Five Questions with PSU-AAUP Grievance Chair Mark Fischler

Can you tell us briefly about yourself and your “PSU story” – your history with the institution, the nature/quality of your work here?

Well, I am a faculty brat. I grew up with my father being a professor here, and he was here for a total of forty-six years. My first job at the University was painting dorm rooms for residential life and I did that for about six summers. I eventually became a professor here in the Criminal Justice Program nineteen years ago after serving as a NH Public Defender. I am currently teaching Society Ethics and the Law and Constitutional Law. I have had a couple of other administrative roles, but this has been my essential existence for most of my time here.

What’s the formal “job description” of your position?

To ensure that the due process rights of our union members are honored by the administration as they are described in the AAUP Contract. So…if a faculty member in the Union feels like the administration is not following the rules of the contract then we have the right to formally file a grievance to ensure that they are honored.

What have you learned in this position? Has anything surprised you? Is there anything you think would surprise readers of this interview?

I’ve learned a lot. It has given me a little taste of my old practice as an attorney many moons ago. It’s brought me back even further to Professor Khoury’s Contract Law class in law school too. One of the things I learned is that if a professor in our Union is disciplined by the administration, then there is a right to challenge that through the grievance language in our contract (Article 10). Initially I felt stuck because we have no formal description in the contract language about how to challenge disciplinary decisions. Grievance, however, is the mechanism! 

I’ve learned the importance of getting stuff filed in a timely manner (90 days from the act). It’s important to talk it through with our membership who feel wronged to see if it is something that needs to be challenged.  I have also learned that we do not necessarily have to file a grievance with the administration to get every problem solved. We can make informal pleas and inquiries to get something cleared up, which has happened a decent enough number of times now to let me know that it can be a good way to proceed.

I think probably though the thing that has surprised me the most is that many of the issues that have been brought to my attention are not grievable actions. I do not mean that they are not serious disputes that deserve careful attention. I mean that they are not necessarily between our Union Faculty Members and the Administration. That is all our Grievance policies cover. If there is, for example, a dispute between an AU leader who is a part of our Union and a faculty colleague, that isn’t grievable. If there is a dispute between folks in different Unions that is similarly not covered by our contract or grievance policy. Those kinds of situations have gotten me interested though in creating some processes outside of the administration’s purview that we can use to solve some disputes in these areas. The equal dignity and consistent treatment of all of our employees is very important to me. Some of us are starting to look at that.

What about serving in this position has been rewarding for you personally?

The most rewarding part is having the opportunity to get to know and support some amazing human beings. It has been an honor to listen and be there as I try to advocate as best I can. Even though advocacy beyond ensuring procedures are followed is not necessarily part of the role, in reality it is. We have some awesome and very talented people here. Getting to know more of my colleagues who have joined the grievance committee, needed some advice, or needed to file a grievance, has been a valuable and personally enriching experience.

What would you tell a union member who wants to be more involved, but is nervous about running for an elected position?

There is a place for your involvement. Let’s work with our Union leadership to find the right fit. I would love to have a conversation with any of our members about it. Our Union is really only as strong as conscious collective actions. We sincerely need you, so reach out. Let’s talk.

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