Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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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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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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Akron-AAUP Meeting With The Board Of Trustees

Dear Colleagues in the Bargaining Unit Faculty (BUF),

The Akron-AAUP was notified on August 25th that the Board of Trustees (BOT) would meet with constituency groups, including representatives of Akron-AAUP, to discuss whether to begin a search for President. The Board committed to meet with us to discuss a search for President last year, when President Wilson’s title was changed from Interim President to President.

Three representatives of Akron-AAUP, Pam Schulze, president, Julie Cajigas, vice president, and Amy Dreussi, liaison-at-large, met with the BOT on September 11, 2017. Representatives of the University Council and Faculty Senate were also invited to meet with the BOT. We encourage you to reach out to leadership of those bodies so that they can inform you about those conversations. In the interest of transparency, we would like to share what our representatives said to the Board.

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Welcome to Fall 2017

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of your Akron-AAUP, I would like to welcome everyone to the 2017-2018 academic year. I hope you all had a relaxing and restorative summer, and that you’re rejuvenated and ready for a new academic year.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recently released a statement in response to the events that took place on the University of Virginia campus August 19-20. The Akron-AAUP agrees wholeheartedly with this statement, and we encourage you to read it if you have not already done so.

As a collective bargaining chapter of AAUP, Akron-AAUP is committed to fighting for the rights of all faculty and students to exchange ideas freely—this is the heart of the academic mission of this and every university. Academic freedom can only be exercised in an environment free of hate speech and intimidation. In order to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for our campus community, we must confront and reject racism, hate and bigotry; we must never remain silent or complicit in the face of its corrosive influence.

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John Zipp to be Honored With Sternberg Award

Award to be presented in Washington DC at National AAUP-CBC Conference in June

It is our great pleasure to share with you the excellent news that John Zipp, Past President, Akron-AAUP, has been recognized by the AAUP-CBC with the Marilyn Sternberg award.

At the 1981 annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors, the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress passed a resolution establishing the Marilyn Sternberg Award. The award, the resolution stated, is to be given annually to the “AAUP member who best demonstrates concern for human rights, courage, persistence, political foresight, imagination, and collective bargaining skills.” Continue reading

The Importance of Research

The University of Akron community is being asked to make painful decisions regarding how we allocate our resources. The decisions we make now will shape this institution for years to come. Examining our institutional priorities, then, is essential to this endeavor.  One priority that can easily be lost in discussions about our fiscal challenges is our responsibility to support and encourage research and other scholarly and creative endeavors among our faculty as well as our students. That part of our mission is at the heart of everything else we do; it is the lifeblood of any research university. It is also the engine that drives economic advancement.

The role of research universities.

Robert Berdahl, former President of the Association of American Universities, highlighted the key role that research universities play, not only for higher education itself but also for our society as a whole, in his 2009 essay, “Research Universities: Their Value to Society Extends Well Beyond Research.”  The public seems to understand how research in the natural sciences helps us to cure diseases, address our energy needs, and create the new technologies that promote economic growth.  But, equally importantly, few of these solutions can be effective without other areas of research such as the social sciences.

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Akron-AAUP Faculty Member Spotlight: Andrew Rancer

By Israa Eddeb & Sofia Syed, Akron-AAUP Interns and Julie Cajigas

Dr. Andrew Rancer’s key to teaching is getting his students excited. Rancer is a professor in the School of Communication at the University of Akron who teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses, and directs master’s students in their projects and theses. He also serves as the chair of the scholarship committee for the School of Communication, and has served in many roles over the years. Contemporary Communication Theory, the second edition of a text he co-authored with School of Communication Director Theodore A. Avtgis, Dominic A. Infante, and Erina L. MacGeorge has just been released. Even with his many involvements, and rigorous research and writing calendar, motivating his students to develop a passion for their coursework is his primary objective.

Professor Andrew Rancer (right), with his co-author Theodore Avtgis, School of Communication Director

Professor Andrew Rancer (right), with his co-author Theodore Avtgis, School of Communication Director

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