After months of pressure from students and employees, the University of Vermont has reversed course on a series of workload and pay cuts impacting nearly 70 lecturers, the faculty union announced on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, dozens of lecturers — full-time, non-tenure-track employees — were informed that they would be teaching and getting paid for only three-fourths of their normal course load this academic year.
Sixty-three of the 68 impacted employees have since been reinstated to full workloads, according to the union, United Academics, while the remaining five have been “partially restored” or are teaching roughly 88 percent of their traditional course load.
"The administration was asking for more and offering less, and had no financial or curricular justification for cutting these lecturers' jobs,” said Julie Roberts, faculty union president, in a press release celebrating the decision. “This move caused unnecessary stress and upheaval for these faculty members and their families. I'm relieved that, for most of our colleagues, we were able to reverse this in time."
In a statement, a UVM spokesperson disputed the union's characterization of the decision, saying the collective bargaining agreements "explicitly" recognize that the school can adjust lecturer workloads on an annual basis "depending on student demand."
"The university's action in this case had nothing to do with pressure from the union and everything do with student demand for particular courses," Enrique Corredera wrote.
The two sides still remain in a stalemate over negotiations related to the pandemic’s impact on teaching conditions. The university agreed to negotiate after the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Vermont Labor Relations Board over concerns that faculty were not properly consulted.
But university officials announced last week that negotiations had reached an impasse on three main points: whether student course evaluations should be required, whether non-tenure-track faculty should receive additional compensation for summer work, and whether instructors should be able to switch to fully remote instruction halfway through the semester if they have health concerns.
As of September 23, the university had reported only 21 cases of COVID-19 since last month’s return to campus, all of which involved students. While state leaders have lauded the resumption of classes as a glowing success, Roberts told Seven Days on Tuesday that faculty still have “large safety concerns” and were “disappointed” with how the negotiations progressed.
“There was very little substantive work done during the sessions,” Roberts said.
The negotiations will now continue with a mediator.