Question: You mentioned something about using every second possible to make negotiations. I recently saw an article that said they only meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I'm curious if that's true or not because if that's true, that doesn't sound like they are using their time very wisely.
Answer: Negotiation dates are set by both parties. Both teams have to agree, and there have been times the University proposed dates but the union team had conflicts, and there have been times the union has proposed dates but members of the university team had conflicts. Also, both Oregon Tech and the union are working on the negotiations outside of the mediation dates, so even though we aren’t meeting, we are working toward a resolution. The University bargaining team has proposed bargaining several days, including all days during the week of April 19. The Union has committed to only Tuesday (4/20) and Thursday (4/22).
Question: Can you see how many faculty are striking? If your faculty do strike what is the plan for our learning?
Answer: The university hopes to avoid a strike. If there is a strike, we don’t know how many faculty are going to participate. It’s a tough decision that faculty will have to make. Individual faculty have the right to strike or continue teaching. If the union does strike, we do have plans in place to continue as many classes and labs as we can. Until the faculty strike, we can’t tell you exactly what will happen. It’s a fluid situation with many variables. As we learn what happens we will be sure to communicate it with you. Regularly check your OIT email and Canvas for updates about your specific courses.
Question: Why were union negotiation members not invited to the Student forum?
Answer: The student forum was called to discuss what the University will do if faculty strike. We did not call this forum to discuss the negotiations. We want to respect the process and the union negotiation team. We shouldn’t be negotiating here, outside the process. Also, we would like to avoid putting our students in the center of any disagreements.
Question: If the material is not able to be met during one of the class periods, I know there is probably a plan or something. Will there be refunds distributed to students?
Answer: Again, the University hopes to avoid a strike. Without knowing the duration of the strike or how it will affect individual classes, that question can’t be answered at this time. Nationally, it has been rare to have a strike at a university last more than a few days.
Question: You said that 92% that had the vote of no confidence, and 96% of those were in favor of a strike, how many teachers or professors is that roughly?
Answer: That is a question best asked of the Faculty Senate and the union. The University is not privy to their survey results.
Question: You mentioned there are 38 articles being discussed in negotiations, is there any way students can access each of them?
Answer: Information about the negotiations can be found on this page: https://www.oit.edu/faculty-staff/faculty-union-bargaining#proposals
Question: What is the plan if students needs are not adequately met by administration during the strike? Such as there not being enough teaching coverage to cover course material.
Answer: Without knowing exactly which faculty will strike the University doesn’t know the impact the strike will have. We do have plans in place to address covering classes. Our goal is to be sure that students receive the same quality of education regardless of the strike. It’s not an easy process, but one we are committed to seeing through.
Question: Can you give an example of an administration bloat?
Answer: Unfortunately, saying an administration is bloated has become a routine tactic for unions at universities across the country. The fact is that universities are governed by a significant number of federal and state laws and regulations. A 2013 Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education found that the number of federal requirements placed on colleges and universities grew by 56 percent between 1997 and 2012. Moreover, there are approximately 91 state mandates that apply to all of the Oregon public universities. Being out of compliance with these could have severe impacts on the university, so they need people to make sure they are in compliance.
Question: Are you saying the 18% increase in administration cost didn’t happen?
Answer: Again, this kind of claim has become a routine tactic for unions at universities across the country. It’s partially true, and partially exaggerated. There was an increase in administration expenses, but some of it is attributed to positions going unfilled or partially filled in one year, but then filled the next. So, it will appear that the administration added to their budget, when they just filled an existing budgeted position and are now paying the person who was hired. We also hired new positions to take on the duties previously handled centrally for all universities by USSE.
Question: Have you investigated the administration pay increase and did you find it justified?
Answer: The previous question answers this question. In essence, yes, the administration salary question has been reviewed and this claim has proven to be without substance or merit.
Question: Why did the president’s area increase 70% and what are we going to get for a 5% tuition increase? Why is there a tuition increase?
Answer: The presidents’ expenses by themselves went up 7.6% between 2017 and 2020, not 70% as some have claimed. The entire division went up by 22.8% and that’s due to the University’s creation of a new department, Legal Counsel in 2017. Legal Counsel used to be centralized in Portland under the state system.
Question: Will you have another meeting for answers that you’ve said “I don’t know” to?
Answer: As the University learns more about the union’s decision to strike, we will be better able to answer the questions we are unsure of and we will certainly communicate those to you. Regularly check your OIT email and Canvas for updates about your specific courses.
Question: What other ways is the university working to increase revenue that is not on the backs of students?
Answer: The University is always working to make sure Oregon Tech gets its fair share of State revenue. That’s not always an easy task. Since Dr. Nagi’s arrival, the University has increased alternate funding to the University. Nearly $100 million has been raised in four years. All of that has gone to improving facilities and increasing scholarship funding. The Oregon Tech Foundation has increased its scholarship support by hundreds of thousands of dollars and is on the verge of breaking $1,000,000 in student scholarship support. The Foundation also raises funds for faculty research, capital improvements, and student support.
Question: Once the strike ends, will professors return to teaching classes as normal? Will transcript/grades reflect student work produced under the instruction of a replacement?
Answer: If and when professors choose to strike is up to them. Classes will continue as normally as possible even during a strike. Each faculty member decides for himself or herself on whether to walk out of the classroom or stay and teach. The administration will continue to support students and has a comprehensive plan to continue our operations. Once the strike ends faculty will resume teaching their spring term classes as they are doing currently. Transcripts and grades will not be affected as the grade is given for a course not based on the instructor.
Question: So, there is no guarantee that replacement faculty will be as qualified as current instructors?
Answer: Anyone who promises absolutes is pretty far out over their skis. Some are exceptionally well qualified. Resumes of replacement instructors are being reviewed to ensure they are qualified to teach the courses they are assigned to. The University will strive to ensure replacement faculty will be just as qualified and knowledgeable to teach in any classes affected by a strike.
Question: If the University has so much extra money, furlough savings, federal aid, and surplus from last year, why can’t it give the faculty what they want?
Answer: It’s easy to see these pots of money and come to that conclusion. If these were permanent funding streams, we would be having a different conversation. But nearly all these funds are one-time dollars and can’t be used for faculty pay because those continue and increase year after year.
Question: Why did the University spend $50,000 on a compensation study and then refuse to use it? Can we get a copy of it?
Answer: The study referenced is from several years ago and used data from 2014 and 2016. It is not currently valid data. Oregon has enacted several laws since 2016 that impact how employers assess pay.
The University looks to the recently available data and applying criteria to identify positions doing comparable work to determine market pay. As for a copy of the data, the faculty union has posted such documents on their website. As for data the University is using, that can be found here.
Question: Will replacement faculty be on the same level as a high school substitute teacher that doesn’t know the subject/course we are learning?
Answer: First, the University hopes everyone can remain professional and avoid making broad generalizations that might hurt others in this process. We respect the union’s rights, and hope that their members will also respect that we will do everything we can to continue your education with highly qualified professors. Replacement faculty are screened for appropriate qualifications for the course(s) they will be assigned.
Question: How is our tuition money used? If it doesn’t go toward faculty salary, where does it go?
Answer: Tuition is approximately half of our general fund revenue; State appropriations are the other half. Approximately 75% of our total expenditures are the payroll for the entire university. Academic Affairs – which includes both colleges and all faculty salaries, makes up 55% of our total budget. These costs include faculty compensation (including base salaries, overload, stipends, sabbaticals, as well as benefits like retirement, healthcare etc.), adjunct pay, staff pay and other payroll expenses, operational supplies (paper, printing, pens, etc.), classroom and lab supplies, equipment purchases, etc.
Question: What will really happen if faculty get what they want?
Answer: Again, the two main sources of funds are the state and tuition. For every additional $350,000 in expenses you can expect a 1% increase in tuition if the state doesn’t fund the university at a higher rate. State funding comes from both the total size of the Public University Support Fund (PUSF) and the total number of students that graduate as well as the total Student Credit Hours we produce in a year – averaged for three years. So, if the total PUSF remains the same, but enrollment of graduations declines, the funding from the state will decline. To avoid tuition increases we need to have the state invest more, retention to increase, and enrollment to increase
Question: Why has the University increase out tuition 10% every year and what will the increase be this year?
Answer: This is false.
The chart below indicates past tuition changes. The Board of Trustees has approved a 4.9% increase in tuition for the 2021-22 academic year, which will be reduced to 3.9% if the state legislature funds the Public University Support Fund at $49M more than the Governor’s Recommended Budget.
||% increase over previous year
Question: Why is the administration allowed to send out emails regarding negotiations between the union and the university, yet faculty members who interact directly with students are not allowed to email students?
Answer: The administration represents Oregon Tech as an institution, faculty members cannot communicate by email with students on behalf of the faculty union because the union is a third-party entity, separate from the University governance. It is the same for any third-party entity. Also, the faculty union leadership is generally the group that communicates on behalf of the faculty union, and they do post updates on their union website, they also release press releases and make statements to the public.
Question: Is it illegal for faculty to email students regarding information about the negotiations between the union and the administration?
Answer: The University and the faculty union are bargaining under a State statute and its rules. The law governs what can and cannot be shared, when and how information can be shared, and who may share negotiation information by both the Union and the University. The University Bargaining Team represents the University in negotiations. If you have concerns about any communication you have received, you should reach out to your Dean. The University provides regular updates on bargaining on its website found here: https://www.oit.edu/faculty-staff/faculty-union-bargaining.
Question: Is it wrong to say that the emails students have been receiving from Dr. Nagi, and Dr. Foley, are meant to make the faculty sound as if they are refusing to find any form of a solution?
Answer: Each person interprets these emails and messages for themself. The administration’s responsibility is to provide communications and updates to students. Generally, our communications pass through many reviews, including legal reviews, so that we are accurate and timely. Please note, many of the University’s bargaining team have served as faculty members and we hold our faculty colleagues in high esteem.
Question: Many of the current faculty at OIT are considered highly experienced and skilled members of their respective fields, how do we know that the replacements will be as skilled as our current professors?
Answer: The individuals who will potentially serve if the faculty union does go on strike are highly qualified professionals and subject matter experts. Many currently teach or are retired from full-time teaching and are all highly qualified.
Question: Many individuals choose to come to our University because our professors are considered some of the best in their fields, are these replacements going to be comparably as good as our current faculty?
Answer: Yes, and if there is an issue with any adjunct faculty professor, just as with any current professor, students are encouraged to talk with the dean of their program.
Question: Why are students being kept in the dark in these negotiations except for what Dr. Nagi and Dr. Foley send out?
Answer: Regular updates regarding negotiations are posted at https://www.oit.edu/faculty-staff/faculty-union-bargaining, and you can email email@example.com if you have additional questions. Neither Dr. Nagi nor Dr. Foley is on the negotiation team. Communication with students is the administration's responsibility. The communications that are distributed are done so to inform and advise. Unfortunately, some information that was distributed by the union was incorrect and was made public. Thus, the University had to publicly respond and correct the record. We do not intend to offend. Regular updates on the bargaining, proposals that have been exchanged, and tentative agreements reached, are posted on the Oregon Tech bargaining website, listed above. The faculty union also posts updates on their website.
Question: Since students are receiving emails from the administration, why do the faculty not get to email students as well? should the advisors not be allowed to advise the students on what the students should do to continue their academic progress and the next step with their education?
Answer: See our previous answer related to emails. As for advisors, you can still communicate with advisors in the ROC. If a faculty member goes on strike, they have decided to do so on their own accord and have walked out of the classroom. The University is committed to students’ academic progress and minimizing any disruptions for students and remains steadfast in our resolve.
Question: Will you be hosting a forum for you to hear all the concerns of the students and understand this situation from the student perspective?
Answer: No additional forum has been planned at this time, but that does not mean one could not be scheduled in the future. Students are welcome to submit questions to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
Question: It seems that the administration does not care how the students are feeling. Many of the concerns that the union has are also shared by students: Why are Dr. Nagi and administrative staff paid so much? Why does Dr. Nagi need a new 1,800 square foot office? Why did Dr. Nagi get approved for tenure in his first year? Why is tuition increasing at the same time as administrative wages are increasing?
Answer: There is a lot of misinformation in this question. Dr. Nagi was hired by the Board of Trustees who determine his salary, which has remained the same since 2017, and he voluntarily took a 10% salary reduction during the unclassified staff furlough period of the pandemic. Faculty were not subject to furloughs or reduction in salary. Some administration members started mid-year or later so their annual salary looks larger year over year because they worked part of the year one year, and a full year the next reporting year. Second, when the Oregon University System dissolved those positions had to be hired by each university to cover the duties. Third, the state and federal government increased the number and frequency of mandated reports that have to be completed by administrators. As for Dr. Nagi’s office move, that 1,800 square foot space contains five offices and associated storage and copy area. Dr. Nagi was granted tenure which is customary and usual when a faculty member, provost, dean, or president move between colleges and universities. Dr. Nagi held tenure at the University of Toledo and went through the tenure process when he came here, but here’s the catch: Oregon Tech has an outdated tenure policy that the faculty agreed was out of date; it stated no administrator could receive tenure. The engineering department, the academic leadership, and the Board of Trustees all agreed that Dr. Nagi was worthy of tenure and that policy is being updated and corrected.
The tuition process is an open and transparent process that involves students, faculty, and staff members. No administrative salary increase has happened for this fiscal year. While most of the issues raised in the question are not part of the collective bargaining process, the University is very mindful of the potential impact the collective bargaining agreement could have on student tuition.
If you would like to talk to someone in person VP Dr. Ken Fincher welcomes a call, you can reach him at 512-568-4208.