Akron AAUP Protecting Academic Freedom For a Free Society
The University of Akron Chapter |
American Association of University Professors

As we reported on August 28, the Administration has invoked retrenchment, again. We have filed a grievance detailing the multiple ways in which the Administration has violated the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by invoking retrenchment at this time. You can read our grievance here.

Even though we have filed a grievance over how the administration chose to invoke retrenchment, our position is that we must continue to fulfill our responsibilities with regard to Article 15 as the grievance works its way through the hearing process.

The CBA requires the formation of a Joint Committee between the Administration and the Chapter. This Committee must, within thirty working days after the receipt of the data and information in Section 3(A) and 3(C) of the retrenchment article, submit its advisory recommendations to the President. Such recommendations could include ways to relieve the need for retrenchment by raising additional funds, by reallocating funds from non-academic units, by cutting or eliminating specified non-academic activities, or any other way the Joint Committee might recommend.

It is our view that if we were to refuse to participate in the Joint Committee in protest over the implementation of retrenchment, we would lose any possibility of affecting the outcome in a way that would protect our programs and our students.

Accordingly, we appointed three representatives to the Joint Committee:

Mike Cheung, Professor Emeritus of Chemical, Biomolecular, and Corrosion Engineering
Walter Hixson, Distinguished Professor of History
Leah Shriver, Associate Professor of Chemistry

We thank Mike, Walter and Leah for their service on this important committee.

Invoking retrenchment is just the latest act of hostility from the Administration. 

In our grievance over the Administration’s second invocation of retrenchment, we assert that the Administration has failed to show financial exigency or to follow the steps required to address their financial problems prior to declaring retrenchment. The brief we filed for arbitration regarding the Administration’s first invocation of retrenchment shows that the Administration did not and does not need to fire any faculty; the faculty we already lost to retirement and otherwise over the past few months certainly satisfy any need to “right size” instructional spending. Please see our summary of the true nature of UA’s financial condition here, but hold this thought in mind: according to the Administration, the former $65 million budget shortfall is now $7.8 million. Even this number uses inaccurately pessimistic enrollment predictions when adjusted for the actual enrollment numbers. The Administration could address the remaining budget shortfall by agreeing to the temporary wage and healthcare concessions proposed previously during negotiations.

Further, in an obvious attempt to divide the faculty, the Administration has declared that non-tenure track (NTT) faculty are excluded from Sections 1-11 of the retrenchment article, but they still claim they can fire NTT faculty as they wish. After several flip-flops, the Administration now claims that NTT faculty can be fired under the force majeure section of Article 15 or under Article 29 (see the second to last paragraph in the Provost’s letter to the deans here). By excluding NTT faculty from Sections 1-11 of Article 15, NTT faculty lose their protections of process (such as the requirement for proof of financial exigency with steps for addressing it) and the contractually guaranteed period of notice in Section 7, as well as the other substantive rights listed in Sections 8-11 of Article 15 (alternative job placement, 3 year right of recall, priority to teach part-time, and paid healthcare for a year).

The Administration is excluding the NTT faculty from the retrenchment process in an obvious attempt to create divisiveness between the NTT and tenure-track/tenured (TT/T) faculty and to frighten TT/T faculty with less seniority. The Administration is threatening ALL faculty, and they are doing it in an attempt to break the union.

The Chapter has a long history of working with the Administration to solve the problems facing The University of Akron. While it has never been easy, there has always been the desire on both sides to make things work for the good of our students and the University. That climate has changed radically, and we now believe that this Administration is the biggest threat seen in the history of our Chapter to our right to bargain collectively, as evidenced by:

  • The negotiations this summer were the most difficult we have experienced in our time as a Chapter. Under the terms of the CBA and state law we were required to bargain in good faith, which we did, offering greater concessions to pay and healthcare than other unions across campus. We did this in an attempt to avoid faculty layoffs, but there was absolutely no budging the Administration. They fired 96 BUF when there was no financial need to do so, ignoring due process and without recognition of tenure, rank, or seniority.

  • Firing 96 BUF, many of them tenured, has led to negative publicity both nationally and internationally for UA. Classes began the semester without instructors, programs have been devastated, and our University has been irrevocably harmed. The Administration did this despite warnings by our NT that this would happen, and despite our best attempts to find other solutions to a temporary problem. The only possible explanation for this behavior is that they didn’t WANT to find another way. They used our students and the University as collateral damage in their fight with the Chapter.

  • They have flip-flopped on the issue of NTT inclusion in Article 15, depending on which position is most damaging to the unity of the Chapter at a particular time, and which position allows them to eliminate TT/T and NTT jobs faster.

  • In an obvious attempt to drain our resources, they filed a ULP against the Chapter for acting to fulfill our responsibility to defend the bargaining unit faculty, our students, and our programs (we will send more information about the ULP in the next few days).

  • Given the notice periods built into Article 15 of the collective bargaining agreement, there is nothing to be gained by invoking retrenchment at this point; it makes no difference if retrenchment is invoked now or after September 18. This is purely a scare tactic designed to intimidate faculty already stressed and in fear of losing their jobs and to further drain the Chapter’s resources.

  • Their actions towards the faculty on the RIF list have been punitive and vindictive, as we detailed here. These are not the actions of an Administration who reluctantly lets faculty go because there is no other choice. These are the actions of an Administration which is so intent on punishing the union through the faculty that they don’t care who they hurt — not those they fired with almost no notice, and without due process, and certainly not the students who suddenly found themselves with changed schedules, canceled classes, and new instructors who were unprepared when classes started.

What can we do?

Once we have a decision from the arbitrator, we will be back in negotiations. We will continue to fight beside you and for you. We will do whatever it takes to defend our students, our faculty, our programs and this institution. Soon, we will hold listening sessions and work with our Departmental Liaisons to form priorities for the team, and we will need your input.

We know that this has been an incredibly stressful and uncertain time. One certainty is that we need the protections of the CBA and our union as never before. These will be difficult negotiations, and we need the faculty to stand together and show that we are not willing to let go of the protections of tenure and due process, or to lose shared governance and the right to bargain our own working conditions. We will need every one of you to share in the work of defending our students and this University. If you want to help, contact Kate Budd.

When we stand together, we have power.

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