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For immediate release: A firm hired by Oregon Tech broke Oregon law when they employed instructors to replace striking faculty, allegedly for COVID-19 related reasons.
Oregon Tech’s senior administration hired a private firm called Focus EduVation to replace striking faculty, but that company did not immediately inform those substitutes that they were strikebreakers. Under Oregon law (ORS 662.215), replacements must be informed they are being hired to take the place of workers who are on strike or locked out. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has requested information via Oregon Public Records Request laws (ORS 192) on how public funds were used by Oregon Tech for this purpose.
Focus EduVation and Oregon Tech’s senior administration also failed to properly vet replacement instructors for most courses. Technical programs, including, but not limited to, respiratory care, engineering, dental hygiene, medical imaging and laboratory sciences must be accredited by outside organizations and federal or state governments in order to be allowed to grant specific degrees.
“There are only two respiratory care programs in Oregon, and one of them is on strike. It’s scary both for our program’s accreditation and the wellbeing of our state during a pandemic,” said Sarah Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor of Respiratory Care at Oregon Tech. “There is a shortage of healthcare workers across disciplines, and we need to be supporting programs and growth, not hindering them, as demands for these professionals can’t be met at a local, state, or national level.”
Oregon Tech’s Respiratory Care program is currently in its accreditation process and has formal accreditation meetings scheduled as early as next week.
Dental hygiene students must make up every hour lost in the clinic before the end of the term. Accreditation requirements state that they must have one fully certified faculty member with at least a masters degree in the clinic for every five students, a requirement that’s difficult to meet even with all full time faculty, let alone any hastily hired temporary replacements.
Students reported having many unqualified instructors brought in to teach courses across programs, including highly specialized courses on nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, and medical emergencies. Many courses were cancelled after unqualified instructors had to be removed from courses before causing further harm, as some of these courses involve patients, human remains, or equipment that could cause injury if mishandled by untrained personnel.
Students also reported instances where all students were assigned 100% on an assignment, regardless of quality, and classes that were abruptly cancelled after no-shows from adjuncts. Some replacement workers began cancelling significant assignments and changing syllabi while putting the onus on students to be flexible with these drastic changes. Students, frustrated that they came to Oregon Tech to learn and not receive randomly assigned grades, have reported these incidents to senior administration with little response.
“It is hard to communicate the immense scope and scale of administrative failures and their cascading effects on students and our communities,” said a faculty member, who wished to remain anonymous.
While Oregon Tech outwardly praises faculty expertise, strong connections to industry, and personalized teaching in its bid to have Oregon Tech designated the state’s premier polytechnic university, behind the scenes senior administration are actively undermining the university’s polytechnic mission by treating faculty as replaceable, and their knowledge, expertise, and relationships as disposable.
Several hundred picketers have marched in Klamath Falls, Wilsonville, and Salem since the beginning of the strike on Monday. Labor union allies representing Oregon’s classified staff and higher education employees, as well as Klamath’s K-12 teachers, 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.
As of Wednesday, over 800 students, alumni, and community members had sent senior administration letters asking them to settle with OT-AAUP so that Oregon Tech students can recommence their education.
Bargaining resumed on Wednesday afternoon, the third day of the strike. Oregon Tech’s senior administration declared impasse on March 10th, triggering the state statutory timeline for a strike, despite ongoing accreditation and graduation timelines.
Negotiations will continue during the strike until an agreement is reached. OT-AAUP faculty are demanding a contract that provides 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