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Wright State trustees approve faculty contract

FAIRBORN, Ohio (WDTN) – The Wright State Board of Trustees voted Monday to approve an agreement with the AAUP-WSU.

The agreement is comprised of two consecutive labor contracts that will “meet the needs of Wright State students and provide labor stability through June of 2023.”

This new agreement represents concessions from both sides of the labor dispute. All university employees, including AAUP-WSU faculty, will have a unified health care plan, according to officials.

The arrangement provides WSU the short and long-term financial relief it sought, according to officials.

Additionally, the university will provide bargaining unit faculty members with a 2.5 percent general salary increase for the final two years of the agreement, academic and fiscal years 2021-2023.

Terms for retrenchment, or layoffs, and workload will revert back to 2014 contract terms. Changes have also been made to give the university ways to address financial concerns, such as the ability to furlough union faculty members one day per semester as a cost-savings measure, and a reduction in summer teaching pay for union faculty members ranging from 20 percent to 15 percent over the course of two contracts.

Also, a retirement incentive program was added to encourage retirement while providing teaching opportunities for those who opt into the program.

According to university officials, each department chair will determine the future of classes that were canceled or changed during the strike.

"It's a deal," said Rudy Fichtenbaum, chief negotiator for the American Association of University Professors at Wright State University. "It's the best deal we could get under the circumstances. Is it fair? Absolutely not. But life isn't fair."

Although he's critical of the health care plan, Fichtenbaum said the union made several gains following the strike, and he is confident the full union can get behind the tentative agreement.

"It is the faculty's working conditions that are the students' learning conditions, and that's one of the main things that we found out during this strike," he said.

Union members still need to vote to officially ratify the tentative agreement. Union officials have distributed a copy of the terms to their members, Fichtenbaum said, but it could be several weeks before a vote takes place.

The tentative agreement will save the university about $3 million to $4 million per year, according to Cheryl Schrader, president of Wright State University.

"With all of the employees sharing equally in that plan, we've taken away one of those uncertainty points with the health care costs rising so quickly," Schrader said.

Since the first day of the spring semester, 405 students have withdrawn from the university, Schrader said. But 494 students have enrolled, she added.

Douglas Fecher, chairman of the Wright State Board of Trustees, said during Monday's meeting that the students didn't deserve to go through this and believes the university needs to do better.

"We need to rebuild the trust with the students," Fecher said. "That's certainly true. And we do that by delivering on our promise of a world-class, frankly, education."

To continue pulling the university out of financial turmoil, the focus now turns to boosting enrollment, Fecher said.

The university has several new recruiting practices in place to help bring more students to campus, Schrader said.

"When you have everybody working together, and I know the faculty are very interested in seeing how we can increase enrollments and get the university on the right path forward, we'll continue to see gains in that area," Schrader said.

In a statement, President Schrader said:

“The university and faculty union have made substantial concessions over the last two years to put Wright State on solid financial footing. We appreciate the collective sacrifices made by our students, faculty and staff. These sacrifices have enabled the university to continue its progress toward financial sustainability.”

“I welcome back our returning faculty, and I know the rest of the university does too. We are united in our collective calling to serve our students now and in the future by providing a high-quality and affordable education.”

“I want to thank our students for showing great faith in Wright State by maintaining their enrollment status and allowing us to work through this process. Working with our entire faculty and staff, we will bring things back to normalcy as quickly as possible.”

Starting February 18, normal operations and academic calendar deadlines will resume. The university will accept all grades and work performed by students during the strike, according to WSU officials.

Read the term sheet that will serve as the basis for the new agreement below:


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