Thursday, March 4, 2021

Faculty, Admin Remain at Impasse

The impasse stems from the administration’s decision to choose a new health care provider without the consent of the Faculty Senate, an action that the faculty believes violates university statutes.

John Lordan, senior vice president and the university’s chief financial officer, has been representing the administration in negotiations with the Faculty Senate.

At the meeting this past Friday, the Faculty Senate also voted 22-0-0 to formally censure Lordan.

The Fordham Ram attempted to attend last Friday’s meeting, but was told that no non-faculty members would be allowed.

The university also released a statement late Tuesday afternoon announcing that Lordan was stepping down from his position as Chief Financial Officer.

According to the Senate’s action minutes, Lordan received his censure “for violating the University Code of Conduct (Statutes, 6-03.01[h]) by disrupting the University-wide faculty meeting held on September 10, 2014; by limiting through intimidation the free expression of ideas by members of the faculty; and by refusing a request by officers of the Senate to leave the meeting.”

The University declined to comment on Lordan’s censure.

In addition, the senate voted to express its lack of confidence in Mr. Lordan and its desire “that the President of the University directly represent the Administration in negotiations concerning faculty salaries and benefits.”

Dr. Patrick Hornbeck, secretary of the Faculty Senate said that, in his eight years at Fordham, he was not aware of any other faculty member who had been censured.

“Mr. Lordan’s conduct at that meeting from last week did not represent a fair sense of the relationship that should exist between the faculty members and the administration,” Hornbeck said. “The purpose of the resolution was for the Senate to put on record our view that what Mr. Lordan did was inappropriate and that it was a violation of the standards that we hold together at Fordham.”

According to Hornbeck, the university has since been represented in meetings, one last Friday and one early Tuesday morning, directly by Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the University.

Hornbeck said he was pleased with the work done by his fellow members of the Faculty Senate.

“I thought that the Faculty Senate did a good job of fulfilling its role of representing the faculty of Fordham,” Hornbeck said. “When you look at all these resolutions together what you see is a faculty who are united behind the principle that faculty need to be fairly and competitively compensated.”

The rejected proposal from the administration, which included structures for wage raises as well as the new health care plan, called for the faculty to assume nine percent of the cost sharing for United HealthCare (UHC) in 2015, as well as to keep the cost-sharing percentage open for discussion with the ultimate goal of increasing cost-sharing to 15 percent. It also called for an increase of 2.5 percent of faculty salaries, distributed by the Faculty Senate between merit and across-the-board increases.

Cost-sharing, the amount an individual faculty member would pay for his or her health insurance, has been tied the faculty’s salary increases. Increases in cost-sharing were related to increases in wages. A new percentage was one of the main disagreements in the latest administration proposal. According to the Senate, the administration sought to raise the cost-sharing to 15 percent.

“Starting a year ago, the administration proposed that we would pay as much as 15 percent of the cost of health insurance, Hornbeck said. “That difference, especially for faculty members with families, could represent $4,000, or $5,000, maybe even $6,000 over what they are currently paying.”

The Senate hoped for a cost-sharing level of nine percent, with provisions not to increase the cost-sharing number for a number of years.

“We’re in the process of agreeing on a number that would be between eight and 11 percent,” Hornbeck said. “But, as we all know, health care and health insurance is a rapidly shifting market. One of the things the faculty is concerned about is that the mechanism stays in place, where cost-sharing can only go up by a percentage relative to our salary increase.”

The Faculty Senate, according its web page, serves as “the representative body of the university Faculty and is composed of 25 members elected proportionately from the faculties of the colleges and graduate schools within the University.”

The Senate serves as an advisor to McShane on all matters concerning the university and “exercises faculty responsibilities for university governance.”

The listed officers of the Faculty Senate are President Mary Ann Forgey, Vice President Andrew Clark, Secretary Hornbeck and Executive Committee members Margo Jackson and James A. Cohen.

The origins of the difficulty to reach agreement extend back five years ago, to September of 2009. That was the first time the administration signaled its intention to drop CIGNA, the university’s faculty insurance provider until recently, and pursue a cheaper option.

That intention came did not come with the full approval of the Faculty Senate. The administration’s first Request for Proposals, or RFP, was sent out without the cooperation or inclusion of the Faculty Senate.

In response, the Faculty Senate created an ad hoc committee to research the best route to a new health care provider for the faculty. A new RFP was sent out in March of 2014, this time with the inclusion of the Faculty Senate.

Following that process, the Faculty Senate narrowed down its list of health care candidates to two providers, CIGNA and UHC. The Faculty Senate says that, while both providers’ plans were acceptable, the senate overwhelmingly preferred CIGNA.

The senate and the administration continued negotiations over a new provider this past summer. In mid-June, the administration notified the senate of a deadline set by the Board of Trustees. The board wanted a new health plan in place by June 30. The Faculty Senate, until mid-June, had not been aware of any such deadline, nor does any such deadline exist in university statutes. The June 30 deadline passed without the two parties coming to an agreement.

Then, on June 15, the administration notified the Faculty Senate that it had chosen UHC as the University’s health care provider.

This, the Faculty Senate adamantly believes, was in violation of university statutes. The administration is required to seek the approval of the Faculty Senate before choosing a health care provider.

Despite many of the recent difficulties, the senate still hopes to come to an agreement with the administration.

The administration and faculty are continuing to negotiate for a new health care plan.

“I was in several meetings today, as were other officers of the senate, and we are making progress,” Hornbeck said. “As a result of some of the momentum which was generated in the faculty-wide meeting Wednesday and the open senate meeting on Friday, I think we are moving forward.”

Hornbeck continued, “Certainly there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered about what is the best health care plan for the members of the Fordham faculty. Are we indeed getting the plan that we thought we were getting?”

The open enrollment for the faculty in a new health plan is scheduled to begin Oct. 10.

Max Prinz is Sports Editor at The Fordham Ram.


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