Temple Times Online Edition
    JANUARY 19, 2006
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Arbitrator denies TAUP grievance over tenure

An arbitrator has denied a grievance against Temple University by the Temple Association of University Professionals, the union representing about 1,100 full-time faculty members, librarians and academic professionals in 13 of Temple’s schools and colleges.

On Dec. 11, arbitrator Ralph H. Colflesh Jr. ruled that the University acted properly when it rejected two tenure-track faculty members’ request for an extension of their probationary period under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement. The grievance was the first to go to arbitration since the contract was ratified last spring.

“What’s really significant here is the arbitrator’s acknowledgement that the collective bargaining agreement between the University and TAUP represents a significant raising of tenure standards at Temple,” President David Adamany said. “Excellence in teaching and scholarship must always be our primary shared goal.”

The dispute arose over the interpretation of a probationary period extension option in the new collective bargaining agreement that was designed to accommodate tenure-track faculty members who are eligible for tenure under the new standards starting in the 2005–06 academic year.

The new collective bargaining agreement raises the standards for tenure, requiring that a candidate demonstrate outstanding performance and continuing promise of outstanding performance as a faculty member, with teaching/instruction and research/scholarship/creative activity given greatest weight in the evaluation. The new contract also requires that standards of outstanding performance are informed by tenure standards at other national research universities appropriate to a candidate’s discipline.

In order to give tenure-track faculty members who are eligible for tenure decisions in 2005–06 more time to meet these new standards, the collective bargaining agreement offered an optional, one-time, two-year extension of the probationary period.

About 37 faculty members who were eligible for tenure decisions in 2005–06 applied to extend their probationary period by the July 1, 2005, deadline; the University approved all of those extension requests. The University, however, rejected extension applications from two other faculty members who were already engaged in the tenure decision process in 2004–05, before the new tenure standards were put into effect. That decision provoked TAUP’s grievance.

In siding with Temple, the arbitrator cited a variety of factors, from a plain-reading interpretation of the contract’s wording to equity considerations. By granting an extension “to the two faculty who were up for tenure in 2004–05 under the old criteria,” he wrote, “the two would get not only an additional attempt at tenure appointments but would be able to pursue tenure under two different sets of criteria. This advantage is akin to getting two bites of the proverbial apple. No other faculty would be so favored, and there is no reason for allowing such a disparity in treatment.”

The arbitrator’s decision also was influenced by TAUP’s March 2005 newsletter to its members. According to the arbitrator, the newsletter “strongly suggests that the association considered the two-year extension to be available for the sole purpose of giving those faculty who faced tenure review in 2005–06 and afterward an opportunity to amend their approach in light of the new standards by providing an additional two years of probationary service."