Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post
Gordy Hall in, Athens, Feb. 11, 2024.

Faculty retention, course offerings continue to decline across university

Faculty retention rates at Ohio University are still dropping after the COVID-19 pandemic layoffs, leading to fewer course offerings for students and frustration among instructional faculty. 

As student-to-faculty ratios in large colleges like the College of Arts and Sciences are increasing, the number of credit hours being taught by nontenured instructional faculty is also rising.

Those increases lead to professors doing more work, and often getting spread thin, Kyle Butler, OU’s American Association of University Professors, or OU-AAUP, vice president and associate professor in the Ohio Intensive English program, said. 

“Sometimes we get stretched, then we have to take on additional classes or teach additional things beyond what would be our normal class load,” Butler said. "So, not necessarily the number of students in each class, but the number of classes that I'm teaching can sometimes get increased.”

Faculty are also displeased with their salaries not matching inflation, John O’Keefe, an associate professor of history on the Chillicothe campus and OU-AAUP president, said.

In a data table provided by O’Keefe that the OU-AAUP compiled from other faculty contracts from different universities, OU news releases and human resource statements from the university, OU salaries have increased by 5% since 2019, whereas, other Ohio institutions like Kent State and Bowling Green have seen increases of up to 14%. 

In addition to larger workloads and lagging salaries, the university is not offering as many tenure-track jobs, despite record enrollment, according to a previous Post report. 

Some schools at the university, including the Scripps College of Communication, have even seen a decrease in mean salaries for tenured and tenure-track faculty. 

Butler said the university is much more likely to hire instructional faculty because those faculty members cost less and do not receive the same long-term job security protection as tenured positions. He said, from certain perspectives, he understands the advantages of hiring instructional. 

The increasingly slim tenure-track offerings have made faculty more likely to leave OU for greater job security, O’Keefe said. He and Butler agree the layoffs and current tenure options made faculty lose trust in the university and consider jobs elsewhere.

“There are some instructional faculty who would be interested in tenure-line who have the qualifications, who are publishing research and essentially doing most of what a tenured professor would be doing,“ Butler said. “But they're doing it with no clear path to tenure and that can be really demoralizing. That is something that can really affect somebody's morale and their sense of how valued they are by the institution.”

The loss of faculty across fields of study at OU has been particularly damaging for smaller programs like African American Studies and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, or WGSS.

Between the 2016-17 school year and the 2022-23 school year, the African American Studies Department lost 60% of its faculty, going from five full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members to two. 

The lack of staff has led to some courses not being offered at all. In WGSS, the number of total credit hours taught between 2016 and 2022 went down over 40%

Audrey Ansel, a sophomore studying communications studies, fears that she may not be able to complete her certificate in LGBTQIA+ studies because faculty members who teach required courses for the certificate are leaving OU.

“I came to (OU), and the school stood out to me because of its LGBTQ Studies program,” Ansel said. “So, to have to just kind of give up on it is upsetting. And I also feel like it's kind of false advertising to say that we're a school that offers this.”

Ansel also said students want to take these courses, but faculty have not been hired to fill the places of people who were laid off or left. 

There are currently only seven core faculty members within the WGSS program, and only one is a tenured or tenure-track faculty member. 

“I also am sure that it is probably nerve-wracking to be employed in a department when it's clear the university isn't putting resources and isn't hiring people,” Ansel said. “Every WGSS class I have been in has been full. It's not that there isn't demand there. As an instructor, it's like, do you matter? Do you matter to the university? How long can you stay here? How solid is your standing?”


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH