The Ohio University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, or OU-AAUP, has been forced to communicate exclusively online with all other university organizations due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Loren Lybarger, OU-AAUP president and a professor of classics, said he is unsure if online classes mean more faculty will be fired in efforts to balance the university’s budget.
“Firing these faculty now, during this pandemic, means exposing these individuals to the loss of their healthcare plans as well as their income,” Lybarger said in an email.
Lybarger also said the pandemic has forced OU-AAUP to shift completely online for communication and meetings.
“We are fortunate, however, that we have strong relationships with one another that were forged in-person before this crisis hit,” he said in an email. “We need to remember the (importance) of person-to-person encounters and exchanges. It is central to our work as educators and scholars in a liberal arts university. Online cannot ever replace that.”
Lybarger said OU-AAUP is currently using Google Hangouts to communicate.
“We fully intend to support our colleagues in whatever ways we can either through our online activism or, when we return to normal campus work, through in-person meetings, forums, and other events,” he said in an email.
Preventing the further layoff of faculty is OU-AAUP’s No. 1 priority, Lybarger said. The AAUP created a petition calling for OU administration to stop laying off professors, especially during a national crisis.
“Nellis wrote in his statement, ‘Now, more than ever, our attention must be on providing a quality educational experience for our students,’” according to the petition. “This includes supporting the hardworking, valuable Instructional Faculty members who are the front-line teaching professors at Ohio University and defending the core academic mission of the entire OHIO community.”
Lybarger said non-tenure track instructional faculty are still the ones at risk of losing their positions.
“These professors, who in many cases have been at OU for years, teach some of the largest enrolling classes for some of the lowest salaries,” he said in an email. “(They) are also some of our most dedicated and skilled teachers.”
Cutting instructional staff, he said, would undermine the academic mission of the university.
“The core mission of OU is teaching and research,” he said in an email. “The faculty are central to this mission. To preserve this mission, you have to keep the faculty whole.”