President Spar And Provost Bell Send Out Information On Union Negotiations

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A low-angle shot of Barnard Hall
Where's the rat?

Where’s the rat?

Update (10/8/2016 at 2:50pm): Administration has asked SWS to remove their Facebook post that says an invitation wasn’t extended to the organization to meet with Provost Bell, as they reached out to two seemingly random students in the organization. According to the caption of the email screenshot, one student was barely involved with SWS and the other never even received the invite, as Administration sent the invitation to the wrong UNI.

A couple of hours ago, Barnard President Debora Spar and Provost Linda Bell sent out an email to the student body regarding the negotiations between the administration and the Barnard Contingent Faculty Union (BCF-UAW) that have been taking place since last winter.

While Provost Bell sent out an email about this topic at the beginning of the semester, this message is much longer, and its tone is much more obvious in attempting to portray the College in a positive light. This was likely prompted by the demonstration that occurred last night at the “The Bitch Is Back” panel, during which students sympathized with the union, and questioned President Spar for focusing on the upper-class problem of plastic surgery rather than using her position to talk about issues more relevant to the Barnard community.

In the email, President Spar and Provost Bell expressed their “full support for this process” of union-administration negotiations, and defended the College’s choice of hiring Jackson Lewis (a legal firm infamous for union-busting at large universities) to represent them. The email also clarified that BCF-UAW is “a complicated unit” including adjunct professors who teach one course a year as well as those who teach full time. President Spar and Provost Bell stressed that they are “working diligently with the unit” to accommodate both economic and non-economic proposals, but they “can neither compromise on [Barnard’s] core academic mission, nor change the very nature of what it means to be an adjunct faculty member.”

The email concluded with a statement that the Barnard administration is “remain fully committed to seeing this through and getting it right,” although it is not entirely clear what “seeing this through and getting it right” may entail for the union. For more information, you can look at the BCF-UAW negotiation page of Barnard’s website, which includes a bargaining schedule and all past administrative announcements on the subject.

President Spar’s and Provost Bell’s full email:

Dear Barnard Community,

We are writing today with regard to our ongoing faculty union negotiations, both to offer a status update and, more importantly, to express our full support for this process—for the union members themselves, whose service we respect and honor, and for the community as a whole. This is, above all, a process that goes to the core of what we do here at Barnard and that is to educate our students. Union bargaining is by its very definition a two-sided endeavor, but we are all dedicated to the mission of the College, and we are fully committed to arriving at a contract that is sustainable, equitable and fair.

First for some background on negotiations. The Barnard Contingent Faculty (BCF)-UAW Local 2110 and the College’s bargaining team have met 15 times since February. The BCF-UAW bargaining team includes four unit members and up to four UAW employees, and the College’s bargaining team includes four members of the Barnard community, one of whom is a long-time member of the faculty. In addition, we have retained outside legal counsel through Jackson Lewis, a labor and employment firm with considerable experience in negotiating successful contingent faculty union first contracts at such institutions as Washington University and Northeastern University.

Although the union has been publicly critical of our use of Jackson Lewis, Barnard has long employed professional labor counsel during union negotiations, and we believe that having professional advisors in our current process is particularly crucial. We have never negotiated with a faculty union before (indeed, most liberal arts colleges have never negotiated with faculty unions), and we want and need to ensure that this first contract sets the foundation for a long and productive working relationship. We simply do not have the expertise in-house to undertake such an important project.

While the two of us are not sitting at the bargaining table, we consult regularly with the team, review and edit countless proposals, and remain deeply involved in the negotiating process. We have offered to sit down with BCF-UAW representatives next week and have presented information about the negotiations at New Student Orientation, Alumnae Reunion, faculty meetings, department chair meetings, alumnae leadership council meetings and the recent Board of Trustees meeting. We have also extended an offer to meet with Barnard members of Student Worker Solidarity who have recently raised concerns about the negotiations.

Secondly, the faculty union is a complicated unit whose membership is heterogeneous, covering a wide range of employment categories from instructors teaching one course a year to those who teach full time. Contrary to what you might have heard, the majority of our courses at Barnard are taught by full-time faculty—faculty who receive full-time salaries, along with College health, retirement, and dependent tuition benefits. In addition, roughly half of the unit’s members are adjunct professors who teach only one course per academic year. This fall, less than 30 percent of courses are being taught by adjunct faculty, and a quarter of those courses are in the dance department, where we are fortunate to be able to draw upon the many talents of New York City’s professional dance community. Because of this unit diversity, coming up with a contract that makes sense for all involved is particularly complex.

That said, we have been and will continue to be committed to bargaining in good faith on both non-economic and economic terms in order to arrive at a comprehensive and fair first contract. We are working diligently with the unit to address their non-economic proposals, including such things as course observations and evaluations, union rights, and access to services. But we can neither compromise on our core academic mission, nor change the very nature of what it means to be an adjunct faculty member. So issues such as determining which courses are taught, and by which faculty, must be left to the discretion of faculty department chairs and program directors.

Of course, we are continuing to work with the union on economic terms. The College presented its initial economic proposal in May and has made some further adjustments after receiving union feedback. In early August we presented the union’s bargaining team with a second comprehensive economic proposal that includes a three-year progression of wage increases. The proposal also includes provisions for a modest professional development fund and a scholarship fund for dependent children. Since then, we have had four bargaining sessions and are still awaiting a response to our offer.

The next few months will be critical in our effort to arrive at a first contract. Together, we have a lot of work left to do, and five more bargaining sessions are on the calendar to move towards a fair and comprehensive contract. We will continue to update you on the progress being made, and you can always find the most current information on our website (

Above all, we remain fully committed to seeing this through and getting it right. We will continue to partner with the BCF-UAW to produce a contract that fairly rewards the pedagogic commitment of our contingent faculty, while also maintaining ongoing commitments to Barnard’s students, full-time faculty, and staff.

Most sincerely,

Debora L. Spar

Linda A. Bell
Provost and Dean of the Faculty

Barnard gates via Nine Ways of Knowing Blog

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Labor lawyer Michael Sovern unionized all the office staff

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