this road and have already developed a pathway forward for the UH administration to follow.  Whether this is being driven by undue political interference, lack of knowledge or understanding, or just pure hubris, it is definitely a path that will only lead to confusion and uncertainty.  There is already a system in place that was developed through negotiations between the UH administration and UHPA that has worked for over four decades.  Is all this necessary?

UHPA Files Dissent on Tenure Group Discussions

The following is a copy of UHPA Executive Director Christian Fernʻs dissent to the Board of Regents Permitted Interaction Group (see page 188) on Tenure, Sept 10, 2021.

Letter of Dissenting Opinion 

(also published on page 211 of the BOR Sept 16 meeting materials)

Aloha Chair Moore and Board of Regents:

On February 18, 2021, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents established and gave the Tenure Permitted Interaction Group (“Task Group”) an important assignment; to fully explore tenure, including its history and purpose, how tenure has evolved, current views of tenure from those outside the University of Hawai‘i system, and a review of current processes, criteria and decision-making on tenure.

In the last legislative session, certain legislators began to audaciously step outside the scope of their responsibilities and attempted to micromanage the University of Hawai‘i’s operations. It was appalling to witness a legislator publicly admit that the positions of specific tenured faculty members were being targeted for termination. This is some important context because tenure has been a topic of debate and discussion for more than half a century, and was one important reason the faculty sought fair representation with the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly in 1974.

The formation of this Task Group was based in part on the bold, even vindictive, attacks on individual faculty members and the autonomy of the University of Hawai‘i. The intent was to address tenure in an objective manner, not further the predilections of legislators and influence their capricious decision-making.   

Rather than taking advantage of this unique opportunity, we find ourselves in a counterproductive situation. Many members of the Task Group came to the table with erroneous, preconceived notions about tenure, which unfortunately has impacted the objectivity of the group’s overall focus and discussions.  I felt it was my kuleana to represent the interests of the faculty, and my words and detailed explanations fell on deaf ears in my attempt to change the narrative to accurately reflect what tenure is and is not.  Tenure is not merely job security, and does not accurately define the work of faculty members, but rather it describes the protection from interference in how faculty carry out the elements of their work, whether in classroom instruction, or in the right to publish thoughts, ideas, beliefs, political issues or research.  This right dramatically differentiates faculty from any and all other state employees.  

Our discussions have not revealed any valid or actionable problems with the University of Hawai‘i’s tenure processes that have merit to address, yet the Task Group is moving ahead in  proposing sweeping changes that are very top-down in nature and clearly not necessary. There is no question that the proposed recommendations from the Task Group will cause undue anger and frustration among the faculty, who have endured constant attacks from external forces and will now be facing an internal enemy at a time when it is most important for us to move forward together. 

Based on my observations and our discussions to date, we have strayed away from that original purpose and are not delivering on the requests and expectations of the Board of Regents. The discussions and the decisions made by the Board of Regents based on the Task Groupʻs recommendations will ultimately negatively impact faculty. The Board of Regents cannot take this decision, role, and responsibility lightly. I am writing this as my formal personal dissenting opinion as a member of the Task Group. For the record, I would like to make the following points about tenure that I hope the Regents will seriously consider before making any determination or decision:

  • First, the Task Group erroneously approached tenure as an obstacle to quality teaching and research at the University of Hawai‘i by viewing tenure purely and solely as a tool of absolute job security or lifetime employment. As a result, the underlying tone and tenor of the discussions were antagonistic instead of exploratory. It was evident that there was a predetermined agenda and intent on dismantling the UHʻs tenure system. I truly believe this was not the intent and purpose of the Board of Regents. These Task Group members, including some UH administrators, mistakenly believe the University of Hawai‘i administration has virtually no ability or avenue to intervene and/or address substandard performance.  The prevalent perception is that tenure is an iron-clad protection from terminating faculty members who do not meet performance expectations and requirements of the position.  Unfortunately, these skewed notions are impacting the entire group-think process.
  • I appreciate the Task Group’s invitation to Deb Halbert, who offered meaningful background information on the history and purpose of tenure to bring all members up to speed and establish a common baseline of our understanding of tenure. However, our discussions are not being built on that foundation and there is a divergence of opinions that is holding us back from making thoughtful decisions and recommendations to the Board of Regents. 
  • Tenure was established at institutions of higher learning to safeguard a faculty member’s right to academic freedom. This is essential to those who teach and conduct research, especially at R1 universities such as the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Tenure provides the essential conditions and optimal environment for faculty to educate students, to pursue research and innovation, and to draw upon evidence-based conclusions that are free from undue political interference or corporate pressure.
  • Granting tenure to a University of Hawai‘i faculty member is at least a five-year process that involves a great deal of rigor and peer review. By contrast, civil service positions in the State enjoy security after a six-month probationary period. Other UH positions (Unit 8 APT employees) have “employment security” after three years in a permanent position.  
  • All other peer institutions of higher education that grant tenure can terminate a faculty member for cause, substandard performance, or for extraordinary circumstances like fiscal exigency or program discontinuation. The University of Hawai‘i is no different. These managerial rights to terminate faculty under those conditions are clearly outlined and defined in the UHPA/BOR Unit 7 Agreement. Faculty understand the granting of tenure places a far greater burden and responsibility on them to maintain high standards of research and instruction, both inside and outside of the classroom, and know they are setting an example for junior faculty who are striving to obtain tenure.

The key for any successful university is to have its Regents create and enact policies that will better assist the university’s administration in cultivating and fostering a learning environment where faculty can thrive, innovate, create, and transfer knowledge and information for students and to benefit the broader community. Regents must operate at a high level, focusing on policies to facilitate a positive environment for higher learning, and then step out of the way to let the faculty do what they do best as experts in their fields.

Cultivating respectful conversations among the University of Hawai‘i administration, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and faculty have proven to be the best approach to advancing the mission of the University of Hawai‘i. Students must remain the focus. Over the past year and a half, faculty have shown they are adaptable, flexible, and collaborative and this has been key to the University of Hawai‘i delivering more 17,000 diplomas, degrees, and certificates to students in the midst of this pandemic.

We can, and must do better, for students, faculty and the University of Hawai‘i system. 

Mahalo, 

Christian Fern

Executive Director

University of Hawaii Professional Assembly

UH Testing Mandate Begins August 23

The University of Hawai‘i administration has informed UHPA that they were told to implement Governor David Igeʻs Emergency Proclamation of August 5, 2021 mandating COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated UH employees to be effective beginning today, Monday, August 23, 2021.

Expect Confusion and Disruption

Due to the rush and short notice for the UH to implement Governor Ige’s Emergency Proclamation of a testing mandate, UHPA expects that campuses will have difficulty in rolling out and understanding how to implement and enforce this testing mandate policy.  As such, the UHPA staff will have all hands on deck this week to help guide UHPA faculty members on any questions and concerns relating to this policy.  Please feel free to contact the UHPA offices if you need any assistance.

COVID-19 Testing Sites on every Campus

While the University of Hawai‘i is currently trying to secure private vendors to provide free COVID-19 testing on each campus for all UH students, faculty and staff, we have received no updates and/or confirmation from the UH that such testing sites will be available on Monday, August 23, 2021.  UHPA recognizes that obtaining a COVID-19 test in the community right now will be challenging and difficult and has expressed these concerns with the UH Administration.  The UH Administration is committed to working with the UHPA leadership to address this fluid situation.

No Religious or Medical Exemptions

Again, there are no religious or medical exemptions that will allow a person to forgo the testing mandate.  Unvaccinated UH employees would be required to be tested. The only exceptions to the testing mandates will be for those UH employees who are authorized to telework or other UH employees who are not required and/or plan to be on campus.  If an unvaccinated UH employee is either called back to campus and/or plans to be on campus, they should plan to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before entering their campus.   

UHPA Responds to Campus Reopening Plans

As UHPA continues to join with the UH administration to battle budgetary concerns created by the Senate, it is critical to ensure we remain in alignment with UH administration on other issues impacting faculty and students. It is imperative that we see eye-to-eye on the details of the campus reopening to move forward together. Clear communication and open dialogue are critical to avoid misunderstandings and missteps so we can effectively address bigger issues affecting public higher education in Hawaii.

We Successfully Worked Together at the Start of the Pandemic

When the pandemic and resulting lockdown occurred early last year, the University of Hawai‘i administration and faculty came together to determine how to deliver education in an online environment. Together, we were able to rapidly pivot to ensure there would be no interruption in the education of students and safely carry on research.

That experience showed the value of collaboration to create a positive experience for the UH administration, faculty, students and the community. 

Shouldn’t We Work Together to Plan the Reopenings Too?

Now nearly a year later, with the prospect of the University of Hawaii preparing to resume in-person learning on the campuses statewide, it would be prudent to approach the reopening with the same degree of meticulous detail to cover all the bases to ensure a successful reopening.

UHPA was Notified On 5/20 About the Reopenings

UH Vice President for Administration Jan Gouveia sent a letter dated May 20, 2021 to University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) Executive Director Christian Fern announcing UH’s plans to transition to campus reopenings. The letter sent was subsequently transmitted to the UHPA Negotiations Committee.  

And it Was Brief On Details & Specifics

The perfunctory letter outlined little about the UH’s plan other than the tentative targeted dates, as noted below, to coincide with a full campus reopening in the fall 2021 semester:

  • By June 1, 2021: Remove all signage that campuses are closed to the public. Supervisors should start preparing for all buildings and offices to be open for full, in-person services during normal business hours by July 6, 2021. 
  • July 6, 2021: All UH buildings and offices will be open for full, in-person services during normal business hours. 
  • August 3, 2021: All employees are expected to report to their respective campus offices and resume normal business operations. The COVID-19 Voluntary Telework Policy will be rescinded as current COVID-19 conditions no longer warrant the need for employees to work from home.

We Have Concerns About the Lack of Details

The brevity of details and specifics were very concerning. Such vague reopening plans can lead to many different interpretations, expectations, outcomes, and directives without understanding the UH administration’s intent, purpose, and desired outcomes. To move forward together, we cannot afford ambiguity. Clarity, open communication and collaboration are critical. 

UHPA has Responded and is Looking Forward to Discussions

The UHPA Negotiations Committee wasted no time in sending back a response to the UH Administration on May 27, 2021 — a day before the requested deadline — with a list of questions and requests for information, while also expressing concerns and reservations about resuming normal operations on all campuses on August 3, 2021. 
UHPA has requested that the UH administration respond no later than June 7, 2021 to the list of questions and requests for information so that informative and meaningful discussions and dialogue can commence immediately.    

Regent Jan Sullivan Attacks Academic Freedom

Academic Tenure is Essential to Preserving Academic Freedom

Freezing Tenure? Faculty Must Keep Their Guard Up in Contract Negotiations

With the current contract between the University of Hawai‘i and the UHPA Faculty coming to a close at the end of June 2021, negotiations for a successor agreement are continuing. During this economically challenging time, we should brace ourselves for difficult negotiations, with Employer proposals that seek to threaten the very core of academic life.

The UH Board of Regents meeting held on Thursday, Jan. 7, may be an indication of what’s in store for the future — unless UHPA Faculty members remain vigilant and take proactive measures to intervene.

In a discussion of the actions UH has undertaken to address the state’s budget deficit, University of Hawai‘i Regent Jan Naoe Sullivan said “freezing tenure” should be considered. She told UH President David Lassner that she believes the collective bargaining agreement has been a hindrance in the past and that the current economic climate presented an opportunity to introduce the concept of suspension of tenure that she proclaimed other universities have followed. (Sullivan has brought up similar challenges to the concept of tenure several years back, but that proposal was justifiably shot down.)

A Brazen Attack – Biting The Hand That Powers Your Company

This ongoing, brazen attack on the fundamental principle of academic life was being live streamed statewide and immediately set off a flurry of text and email messages among UH Faculty. Some Faculty were aghast that Sullivan, chief operating officer of Oceanit — which relies heavily on the UH for research to further her company’s business interests — apparently does not understand, recognize nor appreciate the value of a university system. We can only speculate why Sullivan seems hell-bent on insisting tenure be frozen before her term as a Regent ends this year and Gov. David Ige appoints a successor to her seat.

A Lone Voice

Fortunately, there were strong indications Sullivan was once again a lone voice, an outlier among the Board of Regents on this issue. UH BOR Chair Ben Kudo, attempting to appeal to her legal mind, delicately reasoned with her that tenure can only be questioned if a faculty member commits acts that violate the law or contract. Lassner suavely appeared to acquiesce, pointing out tenure suspensions have only been applied at small, private colleges, but also disturbingly suggested perhaps a “targeted” approach to tenure suspensions at the UH. The other Regents remained noticeably silent, perhaps because they understand, recognize, and appreciate the value of tenure and did not wish to embarrass her or themselves.

Let’s work with, not against each other

We hope these kinds of theatrics in the public eye do not represent the sentiment of the entire Board of Regents. Drama like this has no place in negotiations at a time when the state’s dire situation requires all us to work together — rather than against each other. These ill-conceived notions breed distrust and suspicion. They become distractions to moving us forward to meaningful and respectful discussions. We can and must do better when each of us at the table shares the same goals and aspirations for the University of Hawai‘i and appreciates how much higher education and research contribute to our community and our State.

 

 

Image credit:

DRAWING OF PEOPLE WHO CUT DOWN THE BRANCH ON WHICH THEY SIT is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Image has been resized or cropped from original along with minor text changes.

Listen to The Conversation between UH and UHPA

UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern & Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno spoke with Catherine Cruz from Hawaii Public Radio

On Dec 29, Catherine Cruz of Hawaii Public Radio invited UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern and UH Provost Michael Bruno on “The Conversation” for a one-hour discussion, “UH Administration Talks Labor Contracts, Federal Aid Ahead of 2021.”

The discussion is worth a listen and covers topics such as:

  • Reorganization efforts at UH Manoa
  • How UH positively impacts Hawaii’s economic landscape
  • Impact of furloughs on the UH community

Deferring Payroll Tax Obligation

On August 8, 2020, President Trump directed the Secretary of the Treasury to defer the withholding and payment of the employee portion of social security taxes from September 1 to December 31, 2020. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirmed on September 3, 2020 the tax deferral is optional and employers are not required to participate.

The directive does not eliminate the tax liability for employees. The IRS advised on August 28 that employers that choose to participate should withhold the deferred taxes from employees pay from January 1 to April 30, 2021 (next year), in addition to normal withholdings.

After a detailed evaluation and legal review, the State of Hawaii will not be participating and will continue standard tax withholding practices for our employees until such a time that conditions warrant reevaluation.

UHPA Requests Cease and Desist to Governor and UH

Dear Governor Ige, President Lassner, and Board of Regents:

As the public employers defined in Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), §89-6(d)(4), for the purposes of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for Unit 7 Faculty Members of the University of Hawaii (UH), the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) submits this written letter in response to the Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Civil Beat Article entitled “Ige Plans Furloughs For Public Workers In November.”   

Over the past several months, numerous public statements, news articles, resolutions, and internal UH communications have been announced and published about unilaterally imposing furloughs, wage cuts, and job reductions for State employees, impacting Unit 7 Faculty Members.  As all of you are aware, we have an active and mutually agreed upon Unit 7 collective bargaining agreement for the duration of July 1, 2017 through and including June 30, 2021.  While we acknowledge that Article XVI, Retrenchment, has been negotiated and agreed upon to address fiscal exigency for the UH, furloughs, wage cuts, and job reductions are all mandatory subjects of bargaining under HRS, §89-9(a), and cannot be unilaterally imposed unless it is mutually agreed to by the parties.  To date, the public employers have not properly notified the UHPA of any request to engage in mid-term bargaining under HRS, §89-9(b), in an attempt to negotiate and obtain mutual agreement over these additional concepts.  While the Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Civil Beat Article, does not identify Unit 7 Faculty Members to be subject to this unilateral imposition of furloughs, it also doesn’t exclude them from the impact. 

What I do want to make crystal clear is that UHPA has never been approached by any of the public employers with specific mid-term proposals to bargaining over furloughs, wage cuts, and reductions during the entire term of our existing contract. In addition, UHPA has refrained from publicly responding to these statements, articles, and UH communications since we believe it is not aligned with the intent and purpose or HRS, §89-1, as well as, Regents Policy RP 9.203, Collective Bargaining.  Nevertheless, the constant and relentless messaging of unilateral impositions of mandatory bargainable subjects is causing tremendous fear, anxiety, and apprehension for UHPA Unit 7 Faculty Members which is not helpful during these unprecedented times.  While UHPA does recognize the State’s dire economic situation in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, this pattern of negotiating in the media is neither “respectful” nor “appropriate.”  We acknowledge that there will unfortunately be significant negative impacts and hard decisions to be made, the statutory defined process outlined in HRS, Chapter 89, is what all parties are required to follow.  

Therefore, I respectfully request that all public employers cease and desist from any further public statements, news articles, and internal UH communications speaking on this matter unless it is clearly stated and defined that it does not apply to Unit 7 Faculty Members.  If it is the public employer’s intent to propose such measures, we respectfully request that the public employer follow the statutory process under HRS, Chapter 89, and uphold and comply with its own Regents Policy RP 9.203, Collective Bargaining.

Thank you for your time and attention to this sensitive matter.

Sincerely,

Christian L. Fern

Executive Director

Your voice made the difference at Thurday’s BOR meeting

Our Collaborative Effort Made a Difference: BOR Votes to Defer Premature Resolution

At yesterday’s July 16th  Board of Regents meeting, UHPA and UH faculty successfully sent a strong message to Regent Chair Benjamin Kudo that struck a chord with the Regents.  

Through the collaborative efforts of UHPA, HGEA, Academic Labor United, and UH faculty and students, we made Chair Kudo stop in his tracks. We collectively presented a strong, unified voice to defend the University and forestall a requirement by the UH Board of Regents for the UH administration to develop a short-term plan of action to address the financial impact of COVID-19 by next month — without the benefit of input from UHPA and the faculty.

A Thousand Individuals, One Strong Voice

Nearly a thousand individuals submitted testimony in opposition to UH Board of Regents Chair Benjamin Kudo’s ill-conceived resolution and proposed letter to Gov. David Ige. Fortunately, the other Board of Regents listened to the concerns raised by faculty and others, and realized the resolution was premature and conceived in a vacuum. 

Vote Defers Resolution; Withdraws Letter to the Governor

The result of mobilizing quickly paid off. The Board of Regents unanimously voted to defer Resolution 20-03 and to withdraw Chair Kudo’s letter to the Governor, which sought to defer the negotiated pay raises of faculty and other public-sector union members  It was an important achievement for all of us. 

Collective Bargaining 101

The live-streamed meeting exposed Chair Kudo’s deficient understanding of collective bargaining and the role of the Board of Regents as an employer in the legal process of reaching an agreement. 

All of the written and oral testimonials enlightened the Regents about their legal obligation to comply with collective bargaining agreements. They publicly acknowledged faculty for stepping forward to raise their concerns and recognized the importance of faculty input on the resolution. UHPA and faculty will now have the opportunity to work with the Board of Regents to work on a revised resolution for consideration next month.

Continuing the Momentum

We are off to a good start, but this is by no means the end of this battle. It has become painfully clearer what we are up against. We must contend with a group that does not play by the rules because they do not know the rules. We must remain vigilant and cannot let our guard down.

Mahalo again for everyone’s support, especially to Randy Perreira, Executive Director of HGEA and his members throughout the UH system, Academic Labor United, and the many UH students and community members for coming together and providing a unified voice to support and defend our University.  We appreciate everyone’s kōkua!