Developing an online course with EUP? Don’t sign your rights away!

It recently came to the attention of the WMU-AAUP officers and Executive Committee that the EUP course development agreement that faculty are required to sign when they develop an online course does not comply with Article 30 of the Agreement. Faculty members who signed these course development agreements with EUP were (inappropriately) required to choose between compensation for their course development work and retention of their intellectual property rights. However, Article 30.§5 of the Agreement guarantees faculty intellectual property rights for online course materials without regard to payment of the course development stipend.

The EUP course development agreement form, in use from May 2013 to May 2016, provided three options, two of which directed the faculty to “specify limited rights usage agreement,” with a third option to waive the $3,000 course development stipend in return for “retain[ing] exclusive intellectual and usage rights to the course content which they have solely developed for the purposes of facilitating this course.”

However, Article 30.§5 already explicitly assigns ownership to the faculty member who develops the online course (emphasis is added):

30.§5 Intellectual Property. Copyright of  recordings of courses, course presentations, computer-assisted instructional content, course content developed, or other digital materials created by the faculty member(s), shall be owned by the faculty member(s), as in the case of traditional course material.

Further:

30.§5.1 The faculty member (or an appropriate faculty body) who develops course content for use in eLearning shall exercise control over the future use, modification, and distribution of instructional material, and shall determine whether the material should be revised or withdrawn from use.

These contractual ownership rights are unqualified and should not be represented as contingent on faculty members waiving their rights to compensation for course development. This contract language was hard-won by the faculty over the years, and the WMU-AAUP intends for it to be honored.

Accordingly, in April 2016, the WMU-AAUP filed a chapter grievance on behalf of the faculty, requesting that EUP and the administration work with the WMU-AAUP to revise the EUP’s online course development agreement to comply fully with Article 30.§5 and that all ambiguous, misleading, or noncontractual language be removed.

The chapter grievance also called for EUP and the administration to compensate any faculty members who were found to have waived the stipend or relinquished ownership rights because they were misled by the language of the EUP course development agreement form to believe that waiving one was a legitimate condition of accepting the other. We also called for the administration to take all other appropriate remedial actions to prevent future violations of Article 30.

Dr. Nancy Mansberger, the administration’s Director of Academic Labor Relations (the title of her position was formerly Director of Academic Collective Bargaining), declined to hear the grievance, claiming that there was no evidence of harm to faculty members, but she agreed to work with WMU-AAUP grievance officer John Saillant to revise the letter.

In May, the WMU-AAUP requested mediation of the grievance, under the terms outlined in Article 12, and the administration agreed.

In early June 2016, a mediation team was appointed, composed of one faculty member appointed by the WMU-AAUP and one representative appointed by the administration, again according to procedures set out in Article 12. After reviewing the case, the mediation team proposed that the chapter and the administration collaborate on revising the EUP course development agreement form, with a deadline of August 1, 2016.

Also in early June, the WMU-AAUP submitted a request to the administration under the Freedom of Information Act for copies of all EUP online course development agreements entered into by bargaining-unit faculty since September 6, 2014 (the start date of our current contract). We have recently received these documents and are reviewing them to determine whether any faculty members were denied contractual rights as a consequence of entering into course development agreements with EUP.

On June 24, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee voted to accept the mediation team’s proposed resolution, leaving open the option to file additional grievances if necessary once the FOIA request was fulfilled (it had not yet been on June 24) and once the signed EUP course development agreement letters had been reviewed. As of today (July 11), the administration has not yet informed the chapter as to whether they will accept the proposal submitted by the mediation team.

A new concern has also arisen: One of the signed EUP course development agreements we received in the FOIA package was a revised version of the form, with the revision date given as May 2016. It had been signed and dated by EUP on May 31 and by the faculty member on June 1. The revised version also fails to comply with Article 30 and does so no less egregiously than the previous version. It is troubling that a new but still noncontractual version of the letter was introduced in May 2016 and used as recently as June 1, 2016, well after the chapter grievance calling this issue to the attention of EUP and the administration was filed in April.

This is an ongoing matter of concern for the chapter. The officers and Executive Committee of the WMU-AAUP will continue to investigate the extent to which faculty members may have been misled into relinquishing their rights or their rightful compensation and will work to make sure that these errors be corrected and that these colleagues be made whole.

Have you signed an EUP course development agreement and had to choose between being compensated for your work and retaining your intellectual property rights? Are you thinking about developing an online course sometime in the future and want to make sure your contractual rights are honored? If you answered yes to either of these questions, please contact us. We can help. Call us at 345-0151 or email staff@wmuaaup.net.

One thought on “Developing an online course with EUP? Don’t sign your rights away!

  1. I can’t believe they are still paying only $3k to develop a course. I worked 8-10 hours a day, 5-6 days a week from March through August to create my class and then did nearly the same to revise them in 2011 when we switched to Desire2Learn (for which I got no recompense). These courses are very labor intensive and the EUP ought to be paying a lot more to develop them if they want good people doing this onerous task. Giving up my right to my ideas and interpretations should not be part of the deal. It wasn’t the case when I started at EUP and it shouldn’t be the case now. What the administration is trying to do is to continue using YOUR course material to let some underpaid, exploited part-timer teach it forever, while they rake in the dough and pay the adjuncts squat. If you keep your rights to the material, it leaves when you do and they can’t offer “your” course taught by any Tom, Dick and Harry in order to make a buck. For shame, WMU, for shame!

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