In the midst of a global pandemic, Ferris has chosen to not compensate its faculty with the additional pay that was listed in their contracts and were even asked to take pay cuts.
Over the summer instructors were tasked with transitioning face to face class to a remote delivery format for summer classes and as well classes for the fall. According to the contracts agreed between Ferris and professors, when a class is created for online delivery, the university pays the faculty member $1864 per credit however this did not happen over the summer, fall or even in the previous spring when Ferris transitioned to full online after spring break.
“We talked with the Provost about this throughout the summer without getting anywhere, so we were forced to demand to bargain over this in August and we had our first bargaining session on Sept. 29. We presented a draft Memorandum of Understanding outlining our proposal, but the administration refused to provide a written counter proposal,” Ferris physical sciences professor of 36 years and Ferris Faculty Association (FFA) President Charles Bacon said.
At no point did administration bring up the conversation of being compensated. The FFA brought this topic up in late March and every other time that the group met going forward.
“They verbally acknowledged the tremendous work done by faculty but wouldn’t talk about any numbers,” Bacon said. “Despite many meetings in which we always said we want to talk, the VP of Legal forced us to proceed to a demand to bargain. The Board of Trustees passed a resolution thanking the faculty for their efforts and the President message to the Board meeting in May expressed similar sentiments.”
University President David Eisler then asked all unions to forgo their negotiated pay increases that had taken effect July 1, 2020.
“We asked him what cuts he was planning and what other revenue sources he was looking at, such the Ferris Foundation which has about $100 million in it,” Bacon said. “He wouldn’t detail any cuts; he wouldn’t talk about the foundation money and he wouldn’t even talk about administrative cuts. All the unions denied his request to eliminate pay increases. Eisler refused to eliminate the administrations pay increase, as well.”
Bacon reported that Eisler wasn’t pleased with the requests of the FFA. They had asked him to tell the FFA what cuts and what revenues he was looking at, but he wouldn’t discuss these without having the FFA agree to taking cuts.
At one point, Ferris was pushing to have its classes be only offered in-person, but many professors held concerns about the safety of themselves and their students and wanted to have the choice to conduct these classes online or in-person.
“During one of the town hall meetings the provost was asked specifically about faculty wanting to go online and his response was that anyone that wanted to would be able to go online. I know personally that this contradicted some of the attempts by deans to force faculty into face to face classes, but ultimately all faculty got to choose,” Bacon said.
Accounting sophomore Ivan Arredondo is glad that professors ended up getting the choice on whether to operate in person or virtually.
“Initially I was disappointed that my classes were going to be online, however I understand that it’s the safest decision for everyone on and off-campus,” Arresondo said. “And it’s good that they had the choice instead of being forced into it.”
The FFA understands that there is a global crisis occurring and they’re willing to discuss the issues at hand but there is a lack of open communication between administration and the union to which Bacon blames Eisler for.
“This is a direct result of Eisler’s attitude,” Bacon said. “The problems at Ferris are the failure of the Eisler administration. The problems of the present will not be solved by the solutions from the past. Eisler is taking advantage of this temporary crisis to radically impact Ferris, and in my opinion, permanently damage the university by unwarranted and cruel cuts in employment, student programs and courses and overall university life.”
Pre-pharmacy sophomore Daniel Jigo believes that, especially in a time of crisis professors deserve compensation for the work they’ve done.
“Right now is the time when people are struggling the most financially, and to think Ferris isn’t paying it’s professors for their work is disappointing. How are our professors supposed to feel motivated to keep teaching during all of this when Ferris won’t even properly support them,” Jigo said.
Eisler was not immediately available for a comment on this story.