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

Dear Colleagues,

As the Spring 2022 semester gets underway, we would like to inform you of what the chapter has been doing on behalf of the faculty.

Click on one of the headings below to jump directly to the topic.

Upcoming Meetings Covid-19Shared GovernanceWorkload
Academic FreedomLabor Management ComFinancial TransparencyLiaison Council
Dean Searches Faculty SpotlightPresident’s Cabinet Retreat

Upcoming Meetings

Please plan to attend our upcoming meetings:
Chapter Meeting – dues-paying members only
Monday, April 18th 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.  
All meetings will be held on Zoom.
Zoom https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88301477701)
Meeting ID: 883 0147 7701
Please make it a priority to attend. We should have more updates and want to get a better sense of what you would like us to prioritize as we work through the semester and start planning for the next academic year.

Covid-19

As was suggested at the Fall Chapter meeting, we conducted a survey on the University’s COVID Policies to dues-paying BUF members. About 90% of the 122 people who responded to the survey expressed “approval” or “strong approval”  UA’s masking and mandatory vaccination policies; over 85% “approve” or “strongly approve” of the reporting requirement; over 80% “support” or “strongly support” mandatory testing requirements, and there is no consensus regarding the exemption criteria and requirements (please click here to view the full report). It is important for all of us to complete these surveys as that is our best way of representing faculty in our communications with the University. If your colleagues would like to take part in these surveys in the future, please encourage them to join Akron-AAUP. 

We have continued discussions with the University regarding the health and safety of the University Community. One outcome of these conversations, which was initiated by Akron-AAUP, was the possibility of KN95 mask distribution to faculty/staff being asked to work face-to-face.  After confirming the availability of the masks, the University was able to freely provide 2 masks per faculty/staff member for their use. Please continue to monitor the University’s updates on campus COVID numbers by referring to the COVID dashboard.

Shared Governance and Program Review

We have been working with Faculty Senate to revise Sections B and C of the MOU on Shared Governance agreed to by the Akron-AAUP and the Administration in Spring 2021. Section B describes the process by which Senate’s Academic Investment Committee will evaluate and make recommendations for program investment. Section C will define the process by which programs that are identified as “at-risk” will be evaluated for investment, or, in rare cases, disinvestment. The intent is to create a transparent and fair multi-step process that includes representation from the program faculty, Senate, and the Administration. 

Workload and Overload Pay for Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty

The Labor-Management Policy Committee (LMPC) has been meeting in order to reach consensus regarding departmental workloads for tenure-track/tenured faculty. Governed by the University Rules, as set forth by the Board of Trustees, we have been working with OAA in order to come to an understanding of how to calculate and implement departmental workload policies. We aim to solidify these policies by the end of Spring of 2022.

Academic Freedom

We have continued to work with our partners in higher education, including Ohio-AAUP and the UA Administration on expressing our opposition to the legislation that was posed as part of Ohio House Bills 322 & 327. At this time, Bill 322 has essentially eliminated any mention of higher education, and Bill 327 has continued to be edited to soften the language and eliminate the financial penalties for “violations”. We will continue to monitor this legislation closely and will update you on any further developments as we receive them.

Labor Management Committee

Our Labor Management Committee (LMC), under the leadership of Contract Administrator and Grievance Officer Brian Bagatto and with the support of chapter consultant Bill Rich, continues to work through the remaining grievances related to the 2020 Reduction in Force. The LMC remains, as ever, available to hear faculty concerns and issues and to provide advice regarding our individual and collective rights. As a reminder, any faculty member who believes that they may be disciplined has the right to request a chapter representative accompany them to meetings with the administration. Below is a copy of your Weingarten Rights, which is on the back of every Akron-AAUP membership card.

Financial Transparency

As part of our MOU on financial transparency, our LMPC has continued to meet with the University’s leadership for quarterly updates on our financial situation at UA. We believe these meetings have been valuable not only in overviewing current and projected budgets but also in discussing ways in which we will continue to work towards additional financial gains either by increasing enrollment or decreasing expenditures. As such, I want to encourage you to view and participate in some of the small, no-cost ways that faculty can be more active in advertising the University’s strengths and putting forth positive messages in order to assist in enrollment-increasing efforts. Keep in mind that enrollment is solely and directly related to our potential lump-sum payments over the duration of the contract (see Article 16 C for details).  

As part of the last meeting, we also discussed the UA football coaching change. As President Miller has stated, the University has a financial obligation to the contract of Coach Arth; however, the amount and details of that obligation have yet to be determined. After our budget meeting, the LMPC is satisfied that the money being used for this action is not money that could have or can be used for reimbursement to the general fund for athletic spending. That being said, we are continuing to monitor this change closely and to hold the leadership accountable regarding investment in academic needs.  

Liaison Council

I want to personally thank our department liaisons for the work they do on behalf of the Chapter.  It is one of my goals that EVERY department has a liaison by the end of Spring of 2022. We have been trying to involve them more actively in our organizing efforts, which led to two events last semester: a “brainstorming, booze, and bites” gathering and a joint get-to-know-you event at one of UA’s home football games as guests of Provost Wiencek.  One idea that came out of these discussions was the utilization of in-house experts for University problems that often lead to short-term external hires. This was presented as an idea to the President’s Council at President’s Miller last retreat and quite positively received. We look forward to more brainstorming events that generate new and creative relationships with the University community. 

Dean Searches

Akron-AAUP worked with the Office of Academic Affairs in an effort to launch multiple dean searches last semester; some required MOUs due to circumstances that were not adequately addressed in the CBA. Through our joint efforts, we are optimistic that all our colleges will have permanent leaders by the end of the academic year. We see this as a strong first step in allowing colleges to operate more independently, resulting in more shared governance.

Faculty Spotlight

We are working on highlighting BUF members in order for our Chapter to recognize the work and contributions of our colleagues. If you would like to nominate yourself or a colleague, please send me the name of the person, as well as what work you’d like to highlight. We plan to spotlight at least three people in every communication across the three areas of scholarship/creative activities, teaching, and service.  

President’s Cabinet Retreat

President Miller invited me, as well as the Chairs of University Council and Faculty Senate, Tonia Ferrell and Kate Budd, respectively, to his Cabinet Retreat and Chair of the Board of Trustees, Joe Gingo on Thursday, January 27th. President Miller charged us to submit an agenda that included issues of shared governance, campus relationships, and enabling agency.  We spent an hour discussing these topics in an open environment in order to continue to rebuild our relationship with the University. I will offer more details in our Chapter meeting later this month.

As I am halfway through my first year as the President of Akron-AAUP, I realize the privilege that this position holds. I look forward to continuing my service as best as I can as we navigate our challenges and successes as a Chapter together.

In solidarity,
Toni Bisconti
President, Akron-AAUP

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