Highlands University’s Board of Regents aimed to have a new contract with faculty by the summer, but it’s taking longer than expected, an official said this week.
Javier Gonzales, chairman of the regents, said the board had wanted President James Fries to conclude negotiations with the faculty union by the summer. In fact, that goal was included in Fries’ contract when he was hired near the beginning of the year, Gonzales said.
One of the biggest problems is that there are no other higher-education faculty unions in New Mexico, so Highlands has no example to follow, he said.
“It has become very clear that completing the negotiations has been difficult,” he said. “We are paving a new path when it comes to these types of union contracts. There has been and remains an effort to successfully conclude the negotiations, which would keep us out of arbitration. It’s taking longer than we had hoped.”
Gonzales said faculty salaries need to be increased, adding that Highlands is not up to par with other schools in the region.
“We certainly can do better,” he said.
Eddie Tafoya, an associate professor, said the lack of raises has had a bad effect on morale at Highlands.
He said the faculty has received just one raise in four years.
“That amounts to us getting a 12 percent pay cut when inflation is factored in,” he said in an e-mail. He said Fries has “dragged his feet” on collective bargaining.
“A great many of our faculty members, me included, are proven veterans with tenure who are still making entry-level salaries,” said Tafoya, who has been a full-time faculty member for 11 years. “I make a little more than the guy who came on just this year.”
Sean Weaver, a spokesman for Fries, said the president couldn’t comment on the issues under discussion or the timeframe.