Community & Politics
Current Work and Issues
HECC & Governance
The Higher Education Coordinating Committee oversees public higher education in Oregon. Learn what they do.
The Public Education Retirement System is an evergreen legislative topic. Read what’s happening now.
2021 Legislative Session: Not too bad…
No major walkouts or other shenanigans. In other words, we actually got down to business. With a healthy budget to lean on, UAUO (myself and President Chris Sinclair) collaborated with UO and the President’s office to make the final push for the Public University Support Fund (PUSF; $900m) and the Oregon Opportunity Grants (OOG; $200m), among other asks, and we got what we asked for.
We also finally got through the Part-Time Faculty Health Care bill. Senate Bill 551 guarantees faculty who teach part-time across multiple institutions will now be covered when they get sick or injured. We also succeeded in getting through the HECC Voting Rights bill, Senate Bill 712. Now faculty, staff, and, for the first time, graduate employees will be represented with votes on the HECC. This change will secure a more equitable voice for critical perspectives and experiences when setting higher education policy in Oregon.
An important Bill for stepping up the legislative game on how best to support students also got through. House Bill 2590, the Student Voice bill, passed as well. This bill makes sure that on-the-ground faculty and students have the ear of legislators. We’ll have to keep an eye on this at our institution to make sure legislators hear the challenges our students, especially first-generation students and those from communities historically marginalized in higher ed, are facing.
Finally, the last-minute push to move Senate Bill 854 (Boards of Trustees Reform) forward stalled at the end of session. However, robust testimony from across the state made it clear that this work will continue. There will be some formalized conversations and actions moving forward to act on some of the issues brought up and you can be sure Board governance will be a priority for our state politics.
On a personal note, I’ve found this session to be one of our more productive sessions. We got some good measures through and we found some areas where we could collaborate with folks we may not normally work with to do so. I am grateful for the chance to serve as AAUP-OR’s VP of Political Action and work alongside an incredibly smart legislative committee led by Chris Parta, AAUP-OR’s government relations guru. A big thank you to Matt Burris at AAUP-OR for also running a strong push this session. If you are interested in getting into the political game at the state level, especially if you’d like to work on legislative reforms to the Boards of Trustees, hit me up and let’s talk. I’m going to stay on top of Politics for now, but we’re looking for folks to fill our political ranks. We’ve got a lot of state political work ahead of us, and UO is in the game. Let’s keep it moving.
2021 Session Summary
Part-Time Faculty Health Care
For years, AAUP Oregon has worked hard to secure benefits for the nearly 1,700 faculty members around the state without access to the same health care benefits other full-time employees have. Thanks to the tireless efforts of faculty across the state, we won! Thanks to Senate Bill 551 faculty who teach part-time across multiple institutions will now be covered when they get sick or injured.
AAUP Oregon wants to thank all the legislators, faculty, students, and staff who worked tirelessly over the last few sessions to make sure our friends and colleagues who work for multiple universities get the coverage they need.
HECC Voting Rights
After years of working to secure more equitable representation on the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, we passed Senate Bill 712. Now faculty, staff, and, for the first time, graduate employees will be represented with votes on the HECC. This change will secure a more equitable voice for critical perspectives and experiences when setting higher education policy in Oregon.
Higher Education Funding
The Public University Support Fund was funded to the tune of $900 million, which matches AAUP Oregon’s request for state funding for this next biennium. In addition to fighting for this key direct funding of our public institutions, AAUP Oregon is happy to see that the Oregon Opportunity Grant was boosted to $200 million. These pieces of public funding will ensure that Oregon’s public higher education systems continue to deliver for students, faculty, staff, and the public.
Transparency in Higher Education Governance
Like so many incidents show, Oregon’s Boards of Trustees need to be changed. From the Faculty Senate at Oregon State to the striking faculty at Oregon Tech, faculty have spoken out for more accountable and responsive university governance. We are excited to see that this crucial conversation has begun. Faculty, staff, and students in Oregon deserve Boards of Trustees with real independence and accountability to the people they serve.
Senate Bill 854, which would have created more public accountability and accessibility for Trustees did not pass this session, however, we did get a hearing on the bill. Nevertheless, we at AAUP Oregon are looking forward to continuing this conversation and are committed to making sure that governance at our public institutions of higher education is truly independent and open to the public.
To that end, we were also excited to see that House Bill 2590 (“Student Voice Bill”) passed as well. This bill makes sure that on the ground faculty and students have the ear of legislators. This kind of grassroots effort to better understand the challenges faced in higher education is critical when crafting solutions in Salem.
OT-AAUP Moves Closer to a Strike
The faculty at OIT have authorized a strike and have sent their administration notification of their intent to strike. The AAUP chapter of Oregon Tech faculty overwhelmingly authorized a strike with 96% of the bargaining unit voting and 92% of those voting in favor of the strike authorization.
The faculty still hold out hope that a strike will prove unnecessary. If the OIT faculty do strike, they would be the first faculty at an Oregon university to go out on strike.
You can read more about the situation at the OT-AAUP website.
The faculty at OIT have asked their friends to sign a community support letter to the university’s president and provost. We encourage everyone to sign.
Updates from the Higher Ed Front
One might imagine in a beautiful state like ours, with its consistent Democratic majority of legislators committed to the values many of us UA members share, that we might experience some smooth sailing in virtual Salem. Well, at least when it comes to Higher Ed equity and Labor. Unfortunately, as many people of color and other marginalized groups understand, “progressive Oregon” has a long way to go…
But the fight continues…
HB2873 / SB712
Also known as the “HECC Voting Rights” Bill, Higher Ed folks have been trying to amend the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) voting rights makeup by making a total of 5 non-voting positions into voting positions; this includes the faculty representative. Typically, the faculty member has voted in previous decision making, but it has been more a de facto rather than a de jure practice. The Bill would also add a graduate student representative to HECC with full voting rights. We’ve had some really great support from legislators on this: Chief Sponsors are Senators Dembrow and Gelser and Representative Evans; Regular Sponsors include Senators Golden, Gorsek, and Prozanski and Representatives Alonso Leon, McLain, Noose, Ruize, Weber, and Wilde.
The “Part-time Faculty Healthcare Bill” (also carried through as HB 3007 and SB 551) creates a program which allows part-time faculty working at public institutions, including those putting together multiple part-time appointments at different institutions, to purchase subsidized health insurance from the state’s public health insurance programs. AAUP Oregon has made this a legislative priority for several consecutive sessions and is committed to expanding health care coverage to faculty at public institutions. While this simple piece of legislation seems like an “easy” one, there are considerable roadblocks keeping this Bill from becoming a reality. Fortunately, we have a strong family of collaborators and comrades strategizing a final push for this much-needed legislative action to support our part-time faculty, especially as we’ve seen the weight they’ve had to carry over the years, including and especially during Covid.
The “Transfer Bill” is another attempt by Salem to get CCs and Us on the same page when it comes to facilitating a smooth transition for students making their way through school and/or moving among schools. The idea here is to allow faculty and other on-the-ground stakeholders to form a Transfer Council; their recommendations will be signed off by the HECC with appeals processes and minority voice inputs all present. This bill enjoys some complications, particularly between some upper administrators in the Us who don’t want transfer decisions to leave their home institutions while CCs are looking to the HECC to make sure they aren’t drowned out by their big siblings.
“The Board of Trustees Bill.” Finally. Yes, the nonsense at OSU, the memories of PSU, and the current threat at Tech have finally pushed legislators past their limits. This Bill would hopefully configure Boards of Trustees so that they focus on offering an accessible and equitable path for all students, especially those students traditionally marginalized from Higher Education. And no, football or shiny new buildings don’t attract those students. A chance to break from generational poverty and develop critical thinking skills that will ensure they thrive in this world does. You can read more at the link below, but here are some highlights:
- More, official, input from faculty and students on Board Nominees for the Governor to consider in their recommendations to the Legislature.
- More transparency by and accessibility to Board members.
- Prohibits secretary of governing board from also being a member of administration of public university, aka, checks and balances stay in check and balanced.
- Stronger appeals process for Board decisions
And speaking of the Board of Trustees, and remembering UAUO’s particularly fraught history here, we are glad to see the University Senate recommend Professor Ed Madison, SOJC Faculty member for the next Faculty Member position on the Board, especially after the way the last faculty recommendation went.
One of the very first “political” meetings I had was with Governor Brown and our fearless leader President Chris Sinclair on the Board composition and the process whereby faculty members and members-at-large are chosen. Fast forward a couple years later and I find myself along with comrade-in-arms Treasurer Bill Harbaugh testifying in Salem on the ways in which these processes are still flawed. We here at UAUO are incredibly happy to see Salem legislators step up and offer concrete changes to the Board that will undoubtedly give the rank-and-file (we who do the research and teaching and the many support professionals we rely on to do our work) and our students a small break from business-as-usual. And while my pessimistic leanings will always say, “not enough,” this Bill is hopefully an opening to something different, and dare I say, something better, for us and our students.
In closing, I hope you all see the benefit of having our local actively engaged with Salem and our Higher Ed partners and collaborators around the State. Personally, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know legislators like Marty Wilde, Theresa Alonso Leon, Courtney Neron, and Mike Dembrow who have taken the time to listen to my rants, read my pleas, and keep us and our students forefront as they seek to make this State and its Higher Education institutions do right by us.
If you are interested in joining the UAUO Politics Committee (trust me, we ain’t too formal), lemme know. Once the dust settles in June on sine die, we’ll have to see what landed and didn’t, and start the fight for the next session. Of course, if you’re feeling at the end of the AY you still got some fight in you, we will need a push to get these Bills and of course the money, to where they need to be. For more information on the current session, please visit AAUP-OR’s politics page at http://www.aauporegon.org/
Avinnash, Chair of the Politics Committee
2021 Oregon Legislative Session
Even with a minor tantrum, i.e., a mini walk-out, things are chugging along in virtual Salem, lobbyists are lobbying, special interests are special interesting, folks are finding their Bills and causes they’re gonna fight for. We’ve got no major fights or challenges on the horizon.
On the University side of things, the Part-time Faculty Healthcare Bill is moving along, as is the permanent Faculty voting rights bill in the HECC, two bills championed by AAUP-OR and AFT-OR interrupted by last session’s major walkout. We’re keeping keen eyes on bills that would affect faculty input in a potential transfer council to get some previous legislation on transfer credits cleaned up and running smoothly; unions’ ability to arbitrate without losing our shirts; and of course, money. Yes, surprise, we had more money than we thought. Yes, surprise, the damn kicker will wipe out a huge chunk. The thing is, we gotta wait. For the Feds. For May (another forecast). We here at the UO still have Fed dollars waiting to be allocated. Enrollment? Quick side note on State money, this blog is my second-favorite blog.
Sometimes it nice to take a breath when one can. Right now, nothing much to report worth getting into. Soon, we’ll have a better idea of what bills will actually have a shot of making it to the summer. I’ll have a list for you later on when there won’t be too much to scratch off. Yea, there’s lots a bills. Along with colleagues from across the state, we’ve gone through a couple hundred bills pertaining to University and faculty matter for AAUP-OR, in conversation with our administration’s lobbyists and our comrades at AFT-OR, other partners in Education, and legislators. All the AAUP-OR locals then review them and endorse them. We’re on our fifth batch of bills so far…
And yep, there’s lots of bills I could make fun of. But they’re not going anywhere and they’re stupid for a reason. I gotta say though, there were a whole lot of “reactive” legislative concepts and bills out there. Reacting to the walkout, reacting to election fears, reacting to the same old fears (redistricting, er, gerrymandering, er…), reacting. Rep. Marty Wilde gave us a long list of Bills worth looking at simply because they could easily be the start of some really thoughtful conversations about how we truly value our resources and thus one another. But y’all know I’m a cynic. But we’ll keep at it and try, if nothing at all, to keep the shenanigans at bay…
Fortunately, we’ve got some good folks on our side:
And when it comes to it, we’ll probably need to hit up Ways and Means folks, i.e., the money.
I’d say hit up Gov Brown, but she doesn’t like us very much, because we (UAUO hat on) dared point out how the Board of Trustees structure has time and time again failed our faculty, staff, and students. And no, nothing exciting legislative-wise that would put caps on upper admin salaries, lower tuition for our students priced out of higher ed, and finally, finally, finally, make Athletics big shots not so big anymore by paying athletes and contributing to educational missions.
Politics Chair, UAUO & VP Political Action, AAUP-OR
2020 Oregon Legislative Session
The short session kicked off this week and will be all wrapped up in early March. Given that next year’s focus will heavily center on higher education, there are some higher ed bills already in the works; bills cleaning up the K-12 legislation from last year; lots of committees and task forces to learn about stuff; some tax and revenue housecleaning; and even some diversity-related initiatives. Nothing on PERS (unless you’re a prison chaplain, then hit me up); if you’d like updates on the PERS legislation lawsuit, hit me up as well. And if you’d like to see a complete list of potential bills or like to see AAUP’s position on the Bills they’re taking on, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some highlights:
Sets up a task force to give recommendations on how to address student housing and food insecurity.
Prohibits sports betting on college teams. Eh…don’t know about this one. AAUP is currently neutral on this, and I’d love to hear from folks what y’all think…
Students from the Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands or Federated States of Micronesia can receive in-state tuition.
This House-sponsored Bill attempts to help students reach graduation quickly by making sure they are placed in appropriate lower-division Writing and Math courses. However, the initial Bill does not include faculty in thinking through assessment. Both the Universities and Labor are pushing for drastic amendments, if not an outright death. I think this is an issue (placement and assessment), but not something that should be legislated. However, drawing attention to the issue brings up other things worth thinking about in the legislature, like having enough student support services for students coming from K-12 institutions that did not adequately prepare them for entry into higher-ed (funding).
Authorizes all Us to offer PhDs, some Us (regionals) limited to a number of programs for an initial time period. Prohibits HECC or other state agencies from giving scholarship money to students going to predatory on-line “schools.”
This Bill from Representative Alonso León is ultimately a “listening bill” whereby a legislative task force will visit the Us and CCs in order to learn how best to serve students from under-represented communities writ large. This is a great place for the issues raised in 4128 to be taken up, rather than go right to legislation.
Here we see a repeat of the California bill meant to give student athletes a shot at earning some income. If passed without some serious amendments there’s plenty of time for the NCAA and its partners to squash it.
This is a typical short-session bill that does some cleaning up on previously passed legislation, this time, the Transfer Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. We’re keeping an eye on this, especially to make sure that the HECC doesn’t go too far around the Us. There’s a provision for extending some scholarships for Public Safety Officer’s children thrown in as well as an authorization for the regional Us (Western, Eastern, and Southern) to offer PhD degrees (like HB4137).
Stricter licensing process and penalties for student loan companies.
A short one from HECC meant to protect Veterans from predatory career schools that go after a loophole in benefits coverage. The bill sets standards for tuition revenue and penalties for fucking with Vets.
Protects workers who are unemployed because of an active labor dispute from not receiving unemployment insurance benefits.
School Districts would have to use “class size” and “caseloads” as mandatory collective bargaining subjects.
HB4146 (health-care; higher-ed)
This is the final push for the part-time faculty healthcare bill that didn’t quite make it through last year. [link to PDF]
Other notable bills to keep an eye on:
Now presented as the Greenhouse Gas Bill, here’s an attempt to tackle the Clean Air Bill from last year that forced a Republican walkout and a near shutdown of the legislative session. Some Dems are pissed that this Bill isn’t as “strong” as last year, though some Republicans have offered some support while other Rs are jumping on the “won’t do anything anyway” bandwagon. And…to head off the potential one-sided shutdown from last session…
…here’s a proposal to go from a 2/3 majority to simple majority for quorum. AAUP and Labor/Dems will strongly support.
HBs 4001, 4002, 4015 are task force/study bills while HB4003 hopes to provide “technical assistance” and “grants” to organizations working on increasing home ownership for people of color, including making “funds available to federally recognized Indian tribes,” implicit bias training for mortgage lenders, and a task force on racial disparity in home ownership. HB4039 specially addresses homeless youth populations.
HB4076, specifically with the loudest commentators on UOM in mind, sets up a task force on age discrimination.
HB4096 looks to increase funds to childcare centers serving large employees, however, also makes it possible that “all residential structures” can get certified for childcare.
HB4126 makes it easier to arrest antifa protestors.
Local and State Endorsements
Running for public office and interested in UA’s endorsement? Please contact the Chair of the Politics Committee or staff with any and all inquiries.
Political Action Fund
United Academics works with our affiliate, AFT-Oregon, to handle political donations our members want to make. AFT-Oregon is a member-run union and the candidates and causes they support are selected by elected committee members.What is the Political Action Fund?AFT-Oregon’s Political Action Fund (PAF) is part of the political action arm of AFT-Oregon. It builds our union’s power and makes sure we have a strong voice to advocate for educators and educational professionals, and our communities.PAF makes politics work for educators and working families by:
- Funding member outreach to lawmakers to educate them on important issues that affect our union and communities
- Helping to elect and re-elect lawmakers who support us
- Mobilizing and empowering members to build a strong voice for workers and education in Oregon
- Organizing community actions with allies to demand full funding for schools, community colleges, and universities, and fighting back against public policy that harms working Oregonians
- Passing pro-worker and pro-education legislation to protect our jobs and raise workplace standards
- Fighting anti-union legislation and ballot measures
Why Political Action?As workers and educators, AFT-Oregon members fight for fair wages and benefits, respect on the job, and an education system that lifts up our whole community. Education policy and funding is decided by our legislators and on the ballot. This directly impacts what we can get at the bargaining table and the quality of our students’ education.Anti-worker and anti-public education corporate forces have deep pockets to push their agendas on working Oregonians. If everyone steps up and contributes what they can, together we have the power to ensure a voice at the table.How it works:
- PAF is entirely funded by voluntary contributions and is guided by a member-based, democratic process.
- In Oregon, you can receive a tax credit up to $50 for a single filer and $100 for a joint filer on your Oregon State Taxes.
If you are interested in contributing to the Political Action Fund, contact the office so we can get you a PAF card.
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Social Justice Allies
Allies on Campus
72,000 people. 500 different job descriptions. In every corner of the state, we care for Oregon.
The labor union representing over 1,500 Graduate Teaching Fellows and Research Assistants at the University of Oregon.
Community Organizations We Like
Eugene has many outstanding community services, charities and organizations that help people in need. If you need a helping hand, or would like to extend one, please look into the following organizations.
Sexual Assault Support Services
Providing community education, outreach, advocacy and support to survivors of sexual violence and their families.
Womenspace has been providing safety, hope, and healing to survivors of intimate partner violence for over 40 years.
Eugene Springfield NAACP
The mission of the NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
White Bird Clinic
White Bird Clinic provides compassionate, humanistic healthcare, and supportive services to individuals in our community, so everyone receives the care they need.
Support for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and prevent new HIV infections.
Food For Lane County
Food for Lane County is dedicated to reducing hunger by engaging our community to create access to food.
Trans*ponder provides support, resources, and education for the trans/gender diverse community and its allies.
Volunteers in Medicine
Volunteers In Medicine is a primary care medical clinic for low-income, underserved adults and their households in Lane County who can’t afford health care coverage.
Centro Latino Americano
Centro Latino Americano is a bilingual, multicultural agency that serves Latino families in Lane County.
Our National & State Affiliates
When you're a member of United Academics you are also a member of the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors. Both come with membership benefits, but perhaps the best benefit is knowing that you are part of a union family literally millions strong!
American Federation of Teachers
AFT represents 1.6 million members across the United States.
AFT-Oregon is the state affiliate of AFT. AFT-OR represents more than 12,000 workers statewide.
The American Association of University Professors
The AAUP was founded in 1918 to defend academic freedom.
AAUP-Oregon has members at UO, OSU, PSU, EOU, OIT, Marylhurst, and Linfield.
American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations
The AFL-CIO is the umbrella organization for 56 national and international unions.
The state affiliate of the AFL-CIO.