Members of Ohio University’s American Association of University Professors, or OU-AAUP, and other faculty members held a demonstration Wednesday at the Class Gateway on College Green in support of OU’s non-renewed instructional faculty.
During the 2019-2020 school year, 53 instructional faculty lost their teaching contracts due to budget cuts. A gathering of about 40 professors, students and OU-AAUP members came together to show their support for these faculty members and acknowledge their dedication to OU students. In order for those gathered to follow safety protocols, chalk dots indicating a six-foot distance were drawn across the brick and masks were worn.
Many of the demonstrators held homemade signs and waved 53 red flags as cars drove by and honked in support. Bethany Padron, assistant professor of Instruction Theater, said each of the flags symbolized a faculty member who lost his or her position due to the cuts.
“Because of the pandemic, we haven’t seen these people,” Padron said. “This is 53 flags. This is a representation of exactly how many people are lost from the university community, from the Athens community.”
Among others, Julie White, vice president of OU-AAUP, held a sign which read “One faculty, one staff, one OU!”
“I think saving faculty is central to saving the academic mission and that is, after all, what universities exist for,” White said. “I worry that we're losing sight of the priority on the academic mission in the way that the budget is being managed.”
Jennifer Fredette, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, agreed with White’s sentiments about the university’s academic mission.
“I think that the current administration would do well to recognize the core of a university is its academic mission, and we're not serving that right now,” Fredette said. “Our students know it, our alumni know it, and they're the ones who are actually the loudest about it.”
For several supporters, the layoffs hit close to home. Kyle Butler, an associate professor of instruction in the College of Arts and Sciences, spoke on his own experiences.
“It's personal. It's my friends. It's my colleagues that I've been working with and a lot of them have been here at this university for over a decade,” Butler said. “They are great teachers who do great work … there was no reason that these people should have been cut.”
Despite the importance of the contract terminations, many feel there has been a lack of transparency from the university regarding the cuts.
“I feel like this issue is something that's only been discussed kind of quietly and in secret for the past seven (or) eight months, so it's really nice to see people are coming out in the open and willing to stand with us and support us,” Butler said.
Although there are no more events planned currently, organizers believe there will be future demonstrations in the spring. Fredette said she would continue to attend any events that support the faculty and students.
In the meantime, White plans to •continue to raise awareness of the faculty cuts, and she hopes to see more transparency on behalf of the university.
“Prioritizing the academic mission means prioritizing faculty and staff,” White said. “That means no more cuts. That means transparency about a budget so that we know what we’re spending on athletics and the administration, and we know what we’re spending on faculty. You don’t have a university without your faculty.”