College News

Petition from faculty committee draws criticism, claims worker intimidation

At the last Faculty Senate meeting, Chad Goldberg asked members to sign a petition in support of two faculty assistants.

Image By: Leah Voskuil

A campus faculty and staff group is circling a petition alleging that two faculty assistants were not hired as retaliation against their involvement in last years’ faculty assistant campaign for equal pay.

Jambul Akkaziev and Alyssa Franze were not offered renewed positions in the English as a Second Language program after the director, Sandra Arfa, told them to “back off” from their involvement in the campaign for equal pay, according to UW Faculty Academic Staff President Chad Goldberg.

“[Arfa] pretty much directed us to stop talking to the press,” Franze said.

However, Arfa asserts she was fully behind the campaign for equal pay for faculty assistants, and that the ESL program should be a model for other campus departments for how to fairly pay faculty assistants.

“We have no motive whatsoever to retaliate against people trying to get better salaries,” Arfa said. “It’s what I wanted, it’s what everybody wanted because they were really poorly paid as FAs, and what they gave to us and the teaching they did for us deserved better.”

Both Akkaziev and Franze were fixed-term employees in the ESL program, meaning they had no guarantee of employment at UW-Madison past one semester.

In order to ensure fair pay for all employees in the ESL program, Arfa eliminated all FA positions and changed the titles of all current faculty assistants to “lecturer” for the Fall 2017 semester.

All ESL faculty assistants with renewable status, those who had been employed at the university for at least three years, were automatically recategorized as lecturers. Faculty assistants with non-renewable status had to reapply for the new position.

Franze filed a grievance with the university arguing that she was informed of her termination before being given the chance to apply for the new position of lecturer. That grievance was dismissed by the university on the grounds that Franze was a fixed-term employee with no guarantee of reappointment.

“We are concerned that this would set the precedent that employees like me don’t have the right to file a grievance,” Franze said.

Dismissing Franze’s claim paves the way for anti-union intimidation of workers on campus, Goldberg said.

However, Arfa disagrees with Franze’s grievance, claiming she was treated no differently than the four other faculty assistants with fixed-term employment — who were all notified by Arfa, either in person or over email — that they had no guarantee of employment for the following semester.

“The claim that Ms. Franze was treated identically to the other ESL faculty assistants in the hiring process is patently falsifiable,” Goldberg said, citing the UFAS fact sheet about the petition. “In March, the ESL director emailed Human Resources in the College of Letters & Science to request that Alyssa be removed from ESL’s Summer 2017 budget. This email was sent during Alyssa’s first and only formal teaching observation in her two years as a Faculty Assistant.”

Franze applied for the position of lecturer but, according to the petition, was not granted the position because of her involvement with the UFAS campaign for equal pay.

Joe Nosek, a current UFAS member and member of the ESL hiring committee, said that the lecturer position drew a competitive pool of 80 international applicants, and those ultimately chosen held at least 10 more years of teaching experience than Franze.

But Goldberg disagrees and stands by the efficacy of the petition which has been endorsed by the Teaching Assistant’s Association, The Madison chapter of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice.

“This assertion is inconsistent with evidence the [UFAS] union obtained through its open records request to the university. I informed Mr. Nosek on Oct. 11 that we would be happy to review any new evidence he wishes to provide to us,” Goldberg said. “None has been provided.”

The petition — which has garnered 300 signatures online — has drawn criticism from UFAS members and Nosek warns that students and faculty should be skeptical of signing any petition without fact-checking it first.

“People have personally come up to me and said that they have either left the union or stopped engaging in a lot of the union activities that they had before because they no longer felt they are in agreement with this position and are often pushed around by the leadership,” Nosek said.

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