The Akron-AAUP’s contract with the university administration provides for a negotiation “re-opener” on salary for AY 2013-14, the final year of the contract. Akron-AAUP has asked the university to begin these negotiations. The administration has deflected our request, ostensibly until after completion of the Higher Learning Commission visit. Following this contractually mandated re-opener, the Akron-AAUP and the university administration will have to negotiate the full terms of the next agreement. The HLC has come and gone and there’s still no word from the administration about beginning negotiations to complete current contractual obligations, nor to begin negotiations on the next agreement.
We were surprised, then, to find:
that President Proenza announced publicly that faculty and staff will see a salary freeze for the next two years. This announcement occurred prior to, in fact without, negotiations, and well after the chapter had made informal and formal requests to begin legally mandated negotiations on the salary re-opener.
that after the administration had announced an approximate $25 million budget deficit, it was renovating Infocision Stadium to the cost of 5 or 6 million dollars out of the general fund. This would include a new kitchen, and new facilities for the Development and Alumni offices.
in the Beacon Journal (March 22) that the university is planning “behind the scenes” either to renovate the James A. Rhodes Arena or build a new arena for the basketball team. How many millions would this cost, and will these millions will be added into the alleged deficit for 2013-2014?
The university administration has asked that everyone in the academic community tighten their belts, and that full time faculty “work to full capacity” to get the university beyond this suggested – though not fully explained, nor particularly obvious– budget “deficit.”
Akron-AAUP fully agrees that all university employees ought to work to full capacity, which is why we negotiated retention, tenure and promotion guidelines and procedures, career advancement pathways for non-tenure track faculty, merit pay guidelines, and why we support the graduate faculty status system. If there is evidence that faculty are not working to full capacity, we’d like to see it. Further, we’d like to see the criteria by which faculty are being evaluated on this point.
Given the above, and more, where is the evidence that the administration is tightening its own belt?
Our view – supported by readily available campus data – is that when it comes to funding the expansion of the non-teaching administration, there is no belt tightening, no sacrifice, no restraint, and no accountability. The administration seems always to find enormous amounts of money to fund its growth and priorities. All the while, faculty and staff are expected to accept a non-negotiated salary freeze– a freeze announced in the press, not at the negotiating table– as well as to accept what seem to be arbitrary changes to workload, in order to close a budget deficit that we neither created, nor contributed to in any way.
Here’s one attempt at a simple explanation of the supposed deficit:
1) the university relied upon one time federal stimulus money to fill the previous year’s funding gaps;
2) student demographics, particularly the decline in graduating high school seniors–a population that peaked in 2009– have resulted in enrollment shortfalls, which have not been reflected in or accounted for in the last three years’ budgets;
3) our retention rates are, predictably, low enough to cause reductions in state support for instruction.
According to the University’s own numbers full time instruction accounts for approximately 20% of the total budget. This, of course, is an inflated figure as it includes the salaries and benefits of highly paid administrators who, despite holding faculty rank, contribute nothing to instruction. The administration continues to assert that this expenditure generates 95% of UA’s revenue. The instructional side of The University of Akron, the non-administrative portion of instruction, is clearly doing it’s part already.
If the university administration accurately and adequately planned for expected and clearly predictable demographic changes in the student population, and foresaw the end of a short-term stimulus fund, then how is this sudden budget shortfall possible? Management of the budget and the financial affairs of the University are the exclusive province of the administration. Clearly the university’s debt continues to grow with profligate spending on pet projects and administrative growth. Appropriate cuts in those areas would likely provide the financial solutions the administration seeks.
Our principal question remains: Why are faculty and staff unilaterally forced to make sacrifices to fix a problem we did not create while the administration appears clearly to be making none?
And our principal position remains: The appropriate place to discuss budgetary concerns and changes in salaries and workload policy is at the negotiating table –the University of Akron is legally required to negotiate salary with the Akron-AAUP–and in frank and open discussions (not one-sided lectures and PowerPoint presentations) with The Akron-AAUP, Faculty Senate and relevant constituencies of the University Council.