Board of Trustees protest

About 50 Ohio University faculty protesters lined the walls behind regular attendees of the O.U. Board of Trustees January meeting.

Ohio University announced Wednesday that the administrative units have been asked to pause “personnel-related budget reductions” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the release, OU President M. Duane Nellis requested the action be taken for an undetermined amount of time.

“Our current focus must be on the safety and well-being of our campus communities as we continue to ensure the education of our students and service to our region,” the statement read.

On Feb. 28, the university announced a request for cuts as part of a $30 million targeted budget reduction. The cuts echo hiring restrictions that started in December.

Because of this, the Ohio University chapter of the American Association of University Professors has called on Nellis to make no personnel cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 300 instructional faculty layoffs are expected to occur, despite the change in world circumstances.

On Wednesday, the group released a statement applauding President Nellis, Provost Sayrs and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Shaffer for their decision to “press ‘pause’ on ‘personnel-related budget reductions.’”

“As they rightly observe, the COVID-19 pandemic is ‘dramatically affecting the daily lives of our OHIO family,’ and this move to protect jobs in uncertain times is a perfect demonstration of what true Bobcat solidarity–with our employees, our students, and our region–looks like,” the association’s statement read.

The statement continued, entreating the OU administration to right-size administrative units and non-academic units before touching instructional budget.

“President Nellis’s administration has correctly ascertained that laying off Instructional Faculty during a pandemic would be particularly callous,” the OU-AAUP statement reads. “But even after we have made it through this crisis together, such layoffs would still compromise OU’s core mission of education and social mobility. Instructional Faculty are critical to this mission: they teach hundreds of classes and tens of thousands of students every semester, all for the lowest pay. They are not responsible for what President Nellis has referred to as ‘an imbalance in our operational spending.’”

The university will reevaluate the budget planning and institutional priorities following the pandemic, Nellis’ letter promises.

“We will re-evaluate our budget planning assumptions and our institutional priorities as we respond to these unprecedented and unpredictable times at OU and more broadly in higher education,” the university release read. “Difficult decisions remain, and we will reassess once we have more clarity about our global and local contexts as they impact our situation this fiscal year and beyond.”

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