Members of Faculty Senate voiced concerns about Ohio University administration's lack of communication and the proposed budget cuts to Board of Trustee members Monday in the wake of a university-wide conversation over OU’s alleged budget crisis.
The floor was opened up to faculty to ask Board of Trustees Chair Dave Scholl and Vice Chair Janelle Coleman questions about OU’s Fearlessly First strategic framework proposals that were released last week. Some of the proposals include extending the number of credit hours taught by faculty members and cutting majors with low enrollment.
Bill Reader, a senator for the Scripps College of Communications, said the university being “fearlessly first” means that faculty must also fearlessly speak truth to power. There has been a lack of honest account from the top administration about the proposed framework and budget cuts. Administration does not face that same potential level of cuts, Reader said.
“Before cutting bone from the bottom, let’s be fearlessly first by acknowledging there is too much fat at the top,” Reader said.
Reader questioned why, under the proposed frameworks, faculty members will have to take on more work while administration will not. Reader said that faculty members provide a return to the university on their salaries while administrators’ work is not reflective of their salaries.
“Can any executive at the top of the pay scale show a return on investment for salaries at or above $200,000 per year, which, in Athens, buys a house?” Reader said. “A house is not a salary.”
In regards to the higher teaching load, Scholl said he believed the change had to be made in accordance with state law. He also said administrative salaries were looked at about three years ago. The salaries were based off market pay data in which pay was determined by administrators meeting their mission goals, he said.
Faculty salaries are not determined on that same basis, Scholl said.
Gary Holcomb, professor of African American studies, echoed Reader. The university might close Holcomb’s department due to its small size, he said. He also said the administration needs to find a way to address budget cuts without cutting faculty in smaller departments that are most in jeopardy of being affected.
“I would ask you to ask the president instead to find ways to address our issues that don't damage our academic mission,” Holcomb said. “Arts and Sciences and other colleges are down past the bone marrow … and have been this way for several years now.”
Coleman said there will be more clear and transparent communication by the administration and that President Duane Nellis will also be told that faculty want to collaborate more in the future.
“I understand that communication is key to us moving forward on anything,” Coleman said. “We want to do this together, and we want to get this done for our students, for our faculty, for our community.”
The trustees left the meeting after about half an hour, though faculty members still had questions. After the trustees left, senators continued the conversation on strategic framework proposals. Senators focused on proposed faculty workloads, the changes for each college and the timeline for implementing the changes.
Julie White, a senator from the College of Arts and Sciences, said that while the university needs to adapt to the changing college and career atmosphere, the proposed changes will need to continue to keep OU a liberal arts college at its heart.
“Everything I've read about what the next generation of college students needs suggested they still need a liberal arts college education. And what I’m worried about is that so much of the language of innovation is about displacing that,” White said. “We know that the average student who graduates from college in the next five years will have not just three jobs but three different careers. We cannot treat university education like it's a training program. It’s not.”
White said it comes down to OU changing its branding and message. She doesn’t trust the way that reimagining university education is going right now. Faculty are in touch with market changes and want to be a part of the framework conversation but aren’t being consulted, she said.
“A lot of us are pretty apt scholars of the contemporary context in the job market and contemporary conversations about education,” White said. “So the fact that we're kind of shut out is … doing harm to the university.”