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A Great Place to Work


By Nicholas D. Kristof

Boston University (B.U.) has been a minefield of labor blow-ups for five years, ever since it became the first major private university in the country with a faculty union. A lengthy strike last April by professors, secretaries and librarians ended with a contract faculty officials said would end the problems.

This week, however, new faculty complaints cropped up. The faculty union filed grievances charging that B.U. is illegally terminating the contracts of most of its junior professors.

The grievances, filed Monday with the university deans, accused the adminstration of systematically punishing professors active in the union by not granting them merit salary increases.

The union claimed pink slips and denials of salary increases violated the contract between the faculty and the trustees.

To which the administration replied, "Poppycock!"

Associate provost Jon Westling claims that his office sent 50 to 60 termination letters to junior professors, all legal under the contract and not an especially large number of terminations.

The union counters that the administration inflates the number of junior faculty at B.U. to give the impression that 60 terminations is only a small proportion.

Westling stressed that the pink slips will not all result in axed jobs; the university merely sends pink slips to be sure of providing one year's notice to anyone whose contract might not be renewed, he said.

One administration official said the charge of discrimination against union activists is "absolutely and totally false"; another acknowledged with a laugh that the idea was tempting but impossible because of the close scrutiny given to administration policies.

At the time of the strike last spring, B.U. President John R. Silber warned that if faculty members won the salaries they were requesting, B.U. might not have enough money to retain junior professors.

One faculty source, who asked not to be identified, said Monday the terminations might be an effort by Silber to prove he had been right all along. B.U. spokesmen denied the charge.

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