“To become a great public institution The University of Akron must emulate the most successful universities: It must invest in educational substance, not slogans and marketing strategies. The faculty of UA remain committed to providing the best possible educational opportunities for our students and the community. The administration must now make a concerted effort to equal that commitment.”
Excerpts from the June 8th Akron-AAUP Newsletter
In his May 15 address to the Cleveland City Club President Scott Scarborough identified specific challenges facing The University of Akron and higher education in general. He offered “re-branding” as Ohio’s Polytechnic University as the solution to these challenges, suggesting that “doing nothing” would be the riskiest course of action. Are these problems as real as he portrayed them, and is re-branding indeed the answer?……..
….the president pointed to shrinking state appropriations as a challenge, which it certainly is, and one that all public universities nationwide are facing. What is most important is not the total dollars from the state (now less than a quarter of UA’s operating budget) but rather how the university’s money is spent. Other universities, including the ones the administration hopes to emulate, face exactly the same financial issues.
The University of Akron spends more money on new hires of administrators and staff than on classroom teachers. There are now twice as many administrators/staff per student as there are professors. New vice presidents are routinely hired at five times the salary of a new assistant professor. The university has spent heavily on campus infrastructure, including an expensive, little-used, stadium for a money-losing football team and far more dormitory space than needed for our student population. Spending on Division-I sports (including coaches and training facilities) has ballooned in the last decade with absolutely no positive return on investment…
…..In tight economic times, the university would be much better positioned to serve the Akron community by focusing on its core mission of teaching and research and by shifting its investments from administration and money-losing sports programs to faculty and classroom instruction. Salary and benefits of tenure-stream faculty now account for only 12% of the university’s operating budget. The number of such faculty has shrunk steadily for at least five years. Dozens more faculty are retiring this summer with no plans in place to replace them.
Students enroll and prosper because of excellent teaching by full-time teachers who are committed to the university. For the past 50 years, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA has asked incoming freshmen the factors that were “very important” in helping them decide where to enroll. Tops on the most recent survey — picked by 70% of freshmen — was that “the college has a very good academic reputation.” It goes without saying that the academic reputation of any university depends first and foremost on the quality of its faculty and the perception that a university will continue to invest in classroom education and research.
At The University of Akron, only 46% of classroom teachers are full-time. The majority are underpaid part-time adjuncts, many of whom teach at multiple universities to try to earn a barely livable wage. In contrast, at the best-known public tech schools, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech–the institutions President Scarborough uses as exemplars of “great” public universities– between 83% and 87% of the faculty are full-time. Labeling the university a “tech” school will not alone elevate our status. The University of Akron needs full time faculty, not mere slogans and more administrators.
Hiring more full-time faculty is an investment that can only improve the student experience, will provide students the high-quality education for which they pay dearly, and increase retention rates and overall enrollments.
To become a great public institution The University of Akron must emulate the most successful universities: It must invest in educational substance, not slogans and marketing strategies. The faculty of UA remain committed to providing the best possible educational opportunities for our students and the community. The administration must now make a concerted effort to equal that commitment.