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SOU faculty is hopeful about contract

Raises, equality on faculty service, studies on intellectual property are all part of a likely deal

As it looks forward to a board vote and likely ratification of a new contract, Southern Oregon University’s faculty union said it is mostly happy with the tentative deal it reached with administrators this week.

That was the sentiment expressed by APSOU President Donna Lane, who said SOU lawyers called her right before the start of a 30-day “cooling off period,” as mandated by the Oregon Employment Relations Board.

“They called us (Monday) and asked us to get on the line with them (and it was a) surprise to us,” she said. “I think they (SOU administrators) were getting some heat. We’re ready to heal from this and try to move forward.”

Last week, the union had declared an impasse in hammering out a contract after months of negotiations, accusing SOU of being disrespectful in the process. The university issued a statement in response, saying it had offered a deal that included raises, but was rejected by faculty.

Upon hearing the most recent announcement made by the union, Joe Mosley, university spokesman, said SOU could not offer an official comment on developments at this point — or even confirm there is a tentative agreement. Either of those might be interpreted as an attempt to influence the union vote, he said.

Lane, on the other hand, spoke extensively about the tentative agreement, saying that, “for the most part, we’re happy” with the terms. They include pay raises over the next three years, equal pay for “lab loading,” and establishing “work groups” to hone ideas on other issues, including tenure.

“We feel like we came out all right,” she said.

With SOU now in spring term, the union board likely will meet next week to approve the contract. After that, it goes to the faculty, who will vote on ratification. Lane expected the whole process to wrap up in the next two-and-a-half weeks.

“We’re ready to put it all to bed and move on. Based on what we’ve gone through, I wouldn’t think there’d be any problems,” Lane said, referring to board members. “I don’t think there will be any problems with our members, either.”

The tentative terms were spelled out in the union’s initial statement.

If the agreement is ratified, SOU faculty will not receive a raise during the current school year, but they would get a 2.5% increase, followed by two 2% raises, for three out of the four years of the contract.

“We’re disappointed (to not get raises this year); we gave a lot,” Lane said. “But it was more important to us that there was equity among our faculty members with workload. We feel like we won on that pretty good.”

One of the two issues with equity surrounds “lab loading.” The union had hoped faculty would get the same amount of money for teaching a lab as they would teaching a traditional course.

“Lab loading will be fully loaded now,” Lane said.

Another equity issue involves “professional-track faculty loading,” which the union said in a statement it “still has some remaining issues with,” but has “come to an agreement we can live with for the next four years.”

The tentative deal also calls for equity between professorial-track and professional-track faculty. Both will now “service” as part of the deal, meaning professional-track, like professorial, faculty will have the opportunity to represent themselves on committees, according to Lane.

Both parties have agreed to memorandums of understanding that establish work-groups to explore language on curtailment and intellectual property, the union said.

“‘Curtailment’ was the piece that was going to jeopardize our tenure. We said, ‘you brought this to the table way too late … can we have a year and say we’ll put a task force together and come up with this if there’s a workable solution to both parties,’” Lane said.

A task force would also be convened on “intellectual property” — things that faculty members create.

“Right now, the administration believes it belongs to them and they can sell our materials to anybody,” Lane said. “We want to restrict that unless we get paid a stipend to create that material.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.