• January 19, 2017
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Author Topic: Are VAPs protected by their contracts?  (Read 2364 times)
asstprof1
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« on: January 10, 2017, 12:19:52 am »

Hi all,

So if a contract of a VAP clearly states that they will be employed for the 2016-7 year, does the university have any legal right to take away said VAP's teaching load and to essentially fire that VAP for no reason a week before the semester (especially if the VAP has outstanding evaluations and good relations with colleagues)? Does a contract legally protect a VAP from wrongful termination if something of this sort happened to him/her?
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alleyoxenfree
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2017, 1:54:13 am »

Does the contract have wording that says it's dependent on financial exigencies, etc.? Most contracts do.
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asstprof1
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2017, 2:08:10 am »

Yes, something along those lines, but the dean gave the instructions to the dept. chair to replace the VAP with another VAP (who is listed online as a VAP at a university across the country) to teach the same courses the VAP was signed up to teach!?!? There was no explanation, no nothing. Plus, nothing was communicated with said VAP, s/he had to find out from a student who was disappointed to hear s/he wasn't going to be teaching this semster- the student had heard about this from somewhere, but no one told the VAP directly. Are there any protections in this situation?
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finding_balance
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2017, 8:26:49 am »

That sounds highly unusual, and just wrong assuming the VAP had an offer letter that spelled out terms for the entire year. Is there any chance that this is just a rumor, given that nobody official has actually communicated the news with the VAP? 

I'm not sure about legal grounds.  If there's wiggle room in the letter, then the university would probably be able to legally justify the move, even if it's morally problematic.
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2017, 9:10:47 am »

Without knowing more--and this is one of those cases that is almost certainly more complicated than what we're hearing--I'd say yes, this is breach of contract.  What the poor ex-VAP can or should do is another question.

Also I'm presuming that this really is a full-benefits VAP, and not an adjuncting gig masquerading as a VAP.  And I'm presuming there's no faculty union at this school, or else the ex-VAP would have already registered a complaint.
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protoplasm
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2017, 12:42:25 pm »

Most of the time the contract is what matters, not the positive evaluations from students or good relations with faculty. I've seen VAP's sacked amid protesting from both these groups. Whatever the dean wants, it would take a major upheaval to overturn it. I would assume he/she knows what the laws are.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2017, 12:43:36 pm by protoplasm » Logged

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asstprof1
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2017, 2:46:37 pm »

Just to give more details, the VAP has full benefits and is in second year of year. The college is a "prestigious" SLAC with no union. The 'rumor' has been verified by the department chair and name of new VAP is already on the books for the Spring, replacing old VAP's name on courses. So basically, the next step the VAP should do is perhaps speak with a lawyer? Are there any other steps the VAP should be taking?
« Last Edit: January 10, 2017, 2:47:45 pm by asstprof1 » Logged
brixton
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2017, 3:59:50 pm »

I'd talk to my chair, for one.  If I weren't close to the chair, I'd talk to the Dean.   I'd remain respectful in both cases and try to find out the conditions of why the contract was revoked.   Usually lawyers like to see internal avenues pursued before you seek their services.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2017, 4:32:26 pm »

Well, its going to be a judge (also of course an attorney) who would want all internal avenues to have been explored, but this VAP's own attorney would want him/her to have followed all internal avenues of appeal (formal or informal) .

Sounds weird though.

I think we're definitely not getting the full story, but assuming we're getting close, then yes,  your friend should either move on or discuss this with an attorney, preferably one familiar with academic employment law.
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alleyoxenfree
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2017, 9:55:56 pm »

I'd talk to my chair, for one.  If I weren't close to the chair, I'd talk to the Dean.   I'd remain respectful in both cases and try to find out the conditions of why the contract was revoked.   Usually lawyers like to see internal avenues pursued before you seek their services.

I would do this. Use the word 'contract' just a bit, in a friendly way, and see if there is other work that the person can be assigned to or additional sections, or barring that, severance.

The problem - which they know well, believe me - is that, depending on the area, it may be difficult to find a good attorney who will work on this without an upfront retainer, which the VAP probably cannot afford.

But while they are scheduling a friendly, "what happened here and what can be done?" conversation with the chair and then, if necessary, the dean, the provost, and the president, start making calls to local attorneys. It's possible some of them will offer a free consult and legal advice. Even if you need to pay for a consult, it is usually about $200 (unless you're in NYC).
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ruralguy
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« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2017, 1:57:18 pm »

The college's administrators will be interested in making calls to the college's attorneys, not in picking oppo attorneys.
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gsawpenny
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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2017, 10:03:08 am »

I was relieved from a signed and fully executed contract at a nice New England university. It wasn't malicious and, it turns out, it was well within the language of the contract. Most of us read through the boiler plate language of an employment contract and zero in on the pay and benefit portion but in a case like this...the university usually wins because they wrote the contract.
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protoplasm
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« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2017, 11:05:30 am »

I was relieved from a signed and fully executed contract at a nice New England university. It wasn't malicious and, it turns out, it was well within the language of the contract. Most of us read through the boiler plate language of an employment contract and zero in on the pay and benefit portion but in a case like this...the university usually wins because they wrote the contract.

Of course I'm always contentious but...

Suppose at the first class meeting you tell the students 'I have no lesson plan for today, because I didn't know until just now that I would have a job. Now that I know the college is going to employ me, I'll get started, presently.' Then the students complain to the department head or dean that their first class was a waste of time. How nice are they now?
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kron3007
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« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2017, 11:46:05 am »

Where I am this would probably not fly, and the VAP would be at least entitled to severance pay. I think it is important to note that a contract cannot break labour laws, and where I am you would need written notification in advance to let them go, or would need to pay severance. Of course, laws vary so who knows what this means for them, but my university would likely settle if you mentioned filing a complaint.
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gsawpenny
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« Reply #14 on: Yesterday at 09:07:20 am »

I was relieved from a signed and fully executed contract at a nice New England university. It wasn't malicious and, it turns out, it was well within the language of the contract. Most of us read through the boiler plate language of an employment contract and zero in on the pay and benefit portion but in a case like this...the university usually wins because they wrote the contract.

Of course I'm always contentious but...

Suppose at the first class meeting you tell the students 'I have no lesson plan for today, because I didn't know until just now that I would have a job. Now that I know the college is going to employ me, I'll get started, presently.' Then the students complain to the department head or dean that their first class was a waste of time. How nice are they now?

Well, I don't think I mentioned "nice." Still the scenario you offer is, I imagine, possible but I have never worked in a place so cruel (including the US Marines) where some corrective actions aren't allowed. In the end it all falls on the contract. Simply signing a piece of paper isn't a fundamental right to full payment nor a guarantee of employment. The devil is in the details and I strongly recommend anyone read the entire contract before signing it.
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