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Contract standoff ends at Emerson

Union, college divide power

After three years of bitter conflict, Emerson College and its faculty union have come to an agreement over how to divvy up power. Emerson's trustees unanimously approved the pact yesterday and union members approved the new contract on Tuesday by a vote of 60 to 2. The faculty assembly, a separate body with largely overlapping membership, also approved a new handbook of rules by a vote of 88 to 6.

In the past, the rules for important decisions such as hiring, promotions, and tenure were governed by the union contract. But Emerson President Jacqueline Liebergott wanted the union either to disband or give up its oversight over those decisions.

Many professors said the president's original stance would have deprived the faculty of any true voice in the institution's future.

In the end, the union agreed in a major concession to give up any direct role in decisions such as hiring and tenure, and department chairs will no longer be members of the union. However, professors said they felt that Emerson officials agreed to a number of checks on their own power that made the deal acceptable.

A new handbook, agreed upon by both sides, will include the powers removed from the union contract. Faculty members will have options to file internal grievances or seek external arbitration if they feel the administration violates the handbook.

Important changes to the rules will require the approval of the faculty assembly. Beyond that, the union retains the option to void the agreement entirely if members decide the administration is not acting in good faith.

Annual raises in the five-year contract will vary from 2 percent to 5 percent each year based on the local Consumer Price Index, but compensation was never the source of the standoff.

The agreement ends a long series of confrontations. The faculty voted no confidence in Liebergott, voted to call on her to resign, and voted no confidence in the board of trustees.

Asked which side had won, Robert Colby , a union official and theater professor, said the students won.

``This protracted struggle made things very tense and meant they didn't get the full attention of either the faculty or the administration," he said.

``Everybody feels good about it," Emerson spokesman David Rosen said yesterday.

Bombardieri can be reached at

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