The Akron-AAUP would like to respond to the assertions made by officials at the University of Akron in response to our release of survey results regarding the leadership and direction of the university. You can review their comments in the press coverage here.
First of all, we take issue with the characterization of our survey as representing “only 15% of the total faculty.” Rather than take seriously the issues raised in our communication to the faculty, which I hasten to point out no one in the administration has denied or taken issue with, they prefer to attempt to minimize the faculty’s voice. Rather than work with us on problems we have repeatedly attempted to explain to them privately, the administration appears to be sweeping the issues under the rug by discrediting the messenger.
Our survey was taken by 230 full-time faculty bargaining unit members who each responded to an e-mail with a unique link so that no person could complete the survey more than once. The responses came from every college (except the law school, which is not part of the bargaining unit), roughly proportionate to their distribution on campus. The administration chose to include part-time faculty to arrive at their claim of a 15% response rate. The part-time faculty, while an important part of our university family, are not part of the bargaining unit faculty because Ohio law precludes it. In fact, had we attempted to survey the adjunct faculty, I am certain that the administration would have strenuously objected on the grounds that we do not represent them.
In short, the administration is including the part-time faculty numbers in an attempt to delegitimize this survey, which had a strong, decisive response from the bargaining unit full-time faculty.
In addition, when speaking to Crain’s of Cleveland and the Akron Beacon Journal, Chair of the University of Akron Board of Trustees Joe Gingo was quoted as questioning why we released the results of what he called our “anonymous, five-month-old survey.” In fact, faculty evaluations of administrators are always anonymous to ensure that people can respond honestly and freely, without fear of retaliation. The administration knows the fact that this survey is anonymous does not invalidate its conclusions. Furthermore, the administration and board chair are well aware of the efforts of Akron-AAUP over the last months to resolve this situation privately with administrators. These efforts were detailed in our email to the faculty that also went to the board chair and top administrators, the same people we have attempted to reach out to throughout the spring and summer. The board and administration tried to keep the survey unpublished by appealing to our desire to protect enrollment and the reputation of the university. In hopes we could reach resolution, we delayed as long as we could. Sadly, they haven’t yet taken the opportunity to work with us, but our door remains open.
We also challenge the administration to describe the “forward progress” and “tangible outcomes” mentioned in their statements to the press. The Akron-AAUP and Faculty Senate have been asking for data to support the administration’s rationales for recent initiatives, clearly defined and measurable goals for them, and evidence of the “tangible outcomes.” What we know for certain is that profitable programs have been closed, and, due to low morale and the faculty buyout, some talented and productive faculty members are leaving. If there is a plan or vision that would help us to understand these changes as part of a bigger picture, we invite the university administration to share it with us.
In his statement, Chief Communications Officer Wayne Hill said that the chapter demanded that “essentially all initiatives should be delayed for what could be many months…” First of all, we disagree with that characterization. This is not a hostage situation, this is a plea for real dialogue, which has been all but absent. We are asking that an abusive administrator who does not have the confidence of the faculty be removed from his position, as any dean or department chair would be if they had such an abysmal show of support from their faculty. Legally, we may bargain anything that would be a change to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the administration has forced their interpretation of the current CBA language on the chapter without negotiation. We urge the board to hold members of the administration accountable for working within the parameters of their position descriptions as it has been explained in the board resolution and by Interim President Green in Faculty Senate, meetings with the deans and chairs, and in meetings with the Faculty Senate chair and the Akron-AAUP president. We have heard disturbing reports that Chief Administrative officer Ramsier is doing work that we were told would be assigned to Chief Academic Officer Midha. When confronted with this, Ramsier merely invites the chapter to file grievances. The response of Green has been to agree with us in meetings, but then do nothing to address the situation. This has caused confusion and deep concern across campus. This is why we felt compelled to make our concerns known publicly.
It was not easy for the Akron-AAUP Executive Committee to make the decision to release these results. The fact is, we were left with no other option. The Board of Trustees and administration have not attempted to address the growing problem of low faculty morale, or to ensure that their own board resolution is followed by the administration. Given the fact that dramatic, permanent changes are being pushed through by non-permanent leadership with no accountability, we believe that to save the university from permanent damage we had to speak now. As educators, we are responsible to our students. It’s their futures we are fighting for.
We are aware that there is a search for a new president, and we look forward to working with a new administration to solve the problems at UA. Faculty care deeply about our students, and we have staked our livelihoods on the success of the university. We hope that our future president will see our actions as evidence of our commitment and willingness to do whatever it takes, and will work with us to ensure the future of the University of Akron.
Pam Schulze, President