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Cutler Hall on Ohio University's campus in Athens, Ohio. (FILE)

Over 130 faculty members call for reckoning with financial practices, shared governance at OU

A group of 138 faculty members signed a statement Thursday calling for Ohio University to end “business as usual” operations that are financially harrowing the university.

The statement comes in light of recent administrative bonuses, salary increases and a financial report at the Board of Trustees’ October meeting detailing millions of dollars lost due to the coronavirus.  

“We acknowledge that we are in the midst of a pandemic and a national crisis in higher education financing and neither of those conditions have historical precedent,” according to the statement. “But the origin of the university’s financial crisis lies in a failed business model that continues to guide executive decision-making, a model of ‘right-sizing’ that eliminates people who do the work of teaching, and directly support teaching, while continuing to sustain and even increase administrative bloat and exorbitant compensation packages at the executive level.”

The statement asserts OU — along with other universities facing similar financial setbacks — need to “drastically reduce” the size, salaries and costs of its administration. 

Since many universities must also make those changes, the assertion that OU’s administrative salaries are based off peer institutions shows a commitment to failed business practices, according to the statement.

“Real leadership requires interrogating rather than merely mimicking assumptions about ‘best practices’ among our peers who are also struggling,” according to the statement. “As faculty concerned to protect that mission we have a responsibility to challenge these unsustainable practices. Let the real restructuring begin here and with us.”

Ending “business as usual” practices means extending the model of shared governance to a model of enhanced administrative accountability. This includes university leadership taking responsibility for the extent to which budget issues are self-inflicted, according to the statement.

The university has frequently cited declined enrollment as a contributor to financial losses. However, evidence suggests the number of Ohio students going to college during the past 10 years has remained the same. Since 2015, students have chosen to attend lower-cost universities in Ohio, according to the statement.

“And let us be clear: it is not faculty and staff salaries or direct academic expenditures that drove pricing here,” the statement reads. “In fact investments in these areas have declined markedly over the course of the decade as a share of the university budget. Costly mistakes have been made by leadership; but the consequences of those mistakes have been borne by the rest of us. This pattern cannot continue.”

Closing the structural debt at OU by continuing to lay off faculty, reducing teaching resources and eliminating research will “inevitably threaten the quality of the academic experience,” according to the statement.

OU released a webpage Oct. 9. publicizing data about administrative salaries and bonuses. 


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