Contract negotiations drag on between University of Cincinnati faculty and administrators

CINCINNATI – More than 50 faculty members silently converged on the University of Cincinnati board meeting Tuesday in silent protest of protracted contract negotiations that have been ongoing for 14 months.

Full-time faculty members have been working under the salary and other terms of the previous contract, which expired after last school year. Greg Loving, chapter president, said that the two sides quickly resolved non-economic issues but are stuck on meat-and-potatoes issues of salary, health care and money for faculty development.

The union contends that some faculty members would pay up to one-third of their salaries toward health care under management proposals, a number they find excessive.

“Our health care costs should be tied to actual costs, not doomsday scenarios,” Loving said. “We know health care is in flux, but we see no reason to pay costs that are tied to imaginary numbers.”

The prior contract budgeted about $660,000 toward “faculty development” – funding faculty to attend conferences and other extracurricular functions to help with their tenure drives. That’s another stumbling point, Loving said.

Greg Hand, a UC spokesman, declined to elaborate on negotiations beyond saying that they were continuing.

The board meeting continued without interruption after the faculty members filed in, holding placards that said, “Put students’ education first,” and “Do you pay 1/3 of your income for health insurance?” They stayed for about 15 minutes before silently filing out.

After a lengthy closed-door executive session, the board accepted Ono’s request not to receive a raise or a bonus this year. Each board member in succession made it clear they would have supported additional compensation.

“We wanted to take care of you financially but you turned us down. The loyalty you have to us is unsurpassed. It’s a great day, and I just want to thank you for all you do,” Board Chairman C. Francis Barrett said.

Ono said, “We are here to support the faculty and staff. It’s a. fantastic place, a fantastic city. I’m just as thrilled today as I was a year and a half ago when I took this job.

The ongoing effort to address racial disparity on campus was addressed on several fronts. Richard Miller, a faculty representative on the board, said the faculty senate would be holding a series of hearings exploring diversity problems, with the goal of bringing the issue down from “100,000 feet” to real people discussing difficult points. It’s the goal of the faculty to remove whatever barriers exist to making all students feel welcome on campus, he said.

Joe Blizzard, a student representative to the board, said student council passed a resolution on Nov. 20 that calls for the expansion of the sparsely populated diversity council and a subcommittee of the council.

Ono said the recently announced investment of $440,000 toward diversity efforts like student scholarships would be followed up by more action. “The investments that were made recently are just the beginning,” he said, adding that the university is taking a serious look at programmatic steps to ensure everyone feels welcome on campus.

He said UC hopes to choose a permanent chief diversity office by the end of the month. Bleuzette Marshall, interim chief, is one of four finalists for the permanent job.

In other business, the board approved the transfer of a campus garage to UC Health for $15 million.

December commencement  on Saturday, which will include a keynote address by Gov. John Kasich, will include 2,167 graduates, President Santa Ono said. The university is going to confer honorary degrees to Xavier President Michael Graham, artist John Ruthven, Robert Fealy and Ardis Hoven.

Saturday also happens to be the day of the Crosstown Classic basketball game between UC’s and XU’s men’s basketball teams. Ono jokingly assure the board that the honorary degree for Graham was not a bribe to throw the game.

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