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Prioritization Brief

Prioritization of Academic Programs: 
What a Faculty Union Can Do 

NIU has begun a “program prioritization” process to strategically reallocate university resources. 
Faculty are concerned that similar processes at other universities have resulted in cuts to or elimination 
of academic programs, and faculty layoffs. NIU faculty are also underrepresented in the process. 
We have a consultative role, but final decisions will be made by upper administration. 
Program prioritization cannot be separated from the agenda of austerity 
which is a major threat to the public university.  

What a Union Could Do

1. We, the faculty, are the experts on the meaning, relevancy, and intellectual content of the subjects we teach. 
We must have a stronger voice in shaping the university. Faculty voice needs to be better organized 
to empower us to approach these discussions collectively.  We do not claim or want to keep allocation 
of resources static. We must recognize that our voice needs to be enhanced, and collective bargaining 
is a step forward to thwart arbitrary decisions. 

2. As a union, through affiliation with other unions, the United Faculty Alliance of NIU could receive 
expertise on budget analysis and assistance with procuring the necessary documents (actual expenditures 
rather than budget projections).

3. A unionized faculty can bargain over the impact and decision to restructure departments or units that may 
result in a reduction in positions or a change in the working conditions of the faculty.  In short, a union can 
bargain over issues that affect faculty members’ working conditions. Our union can enhance our voice in this 
process and make it legally binding. 

4. A union can organize for power in the resource allocation process. Unionized faculty can demand that 
claims of financial exigency or even budget stress be backed up with financial data. Faculty from California 
to Idaho to New York have found their unions have made these processes more transparent and have prevented 
arbitrary firings. 

5. Even if a Reduction in Force occurs outside the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, 
administration would have to reenter negotiations. At that point, the union could bargain to protect its members. 
At the University of Minnesota at Duluth, where the administration proved substantiated financial hardship, 
the union negotiated for “voluntary buy-outs before mandatory lay-offs” Other ideas would be a Memorandum 
of Understanding describing the exact conditions necessary for academic program elimination or severance 
pay guarantees. Collective bargaining gives us legal rights over the conditions under which we work. 
That includes legal rights to contest resource allocation.