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Taylor Johnston and Ellen Wagner make important decisions about the Post in the editors' office on the evening of Wednesday, February 5, 2020.

Editorial: Professors deserve to unionize

Professors at Ohio University are paid on average $6,000 less than faculty at other public Ohio universities such as Kent State, Bowling Green and the University of Toledo. The staff of all of these universities have unionized, which may play a role in the difference in salary. However, OU’s faculty has not.

On March 5, over 150 people gathered on College Green to advocate for unionization to ensure more freedom within the classroom and better job security. Students, professors, administrators and other faculty gathered for the event, organized by the United Academics of Ohio University, or UAOU, to demonstrate their support. 

At the end of the rally, the crowd marched into Cutler Hall to deliver a letter to President Lori Stewart Gonzalez in favor of unionizing, which nearly 70% of OU full-time faculty across all campuses are in favor of, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

It is important that OU professors unionize as OU has a history of seemingly random layoffs and the onset of the Harvard v. Students for Fair Admissions decision, which struck down affirmative action in public universities, the consequences of which are still unclear.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, 53 instructional faculty members were notified that their contracts would not be renewed. In essence, they were being fired with no notice or reasoning beyond vague budgeting problems as a result of the pandemic. These were professors who had dedicated decades of their lives to instructing OU students and were beloved by many, with no clear protocol violations. 

When a mass firing like this occurs with little information regarding what happened, it is understandable that staff would feel on edge. The university’s administration should have anticipated the effect this would have and that a union that would be smart to ensure staff can unionize with minimal pushback would arise. Even if the school was facing budgeting problems, firing over 50 staff members who have nothing to do with said problems is not an ethical way to solve them. 

More recently, the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard case, jeopardizing race-based scholarships and education pertaining to diversity, has been another point of contention around campus. It remains unclear how exactly Ohio Attorney General David Yost’s interpretation of this decision will play out in terms of courses based on race, gender and sexuality and just how far into the classroom this decision will reach. Given how the university handled the COVID-19 layoffs, it is reasonable that professors may be preparing for the worst.

Unionization is a critical part of being a worker, as unions ensure that workers get a voice. On average, unionized workers are paid 18% more than workers who are not. Unions ensure benefits, safety and fair treatment in the workplace, specifically for those in the middle class who are given some leverage over stagnant wages and a rise in income volatility. 

Although professors may not be the first group that comes to mind when unions are discussed, they are at the will of the administration and should do all they can to ensure they are not being taken advantage of. Anyone who is passionate enough to dedicate their lives to teaching the next generation should be treated with the respect and value they deserve. A core part of what will solidify and validate this is OU faculty being able to unionize with as little pushback from administration as possible.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: Editor-in-Chief Katie Millard, Managing Editor Emma Erion and Equity Director Alesha Davis. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.

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