College of DuPage, faculty reach tentative deal on 4-year contract

The College of DuPage and its full-time faculty have reached a tentative deal on a new contract, ending seven months of sometimes contentious negotiations that led to a strike threat.

The proposed four-year pact would give union members salary increases of 2.4% during the first year of the contract, 2.3% the second year and 2% in each of the last two years. Those raises are in addition to annual step increases within each of the five salary ranges.

The two sides announced the breakthrough in talks Thursday night after the faculty's negotiating team and COD officials had their fifth session with a federal mediator. The turnaround also came more than a week after the College of DuPage Faculty Association voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike for the first time in nearly 25 years.

COD President Brian Caputo said Friday the mediator "made the biggest difference."

"I think really having a mediator there overall was quite helpful to move the conversation along. These issues are complex and some of them were getting at the foundation of how we do business here," Caputo said. "Those are sensitive sorts of topics, and the mediator was able to help everyone navigate those topics in a constructive way."

The 304 faculty members, represented by the College of DuPage Faculty Association, have been working without a contract since a multiyear pact expired Aug. 14. Negotiations on a new deal started in March but went slowly through more than a dozen sessions.

Both sides had trouble reaching consensus on several sticking points, including evaluations, promotions and compensation. On the latter issue, Caputo said bargaining teams agreed not to directly tie inflationary salary increases to the Consumer Price Index.

"That was something the faculty wanted to get away from, a direct tie to CPI, so what we did was something that approximates CPI particularly in the last two years," he said. " ... The first two years is a bit more than an inflationary increase, but our objective was to get something that simulates an inflationary increase, and that's what the last couple of years do. Again, it's a matter of compromise in these things, and that's what brought us to the numbers we got."

The inflationary and step increases will total between roughly 5% to roughly 8%, except for those faculty members who are at the top of their salary ranges, Caputo said.

COD board Chairman Frank Napolitano said in a statement that the agreement balances the needs of the state's largest community college and its faculty.

"This compensation package further underscores our commitment to our valued full-time faculty members who are among the highest paid throughout the country," he said. "We also believe this agreement will help the college's efforts to attract and retain highly-qualified educators our students and community have come to expect."

Caputo said he expects faculty to ratify the agreement. The COD board likely will vote on the contract in October.

"I think it's good for all parties," Caputo said. "Each side got a large share of what it wanted."

New terms call for faculty members to give periodic updates to grades through COD's automated learning management system to help students track their academic progress "on an ongoing basis," Caputo said. The agreement also outlines "an evaluation process that promotes professional development and in-classroom observations," school officials said in a news release.

Last week, a large group of professors and their supporters gathered at a COD board meeting on the school's Glen Ellyn campus to publicly call for a deal.

Shannon Toler, president of the faculty association, said in a statement that members "are extremely pleased we were able to come to a tentative agreement with the COD board of trustees."

"The agreement puts students first and recognizes teaching matters," Toler said. "Thank you to the administration for working with us toward a fair settlement."

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