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UVI Uses Bogus Tactics Against Faculty


Dear Source:
At its meeting of November 11, 2006, the Board of Trustees of the University of the Virgin Islands passed the following resolution:

"The Board has met and discussed the concerns of the Faculty. The Board is interested in an expeditious resolution of those concerns. The Board is committed to shared governance. However, the Board does not believe that unionization of the Faculty is in the best interest of the University, its students, faculty, or the public.
The President is encouraged to explore all possible means for an expeditious resolution of faculty concerns."
"The Board does not feel that unionization of the faculty is in the best interest of the University."
I wonder whether the Board has any basis for this judgmentdo the members of the Board have any personal experience of the effects of faculty unionization? How many are professional educators, and how many have worked in a University where the faculty was unionized? The Board may be very sincere in its feelings–but even if they are correct, and unionization of the faculty is not in the best interest of the University, that does not justify the scorched earth tactics which the University has employed in opposing unionization. The University acted in bad faith by signing an election agreement and then failing to abide by it. By not informing either the faculty or the Public Employees Relations Board of their intention not to abide by the election agreement, but allowing them to go ahead with election preparations while at the same time filing a Writ of Review in Superior Court to stay the election, they have expressed contempt for the faculty and for the Public Employees Relations Board. But their most egregious breach of the rules of ethical conduct has been in their use of every possible legal maneuver to advance an argument that any reasonable person–any college student, for example–can judge as highly illogical on the very face of it.

Even though President Ragster has stated publicly her belief that all public employees are entitled by law to unionize, and even though faculty at the University of the Virgin Islands are by definition public employees, the University argues that UVI faculty are not entitled to unionize because they are managerial employees. The PERB, after days of hearing and thousands of pages of transcripts and exhibits, held that the faculty are not managerial employees. Moreover, the law does not prohibit managerial employees from forming a union. Therefore the central argument on which the University is basing its legal challenge to faculty unionization is illogical. If the members of the Board of Trustees and the administration are reasonable people–and I assume they are–this suggests that they are not advancing this spurious argument in the expectation of ultimately prevailing in the courts, but are cynically making use of "the law's delay" to deprive the Faculty of its legal right. Moreover, they are doing this at great expense, and using public funds. It may be that they are doing this in the belief that it is in the best interest of the University–but if so they are grievously mistaken It can hardly be in the best interest of the University to destroy the reputation for fairness and integrity of the Board of Trustees, and to profoundly alienate the vast majority of its faculty, who expressed their desire three years ago to exercise their right to decide this issue by a secret ballot election, and who on November eighth actually voted in an election to decide the issue only to have the ballot boxes sealed as a result of the legal maneuvers of the University's lawyers.

"The President is encouraged to explore all possible means for an expeditious resolution of faculty concerns." But there is no possible means for a resolution of faculty concerns apart from a decision to refrain from deliberately attempting to deprive us of our fundamental rights. We cannot be appeased by giving us a raise, or by improving our working conditions (though you're welcome to try), or by a pretense of collegiality–for the University's bare-knuckle tactics in this dispute preclude any real collegiality. It may be that the Board expects that if they delay a decision in this case long enough, the faculty will give up their demand for collective bargaining, and settle for something lessbut if so they seriously underestimate the persistence and dedication of UVI faculty. The only possible resolution of faculty concerns in this matter is for the University to cease and desist from depriving us of justice and to GRANT US OUR RIGHTS!
David Gould
St. Thomas

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