LOU #13 Update May 25, 2021
We want to provide the following update on the status of the LOU #13 Joint Committee on Class Size Past Practice. This process has been a long, difficult, and disappointing one, and we thank you for your continued support.
Attached you will find the LOU #13 General Employer Responses document which contains the Employer’s general response to the information and arguments presented by the KFA on behalf of members. We are asking for faculty to read the attached document and provide feedback to Mark Diotte to assist us in our preparations for arbitration.
The Employer does not seem to see increases in class size as increases in faculty workload. Generally, they see no pedagogical or other reason why class sizes cannot increase. The suggestion of the Employer is that areas can manage a substantial increase to class size by simply adjusting pedagogical and assessment strategies.
The KFA has provided much information to the Employer directly from faculty, the subject matter and educational experts, and the Employer has provided responses that range from a comparison of KPU to U15 research institutions to information from an opinion blog; much of the Employer’s information can be found in the attached document. Further, the Employer has portrayed the research of area experts and discipline-specific research as “reflect[ing] the interests of discipline-based affinity groups.” In short, field-specific research cannot be trusted to be objective, according to the Employer.
In the preamble to their General Employer Responses document, the Employer seems to be pitting areas against one another in what appears to be a race to the bottom to achieve maximum class sizes. They do not seem to appreciate that such increases occur at the expense of the student experience and on the backs of faculty members struggling under immense workloads.
It is clear that our senior administration has much work to do in order to understand the realities we face in our classrooms, and to understand the effect that increasing class size will have on our workload. It has been difficult and frustrating to listen to the Employer articulate their positions.
It is clear to the KFA LOU #13 caucus that the primary motivation of the Employer is financial and not educational. Their concerns as expressed to us repeatedly are focused on increasing revenue. We do not believe this argument is a valid reason to change our educational practices, especially in the face of year over year over year surpluses. According to the 2019/20 KPU Accountability Plan & Report, KPU had an accumulated operating surplus of $122 536 000 dollars as of the 2020 fiscal year.
Summary of Developments
Since our last update on January 26th, 2021, the Joint Committee met approximately four times in the month of February. At that time, both Parties committed to an exchange of information by March 12th. The KFA provided subsequent information to the Employer on Monday March 15th. Despite promptings, the Employer did not respond with any further information until April 21st.
The Parties held a brief meeting on April 28th to discuss how to move forward. The KFA relayed to the Employer that we would be using the Employer’s updated rationale documents to consult with the areas and seek feedback. We further stated that we remain committed to working with the Employer as needed, but if we had reached a point of disagreement, we would agree to move to arbitration.
The Employer put forward their position that they believe that the KFA bargained LOU #13 in bad faith, that they are concerned that there is no interest in increasing class size, and that they wish to cease discussions on the matter.
The KFA clarified that there seems to be a profound misunderstanding of the nature of LOU #13. The KFA committed to reviewing past practice class size registration limits and discussing potential class size adjustments based on the factors listed in LOU #13. We have been having these conversations throughout the LOU #13 process, and we have brought forward the detailed, researched, passionate, and compelling rationales provided by faculty member experts across the institution. On the basis of consultation with specific areas, the KFA brought forward class size increases in one area with the potential of class size increases in other areas.
The Employer has objected to hearing directly from faculty members about their courses, has been unappreciative and dismissive of arguments brought to the committee by faculty members, and has provided unconvincing, limited rationales. In short, the Employer is generally unwilling to listen to the subject-matter and educational experts on how best to deliver education to their students.
What comes next?
Moving forward, the KFA will be preparing for arbitration by reaching out to all of the LOU #13 contact-people to allow for everyone to provide further detail and/or rationales as to best educational choices for class size, in response to the information brought forward by the Employer.
As mentioned above, we are asking for faculty to read the attached document and provide any feedback they wish to Mark Diotte to assist us in our preparations.
Mark Diotte, on behalf of your KFA LOU #13 Caucus:
Tim Armstrong (FPSE)