W22 Newsletter – Letter from the Chair

Hello UFE Members,

It’s been a year since we published our last newsletter, in part because I took maternity leave for Spring and Summer quarters 2021. Additionally, late summer and fall quarter last year saw UFE leadership immersed in an intense period of negotiation, the outcome of which was a 2 year extension of the CBA. Going forward, we are aiming for a more frequent newsletter. In addition to providing updates, we hope the UFE newsletter brings added value to our UFE Members – as you’ll see, this issue provides some fun reading, including a report on unionization in higher education, a bit of UFE History, a profile of one of our long time union stewards, and a book recommendation.

I want to thank you for your support of our faculty union, and more specifically thank you for your trust of the bargaining team as we worked through a very difficult negotiation in Fall 2021. The negotiated terms were in many ways a bitter pill for all of us, but we truly believe we secured the best deal we were able for all faculty. As you all are acutely aware, Evergreen is facing serious financial issues on account of persistently low enrollment. We desperately need to raise enrollment, and quickly. We are heartened that the negotiated agreement includes two bright spots: dedicated faculty lines to work on student recruitment and retention, and four faculty spots involved in the work of the Curricular Review Team, amounting to the early work of structuring a potential reduction in force.

Though Evergreen has its own unique challenges, we are not alone in our struggles. Around the country, student enrollment continues to drop, 6.6% since 2019 (June, 2021). Some experts are starting to worry that this decline signals something more than the toll of the pandemic, but perhaps a cultural shift in attitudes about higher education – experts also worry that the financial crunch so many colleges are in currently won’t end when the pandemic does (Douglas-Gabriel, 2022; LeClair, 2021). The result is a year and a half so far of faculty layoffs (of tenured and untenured positions), declarations of financial exigency, dissolution of entire departments and programs, and even closures and mergers of some colleges and universities around the country (Haaf, 2021).

As you’ll read in the report later in this newsletter, the number of faculty who are represented by a campus union is growing nationwide. In the context of the national financial crisis in higher education, the importance of faculty and staff unions has become increasingly paramount for securing fair and transparent decision-making and as much job security as possible. The presence of a union requires the administration to negotiate any big decisions they make related to faculty working conditions – and that requirement can have major implications for faculty at all status levels. In these hard times, representation is crucial. (If you know a faculty member on campus who would like to become a member of our union, please let them know they can do so by printing and signing this form and emailing it to Laurie Meeker at meekerl[at]earthlink.net.)

Students, too, are struggling to make ends meet, and extra support is more important than ever. As such, I would like to ask you to consider contributing to the UFE Faculty Solidarity Scholarship if you do not already. Recipients are selected based on one or more of the following criteria – a high levels of student loan indebtedness, first-generation (a student whose parents did not graduate from a 4-year college or university), LGBTQ, parent, and African American, Latinx, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Pan Asian, DREAMers and DACA. The UFE has been able to award 5-10 scholarships annually in recent years of $1000 each. The scholarships are funded by Evergreen faculty, either through a one-time donation or ongoing payroll deduction. Please consider contributing by filling out this form and emailing it to TESC’s Office of Advancement at foundation[at]evergreen.edu, or by calling 360-867-6300.

Here’s to keeping up hope in these hard times, in solidarity,

Shawn Hazboun

UFE Chair

See the reference list for citations.