Note: This story appears in the Tuesday, Dec. 10 newspaper on Page A1.
A professor association has responded to a letter from Ohio University’s president, disagreeing with the message it spread and asking for clarification on what the administration will be doing in terms of budget cuts.
Concerns about the budget have remained present among the Ohio University community following a call to action from the OU chapter of the American Association of Professors, which released a white paper in November detailing the university’s budget and tactics.
It also advocated for investing in faculty and staff, and denounced the growing number of administrators at OU.
The concern from professors has resulted in growing rumors, both unsubstantiated and founded, of deep faculty cuts. The college of Arts and Sciences is expected to lose between 30-50 faculty jobs, which could gut an entire program. Professors have publicly discussed the possibility of unionizing or organizing walkouts if OU administration remains unreceptive of the faculty’s concerns.
At a rally held the Monday before Thanksgiving by students in support of OU’s faculty, students noted that some of the necessary pathways and classes to complete various programs they are currently enrolled in have already been eliminated. Professors noted that they have been given more classes, both online and in brick-and-mortar classrooms, without associated salary raises and without adding staff to help facilitate the increased class load.
Student leaders from the rally reportedly met the day after with President Nellis, and a tweet from the student organization started for this cause, OU Fun Facts, wrote on social media that the meeting “was productive” and that they were “mainly on the same page with facts.”
The OU chapter of the AAUP met with OU President M. Duane Nellis on Nov. 21, according to the chapter’s letter released Monday.
On Nov. 25, Nellis released a letter stating that “a great deal of misinformation has been circulating on campus about our University budget planning process.”
He wrote that OU’s financial crisis “does not reflect our reality,” but noted that a steady decline in enrollment has impacted the university’s “declining revenue.” He denounced the previous university budget planning model, responsibility centered management, noting it assumed enrollment growth that never came to be.
On Dec. 5, OU released a statement that each of the 11 new initiatives of the “fearlessly first strategic framework,” which represents a revised budget planning model, have received co-chairs to guide the university.
The OU chapter of AAUP noted in their response to Nellis’ university-wide letter that it was inaccurately communicating some of the messages sent to the university administrators. One of the claims from Nellis’ letter is that unnamed parties are attempting to “elicit fear” among the university community, something the chapter’s letter refutes.
“OU-AAUP routinely hears the fears of Instructional Faculty who have already lost or may soon lose their jobs,” the letter read. “And increasingly, we hear the fears of students who wonder, ‘How will my education suffer if I have fewer professors teaching more classes?’”
The OU-AAUP letter notes university-supplied documents that show a need for instructional faculty to drop from 95 in fiscal year 2021 to 47 in fiscal year 2020.
“Let us be clear: ‘Instructional Faculty’ are respected professors and community members; many have served this community for decades,” the faculty letter read. “OU-AAUP is aware of at least 14 instructional faculty members in Arts & Sciences alone who were already laid off last year. Referring to these layoffs as ‘non-renewals’ does not lessen their human cost. Nor does it recognize the contributions these professors make to the quality of education at OU.”
OU-AAUP asked for three things in its letter: for the university to instruct deans to cease plans for faculty layoffs; to immediately and publicly announce a commitment to retain faculty; and to publicly commit to the protection of academics by requiring budget cuts to have a greater share from units not directly supporting academics.
Representatives of OU-AAUP were present at the Faculty Senate meeting held Monday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. Further coverage of that meeting will be in a future edition.