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

Everyone knows by now that faculty workload is the hot topic on campus. Changes are being discussed, proposed, and most importantly, implemented already. Here is what we think about this, what we know, what we don’t know and what we have done. In the meantime, join the chapter as a full dues-paying member if you wish to become a meaningful part of the solution to the problems that now plague higher education and The University of Akron.
We See the Current Implementations as a Violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Imposing a change in workload without discussing it with the Akron-AAUP is clearly a violation of the contract. While Ohio state law prohibits unionized faculties from negotiating over workload, our contract mandates that changes in workload must be discussed with Akron-AAUP. This has not happened. The chapter has filed an “informal” grievance over this matter to get the administration’s attention. We will pursue this grievance legally if the informal approach fails. Furthermore, faculty plan and coordinate their work based on university approved merit guidelines, RTP guidelines, and workload expectations that have been carefully developed over the years and are part of the collective bargaining agreement. These elements presuppose existing workload distributions. Mandatory workload changes effectively negate the premise of those merit guidelines.
What is the evidence that faculty are not working to capacity?
This is the stated impetus for workload changes – that all faculty must work to their full capacity. Yet we have seen no data at all that faculty are not working at or beyond capacity. When asked about this in meetings of our shared governance bodies, the administration has brought forward no evidence whatsoever in support of this position. In fact, with more students than before after years of continued growth in enrollment, coupled with a shrinking full-time faculty, we suspect UA faculty are working well beyond all expectations.
It is the faculty union’s position that we have no problem with the university ensuring that faculty are working to their written/understood workloads. The changes we are hearing about are much more than that. Our contract requires The University of Akron to discuss these changes with us. This is a legally binding provision that is not negotiable and we will not allow it to be ignored. Contract issues aside, it would have been far more collegial and respectful for the administration to have asked the Akron-AAUP, faculty senate and university council to participate in developing criteria to measure “full capacity.”
What are the criteria for determining who is working to capacity?
We understand that administrators around campus are making determinations about who is and is not working to capacity. The mystery is that no one outside the administration can, and no one in the administration will, articulate the criteria being used in making these determinations. From the reports we have gathered it appears that criteria change from one group of faculty to the next. It is also unclear that these determinations are mindful of diverse departmental missions. What is required in this discussion, at the very least, is an open and frank review of the criteria one might use in reviewing workload policies already in practice.
Increasing faculty teaching won’t come close to filling the budget deficit; shouldn’t a strategy to do so include something about the cause of the crisis?
The Akron-AAUP (and likely most others in the academic community) finds it difficult to understand how the institution can find itself in fiscal straits after decades of tuition and fee increases that have risen at 2-3 times the rate of inflation, and thousands of new student enrollments. In the space of less than one year we’ve gone from record enrollments at record tuition levels, often with budegtary surplusses, to a $20-$35 million budget deficit. We are puzzled as to how that happened, how it is even possible, and more importantly – how, in precise and demonstrable and verifiable terms, full time faculty are in any way complicit in this alleged crisis?
The administration has informally asked for faculty assistance but has not presented to the campus community a frank and open review of where the university spends its money, what its priorities have been, and from where the budget shortfall derives. We understand the issues are complicated (i.e., stimulus discontinuance, political calls for performance budgeting, etc.), but until the books are opened up for faculty and community review, we do not and will not accept the premise that increasing workload is the best, or even an effective, mechanism for addressing the alleged deficit.
In a recent message Provost Sherman pointed out that graduating high school seniors, our pool of potential students, peaked in 2009 and cannot be relied upon as a source of continued growth. Our simple question: Why then has the administration’s budget for the past three years been based on increasing enrollments? Was this demographic fact not understood? Or was it simply ignored? Especially important is the fact that we have full time faculty who specialize in these areas of social science, demography and management. Doubtlessly they would not have advised the administration to continue expensive physical preparations for a traditional population that seems clearly to all to be on the decline.
Akron-AAUP pointed out in a recent communication that forcing faculty – regardless of existing workloads – to teach added classes will not fix the budget “deficit.” Part-time faculty will simply lose classes to full-time faculty in many cases. Mandating added classes simply will not magically make many more students appear, or increase student credit hour production.
What will be lost:
Policy changes have both intended and unintended consequences. The unintended consequences of mandatory workload increases are many and costly. The ability of faculty to serve students and maintain research and grant productivity will, of necessity, be undermined. This can not reasonably be the approach of a University that so publicly presents itself as the leading research university in the the area. Many affected, and productive, faculty will go on the market; many will leave and take their grants with them. Searches for replacement faculty at an institution making such unilateral and ineffective policy changes– if resulting vacancies are, in fact, actually filled– will make UA far less attractive to new talent in an increasingly competitive environment. Lost faculty and lost research funding are indeed extraordinary costs.
Shared Governance and the HLC:
The Higher Learning Commission has held the university’s feet to the fire in the past over issues relating to shared governance. The absolute lack of transparency by the administration on a matter as important as faculty workload clearly violates what we and the HLC expect. The principle behind shared governance is that relevant constituencies are to be consulted and involved in matters directly relating to their work. Faculty workload is such an issue. The University of Akron faculty should be involved, ahead of time, as integral participants in such discussions. We have not been involved to this point. We reiterate: our legally binding and mutually agreed upon collective bargaining agreement demands that the Akron-AAUP, as a voice and representative of faculty interests, be consulted on such matters. We believe faculty senate and the appropriate members of the university council should be involved as well.
We urge each faculty member to contact chairs, deans and the upper administration and explain to them what they should already know – that faculty ARE team members, the essential team members, in all that UA is – not merely members of an expendable and malleable workforce to be manipulated callously on a capriciously constructed budgetary chessboard.
This is the kind of issue the Akron-AAUP takes on all the time. We assume that you are concerned about this issue and the welfare of our faculty and our institution. If you are still not a chapter member, join the Akron-AAUP. Get involved. It’s the only way your voice, your complaints, will be in any way meaningful. Akron-AAUP has done well by its constituents so far, and 100% membership would make the faculty of The University of Akron utterly impossible to ignore.

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