A group of faculty members discussed at a meeting Thursday how Ohio University’s “budget crisis” could lead to unionization or a potential Spring Semester walkout.
The meeting, which had about 85 people in attendance, was a forum for all faculty members to listen to Jim Mosher, an associate professor of political science, present about Ohio University’s “budget crisis” and to discuss solutions.
On average, there has not been an increase in salaries for faculty members since the 1960s, Mosher said. He did adjust the data for inflation and did not include benefits on top of the salaries.
There hasn’t been an increase in the number of faculty members per student since the 1970s. Mosher said there are roughly 1,100 faculty members and 22,000 students.
There was about a 9% increase in faculty members between 2011 and 2017, but in the same time span there was an increase of about 88% for academic administration and a 91.3% increase in administrative staff, according to the OU factbook, which Mosher cited.
Mosher said that was an addition of about 350 administrators. That brought the number from just under 800 to about 1,200.
Mosher also said there was a decline in 18-year-olds in Ohio until 2016, but data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that the decline will stabilize.
Julie White, the vice president for the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, and an associate professor of political science, said she would “love to see a walkout in the spring.”
“(Administrators) don’t yet even know what your gen-ed is going to look like, and you are releasing some of our most committed teachers who are integral to that mission,” White said.
White said that whether it is a walkout or unionization, faculty members must convince their colleagues to make the statement.
“There are folks losing their jobs,” Loren Lybarger, the president of AAUP, said. “They’ve already lost their jobs and there’s a projection of 40 to 50 more instructional faculty jobs that will be cut in arts and sciences alone. We’re talking about an entire program. Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies could be gutted as a consequence.”
Wright State University faculty members unionized and went on a strike and eventually got a contract that addressed many issues OU faculty members are facing, Lybarger said.
“Wright State was facing the same sort of thing and fought back, but they were unionized,” Lybarger, who is an associate professor of classics, said. “We aren’t, but we can get there.”
The last time OU faculty members tried to unionize was about 10 years ago, and there was about 30% to 35% of signatures, which was around the amount that the faculty legally needed, Lybarger said.
He said there needs to be about 75% of the faculty’s signature before presenting it to the state.
“It takes a lot of work and a real organization of faculty to do that,” Lybarger said. “We’re nowhere near that, but this kind of meeting can be a beginning for that.”
He said another approach would be to build a network of faculty liaisons in every department who actively talk to their department’s faculty members about collective bargaining.
Jennifer Fredette, an associate professor of political science, said different academic departments would like to implement new workload policies for faculty members.
Normally, faculty members teach two courses in the Fall Semester and two courses in the Spring Semester, but there have been conversations of this moving to a five and five model, Fredette said.
Fredette said faculty members can become overworked and underpaid, which hurts their teaching performance.
David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports management, presented about university athletics.
Ridpath said each student pays about $1,300 a year for athletics, despite OU not having an athletics fee.
“Now we say we don’t charge an athletic fee, but we actually do,” Ridpath said.
Ridpath said the university might say that everything is on the table in terms of cuts, but “athletics is never really on the table.”
OU doesn’t generate a lot of money in ticket sales or sponsorship. Athletics is funded from about 70% of tuition subsidies and other subsidies from the university, Ridpath said.
Ridpath said the “front porch” idea of the university attracting students because of athletic success is a “very bad strategy.”
After OU went to the Sweet 16 in 2012, the enrollment actually decreased in the following couple years, Ridpath said. He added that there were other factors that contributed to the decline.
“We as faculty need to bring pressure… to make sure that everything is really truly on the table,” Ridpath said.
He said that according to his research, athletic success causes a short term spike in enrollment at best.
“We can have a robust, successful, fun, inclusive athletic department at this university, but we don’t have to overspend,” Ridpath said. “And we do not have to put further burden on the students.”
Ridpath said he was at OU’s football game Tuesday against Western Michigan University “along with probably 400 other people.” He said he sees no benefit of playing games on a Tuesday night. He said he thinks it makes the university look worse.
Mosher added that the university should have three different budgets. One budget should be for personnel, which would keep track of how many faculty and staff members are needed and where they are needed. Another budget would be focused on money. The last budget would focus on the social benefits of the university.
The value of education in future earnings is about $800,000 over a 35-year span at the national level. He added that about 33% of all growth in the United States over the last decade was from logical innovations, Mosher said.
The financial benefit is about $3.4 million social benefit on a per faculty basis, Mosher said.