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Abstract

This study examines a recent bargaining process between the Faculty Association and Central Michigan University. Taking a systems approach, we began with the assumption that a healthy organizational culture produces negative feedback which can help keep participants at the bargaining table despite disagreement. However, if organizational members’ relationships are threatened, organizational culture unravels as destructive messages provide positive feedback to disrupt the system and make impasse more likely. To understand how an university’s culture is impacted during contract negotiations we examined messages published in a university student newspaper, transcripts from the local NPR station, CMU’s press releases, a Facebook page, and a fact-finding report on the university climate after contract negotiations had been concluded. We found that each side constructed their own identity and that of the other and attributed motives to each side’s bargaining tactics resulting in straining of the relationship between the bargaining parties and a breakdown of faculty-administrative trust throughout the University.