Bargaining News: Raises coming July 1, CFA defends Academic Freedom and Intellectual Property

CFA successfully defended faculty rights to academic freedom and intellectual property during recent negotiations with CSU management by rejecting proposals that would have diminished faculty speech and eliminated faculty control of their intellectual property.

In Fall 2017, against the backdrop of very serious challenges facing unions, working people, public higher education, and our students, CFA and CSU management agreed to extend our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

As part of that agreement, CFA secured salary increases that enhanced the progress we made in 2016 while, at the same time, protecting faculty benefits. The last of the raises go into effect July 1, and will be included in August paychecks.

In addition to raises, we agreed to continue negotiations over academic freedom and intellectual property with the caveat that no changes to the contract would be made unless CFA and CSU management reached agreement on both issues.

The CFA Bargaining Team met with CSU management several times in 2018 to negotiate those two areas, with a final meeting this week.

Despite our team’s best efforts, mutually agreeable contractual changes on both issues could not be negotiated.  CFA’s leadership and Bargaining Team concluded that no changes (maintaining the status quo) is the best outcome given the nature of the changes the Chancellor’s bargaining team had proposed.

“Their proposals would have resulted in decreased faculty rights and an increase in management discretion,” said Bargaining Team Chair Kevin Wehr, “The status quo contract language is far superior to management’s final position.”

For academic freedom, CFA proposed a new article in the contract which would have used the American Association of University Professors’ 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure as a basis, in an effort to make faculty’s rights to academic freedom explicit.

CFA’s proposal was responsive to members’ concerns about the current political climate, in which non-academic forces seek to regulate and limit faculty speech. CFA proposed that management has an obligation to support faculty speech, stating “The University shall vigorously defend its faculty members against non-University forces who seek to weaken Academic Freedom.” 

Given that academic freedom extends beyond the classroom to a myriad of pursuits from scholarship and creative activity to online communications, our proposal made it clear—and defensible—that academic freedom is a fundamental right of all faculty members.

In response, CSU management proposed additional language to the preamble of our contract and an appendix, which included a list of prohibitions on faculty speech and expression. Not only was the substance of the management proposal inconsistent with generally accepted definitions of academic freedom, even worse was the fact that their proposal could have subjected faculty to disciplinary action, which would not be allowed under our current faculty contract.   

Regarding intellectual property, management proposed that intellectual property would default or be licensed indefinitely to the CSU with no or minimal financial and institutional support.

Current language in Article 39 is the inverse of their proposal: faculty members can enter contracts with the campus administration that provide an exchange of rights for a specific monetary amount known as “extraordinary support,” in all other cases faculty maintain control of everything they produce.

“One particularly galling aspect of management’s proposal was that the CSU asserted a claim to perpetual license of all faculty course materials, whether there was extraordinary support or not,” said Antonio Gallo, Chair of CFA’s Contract Development & Bargaining Strategy Committee. “No faculty member would ever give up their intellectual property in such a manner.”

Management’s proposal also did not speak to CFA’s stated concern about faculty members’ control of course material, particularly material that is available to students through course management systems, and it became clear that our perspectives on intellectual property were far apart.

The current contract language remains in place, and nothing prevents campus Academic Senates from passing policies that clarify and elaborate on faculty rights and freedoms, as long as those policies are consistent with our faculty contract.

Under the current contract, CFA successfully defends faculty from discipline surrounding unpopular speech and expression, and Article 39 will continue to protect our intellectual property.

If you’re not yet a member of CFA, join today! Your membership helps strengthen our union, and together, we are powerful!