Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Welcome new faculty and pro-staff

The UNLV Faculty Alliance is UNLV’s chapter of the Nevada Faculty Alliance. The Alliance is the statewide advocacy group for faculty, including academic faculty and administrative faculty (what we call pro-staff at UNLV), at all eight campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

We’re the state affiliate of the American Association of University Professors, which was founded in 1915 by A. O. Lovejoy (an historian, I’m proud to say!) in defense of principle of “Academic freedom”. The AAUP’s “Declaration of Principles of Academic Freedom” (first issued in 1915) has effectively defined the modern institution of tenure at American universities, and today the AAUP remains the leading organization devoted to advocating for and protecting the rights of faculty.

In recent years, the AAUP has undertaken an effort to reinvigorate itself and become more visible and active, and the NFA has likewise been involved in a renewal and we’re newly visible and active especially on this campus.

So whether this is your first academic position or you’re coming here from the faculty of another institution, I’m urging you to join the Alliance – and through it, the AAUP – just as you have joined your disciplinary organizations and other campus organizations.

Because the NFA is the only body that advocates for you as faculty. On some campuses, AAUP’s primary work is to defend faculty rights from the university administration. And we advocate for you on campus, where we work closely with Faculty Senate to ensure a faculty voice in the shared governance of the University. And we have a robust legal defense program to aid members who need legal representation on workplace issues.

At UNLV our administration has been generally strongly supportive of faculty, and the primary work we in NFA do is to advocate for you to the Board of Regents and the state government. Our PAC and our legislative education work helps us ensure faculty are heard at these levels.

In the 1980s, we advocated – successfully – for the revision of the System Code to ensure that faculty rights and protections were enshrined in state law and for the creation of such important programs as cost-of-living-increases and the creation of merit pay and the creation of the Public Employees Benefits Program, as a self-funded independent health insurance program.

During the past year, we were very active on these fronts, working with a wide range of allies -- the UNLV administration, the System, the advocates for our colleagues among classified staff, advocates for school teachers and other public service workers – to defend our health benefits from the truly draconian cuts that had been proposed. We were, by and large, successful in this effort.

In 2008, we helped preserve COLAs when there was a proposal in the state legislature to cut them to balance the state budget. And in past months, we worked actively to help mitigate the budget cuts for UNLV from the state legislature and to ensure that at the level of Board of Regents, the cuts did not fall disproportionately on faculty compensation.

We are proud to have long advocated for, and in the past year played a key role in getting implemented, domestic partner health care benefits, which will take effect in 2010.

In the days to come, you’ll be hearing from me and from the NFA urging you to join. In the meantime, I urge you to consult this website, or contact us at unlvfaculty@gmail.com.

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