Author Archives: Administrator

Note From Acting Akron-AAUP President Regarding Today’s Reorganization Announcement

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past week, I have had the opportunity to meet with Provost Rex Ramsier and Interim President John Green to discuss many of the issues you have raised at the listening sessions and at one-on-one meetings over the past few weeks.

Although there are still many challenges that we are facing, I am encouraged by Interim President Green’s response to our immediate concerns. As you may have already read, the Interim President has committed to extend the timeline for consideration of the reorganization proposals. He also agreed in our meeting to listen and consider additions to the process to allow for additional data collection and analysis.

I also had the opportunity to raise your concerns about Akron-AAUP representation and the overall faculty representation on the Steering Committee for the development of the Three-Year Action Plan. I have assurances that the Akron-AAUP will have representation on the committee beginning next week. We will share information on that with you as soon as it is publicly announced.

My pledge is to continue listening to your ideas and concerns as we move forward and to continue to serve as your representative to the administration.

Thank you for taking the time to complete our survey, attend listening sessions and reach out individually. A lot of work lies ahead, and I feel privileged to serve you as we navigate it together.

With solidarity,

Julie A Cajigas
Acting President, Akron-AAUP

Notification and Request for Information: Umbrella Grievance Filed Regarding Program Terminations 

Dear faculty colleagues,

The Akron-AAUP has been inundated with concerned emails, calls and visits in the weeks since cuts to 80 of our academic programs were announced. We have also met with units and colleges, and held listening sessions with the faculty.

Because it was simply unfeasible to obtain information about all situations and all adverse effects of the cuts in such a short period of time, the Akron-AAUP has filed an “umbrella” grievance regarding the University of Akron’s termination of academic programs. We have also filed one additional program-specific grievance based on faculty requests, and have submitted a request to the University to engage in effects based bargaining. You can view all three at the links below.

Grievance 2018-5: Program Termination Grievance (Umbrella)

Grievance 2018-6: Electrical and Computer Engineering

Demand to Bargain over Effects of Academic Program Changes

What does an umbrella grievance do?

The umbrella grievance extends our window of time to learn about factual and/or procedural errors that were used to justify program cuts. The timely file of an informal resolution on this grievance, on September 24, 2018, ensures that we continue to be able to address the adverse effects of program cuts on bargaining unit faculty members past the original grievance file deadline. We can now navigate the recent decisions and consider your individually-based program needs.

What does this filing mean for you?

The filing of this informal resolution gives your Akron-AAUP chapter limited additional time to hear from you, our constituents, and learn about the intricacies of program-specific grievances that may arise after the 20-day filing period. So far, we have heard from concerned faculty members across campus, both as individuals and as groups.

Who can we include in the umbrella grievance?

Under this umbrella grievance, we are only able to file program-specific grievances based on procedural errors and factual mistakes that resulted in program cuts. If you have evidence of these types of errors that were used as UA’s justification for cutting your program, please contact us immediately so we can determine if your case can be addressed by this grievance.

NOTE: this process is time sensitive. To report factual or procedural errors used in UA’s justification for a program cut, please immediately contact the grievance committee, Russ Davis (russ.davis@akronaaup.org), Executive Director and Grievance Administrator, and Mark Rittenour (mark.rittenour@akronaaup.org), Grievance Officer and Contract Administrator.

Thank you,

The Akron-AAUP Grievance Committee

Faculty Were Not at the Decision Making Table

The Akron-AAUP would like to respond to recent statements made in the press by a University of Akron spokesperson.

The following was published in the Akron Beacon Journal at Ohio.com:

UA spokesman Wayne Hill said in a prepared statement Thursday that UA “has engaged the faculty in a meaningful and substantive manner at every step of the way” throughout the review. He noted that leaders of both the union and the Faculty Senate were on the executive committee that guided the review process.

We want to make the nature of our involvement unequivocally clear to our membership.

Our Chief Negotiator and Past President John Zipp was involved in the Academic Program Review (APR) process. He was not part of the final decision-making process that led to the decision to cut 80 academic programs, nor was any other member of the Akron-AAUP executive committee. The final decisions were made primarily by Interim President John Green and Executive Vice President/Chief Administrative Officer Rex Ramsier with input from Chand Midha, Vice Provost/Executive Dean-Liaison to Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences and Executive Dean of the Graduate School, Wayne Hill, Vice President/Chief Communication and Marketing Officer, and Nathan Mortimer, Vice President for Finance and Administration/CFO.

In an act of complete disregard for the Senate vote on APR in May, and in spite of repeated calls from Akron-AAUP to engage in strategic planning before making strategic decisions about areas of investment and disinvestment, the Administration chose to deliberate in conditions of total secrecy, with some input from deans, who were under strict orders not to discuss anything before the Board acted on the Administration’s decisions. As a result of the way this process was conducted, all faculty, including the executive committees of Akron-AAUP and Faculty Senate, learned about these program cuts the same way and at the same time that the general public did: through the UA Digest announcement and subsequent press releases issued two days ago.

While faculty leaders engaged in the process in an attempt to make it as fair and useful as possible, their criticisms of the process are strong and on the record.

The UA spokesperson’s quoted statements from the Ohio.com story may have technical accuracy in that faculty leaders were part of the flawed Academic Program Review process. Faculty leaders did NOT play a part in deciding how the resulting data from that process would ultimately be used.

The Akron-AAUP plans to continue to push for true shared governance and active faculty involvement in the decisions that shape the academic mission of our university. We hope you will all work with us as we demand the best for our students and community.

In Solidarity,

The Executive Committee of the Akron-AAUP

Akron-AAUP and Faculty Senate Joint Response to Program Cuts Without Adequate Faculty Input

On August 15th, The University of Akron Board of Trustees announced that intends to cut 80 academic programs or program tracks. At the recommendation of Interim President Green and Vice President of Administrative Affairs Rex Ramsier, the Board voted unanimously to suspend and eventually close 10 PhD programs, 33 master’s programs, 20 bachelor’s programs and 17 associate’s programs. In his remarks to the Board of Trustees, President Green stated that these cuts were in keeping with Northeastern Ohio Regional Compact agreement, which aims to increase cooperation and efficiency among the region’s colleges and universities.

In order for the faculty to understand these recommendations in light of the Academic Program Review (APR) process, The University of Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors (Akron-AAUP) and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee believe it’s important for the entire faculty to realize what transpired last academic year, what the Academic Policies Committee (APC) recommended, and what the Faculty Senate ultimately approved at its May meeting.

The APR process included deans, department chairs/school directors, and bargaining unit faculty, including one Akron-AAUP representative. The full list of committee members can be found here. The majority of the faculty who served on this committee were appointed by their respective deans. You can find the full timeline here.

The Academic Policies Committee (APC) reviewed the APR documents and issued a report at the May 2018 Faculty Senate meeting. The APC did not recommend any program suspensions or any other program changes at the May meeting. The Senate did not vote to approve changes to any program as a result of APR.  

The Committee described several limitations of the APR process, including the ambitious timeline in which APR committee members were required to evaluate, discuss, and rate every active degree-granting program. What resulted was ranking of programs that APC described as a “point-in-time snapshot” that reflects years of under-investment in the academic mission, which in itself no doubt affected programmatic outcomes on metrics which primarily had to do with current and potential financial performance.

The Committee questioned whether this effort represents adequate shared governance, as it was a “considerable departure from the standard program-review process that is expected by the Higher Learning Commission.”

“Quality program reviews are not intended to be competitions for scarce resources that pit programs within a college against one another; rather, they are designed to be routine, robust examinations of the curriculum by faculty and administrators to ensure that the university’s academic mission is met.”

The APC report called for investments in tenure-track faculty.

“…Even though this report should not be used as the basis for making strategic decisions about the University’s curriculum, there are several themes that can and should be acted upon immediately. In a great majority of programs, the loss of full-time tenure-track faculty has become a serious problem… Focusing on programs singularly without investment in the larger academic enterprise will leave even our best-known degrees vulnerable.”

The Committee’s report also called for a renewed investment in graduate assistantships.

“Graduate assistants are valuable to both the undergraduate and graduate missions of the University…A long-term reduction in assistantships will only harm the University.”

The Committee concluded, “APC recognizes the economic challenges that the University is facing. Yet, cutting programs or allowing them to wither without careful consideration of the resulting academic impact will create far more significant challenges in the future.”

The APC recommended that APR be viewed as the beginning of a process, not the end and that curricular decisions should result from an open strategic planning process that actively involves faculty.

“When given the time to gather accurate data, assess student learning, and reflect upon the findings, program reviews can provide meaningful information for strategic planning and potential investment opportunities. APC recommends that this report be used as a starting point for a far more regularized, faculty-driven, thorough, and less hasty program review process.”

The Akron-AAUP  joins Faculty Senate in calling for a “standard,” faculty-driven review process that meets the Higher Learning Commission’s requirements for shared governance. A more thoughtful and detailed review process should inform institutional strategic planning, which in turn will help us to make critical curricular decisions in a way that will lead the University in a positive direction. Faculty Senate must play a significant role in this process. Strategic planning is long overdue, and the process should begin immediately. In fact, the Faculty Senate Ad-hoc Strategic Planning Committee has already begun its work, and we encourage the Administration to work cooperatively with this committee and other constituencies on this process in the spirit of transparency and real shared governance.

The Akron-AAUP and Faculty Senate share the Administration’s concern about the University’s financial well-being, and we believe that the path to academic excellence and financial sustainability can best be achieved cooperatively, with active faculty input and involvement.

For those of our colleagues who lost their programs, please know that we stand with you today, as always. This is a challenging time for our campus, and we know morale is low. Please know that your representatives on Faculty Senate and Akron-AAUP will continue to work on your behalf.

Sincerely,

Pamela A. Schulze

President, Akron-AAUP

Linda Marie Saliga

Acting Chair, Faculty Senate

President’s Note: Akron-AAUP 2017-2018 School Year in Review

More hands make lighter work:

We’ve been busy the past year. I wanted to send an update to you all about some of our activities, and, if you took part in any of them–thanks! A faculty union relies almost entirely on volunteer labor. Thanks to all of you who pitched in.

This past year, we’ve created a lovely new brochure, thanks in large part to the work of McKenna Vietmeier, Assistant Professor of Instruction in the School of Communication. We’ve been hard work at building a new website under the direction of our Vice President and communications specialist, Julie Cajigas. Thanks, McKenna and Julie!

John Zipp, our Chief Negotiator, has been representing us well this year! We negotiated with the administration over the VRIP program, the RTP and Merit for NTT faculty, prescription benefits, and policy issues such as faculty load for administrative work. The work goes on, and we will keep you updated. Please be sure to thank John when you see him–the Chief Negotiator job is critical, and it is 100% volunteer.

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Taking Collective Action to Defend our Schools

By Ben Ratliffe, Our AAUP Organizer

Sometime between today and June, the US Supreme Court decide, in the Janus v. AFSCME case, whether or not public sector unions will have the financial support they need to continue supporting public sector employees. This decision would negatively impact everyone from secondary and higher education teachers to the workers who maintain your city’s sewers, take out the trash, drive the kids to school, and work with the homeless and mentally ill.

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We’re Listening: Listening Session Report

Our Listening Sessions, Janus Coffees, and office visits as part of the 2017-2018 school year have been a really beneficial way of connecting with faculty across campus.

We’ve learned a lot about the issues that faculty care about and the challenges that units across campus face.

Several topics came up in our conversations, but the bottom line is that faculty are under stress due to lack of needed faculty lines, lack of resources, lack of stable leadership, and general uncertainty about the future. This stress is not simply a response to the troubling economic times that the University now faces, it’s not just a result of the rushed Academic Program Review Process, and it’s not just because we had to scurry to fit almost all our classes into a four-day schedule without any study of how that would affect students, faculty, or staff.

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Your Grievance Team Working Hard For You (2017-2018 Grievance Report)

The Akron-AAUP Grievance Committee Drs. Russ Davis (Executive Director and Grievance Administrator) and Val Pipps (Contract Administrator and Grievance Officer) are ending the 2017-2018 year having responded to more than 40 individual faculty and/or groups for consultation or direct intervention/support.

The Grievance Committee has worked daily throughout the semester to support, advocate for, and help improve the working environment and rights of bargaining unit faculty (BUF).

The committee has worked on formal grievance-related labor/management issues such as:

  • One formal individual-level grievance related to tenure/promotion
  • One formal individual-level grievance related to disciplinary actions taken by the administration
  • One college-grievance related to the appointment of dean
  • One department-level related grievance related to the appointment of chair

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Budget Cuts and Athletics Funding

As we all know, when it’s time to cut, the first and apparently the easiest place to cut is the academic side. However, faculty across campus have felt frustrated that the sacrifices are not shared by non-academic units. The University spends about $24 million from the general fund to support athletics each year. Because of this, and because of concerns about more cuts to come, the University Council Budget & Finance Committee recommended $8 million in cuts to Athletics over two years (this would be proportionate to the recent cut in Graduate School funding).

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2018 Spring Chapter Meeting: Thursday, April 26

Our spring chapter meeting is being held Thursday, April 26, from 3:00-5:00 pm, in Student Union 312. Snacks will be served at 3, the meeting proper will begin at 3:15 pm.

Please note that this is a members only event, but membership forms will be available at the door for those who wish to join the chapter (or non-members can click the button below this message to join).

The results of the chapter officer and for chapter delegates to the National AAUP Annual Meeting and Collective Bargaining Congress meetings will be announced.

Additionally, we will have two special guests, Sara Kilpatrick, Executive Director of the Ohio Conference – AAUP, will speak on “Political Engagement to Protect and Advance Faculty Unions & Public Higher Education,” and Ben Ratliffe, National AAUP Department of Organizing & Services – Ohio Organizer, will give a talk, “Issue Campaigns and Building Power.

The agenda for the Spring 2018 Chapter Meeting is available HERE.
The minutes from the Fall 2017 Chapter Meeting are available for review HERE.