Silent in opposition
Clause may stifle professors' opinions
Published: Thursday, February 9, 2006
Updated: Monday, February 2, 2009 12:02
Some professors are worried that their opinions on the UT/MUO merger could be censored.
A clause in the pending contract agreement between UT and the American Association of University Professors regarding the merger states that the AAUP must speak in favor of the merger to the press.
Harvey Wolff, president of the AAUP chapter at UT and mathematics professor, said the clause, though proposed by UT, wasn't a "sticking point" for the union when negotiating the agreement.
Other opinions on the matter range from the clause bordering on unnecessary control and there not being enough opposition to the merger for the clause to really matter.
"I was very troubled by that document," said Matthew Wikander, English professor and former president of the AAUP. "I think that those kinds of conditions smack of censorship."
Wolff said other articles in the agreement were more troubling.
In an e-mail sent out on the AAUP listserv, he said the three-year time span the agreement would be valid for wasn't acceptable.
It could have given the university the opportunity to stop recognizing the AAUP, Wolff said, "thereby threatening the livelihood of all those faculty members that we currently represent."
Jim Sciarini, associate vice president of human resources, said this wasn't possible.
"[After those three years] the university cannot just unilaterally withdraw recognition," he said.
Wolff told the Independent Collegian yesterday that the agreement negotiations were coming to a close fast.
"I think we're at a point where we're very close to an agreement," he said. "There's just really some tweaking to be done."
The clause regardng talking to the press is still intact, Wolff added.
But is it censorship?
"I think it speaks for itself," Sciarini said.
Doug Coleman, an English professor and AAUP member, said the clause seemed strange and out of place.
"That did seem the oddest thing in there to me," Coleman said. "[And] it would legally constrain the union … it's a contract."
Wikander said he wasn't sure if the clause was necessary at all and that it probably didn't matter if he opposed the merger. He still thinks its censorship.
"It runs counter to the [environments] of free expression that are characteristic of a university," he said. "I think there's a lot that's troubling about it."
The Communication Workers of America, the union representing the clerical and maintenance staff, signed an agreement with the same clause in it at the end of January.
Ron Honse, CWA president, said agreeing to the passage wasn't a problem.
"It was a show of good faith," Honse said, adding that the university gave in on some issues as well.