The GWU Faculty Association is pleased that the Faculty Senate, at least partly in response to the petition that we organized this fall, has taken up the issue of the alarming increases in health insurance costs to GW employees. We are encouraged by the thrust of a resolution proposed for the next senate meeting, but we are also concerned that, as it currently stands, it allows for a decrease in the salary merit pool to cover some of these rising costs.
Our petition characterized the 52% increase in the amount GW faculty pay for health care under our insurance plans over the past two years (from $9,800,000 in 2012 to $14,900,000 this year) as a hidden salary cut. We were not, of course, demanding that this hidden salary cut be replaced with an open salary cut.
The GWU Faculty Association will not normally take positions on specific senate resolutions. However, because a resolution on health insurance that will come up at Friday’s meeting is at least in part a response to our petition, we want to make clear that any resolution that reduces employees’ salary merit pool in exchange for an increase in university contributions to our health insurance is contrary to both the letter and the spirit of our petition.
We hope that, at the Senate Meeting on Friday, May 9, the resolution will be amended so that it does not offer any cuts to our salary merit pool.
While we are pleased to see the recent coverage in the Hatchet about the GWUFA, there are a few inaccuracies in the story we feel are worth pointing out. Nearly all are obvious from a quick perusal of our website – in particular, see our goals or, better still, all full-time faculty are invited to join us for our next meeting.
- We are not a faculty lobbying organization. Rather, we are an independent faculty voice upholding the core values of the University and speaking out on issues of central importance that affect the quality of academic life for students and faculty.
- We do not have, nor do we seek an adversarial relationship with the Faculty Senate, the University Administration, the Board of Trustees or any other body. Our relationship with these, and other institutional bodies, is determined by how closely their actions and attitudes correspond with our stated principles.
- We do not seek to usurp the role of the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Senate is an institutional body of the University. We are not. Instead, we are part of the University community’s civil society. We believe a strong and robust civil society, which can both empower and hold to account the University’s institutional structure, is fundamental to the University’s health.
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!
general membership meeting
May 14, 2014
Teamsters Labor History Research Center
(7th floor, Gelman Library)
All full-time faculty are welcome!
A few recent articles that may be of interest to GWUFA members:
- A Washington Post article about faculty salaries.
- The “bullying” accusation article from the Hatchet.
- A Hatchet article that discusses adjunct labor (and mentions the average salary for full-time assistant professors).
- Stories about struggles between NYU faculty and its Board of Trustees, from NY Times and N+1.
The first meeting of the GWU Faculty Association will be on
Friday, April 4
Rome Hall 771
All full-time faculty are welcome.
You can browse this site for more about GWUFA, and also join the association.
At the meeting we will discuss the response of the university administration to our petition protesting the health insurance cost increases and discuss the goals and strategies of our organization.
Together we can create an organization that will be a powerful force for preserving and expanding shared governance, faculty compensation, tenure and academic freedom at a time when all of these things appear to be under increased threat at GW.
We will also distribute our new GWUFA pins.
Please encourage your colleagues to come to this meeting too. We look forward to seeing many of you there.