Opinion

Loyola Administration Resists Workplace Harassment Protections

The LUC NTT Faculty Bargaining Committee | Loyola University ChicagoLoyola's Non-Tenure Track Faculty stand together after a bargaining session this past November — during which fair pay, workplace harassment protections, and other collective concerns were discussed.

The recent cascade of sexual assault and sexual harassment revelations demonstrate not only their pervasiveness but also the inadequate reporting and accountability systems available to support survivors. They have also shown us that survivors suffered hits to their careers after being victimized, while influential perpetrators have continued to make money and maintain their power and prestige. We would hope that our university would do everything in its power to create protocols and processes to support survivors. Yet, despite priding itself on its social justice mission and commitment to “personal integrity, ethical behavior in business and in all professions,” it seems the Loyola University Chicago (LUC) administration is actively working to make reporting workplace harassment and gender/sex discrimination harder for a particular group of its employees — non-tenure track (NTT) faculty.

NTT faculty are the largest group of faculty on campus and include full-time lecturers and part-time adjuncts. We face some of the lowest wages on campus for employees with advanced degrees. For example, adjuncts with doctorate degrees currently only make $4,500 per semester-long course (teaching seven courses per year would yield a salary of around $31,500), while the average annual salary for LUC tenure-track assistant professors is close to $93,000/year, according to glassdoor.com. NTT faculty also lack job security, have lower benefits (or none) and less support than other faculty. During our ongoing contract negotiations, we as the NTT Faculty Union Bargaining Committee have pushed for a process that would create meaningful protections against discrimination on the job. As the administration has purposefully taken a slow pace bargaining with the NTT Faculty Union and illegally refused to negotiate with our colleagues in the graduate workers union (violating a 2016 National Labor Relations Board ruling), this is one of many important issues the university has failed to adequately address with us.

Sexual misconduct is a big issue on Loyola’s campus. The Phoenix previously reported on how these issues affect students, including the prevalence of sexual misconduct against students on campus, failures by Campus Safety to inform students of sexual assault incidents and inadequacies in the campus investigation processes around sexual assault.

Just as with students, contract negotiations with the Loyola administration have revealed several weaknesses in addressing these and related issues. In bargaining earlier this calendar year, Loyola refused to include a list of protected classes (such as gender/sex, race, religion, etc.) in the Equal Employment Opportunity statement of the NTT Faculty Union contract, despite faculty concerns that potential changes to law under President Donald Trump’s administration could make some of the currently protected classes more vulnerable.

More recently in contract negotiations, the administration insisted on disallowing evidence of discrimination and sexual harassment in cases that go through arbitration, meetings where a neutral arbitrator resolves a dispute regarding a contract violation between a union and the university. So, for instance, if an adjunct faculty member complains about being harassed by their supervisor and is then not reappointed by that supervisor as a result, they wouldn’t be allowed to give evidence of harassment and related retaliation in the arbitration process. Instead, the administration says, the adjunct should take their case directly to court or other legal forums outside of the university and the union contract. One can imagine similar or simultaneous situations for NTT faculty of color facing racism or LGBT faculty facing discrimination based on sexuality and/or gender identity.

There are several problems with the administration’s position that put an undue burden on the most marginalized members of Loyola’s contingent faculty. Because many NTT faculty at Loyola are currently making poverty-level wages, court and legal fees — prohibitively expensive — make that route an impossibility. Yet, Loyola would pay the legal bills of its own defense, which includes defending the alleged perpetrator. It’s also extremely difficult to make a case that meets the higher legal standard of evidence for discrimination with just one complainant, and it takes much longer to litigate discrimination cases, whereas local grievance and arbitration procedures can be resolved much more quickly and simply. All these factors collude to create a situation in which addressing the discriminatory non-reappointment would ultimately not be worth the trouble for the adjunct employee. The supervisor who harassed them would therefore be free to continue to harass other less powerful, contingent workers in the future.

Having a process that enables the union to support women and others facing workplace discrimination and harassment can help minimize the career damage to victims, as it puts a stop to the harassment earlier, which can provide the safety necessary to stay in their jobs. With greater protections, the arbitration process can also make people less fearful of reporting workplace discrimination/harassment in the first place.

Ironically, Thomas Kelly, who is both the Title IX Coordinator at the university and one of the negotiators bargaining with the NTT Faculty Union, sent a reminder Nov. 28 to all Loyola faculty and staff that we are mandated reporters of “any incidents of gender-based misconduct that [we] are made aware of.” Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes sexual harassment, rape and sexual assault. Despite the intent of the email, it blatantly fails to address protections for NTT faculty who face these issues in our workplace.  

The Loyola administration needs to stop negotiating the NTT Faculty Union contract in a way that protects potential perpetrators in positions of power within the university. We demand the administration stand on the right side of history by maximizing protections for all currently protected classes of people in a fair and just arbitration procedure.

(Visited 447 times, 4 visits today)

More from LUC Non-Tenure Track Faculty Bargaining Committee