Elections for United University Professions (UUP), the union representing SUNY professors, concluded on Wednesday, April 10. Once the ballots are counted, the union will announce who will represent faculty and other professionals across SUNY campuses on April 19.
For years, UUP elections on the Stony Brook campus have been fairly uncompetitive. But this time around, a group of candidates called the Coalition for Union Reform & Democracy emerged to shake things up.
“A few of the younger professional staff and faculty approached me to say, ‘What can we do to change things here?’” Edward Quinn, who ran against the current president, said. “They didn’t feel that the chapter leadership was effective.”
The coalition website says it sees the current chapter taking “a Service Union Approach” where its primary goal is to maintain “a good relationship with the administration.” Instead, the coalition wants to run the union with an “organizing union approach” and defend union members.
“We pledge to build a union culture on campus where members feel heard, appreciated, and empowered,” the website read.
The current UUP president, Kevin Moriarty, who is running for a re-election told The Statesman he isn’t taking any interviews at this time.
Current Vice President for Academics who is running for a re-election, Fred Walter, said it is good to see more people wanting to get involved with the union. He said some of the goals the coalition proposed are the ones the current union has been trying to achieve.
“We fully agree with what they want to do,” Walter said. “Where they claim we are not reacting to what’s happening, they don’t realize that we work behind the scenes. You cannot work overtly with this administration.”
Walter said as public employees of the state of New York, union members are constrained by the Taylor Law, which prevents them from striking.
“There’s a limited range of things we can do,” Walter said. “We’re basically a bargaining unit.”
Eugene Hammond, who is running against Walter for VP for Academics, said that administrative decisions that were made in the past few years, such as the suspension of the theatre arts major and firing of writing and foreign language program adjuncts, motivated people to take part in the coalition.
“I’d like to be part of that push to try to get the focus back on student education, transparency in decisions about student education and transparencies about the [school] budget,” Hammond said.
The university has been operating under a hiring freeze since March of last year, citing budgetary constraints that have been questioned by a recent independent report funded by members of the University Senate. President Samuel L Stanley Jr. doubled down on the claim that the school has a budget deficit in his most recent budget message sent to students, faculty and staff.
Walter said the budget is not a union issue — it’s a University Senate issue.
“One of the things I do as VP for Academics is I work with the Senate,” Walter said. “I’m sort of the informal liaison with the Senate, and the Senate has been pushing this, and they have the full support of the union.”
Although the Senate is more concerned with governance while the union is more focused on terms and conditions of employment, Quinn said the two bodies should work together to put more pressure on the administration.
“Nobody’s questioning about the cuts, about the budget, [asking] why is this happening — that’s something that the union should be questioning along with the Senate.” Quinn said. “People wanted to see more of that collaboration to happen because it would push the president a little bit more.”
“It’s politics,” Walter said. “I fear that the coalition is going in with a lot of exuberance, a lot of enthusiasm, and they have no idea how to play the game. And it’s going to hurt them.”
Any interest in the affairs of the union was hard to find on campus. The Statesman asked more than a dozen professors and union members about their thoughts on this year’s election. All refused to comment, most of them saying they weren’t knowledgeable about the candidates, the union or both.
Quinn said one of his union goals, if he was to win the race, would be to involve the Stony Brook Southampton campus more.
“I went and visited the campus, and they didn’t know and had no clue that there was any kind of union collection going on,” Quinn said.
The coalition tried to involve a diverse group of candidates and did as much campaigning as the could in the time they’ve had, Quinn said. He said the coalition will continue to exist as an independent group of people to provide feedback around campus.
“After the election, this coalition is not going away,” Quinn said. “It’s going to continue.”