In the lingering aftermath of the spring 2018 lecturer controversy, progress in reaching a deal between the lecturers and University of New Hampshire administration exists, yet the journey remains far from finished.
Rowa Pokorny, UNH’s lone Arabic professor prior to her departure nearly one year ago, in a Feb. 19 email to The New Hampshire, said that she had recently written to the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights asking for an update on such a deal.
“Unfortunately, we were warned that their caseload is quite large, and cases take a considerably long time to be assigned an investigator,” Pokorny wrote.
Former Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) lecturer Cindy Pulkkinen, also in a Feb. 19 email to TNH, added that she also recently contacted the commission, writing that “it will be mid-summer before an Investigator is assigned to our case.”
Last October, when Pulkkinen previously reached out to the commission, it informed her that it could take up to 10 months for an investigator to be assigned to the lecturers’ cases, a result of there being only three investigators in the entire state.
Per previous reporting by The New Hampshire, lecturers within the College of Liberal Arts (COLA) received letters in Jan. 2018 stating that their contracts would not be renewed for the following academic year, citing, per then-COLA Dean Heidi Bostic, declines in student enrollment, budgetary concerns and COLA program realignment efforts as official reasons for the non-renewals. However, affected faculty, at the time, saw that most of the lecturers targeted by the letters of non-renewal were in their 50s, 60s and 70s; their replacements, by contrast, were in their 30s and 40s. In total, 17 faculty members were affected by the non-renewals, affecting subjects ranging from English to political science, among others.
Last September, then-UNH spokesperson Erika Mantz told The New Hampshire that age “was not and would never be a factor in non-reappointment. To be clear, no faculty were terminated. All non-reappointed faculty were provided the contractually-required notice of non-reappointment, more than four months, and all non-reappointed faculty were employed by UNH for the full term of their employment contract.”
UNH was required at the time to submit a response to the lecturers’ claims by Sept. 24, which listed similar claims to what the initial January letters stated.
“They didn’t present any better justification in my response than they did last spring when I met with the dean [Bostic],” Pulkkinen told The New Hampshire’s Jordyn Haime last October. “They really haven’t come up with any better explanation. They have no justification for not renewing my contract other than age.”
More recently, in a Feb. 6 email to The New Hampshire, negotiator John Wallin, representing UNH in the lecturer case, said that all parties “remain in mediation,” the second step of a “three step process.”
“The first is good faith negotiation which ends when the parties agree to impasse or one side declares impasse,” Wallin wrote. “Here impasse was mutually agreed between the parties on December 6, 2017. If the parties cannot reach an agreement through mediation, we will proceed to fact-finding which is the third step…negotiating a collective bargaining agreement is rightly a long process undertaken in good faith to ensure that the agreement reached can be ratified by both parties and provides ample time to address both parties’ concerns. There is no set time for completion.”
Wallin, when asked about each party’s terms of the contract, could not disclose them due to the “confidential nature” of the mediation process. He added that the contract on the whole has not yet been “finalized,” adding that, while no one factor has been a “stumbling block” over the course of the process, the two sides have failed to “collectively” reach an agreement.
“…the University continues to work with our partners across the table to reach an agreement which is equitable for our lecturers when compared to both our comparator institutions and our other employees,” Wallin wrote. “Until a new agreement is agreed, we maintain status quo by adhering to the language in the expired CBA.
“We understand that this is a different landscape than when the first UNHLU CBA was agreed in 2014,” he added. “We believe our proposals are consistent with the conditions at our comparator institutions in terms of compensation, allow the University to maintain flexibility in meeting our goal of student success, uphold our fiscal responsibility and meet the UNHLU’s stated desire for transparency and job stability.”
President of UNH Lecturers United Catherine Moran could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.
This report will be updated.