The Ferris Faculty Association signed a settlement with the university last Wednesday, allocating roughly $816,000 to over 70 professors.
All professors receiving this compensation work in the College of Business or the College of Arts, Sciences and Education. At this time, the individual payouts range from $962 to $12,825.
This settlement follows thirteen months of grievances filed by the FFA on both an individual and association level. Four days before the 2022 spring semester, professors were notified that the number of students allowed in their online classes would be raised to the university standard set for face-to-face classes.
“This isn’t faculty fighting because they want to do less work,” FFA Vice President John Caserta said. “These historical course caps were set after committees [for] two and a half years studied the best modality, the best pedagogy for teaching students in a class.”
Caserta handles all grievances put forward by the FFA. Records show that four sections of his own virtual English course were increased by four to five students each since last spring. This is a small margin compared to two sections of the popular culture course HUMN-240, which each experienced a capacity overage of 26 students.
This settlement is a “Band-Aid” placed on a larger problem, according to Caserta. To reach an agreement, Caserta and FFA President Dr. Charles Bacon agreed to a 20% increase in online course capacity.
“We just needed to get this done for the students’ sake so students wouldn’t be in classes that were double the size in some instances,” Caserta said.
The path leading up to last week’s settlement was extensive. At the time of reporting, faculty members still have the opportunity to review and potentially amend the terms of their compensation.
“[Bacon] and [Caserta] spent a tremendous amount of time working on this. I am happy that both sides worked together and a settlement was reached,” FFA executive board member Holly Price said.
On behalf of the administration, Provost Bobby Fleischman expressed his satisfaction with the settlement.
“We’re very pleased about the settlement, and, while it’s taken longer than we would have liked, the settlement represents a positive step in our work moving forward with our faculty, students and the university with regard to productive discussions on teaching and learning,” Fleischman said.
Fleischman was not present for grievance discussions. Instead, Associate Provost of Faculty Operations Steven Reifert works with the FFA to discuss grievances and settlements. He called his recent interactions with the union “collegial” and “agreeable.”
“When you enter into these things, you try to come up with the solution that’s best for the students, for the faculty [and] for the university,” Reifert said.
The alternative to a settlement would be a move to arbitration. This involves inviting an impartial third party to put an end to negotiations outside of the court system.
Reifert believes that the settlement may quell accusations of violating faculty rights outlined in the association contract.
“Course caps are not enumerated in the collective bargaining agreement,” Reifert said. “[The FFA] were arguing we violated their academic freedom… I think the settlement kind of stands for itself. We came to an agreement on what that possible violation was and again for the betterment of the students and who we serve and the university, I think this was the route to go.”
Select FFA members are still unsatisfied with the 20% increase in class sizes and intend to justify a return to the original cap. Follow future additions of the Torch for future updates.