Welcome back! I hope you all had a restful and restorative summer. As you may have surmised from our previous emails, this summer has been an eventful one for the University as well as the Chapter. As you know, the University has concluded its search for a new president. I have been asked by several faculty members how the process went and what I think of the president-elect, so I thought I’d fill you all in as much as I am able.
The good thing about the process is that there were three faculty members actively involved in the selection process. The downside of a closed search, of course, is that the lack of transparency it entails may create a lack of trust. I wish I could say more because I think that if I could tell you more about the process, it might help set your minds at ease. All constituent groups represented on the search committee (Akron-AAUP, Faculty Senate, University Council, the Staff Advisory Committee, the Contract Professional Advisory Committee, and Undergraduate Student Government) agreed that the process worked well. The search firm did a good job, and we were able to attract the interest of qualified candidates.
The president-elect, Gary Miller, possesses the qualifications that the faculty told us they wanted in a president when we surveyed the bargaining unit in December 2018. President-elect Miller is a tenured full professor with a distinguished record of scholarship. He has served at the rank of dean, provost, and chancellor (the equivalent of president in the Wisconsin university system). He has been open and willing to talk to the elected leadership of the shared governance bodies on campus, including the Akron-AAUP, and he has promised to maintain open lines of communication. These are all positive signs, and I think that we can all approach the semester with a sense of optimism that the University has the kind of leadership we asked for–and that, when the Board of Trustees asked for our feedback about what qualities we were looking for in a leader, they heard us.
This being said, the University still faces significant challenges ahead. We will all need to continue to work on departmental workload policies. The Administration’s guidance document that is going back to the departments is an improvement over earlier drafts circulated this summer to deans, chairs, and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. To be clear: the document is still in draft form. It is university-level guidance that is still far from what most units submitted in the spring, but it represents a step in the right direction. I consider it to be a small sign of progress, and the faculty must continue to work to ensure that our voices are heard so that we help to steer policies in the right direction.
If you haven’t already, you will soon learn whether your department has approval to search for new faculty members. The total amount allocated, $1 million, and the combined 15 full-time tenure-track and NTT positions approved (12 regular faculty and 3 special positions) was a disappointment. Some units will need to consider carefully what the decline in their faculty ranks means for the future of their programs. This will necessitate a series of hard conversations; those conversations must begin soon, and they must involve faculty and leadership at all levels. We will press to ensure these discussions take place, and that faculty members and students in the most adversely affected units are protected. We will also continue to discuss with the administration the ramifications of the clear lack of investment in academic programs and what it means for the quality of education we are able to provide–particularly at a time when we are asked to intensify our efforts to attract and retain students. I encourage you to reach out to the Chapter to let us know what impact the faculty hires, or lack thereof, will likely have on your unit.
Last but not least, I would like to remind you to welcome all the new faculty who are joining us this semester. Please encourage them to join us at Faculty First Friday at The Lockview Tavern, 207 S. Main Street, on Friday, September 6th from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM. First drink’s on us.
Reminder: our Fall Chapter Meeting will be on October 25, 12:00-2:00 PM in Leigh Hall 307. We look forward to seeing you there!
Professor, Child and Family Development