Will faculty organize? (Courtesy of UMN)

A group called the University of Minnesota Academics United is trying to organize all faculty members at the U.

The group has sent emails to university faculty members listing reasons they should unionize. It asks them to sign an online form authorizing the Service Employees International Union to represent professors in negotiating wages, benefits and working conditions.

A website exists that lists similar information.

A union official declined to comment on the record, but confirmed that a unionization movement was underway. He said the campaign would unionize all faculty, as well as some researchers and other academic professionals.

A U spokeswoman sent this response from the university’s human resources department:

The State of Minnesota’s Public Employee Labor Relations Act defines which employee groups are eligible for labor union representation. Groups would need to work with the Minnesota State Bureau of Mediation Services to ensure they comply with state law regarding organizing.

Professors at the U do have a national organization that advocates for them — the American Association of University Professors — but it does not bargain for them.

The campaign for a union is part of a national and state effort that so far has shown mixed success in Minnesota.

Earlier this year, adjunct faculty at Hamline University voted to unionize, but their counterparts at the University of St. Thomas voted not to.

Adjunct faculty at Macalester College also called off a unionization vote.

In 2012, graduate assistants at the U also voted not to unionize.

 

Trustees of the Minnesota State college and university system approved a labor contract with university professors late this afternoon.

Inter Faculty Organization President Jim Grabowska  says faculty will receive a 7 percent pay hike over two years, retroactive to last year. Adjunct faculty get similar raises.

New professors will also teach three courses their first semester instead of four, so they can adjust to their various duties. Grabowska says that’s because the workload for incoming professors can be overwhelming.

“It becomes difficult for them to do their research and teach a full load and advise students and do committee work all at the same time,” he said.

The tentative contract also gives faculty 6 weeks of paid parental leave — the first such leave they’ve received.

“Children happen when children happen, and it’s not necessarily in line with an academic year,” he said. “And nor should parents have to make a decision about when they have children according to their work schedules.”

Union members ratified the agreement by an overwhelming margin.

Minnesota lawmakers must still approve the contract.

A very good year (Tax Credits via Flickr)

The University of Minnesota endowment was the top investor among its peers this past fiscal year, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

The school posted a return of 20.4 percent on its $1.3 billion fund, which supports scholarships, some research and university initiatives.

The newswire says the U outperformed the University of California, which came in second with 18.7 percent, Penn State, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Texas.

Chief Investment Officer Stuart Mason says the U has been near the top before, but this is different.

“I don’t believe that we have ever — a least my 12 years’ tenure — we’ve never been identified as perhaps the highest,” he said.

Mason says the great year will help boost the thing that he’s more focused on: the U’s long-term investment performance.

“A very good year like this one obviously increases the long-term averages, but, you know, it’s fun to have a great year,” he said.

The U’s 3-year return is 12.5 percent, he said, and its 5-year return is 11.6 percent.

Bloomberg reports that many private colleges and universities won’t report their returns till later this month.