Those of us who organized the petition drive to protest the huge increase in faculty health insurance rates in 2014 presented our petition, with 165 names attached, to Provost Steve Lerman in early February and asked a for a meeting with him to discuss our concerns. Our first scheduled meeting with him was postponed due to a snow day. The second scheduled meeting was canceled due to a death of a family member of Lerman’s leadership team. Finally we met with the provost on April 23. Representing the signers of the petition were Tyler Anbinder, Katrin Schultheiss, Ben Hopkins, Ilana Feldman, and Greg Squires. The provost also invited to the meeting Dianne Martin (the vice provost in charge of faculty compensation), Sara Rosenbaum from the School of Public Health, and members of the Faculty Senate committee charged with considering faculty benefits.

Participants came away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the meeting finally took place and we clearly and forcefully articulated our concerns. On the other hand, it is not clear that the Provost actually “heard” what we had to say; he remained in a defensive mode throughout the meeting and would not admit that our complaints had any validity. He did promise to relay our concerns to President Knapp and the Board of Trustees, but when we reiterated our request, made in the petition, that we be allowed to present our case directly to the Board, he told us that “would not be appropriate.” So while the provost did not agree to any of the demands outlined in the petition, we did not really expect that he would. But one positive outcome, we believe, is that the Provost is now aware that there is an independent and informed faculty voice that is paying attention to university policy toward faculty, carefully scrutinizing the administration’s initiatives and ready to contest its “explanations” and justifications. We have subsequently collected additional information, showing that GW faculty pay far more for health insurance, for less coverage, than faculty at schools such as American University and Boston University, despite Rice Hall’s assertions to the contrary. We will be sharing this information with you shortly.

Another positive result of the meeting is that one of the Faculty Senate members in attendance, who at first defended the administration’s position, seemed to be won over by our arguments. He has promised to propose a resolution at the next Faculty Senate meeting demanding that the university pay a higher proportion of our health care costs, to bring that proportion back in line with that from previous years. Please contact your faculty senators and ask them to support this resolution.

The GW Faculty Association will continue to press the university administration on this issue. Please add you name to our membership list, if you haven’t already. (Signing the petition did not automatically enroll you in GWUFA.) You can enroll at: gwufa.org

The next meeting of the GWUFA will take place on Wednesday, May 14, from 1 to 3 in the Teamsters Labor Research Center, 7th Floor of Gelman Library. All are welcome!

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