UH-Manoa faculty gives contract mixed reviews
By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer
At a campus that has suffered one financial and psychological blow after another for the better part of a decade, a proposed contract that ended the 13-day faculty strike is getting mixed reviews for how big of a Band-Aid it provides the troubled university.
Advertiser library photo
UHPA Executive Director J.N. Musto points to reinvigoration.
Advertiser library photo
Through e-mail, fliers and water cooler talk, faculty members are dissecting the minutiae of their contract.
UHPA came away with a 12 percent settlement package. It gives professors $2,325 the first year and 6 percent in the second year. For someone earning an average salary of $57,000, the first-year increase is equivalent to a 4 percent raise. But for those faculty members earning higher-than-average salaries, the first year across-the-board raise is lower.
Jon Van Dyke, a law professor, said he will vote in favor of the contract with reluctance. While he is glad that faculty members will no longer have to work without a contract, he said the UHPA settlement does little to address the problems of retention and recruitment. Law school professors are being offered jobs at similar universities for double the salary they earn here, he said.
"We're of course happy that the people at the lowest rungs improved," he said. "The rest of us are feeling a little bit stupid here because our salaries are so below the market."
Manoa faculty members earn less than their colleagues nationwide, even when the cost of living is not taken into account, according to a comparison study.
Some, like Van Dyke, will lose money this year because of the strike. The first-year raise and an $1,155 stipend for weekend makeup work won't cover the salary he lost on the picket line.
"I lost quite a bit more salary than I'm going to make up in the next year," Van Dyke said. "I think once the dust settles, it will be viewed as a major failure by our leadership."
UHPA officials are visiting all campuses this week to discuss the proposed settlement, and professors will cast ballots through Friday. Votes will be tallied Saturday morning, with the results announced at noon.
Near the UHPA ballot boxes Jerome Comcowich, a specialist in the School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, passed out leaflets that read: "Proposed Settlement Pathetic. Vote No!"
"The significant problem we have is not just hiring young faculty but retaining the older, experienced faculty," Comcowich said. "That is devastating. It's a very critical relationship between the senior faculty and the junior faculty."
Robert Blust, a linguistics professor at Manoa, said the terms of the settlement are not strong enough to overcome negative publicity about the statewide strike that could discourage talented professors and graduate students from coming to Hawai'i.
"It's not helping us recruit. It's not helping us retain," he said, emphasizing competition.
Philip Moravcik, a specialist in the Water Resources Research Center, said that as one of the lower-paid faculty members at UH, he is glad to have the new contract. "I think given the circumstances, this is probably a pretty good settlement," he said.
J.N. Musto, UHPA executive director, said of the strike outcome: "I think they have debunked some notions that they were unwilling to work together or come together, and I think there's no doubt that the broad view is that this has reinvigorated the faculty."