February 15, 2016
Why are we considering a strike? What are the issues at stake?
The larger issues at stake are the quality of education at The University of Akron and the University’s misplaced priorities. We believe that the University administration must prioritize the educational mission of the institution in a way that places academic instruction and student learning first. Faculty who are fairly and competitively compensated is essential to this goal.
Where do we stand today?
We have submitted all of our proposals to the University and now have all of theirs. The following Articles are still being negotiated; Article 20 (Distance and Distributed Learning); Article 16 (Compensation) and Article 17 (Benefits). Recently, we have reached agreement on Article 18 (Professional Development Leave), and Article 19 (Intellectual Property).
While there has been progress on non-economic issues, we now face very difficult negotiations on compensation and health care benefits. The Akron-AAUP regards the University’s salary proposal as entirely insufficient, and the increased costs of health care plans, and aggressive phase-out of retiree spouse and dependent coverage, all as punitive, unnecessary, and indefensible. Continue reading
From The Akron-AAUP Newsletter, November 18, 2015
On November 5, 2015, the administration emailed the campus community an update on the report from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC, the accreditors) on shared governance at UA.
The administration’s email began on an upbeat note: “I am pleased to report that on October 29th, the Higher Learning Commission notified the University that it ‘…concurred with the evaluation findings and affirmed that the institution is addressing the concerns related to (a) relationship and roles of faculty in shared institutional governance and (b) assessment of student learning in general education and in undergraduate and graduate majors.’”
In preparation for contract negotiations The Akron-AAUP commissioned Rudy Fichtenbaum, Professor of Economics at Wright State and President of the national AAUP, to update his previous analysis of The University’s financial status. His report suggests an interpretation of the financial status of the University that seems to be at odds with the administration’s characterizations.
“In 2014, the University had record investment income, a decrease in operating revenue and a huge decrease in operating expenses and as a result made $4 million…”
“On the positive side the University has diversified sources of revenue and has had a positive cash flow every year since 2002. Moody’s noted that cash flow was adequate in 2013 and that management had reported that cash flow had improved in 2014…”
“…Clearly the University has improved its financial position since my last report in 2009. Although the composite scores did decline between 2011 and 2013, the scores are much better than they were in 2009. Therefore, I conclude that the University of Akron is in good financial condition.”
The report also identifies expenditures which drained money away from the university’s primary educational mission:
“Table 10 shows revenues and expenses for intercollegiate athletics…The overwhelming majority of revenue comes from student fees and institutional support …. This is money that could have been used to fundacademic programs. On the expense side, only 25% of expenses are for student aid (athletic scholarships). The bottom line is that most athletic spending does not go for scholarships and the overwhelming majority revenue to support these activities comes directly from educational and general funds that could support academic programs.”
We provide a link to the report HERE. Professor Fichtenbaum’s report is based on publicly available documents; you may distribute copies of his report as you wish.
The University of Akron Board of Trustees has approved a budget that includes no faculty layoffs and $10.4 million in funds for strategic re-investment, along with repeated references to preserving the “academic core” of UA. But to be clear: while faculty have not been officially laid-off, we have endured a slow and steady decline of more than 20% (in terms of student-faculty ratio) by attrition in the last five years. For an institution that aspires to be a “great university,” this is unacceptable and entirely counter-productive.
In 1999, there was 1 faculty member for every 19 students. Last year, even before the departures of at least fifty full-time faculty members who have retired or resigned since spring of 2015, this ratio was 1 for more than every 23 students. If we had the same student-faculty ratio last year as we had in 1999, UA would have had 190 more FT faculty. These additional faculty would have taught more and smaller classes, mentored more students, provided the service and committee work that keeps the university functioning, produced more research and creative endeavors, and attracted more external funding – in other words, improved student success and UA’s academic standing and reputation well beyond NE Ohio.
The $10.4 million strategic re-investment fund is an opportunity to rebuild our academic core–the one element of a great university that is essential. The Akron-AAUP proposes the following for the $10.4 million that the Board has clearly demonstrated exists for investment. Continue reading
As The University of Akron makes widespread budget cuts, it is important to ask where the money saved will be spent. Given the university’s tight finances, it is of course necessary to make the best use of our money. But developments this summer suggest that the administration is pursuing expensive gimmicks at the cost of policies that will advance our educational mission.
In an effort to reduce expenditures, on July 27 the administration, after weeks of rumors and extreme anxiety, eliminated over 200 staff positions, including laying off current employees.
In addition, the administration effectively shuttered EJ Thomas Hall for the performing arts, although after ten days of strenuous community objection it announced that it would honor its commitment to this year’s already-booked events after all. It let go all the staff of the University of Akron Press with its esteemed poetry series and books on Ohio’s history and culture. Despite assertions that the Press isn’t closing but will simply move to the library, it is very hard to see how it can function without staff, especially as the library too lost staff positions on July 27 )https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/07/31/university-akron-says-it-hasnt-eliminated-its-university-press-has-eliminated-all). And the administration attempted to impose a $50-per-credit fee on all upper-level courses–rescinded only after serious push-back from students, state legislators, and the Ohio Board of Higher Education (Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 28).
One could imagine from all this that the university is down to its last dime. And yet the budget has in it $10.4 million a year of new money for the president’s “priorities.” Curiously, this amount is roughly equal to the annual salary and benefits of the staff members let go on July 27. So what are these priorities? Continue reading
You have undoubtedly heard or read about a lot of changes that are occurring at The University of Akron. We want to assure you that your paths to a good, marketable degree are secure. No academic programs have been eliminated, and indeed, departments are continuing to propose new courses and programs of study to best meet the changing needs of our students. Our ability to provide you with a high quality education leading to a degree and opportunities for employment has not been diminished.
It has long been the Akron-AAUP’s position that it is the faculty and our staff colleagues who make lifetime commitments to the University. That remains our position today. But it is also true that there is one group whose loyalty to the University matters even more—that, of course, is you, the students of The University of Akron, without whom there would simply be no reason for the university to exist.
We want to assure you, with all earnestness, that you can remain confident in The University of Akron’s ability to provide you with a high quality education. Your degree programs are intact. You can still feel comfortable recommending The University of Akron to your friends who may be considering the pursuit of a degree. As summer draws to a close your faculty are preparing for the new school year. We remain, as ever, committed without reservation or hesitation to providing you with the best opportunities for learning, preparation for careers, and the many possibilities for personal development that only a higher education can provide.
President Scarborough and the Board of Trustees have announced their intention to make The University of Akron “a great public institution.” It’s a noble goal, and one worth pursuing. Your faculty believe that it’s the relationship between teacher and student in the classroom that is the true and the key source of the greatness of any educational institution, and to that end we invite, and look forward to welcoming you back to The University of Akron for the coming year.
July 27 was a sad day at the University of Akron. We learned that 213 staff positions were cut. One hundred sixty-one of these were existing positions. By that, of course, we mean that these were our friends and colleagues alongside whom we’ve worked for years–for decades, in some cases. These are people who did nothing wrong, and certainly did nothing to cause our current financial situation. What they did was serve this institution and its students to the best of their abilities. For that, they deserve our gratitude. The Akron-AAUP would like to express its deepest and heartfelt solidarity with our colleagues, their families, and to the community that will no doubt feel the ripple effects of this action.
Excerpt from the June 19 newsletter:
Clearly, in spite of the marketing strategy, UA faculty, students, alumni, and community members already know what a “polytechnic” is, and they do not like it. At best, they see a “polytechnic” as a university where engineering and polymer science rule, and everything else is irrelevant. Based on decisions now being made at UA, they may be right. The College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering currently has 32 full-time faculty (two may be retiring), and their presidentially-approved strategic plan is to increase that number to 50. In Arts and Sciences, however, where faculty numbers have been shrinking for years and dozens more are planning retirement this summer, only one is currently slated for replacement with a tenure-track position. Going forward, the president plans to find funding for his priorities of engineering and polymer science, yet fund other faculty lines only if there happens to be any money left over. As he said on June 10, “This budget was strategically constructed to fund the high priorities and then to fund historical commitments up to available funding levels.” We’ll note that it was a “fund the faculty last” approach that originally created strong support for a faculty union..
Disturbingly, turning UA into an engineering school is not the worst that alumni, students, and prospective students fear: others see a “polytechnic” as primarily a vocational or trade school. Many have quoted the dictionary and Wikipedia definitions to that effect. They trust these sources more than the marketers’ efforts to dust off the roots of “polytechnic” in Greek terms meaning “many crafts” or “many arts.” Some have pointed to Britain’s “polytechnic institutes” rebranding themselves as “universities” because they believed that label was an upgrade. Fears of “Ohio Polytechnic” becoming the equivalent of ITT Tech are not assuaged simply by announcements of a new Center that will welcome professional dance companies to campus–a Center pursued by the School of Dance long before the current administration arrived. It is the only example of support for the arts and humanities that the president has offered.
Our thanks to Mr. Tim Burga, President of the Ohio AFL-CIO, for his letter of support. And thanks to all members of other unions and chapters for their help in passing on the news. It’s greatly appreciated.
Here’s the link Tim refers to in his message below.
For University and College Faculty, It Is Deja Vu All Over Again!
Extreme House Republicans are trying to eliminate faculty unions in Ohio! Late last week, the Ohio House of Representatives included eight anti-union provisions in the state Budget, Sub. H.B. 64. Among these is a provision in the that would reclassify faculty at all of Ohio’s public State Universities as “Managers” and strip them of their collective bargaining rights.
This bill is a shameless attempt by lawmakers to pass pieces of SB5, which voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2011. Tell your state house representatives and let them know that we don’t want another SB5!
Click here to send a letter to your State Representative urging them to remove this provision.
We need our university faculty to have the ability to join a union and have a voice at the table of Ohio’s colleges and universities because they will speak to the student’s needs, not the bottom line of the institution.
Please take action because taking the voice away from university and college faculty is taking a voice from the students who attend these institutions.
Click here to send a letter to your State Representative urging them to remove this provision.
President, Ohio AFL-CIO
With all due respect we ask you to exert all the influence you have over your colleagues on the Ohio House Finance Committee. Ask them to remove the language restricting–in fact, eliminating–rights to collective bargaining for the state’s university faculty.
The language included in the budget bill is essentially the same as that which Ohio voters rejected overwhelmingly in SB 5.
We do not ask you to change any position you may hold as to the value of unions in the public sector; rather, we ask you to consider that including this language without public debate and informed testimony, and without a vote of the people of Ohio is cynical, undemocratic and, worst of all in a democracy, profoundly and overtly unfair.
Since SB5 some of us may not know where you stand on the issue of public sector labor unions. But we submit to you, Sir, that any potential differences between us on this subject are immaterial today. The means by which this language is being slipped into law is underhanded and a disgrace to Ohio and to the very idea of a democracy. With all earnestness, Sir, we ask you to do what you can to influence the removal of this language from HB64 simply because it’s the right thing to do.
This is just WRONG, Governor Kasich, and we ask that you stand with your state’s faculty–among the most loyal employees in your state.
This is just plain wrong.
We thank you for your time. We hope for your support.