Ohio University professors discussed concerns regarding university leadership, losing faculty and the university’s commitment to students and the community at an open forum Friday hosted by the Ohio University chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
“We are attempting to model a forum of collaboration and communication that we feel is missing at the university,” Loren Lybarger, OU-AAUP President and professor of classics, said.
The roughly 60 faculty members in attendance split into 10 tables to discuss their concerns, Matthew Ziff, associate professor of interior architecture, said. The meeting was closed to the public in an effort to allow professors to speak freely.
Lybarger said shared governance requires the “active and meaningful” participation of faculty and that OU-AAUP seeks to strengthen those mechanisms by providing outlets, such as the open forum, for faculty to voice their concerns.
“Consistently, across the room, we heard faculty at all of the tables expressing a concern that the leadership at this university recently has been very erratic and chaotic,” Jennifer Fredette, associate professor of political science and the communications director of OU-AAUP, said. “And what is getting lost is our commitment to our students and to the region.”
Lisa Crockett, professor of biological sciences, said losing faculty will impact both the work that faculty are expected to complete, like research, as well as curriculum breadth and class size. In certain courses, like field biology, class size directly impacts students’ experiences.
Fredette also said the university does not seem to be upholding its commitment to the community.
“We are an incredibly expensive school now,” Fredette said. “We’re in rural Appalachia. That doesn’t speak to our service to the region.”
OU-AAUP advocates for “academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance,” according to the organization’s Facebook page, and the group has objected to the faculty’s lack of voice during recent budget discussions at the university. Friday’s open forum was OU-AAUP’s first organized event since the group protested the January Board of Trustees meeting.
Fredette said that OU-AAUP wants to model democratic leadership, so the group will review notes from Friday’s open forum and decide on potential next steps based on faculty’s priorities and concerns.
“There’s an awful lot of energy on this campus because people love this institution. We care so much about our students. We care so much about this region,” Fredette said. “I had faculty at the table who were telling me they’ve been here for over 20 years. I even had instructional faculty telling me that they’ve been here for over 10 years … We’re speaking out out of love because we want to protect this place and its mission.”