Union representatives join President’s Council for duration of Marlboro negotiations

By Parker Purifoy, Emerson '21

President M. Lee Pelton added two faculty union leaders to the President’s Council in December for the duration of the Marlboro merger negotiations following a tense exchange earlier in the month with the union leaders in a faculty council meeting.

Pelton added both Barry Marshall, president of the union representing affiliated faculty, and Gian Lombardo, president of the union representing full-time faculty, after the meeting on Dec. 12.

The President’s Council oversees the work of the other Marlboro-related working groups, allowing Marshall and Lombardo to provide direct feedback to Pelton and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Michaele Whelan. Marshall and Lombardo have already attended two of the council meetings, Lombardo said in an interview with The Beacon.

“I’m just looking to make sure that faculty interests are served here as well as student interests, and to make sure that students are not lost whatsoever,” he said.

Both Lombardo and Marshall aired grievances about the lack of union representation in the Marlboro discussions at the December meeting. This was followed by some contentious moments until Pelton replied that he would take note of their suggestions.

“I’m not going to argue that, so I’ll take that as a friendly suggestion that has some merit on the face of it, as far as I’m concerned,” he said at the December meeting.

Marshall said he and other union members are hoping to expand the concept of shared governance outside of the merger discussions. Shared governance is the idea that individuals at every level of an institution can influence decisions within the institution.

“So on this issue, [the administration] has agreed to have shared governance, which I think is a big step and that’s very good,” he said in an interview. “Whether we can sway policy, I don’t know. But at least we’re there to give input.”

Marshall also said he aimed to keep the community informed about the negotiations. Although he said it is still too early to tell how the incoming Marlboro faculty would impact Emerson, Boston faculty are still worried about their standing at the school. Marshall said there have been a number of Emerson faculty who have come to him, concerned that they will be dropped from classes and replaced by Marlboro professors.

Per the initial agreement, Emerson offered positions to 24 tenure and tenure-track faculty but it is unclear how many of them will actually make the shift to teaching in Boston.

“A lot of the membership is in a slight panic mode, and some of them might be more nervous about it than they need to be,” Marshall said. “But it is still too early because nobody knows exactly who’s going to come and who’s not yet, so I want to make sure they know that.”