Ohio University faculty gathered in Grover Hall Friday morning prior to marching to the Board of Trustees meeting to silently protest the lack of shared governance in the budget crisis proceedings.
The group was led by the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, who has been vocal in the recent conversation at the university about cutting faculty.
Loren Lybarger, president of the OU chapter of the AAUP, said he was concerned with the lack of communication and transparency with faculty.
“We have not had a seat at the table, a meaningful seat at the table,” Lybarger said. “So ... we’ve faced the probability and the ongoing reality of faculty not having their contracts renewed and continuing to talk about needing to shrink the size of the faculty.”
He said there is deep concern about the impact that staff cuts will have on the curriculum and students.
“We feel that the approach that is being taken here to deal with this crisis has lacked any sort of accountability from the top,” Lybarger said. “When we see upper administration receiving big bonuses from the Board of Trustees as the president of this university did last year, meanwhile faculty are losing their jobs, then there’s something deeply wrong.”
Lybarger said the AAUP wants to make it clear to the Board of Trustees that faculty are concerned by the current process and want to see fundamental changes to integrate them in a meaningful way.
Gary Holcomb, professor of African American literature, said a silent protest is part of the group’s message.
“Even though we can’t speak up at the meeting, it’s a silent protest,” Holcombe said. “We feel like silence in this sense is a kind of expression of our message.”
Susan Burgess, professor of political science, also said there is a reason for the silent protest.
“The reason why we’re having a silent protest is because we’ve been blocked out of the process,” she said. “We don’t have a real voice.”
She said for the last four years, the budget for senior administration has grown by about $2.8 million, yet professors are hearing that faculty still need to be cut and tuition still needs to be raised.
“This is our university, and it’s our town,” Burgess said. “When they’re gone four, five years from now, we’re still going to be living here. We’re still going to be working here. They don’t care about that. This is our place.”
Miriam Shadis, a history professor, expressed her confusion and concern for what the board has been doing.
“I’m very distressed with the way in which this budget problem is being talked about,” Shadis said. “I don’t understand being told by one party that we have a budget crisis, and the president said yesterday there is no crisis. It’s very confusing.”
Shadis said she is more concerned about people’s jobs than the money.
“I’m not personally here to ask for money,” she said. “I don’t want to see people losing their jobs because there’s no money to pay somebody, essentially minimum wage, to teach a course in literature or math. That’s why I’m here. I’m really upset about it, and I think it’s important that the Board of Trustees understands that faculty are paying attention.”
When asked about the protest, OU President Duane Nellis said that making difficult budget decisions takes time.
“We make a concerted effort to have faculty input on virtually everything we do, and we want to continue to remain committed to shared governance,” Nellis said. “I appreciate the fact that they were there, and (I) appreciate their perspectives, but also, we have to have a process and hear a lot of different perspectives as we make decisions.”
After the meeting, faculty participating in the protest left together.
“We did the right thing,” Austin Babrow, professor of communication studies, said. “I think that this is kind of a surreal experience with us having genuinely important things to say and the pretense of the board that there’s nothing else to be said … We’ve reached a point here that’s almost complete absurdity. We are no more a university. We’re in business to create high-paying academic, administrative positions.”