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UUNA's Statement on the Future of NAU: Presidential Search

To the Arizona Board of Regents

and the Northern Arizona University Presidential Search Committee,

The University Union of Northern Arizona (UUNA-AFT) recognizes that President Cheng’s forthcoming departure represents a unique opportunity to enact meaningful change at Northern Arizona University. We applaud the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) for seeking input from faculty, staff, and graduate student workers in order to select a president that will help NAU continue its record of excellence in serving indigenous communities, first-generation students, and other underserved populations. We also recognize that the previous administration had many successes, such as free COVID-19 testing for the community, bolstering NAU’s research programs, and introducing new programs (e.g., the Interdisciplinary Health PhD program).

UUNA-AFT, on behalf of the faculty, the students, staff, and Flagstaff community that we serve, requests that the new NAU President prioritize the following concerns:

  1. Demonstrates their respect for faculty time, expertise, and labor by allowing any re-imagining, restructuring, or redesign of the university as a whole or any academic units to be led by the faculty and Faculty Senate;

  2. Provides clear and transparent communication about all future changes or reorganization efforts to ensure that the necessity and purpose of these changes are clearly understood, the protection of faculty and staff jobs is prioritized and that all curriculum changes are faculty led;

  3. Protects faculty governance, providing greater job security and protection for non-tenure track faculty, and commits to facilitating outreach to and support of underserved populations in accordance with our stated mission;

  4. Focuses NAU around its responsibilities and mission as a public university.  Specifically, our purpose extends beyond serving specific current market forces. Instead, our purpose has historically been and should continue to be focusing on preparing innovative, life-long learners and problem solvers who have a broad collection of essential skills that give them flexibility and help them find innovative ways to engage and reshape our rapidly changing economy and world;

  5. Provides support for the full range of faculty skills and strengths by supporting research and creative activity for TT and NTT faculty who are productive in these areas.  Administration must ensure that there is an alignment between workloads and resources and expectations. In other words, if faculty are expected to do research or creative activity then they must be provided with the financial support to do so;

  6. 6. Recognizes the essential nature of faculty of all ranks and protection of their irreplaceable institutional knowledge and commitment to developing meaningful job security for NTT faculty;

  7. Assesses the current pay rate for staff workers and recognizes and compensates commission work and CSAC/SPAC work with appropriate market rate pay;

  8. Invests in current and future students, especially focusing on and celebrating our mission and history of supporting underserved communities and first gen students, and improving social mobility. This should include outreach to potential student populations;

  9. Prioritizes transparency and transparent reporting, whether that be on budget, public health, public safety, etc.;

  10. Respects the University as a whole, and therefore, for all disciplines and workers within the University.

Faculty and Graduate Student Worker Engagement in Shared Governance

UUNA-AFT asks ABOR to continue to facilitate the return to shared governance by establishing a search process and committee that prioritizes faculty, staff, and graduate student participation.  Specifically, we request the inclusion of faculty, a graduate student representative, and staff representative as voting members of the search committee with equal power and attendance privileges as other members of the committee. The graduate student and staff representatives should have the same committee powers and frequency of attendance as any other member of the search committee, with any initial or subsequent reductions in their committee power being subject to approval by the graduate and staff members themselves.

Protecting Jobs

Faculty must be assured that their good faith engagement in the search process will not be used as a means to further reduce the number of faculty or staff at NAU, or to dissolve units without their consent.  Moreover, if budget cuts are required, the need should be explained in a transparent manner and all efforts at budget reduction should be applied to the administration first.


UUNA-AFT requests that ABOR and the search committee examine and review candidates' COVID-19 response plans and actions from whatever role they held in the first nine months of 2020 as part of any evaluation process. This review must result in a public report of findings for any finalized candidate/selectee, involve the provisioning of relevant institutional documents and memoranda from the candidate/selectee to enable insight beyond strategic communications, and any in the event that the conclusions of any such review are not unanimous, any dissenting member of the committee must be allowed to append the public report with a supplement of disagreement.

Finally, the University Union of Northern Arizona recognizes the intellectual merit and necessity of all academic programs and recommends that the new administration takes cooperative action to protect all departments as well as faculty and staff jobs. We encourage faculty and departments to find creative ways to work together to protect and strengthen academic programs across disciplines. We specifically recommend that new upper administrative positions be filled by people who oppose efforts to divide faculty and departments, and to reject all administration arguments that the sacrifice of one program is necessary for the survival of others.  We are all essential to our university and our students.  

Thank you,

The University Union of Northern Arizona

American Federation of Teachers

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