Category Archives: Ohio

News from the Ohio Conference and AAUP chapters around the state.

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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The FACTS about the Administration’s Spending Priorities

Akron-AAUP had Dr Rudy Fichtenbaum, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Wright State University, conduct an analysis of The University of Akron’s finances. Here are some facts from that analysis we thought you ought to know.

Despite tuition increases, instructional spending per student is flat.

From 2002 to 2015, although tuition per student more than doubled, the university has not spent that money on student instruction. Over the same period, the total spent on instructional salaries remained nearly flat (not adjusted for inflation).

The administration’s priorities are not in line with the educational mission of the institution.  

Instructional Salaries V Tuition at UA Continue reading

From “Thoughts in the Presence of Fear” by Wendell Berry

Thoughts like these ought to be at the center of any thinking about “strategic initiatives.”

The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now call “information” – which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.”

https://orionmagazine.org/article/thoughts-in-the-presence-of-fear/

“Public Research Universities Are Being Undermined by Bogus Financial Crises”

Some excerpts from an online article on the Huff Post College site. The authors are

David A. Sanders, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Purdue University and
Edward A. Wasserman, Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Iowa.

“American public research universities currently face a serious, but largely manufactured financial crisis.”

“Less widely appreciated is that many critics are now using financial exigency as a bogus justification for questioning the value of a college education and, by implication, undermining the worth of public research universities. Those who exploit this unease — including current candidates for the United States Presidency — consider a college education to be little more than a credentialing exercise to produce new cogs for the corporate machine. These critics also argue that the status quo is unsustainable and that today’s public research university must be destroyed and reinvented as an efficiency-oriented, bottom-line ‘business corporation.’ “

“One element of the current strategy being deployed for reinventing the public research university is for boards of regents and trustees — who usually lack any experience in higher education, but who are products of the corporate regime — to impose their narrow worldview on public universities. Their ill-informed or misguided decisions can wreak havoc for decades thereafter.”

We should insist that public university boards include faculty members or others familiar with higher education in order to promote and protect shared governance, and that university Presidents and administrators be hired to fight for and not against the intellectual ideals of higher education. These positions should not be favors to those who have lavished large sums of money on the universities or the state governors in question.”

“Failure to appoint duly qualified and involved citizens on governing boards will effectively end America’s proud legacy of public higher education, leaving only private universities as venues for academic freedom, intellectual growth, creativity, and discovery. That would be a national disgrace and ultimately an economic disaster.”

Read the entire article HERE.

Former UA Board Member: UA board suffers from ‘group think’

Excerpts from an editorial piece in the Akron Beacon Journal by former UA Board member, and retired Summit County Judge, Jane Bond

“The faculty were presented as a problem to be managed never an asset to be cultivated”

“I served as a member of the board of trustees from 2008 to 2012. During those years I observed the complexity and the breadth of the university as an institution serving 26,000 students and employing thousands of people striving to bring the university to a position of strength and educational excellence. So why is there so much turmoil, anxiety and conflict today?

The fiduciary duty of the trustees is to set the overall direction of the institution and to guide the administration and faculty in reaching those goals. Fiscal responsibility comes first and the integrity and mission of the university follow. To do its job the board must have trustees who are independent, willing to challenge the recommendations that come to them and are open to all of the constituent stakeholders. They must not become a captive board that falls victim to “group think.”

This is what I fear has happened at the university and contributed to the situation we now face.”

Read the entire piece HERE on Ohio.com.

A Very Sad Day at The University of Akron

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.

More cuts at UA

From The Akron Beacon Journal at Ohio.com, July 27:

Is it curtains for the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall arts programming?

Excerpts from the story by Beacon Journal staff writer Rick Armon

“The curtain may be coming down on the University of Akron’s Broadway in Akron series and other popular shows at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.

The school, which announced $40 million in cuts earlier this month, says it’s getting out of the business of being a concert and events promoter.

That decision puts this year’s Broadway in Akron series — which has brought shows such as Hello Dolly!, the Blue Man Group and Mamma Mia! to the community — and other events in jeopardy….”

“…“Without arts and culture, a community just doesn’t have its soul,” said Barbara Feld, former director of the Tuesday Musical Association. “And we are trying to have this be a beacon in this community. … It would be dreadful if that went away.”

Louise Harvey, retired UA director of development for college-centered programs and E.J. Thomas, agreed.

“E.J. Thomas is a cultural treasure in Akron,” she said. “It was built with the help of the community who have contributed to it through the years. To lose Broadway and those types of programs in Akron is going to diminish the cultural scene, particularly for people who can’t go to Cleveland. It’s a shame.”

Patty Uldal, a retired social studies teacher who lives in Jackson Township and has season tickets to events at E.J. Thomas, called the decision short-sighted and blamed the UA board of trustees for putting the school in its current situation.

“We might be somewhat of a blue collar town … but we still pride ourselves on being able to enjoy the arts,” she said. “It’s the arts that make us civilized. The beauty of the arts lifts us higher.”

If those performances disappear, it will have a negative impact on the downtown economy, Feld said.

Thousands of people who venture into the city center for shows and events at E.J. Thomas go to dinner and spend money in Akron, she said.

“It would be devastating to the health of this community,” she said.”

Read the entire story HERE.

Nice work if you can get it…

Excerpts from a story by Karen Farkas on Cleveland .com

Former University of Akron President Luis Proenza will not return to the classroom this fall, opting instead to remain on sabbatical for another year.

Proenza, who stepped down on June 30, 2014 after 15 years as president, was to take a year off at his salary of $500,000 then return to teach at a salary of $325,000 a year.

He exercised an option to spread his sabbatical and the $500,000 salary over two years, said spokesman Wayne Hill on Friday. Proenza will return on July 1, 2016, Hill said.

Read the whole story HERE.

 

What UA spends on athletics and how the university pays for it….

Excerpts from an article by Rich Exner at cleveland.com:

University of Akron tops Ohio MAC schools in sports spending and athletic debt, but cuts on the way

“The University of Akron….spends more on intercollegiate athletics than any other Ohio school in the Mid-American Conference.”

“How does Akron pay for sports?

NEOMG found the school covered 71 percent of the bill in 2013-14 with direct institutional support, money that could come from sources such as tuition, taxes and other public sources, according to the NCAA report. This amounted to $22.7 million, or $1,096 per student.

Far less was money from athletics.”

Akron’s athletic debt, according to the 2013-14 report filed earlier this year, stands at $68.1 million, third highest in Ohio behind Cincinnati ($139 million) and Ohio State ($191.2 million).”

The biggest chunk of coaching portion (sic) was for football, with $554,523 for head coach Terry Bowden and $1.2 million for his nine assistants. Head men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot received $660,208 in pay and benefits; his three assistants: $407,574.

Read the entire story HERE.

Commentary on UA from Local and National Sources

Below are excerpts from various recent editorial and news pieces concerning events at UA. Click the links to read the entire texts.

Challenges at UA

Excerpts from a letter to the editor, The Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio.com) July 20.

The faculty, staff and students did not make the decisions that have led to this crisis; the trustees, the previous president and his administration did. And yet university employees will bear the brunt of the consequences. University employees will be fired, will not be able to pay their mortgages, will not be able to pay their bills and will be unable to put food on the table for their families. Is this fair? More important, is this right? How hard is it to find a good job in the Akron area after you have been laid off? Yet many people who made these administrative decisions will not lose their jobs.

“We have upper-level administrators at the university who retired with wonderful pensions, then been rehired with generous salaries. I thought retirement was just that, retirement. Yet we will have employees laid off who were working with the hope of one day retiring.”

Read the entire letter here.

Cutting The Wrong Sport

Commentary from Inside Higher Education, online edition, July 20.

“…The barren stadium is one of several reasons that some faculty members and students at Akron say they are fed up with the amount of money being spent on the university’s struggling football team at a time when the institution is facing a $60 million budget shortfall. In response to the deficit, tuition and fees have been raised. More than 200 staff positions will be cut over the next three years. Employee health care and other benefits will be renegotiated.

In addition, the baseball team will be cut. The football program, however, is safe.

“It’s not been on the table,” Lawrence Burns, vice president of advancement for the university, said. “And it will not be on the table any time in the foreseeable future.” …”

“…According to several studies published over the last decade, little research exists to support the idea that the success of an athletic program at an institution the size and sector of Akron influences fund-raising, college choice or the number of applicants.

In one study, published in the Journal of Sport in 2014, students at MAC institutions were asked to note where athletics ranked as a funding priority and as a factor in college choice. Only 3 percent of respondents stated that it was “extremely important,” while 73 percent stated it was “unimportant” or “extremely unimportant.”…”

Read the entire article here.

MORE FROM OHIO.COM THIS WEEK

Never Mind the Higher Fee by the ABJ Editorial Board

Excerpt:

Students and their families expressed their opposition to a new and steep fee increase on higher level courses at the University of Akron. State Rep. Greta Johnson amplified their voices with a pointed letter to Scott Scarborough, the UA president. On Monday, the university announced that it will reverse course. The fee will be retracted.

That is good for those students who were looking at an increase in costs of roughly $1,200 per year. Puzzling was the statement that Scarborough issued explaining the reversal. It said nothing about the outcry, let alone officials feeling any pressure to respond.”

University of Akron to rescind $50-per-credit-hour fee by Rick Armon, ABJ Staff Writer,

Excerpt:

UA faced sharp criticism from students and others over the fee, especially after state lawmakers voted to freeze tuition. Many argued that the fee was a way to get around the state and to raise tuition in a sneaky way.

State Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron, a UA alumna, had called it unfair to students and “a bit offensive” to lawmakers who were trying to hold down the cost of public education in the state.

“The victory here belongs to the students and their families,” Johnson said after the announcement.”

From July 18 Ohio.com online:

Degrees of Blame For Higher UA Fees by Nichael Douglas, ABJ Editorial Page Editor

Excerpt:

One choice that the governor and lawmakers have made is to cut deeply income tax rates. They added another $1 billion reduction in the new budget. They did so even though the state’s need-based assistance, the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, still has not recovered from the slashing of the recession, now at half of the $222 million available seven years ago.

That qualifies, along with the UA fee increase, and miserly pay for adjunct faculty, as a measure of what the state still must do to support adequately higher education, and establish a stronger position in what is a knowledge economy.

All told, the governor and state lawmakers have reduced taxes by $3.5 billion a year the past decade. Imagine a portion of that sum routed to higher education, easing tuition costs, advancing quality. Ohio might discover what others know well. Median wages are much higher in states with better-educated workers.