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Don’t pick a fight that leaves no winners: Let faculty members unionize

The following reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.

Miami faculty members declared their intention to unionize last week during an American Association of University Professors (AAUP) advocacy chapter meeting. 

The union campaign, Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM), is looking to improve working conditions and overall quality of education at the school. 

Miami, you could respond to this announcement in a number of ways. 

You could immediately acknowledge the union as a bargaining unit and respect its mission. You could wait until FAM collects the votes it needs and goes through the legal process of establishing itself. Or, you could launch an anti-union campaign.

We do not recommend option three. 

In a recent statement from the university’s Senior Director of News and Media, Jessica Rivinius said that the school values its current relationship with it’s primary governing body, University Senate. 

While the school may continue to feel secure in its decision making process, the faculty does not, and they aren’t waving a white flag anytime soon. 

Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh successfully unionized in October of 2021 after five years of campaigning. During those years, the university spent over $2 million on a law firm focused on “union avoidance.” 

Don’t make this a war and waste tuition dollars battling a cause that aims to improve the student experience in the long run. 

Nine out of Ohio’s 14 public four-year universities have faculty unions, most of which fought hard against administration to establish themselves. 

As Miami faculty members aim to make us the 10th university, you should do what so many have failed to and support them. If you don’t, you will likely dig yourselves into a money pit that will only postpone the inevitable. 

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The timing of this isn’t random. 

“Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions,” Cathy Wagner said during the AAUP chapter meeting. 

In April 2020, more than 100 visiting assistant professors’ (VAPs) contracts were not renewed, leaving them without positions at Miami the following school year.

The AAUP gathered roughly 800 signatures petitioning against this decision in less than a day, but they were ultimately let go.

Getting rid of VAPs meant doubling the course load for most professors in the midst of a pandemic when they were already struggling to get their own courses online. 

This campaign is coming at a pivotal moment – not just for our university, but for higher education as a whole. 

In the Fall of 2018, Miami ranked 3rd for Undergraduate Teaching in the U.S. News & World Report. 

We are now tied for 22nd place on that list. 

For the school to pull resources and colleagues from its faculty while expecting the same quality in the classroom doesn’t make sense. 

We have fallen from the excellence we were once so proud to promote. The pandemic played a role in this, of course, but more than anything, COVID-19 grossly exposed the problems Miami has had since long before March of 2020. 

Teachers have felt undervalued at this university. Students have felt underserved.

We advise that university administration spends money on improving quality inside the classrooms rather than union-busting. 

FAM has said that it wouldn’t have made the announcement without overwhelming support from a large number of faculty members. 

“We’re going to win,” Cathy Wagner said. 

So rather than going to war, recognize that working with – not against – a unionized faculty is the best way to create a Miami we can all Love & Honor.