For immediate release: The Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Wilsonville, and Salem, Oregon, ground to a halt today despite public promises from administration that operations would continue with minimal disruption during an ongoing strike by Oregon Tech-AAUP (OT-AAUP) faculty.
The university was unable to continue normal operations without the labor of its faculty. Senior administration’s bargaining team rejected the last, best offer made by the OT-AAUP bargaining team in the early hours of Monday morning—just minutes before the declared strike start time.
“We pleaded with them to accept our last, best offer for the sake of our students, our university, and our community,” said Cristina Negoita, head of the bargaining team for OT-AAUP and professor in the Mathematics Department at OIT. “The ball was in their court, and they dropped it.”
Lowlights of a University Without Faculty:
Several replacement instructors reported being told that they were emergency replacement hires for COVID-related reasons, and not that they were being hired to replace striking workers.
Faculty and students reported over 46 courses without teachers to OT-AAUP on Monday alone.
Students have reported that they cannot reach administrators via phone or email for information on the status of their classes or the strike.
Adjunct faculty and faculty who reported that they were not going to go on strike were locked out of email accounts Monday.
Striking faculty remain locked out of their oit.edu email accounts, while senior administration is trying to communicate with them exclusively through these same accounts.
Highly Qualified Technical Faculty Cannot Be Replaced
Medical and engineering courses that require faculty with professional certifications are not being taught or were assigned unqualified replacements. Senior administrators’ decisions are putting these students’ academic futures and ability to graduate on time in jeopardy.
Many of Oregon Tech’s programs—especially the medical and engineering programs the university advertises most prominently—require certified professionals and experts to oversee student labs and practical experience. These professionals are not easily found in a formal faculty search, let alone as emergency replacements halfway through a term.
Nuclear medicine students, for instance, must be guided by an experienced professional when injecting radiopharmaceuticals into patients, something that is simply not possible with a hastily hired substitute instructor teaching via email from another state.
With the majority of dental hygiene faculty on strike, Oregon Tech’s dental hygiene clinics in Klamath Falls and Salem were forced to cancel many patient appointments. This means that senior administration has made it so that patients who already have limited access to care may not have any access to care, and students aren’t able to get the hands-on training that is supposed to be central to Oregon Tech’s mission.
“Suddenly losing this many faculty from highly technical programs can create accreditation problems if the strike is not resolved quickly,” noted Matt Frye, the chair of the university Academic Assessment Commission.
Technical programs such as engineering, dental hygiene, or medical imaging must be accredited by outside organizations in order to be allowed to grant specific degrees.
Misaligned Priorities by Oregon Tech Administration
After faculty went on strike, Oregon Tech’s senior administration abused the mailing list of the Oregon Tech Foundation to spread misleading information about faculty’s strike demands.
“I’m disappointed that they keep lying to the public about our salaries and our workload,” said Kari Lundgren, OT-AAUP spokesperson and associate professor in the Communication Department, “but I’m not surprised. It feels like they will do anything they can get away with. That’s why we need a fair contract.”
Faculty are seeking a reasonable and clearly-defined workload, so they can have protection from the harms of uncompensated overwork. Senior administration says faculty are demanding a lighter workload, but that’s just not true. They want the workload they have always had with reasonable compensation for overload that cannot be required.
Faculty are seeking fair compensation, and the compensation plan that’s been proposed by senior administration is not fair. Senior administration is proposing a plan that eventually ties all raises to “merit” and makes faculty compete against each other for a limited pool of raises. This will not solve current problems of salary stagnation and compression. (OT-AAUP previously released a detailed explanation of why a merit-only compensation plan was unfair: https://oregontechaaup.org/news/ress-release-oregon-tech-faculty-strike-vote-progresses-administration-wont-budge-on-salary-issue/)
Labor union allies also showed their support by cheering on OT-AAUP faculty and, in the case of Teamsters, refusing to cross picket lines to pick up garbage or deliver packages until the strike is over.
Bargaining will continue during the strike until an agreement is reached. OT-AAUP will fight tirelessly for a contract that secures for fair wages, secure benefits, and reasonable, clearly-defined workload for Oregon Tech faculty.
We are the united faculty of Oregon Tech. Through teaching, outreach, and scholarship, we generate and share knowledge to advance the lives of students, the well-being of communities, and the understanding of the world in which we live. We believe that an empowered and organized faculty will help build a better Oregon Tech for current and future generations, which is why we are organizing our union. https://oregontechaaup.org/
Defend and implement the principles of public education so that students of diverse backgrounds are provided opportunities to excel.
Champion academic freedom, rigorous discourse, and scientific inquiry so that all members of the university community are encouraged and supported in their endeavors to contribute to the mission of Oregon Tech.
Uphold shared governance of the university characterized by open and responsible communication, fair treatment of individuals, participatory processes, and collaborative decision-making.
Secure working conditions that promote and protect excellence and innovation in all aspects of faculty life at Oregon Tech.
About AAUP: The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance; to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, post‐doctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities. https://www.aaup.org