Michigan’s public institutions have been rushing to approve new faculty contracts ahead of March 28, when the state’s right-to-work law takes effect. In a rush to ratify a two-year contract, faculty members at Grand Rapids Community College agreed to a deal that freezes their salaries for two years and grants raises based solely on their performance.
The new contract, valid until the 2015-2016 academic year, moves the college away from seniority increases and institutes merit pay. Faculty members have in previous years received an automatic annual raise that could increase their salaries by up to 8%, leading to instructors being “highly compensated for their teaching” with no incentive to meet unqualified requirements. education,” said President Steven. C.Ender.
Under the new system, faculty members make themselves eligible for raises based on their performance in five categories: teaching, college service, student service, professional development and community service. At the start of each new academic year, instructors complete a plan documenting expectations for the coming year, and the document is reviewed toward the end of the spring semester to track progress.
“This new evaluation system provides faculty members with a wide range of non-pedagogical – but academic – services that they will need to perform daily for satisfying employment,” Ender said, adding that he hopes faculty members faculty would be motivated to develop their approach to the demands of their work.
Merit pay has not met with the same level of opposition as at other community colleges, but some faculty members have expressed “concern” about how they would have to meet the terms of the new contract, a said Frederick C. van Hartesveldt, faculty president. union.
“Faculty will have to do a lot more record keeping,” van Hartesveldt said. “Whether they teach differently or not, I don’t know if we’re going to get that result.”
The move to merit pay means that instructors will face more classroom evaluations. The contract requires that all faculty members undergo periodic observation and that students evaluate the courses they teach each semester.
“I really believe this new contract is kind of a watershed moment for the institution as we build a total academic culture,” Ender said. “We will be 100 next year, and that lays the foundation for our incumbents for the next 100 years.”
Ender commissioned a compensation study after joining the college in 2009, which he said found faculty members were paid more than the market dictated. By freezing pay rates, Ender said he hopes the market will catch up to college pay levels.
The contract also standardizes how faculty members are compensated for teaching additional courses. Effective July 1, new tenure-track faculty and new adjuncts will be paid $937 per contact hour. This change does not affect current faculty, whose rate will remain at $1,189.
While faculty members are relieved to see the end of negotiations, van Hartesveldt said the new system faced internal opposition before being ratified.
“The pay components create a two-tier system where returning teachers are better off financially than newly hired teachers,” said English teacher van Hartesveldt. “Personally, I cannot endorse this.”
A late addition to the new contract requires faculty members to pay union dues. This means that the college will avoid the right to work law until the end of the contract after the 2015-2016 school year.
Ender and van Hartesveldt said the Right to Work Act itself did not require the two sides to meet – an agreement was reached in May 2012 – although it did push them back to the table. negotiations to ratify the contract.
“I certainly don’t want to give the impression that we won and the faculty lost,” Ender said, adding that the new merit pay system could be “a model for demonstrating better practice in education.” .
Van Hartesveldt also highlighted the good working relationship between faculty and administration. “You can’t go to the negotiating table and force the other side to do what you want,” he said. “From a faculty perspective, this was the best deal we could reach given the negotiating climate.”