Yesterday, in a message to the School of Medicine (SOM) faculty, Vice Dean Dr. Virginia Delaney-Black accepted a significant defeat on behalf of the Dean’s Office. She stated that faculty members could submit their required annual salary materials in the traditional paper form that they had in past decades. She had until now demanded that faculty members submit their materials only in the new electronic format, Faculty 180. In the past, she had stubbornly rejected the suggestion that they use the paper forms this year, and spend the next year putting their CVs into the electronic format.
When the complaints began pouring in to us about the inordinate amount of time necessary to enter the data, or to correct the data inaccurately entered in some foreign land, the Union investigated and filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC), and a grievance with the University Administration.
The combination of the Union’s response and the force of reality led, I believe, to the Delaney-Black climb down on the issue. Perhaps, the reality of what was involved in correcting the materials finally hit home, when she volunteered the services of her office to assist faculty members in their efforts to comply with her edict and arbitrary deadline (which she had extended to March 31st). The enormity of the task probably hit home, finally, after she somewhat mindlessly offered to help in what was basically a task impossible to complete in a timely fashion. As it presently stands, the faculty of one department is being allowed to submit their materials either in the traditional manner or the new electronic method. Others are being allowed to provide these materials in traditional form as a “supplemental” submission.
The Union advised SOM faculty members, some of whom had already spent tens of hours entering their materials line by line (because the program being used does not allow the data to be electronically imported), or trying to correct the entries that the Administration had contracted out, to seek the advice of their departmental chairs who also chair the unit salary committees. One chair sent a brief message to the members of his department informing them that he was told by Dr. Delaney-Black that he didn’t have any authority in the matter.
In life small things count. Often where you sit is where you stand. When you sit atop a pile, you may not fully appreciate what forces are eating away at the foundation of the very pile on which your perch depends. The latest fiasco may seem a small thing to the Administration, but it has deeply symbolic importance to the SOM faculty. Why should a routine activity of preparing an annual report of one’s professional activities as part of the salary determination process have to become such a tempest in the SOM teapot? Sheer administrative incompetence in the Vice Dean’s office is the first answer that occurs to us. That condition continues.
Perhaps, the SOM answering machine should use the message taken from the popular show, Reality Bites, when a cast member answered a phone saying, “You have reached the winter of our discontent.”
In the meantime, my advice is to view any new unmanageable emanation from the Vice Dean’s office through the eyes of Dorothy Parker, when she said: “What fresh Hell is this?” and then, send it along to your Union. We’ll do what we can with it, with the help of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, MERC and God.
Charles J. Parrish
President, AAUP-AFT, Local 6075, WSU Chapter
Vice President-at-Large, AFT Michigan
President, AAUP Michigan Conference
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Detroit, MI 48202