Petitions to put SB 5 on the ballot in November will be available at the following places this week:
*the parking lot of the Market on State St – Saturday April 30 from 10-1
*Howard Hall at Union and College on Monday May 2 from 10-5
*In Athens, outside polling places for the primaries on Tuesday, May 3

If you know if a place and date, please let us know so we can post it for others.

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Repealing SB 5–Volunteers Needed!

The petition to put SB5 on the ballot in November has been approved and the drive is now underway – volunteers are needed to get signatures.  There will be a training session this Saturday, April 23 from 10-12 am in Morton Hall sponsored by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) or you can register at the We Are Ohio website http://weareohio.com/.  We’ll keep you posted as we know more but there are a few things to be aware of,

*to distribute petitions you must go through a training session;

*to sign a petition you must be a registered voter though you can register to vote (or change your voter registration address) at the same time you sign a petition.

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SB 5

Now that Governor Kasich has signed SB 5 limiting collective bargaining and the action of unions, we will turn our attention to collecting signatures for the petition to put SB 5 on the ballot. The state AAUP is working with other organizations to coordinate this drive and we will pass the information on to you as soon as we can.

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Financial Exigency – Closing Programs

As the consequences of the Kasich budget unfold, it is important for us to be prepared to respond to the slow death of departments and decisions that are made based on expediency not academic mission.  Below is a statement from the national chapter on the current status of the policy on department closures.

AAUP Will Review Policies on Program Closure

The American Association of University Professors announced Thursday that it is creating a special committee to review association policies on “financial exigency” and program closure. The AAUP has historically had a very high bar — a state of financial exigency in which institutions face a threat to their survival — to permit layoffs of tenured faculty members. In the current economic crisis, however, many colleges have not followed the AAUP’s policies. Michael Bérubé, an English professor at Pennsylvania State University and chair of the new AAUP panel, gave the following explanation in the AAUP announcement of the committee: “The AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure make provision for program closings and terminations of appointments when universities face ‘financial exigency.’ ‘Exigency,’ however, is defined as ‘an imminent financial crisis that threatens the survival of the institution as a whole and that cannot be alleviated by less drastic means.’ It is becoming increasingly clear that the financial crises faced by many American colleges and universities are not ‘imminent’ in this sense, and do not threaten ‘the survival of the institution as a whole.’ Rather, what we are seeing is a series of slow bleeds, crises brought on by austerity and attrition — especially at publicly funded institutions whose public funding has been dwindling for decades.” He added that the new panel would focus on “the question of how the AAUP can best respond to program closings and terminations under such conditions, conditions which may not threaten entire institutions with imminent bankruptcy but which do threaten to transform American higher education as a whole.”

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OU Faculty Senate Stands Up for Faculty, Defends Shared Governance

OU+AAUP applauds the Ohio University Faculty Senate’s resolution condemning President Roderick McDavis and the Inter-University Council’s support of Ohio Senate Bill 5, proposed legislation that strips faculty at public universities of their right to unionize.

SB 5 is a direct attack on the fundamental values of shared governance and transparency in public universities.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) holds that college and university faculties are not mere employees or second-tier “managers” subservient to boards of trustees or administrators. Rather, they are professionals who possess authority and expertise in their areas of academic competence. They exercise this authority first and foremost on behalf of the broader public and their profession. Many faculties have organized behind collective representation to protect the unique identity of their profession.

The capacity of a university to fulfill its core mission depends on whether faculty are free to determine the shape and direction of teaching and research within their institutions. This freedom–known as “academic freedom”–extends well beyond individual First Amendment rights. Crucially, it entails the right and responsibility to shape the direction of the institution itself–what is known as “shared governance.” This right and responsibility is different from managerial priorities and political interests, which often focus on achieving short-term results unrelated to teaching and learning.  College and university faculty have a responsibility to ensure the core academic mission not only for today’s students but for the generations to come.

But OU faculty are increasingly marginalized in decisions that directly affect the core mission of the university, and SB 5 threatens to deepen this isolation.  The days when faculty could vote an incompetent or presumptuous dean or provost out of office ended in the 1970s.  Now we lack even the means of meaningfully evaluating our top administrators, and we can’t hold accountable the many lesser administrators whose decisions affect everything from how much money is available for libraries–a basic resource for effective teaching and research–to how many faculty hours are devoted to clerical and administrative tasks rather than preparing for classes, meeting with students, and conducting research or engaging in creative activity.

Worse, the OU Faculty Handbook no longer guarantees an authoritative role for faculty in university decision-making.  The handbook has no legal standing.  The administration and board of trustees are free to ignore the Handbook’s requirements and frequently do so.  This is no trivial matter.  Academic freedom at O.U. and O.U.’s academic mission are at stake.

A collective bargaining agreement can make shared governance procedures and the Faculty Handbook legally binding on the administration and establish Faculty Senate and its committees as partners with administrators in university decision-making.

SB 5 will deprive public university faculty of the right to bargain collectively and in doing so will further weaken shared governance procedures.  President McDavis says he wants greater “flexibility” to manage OU.  This is corporate speak for the desire to concentrate power within the managerial structure and transform universities into firms whose workers serve at the whim of administrators.  If we allow this to happen, faculty will have no authority whatsoever to shape the terms of their employment in any meaningful way.  “Shared governance” will finally have become nothing more than an Orwellianism masking the basic fact of faculty irrelevance.

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We Have an Education Crisis, Not a Budget Crisis

OU’s administrators tell us we face an unprecedented budget crisis that will fundamentally transform our university so that we will no longer recognize it as programs are excised or “restructured,” tenure positions eliminated, and senior faculty pushed into early retirement.  The reality of our situation seems inexorable: we don’t have the money, so we have no choice but to cut–that is, unless you’re a coach of one of OU’s sports teams.

And, yet, as Amy Dean has noted in her analysis of how a powerful coalition of unions, community organizations, and political activists in Oregon built a solid consensus in favor of increasing taxes to reinforce public programs and institutions, there are other ways of viewing and responding to our predicament in Ohio.  She observes:

[A]cross the nation, polls show that while people may favor reducing government spending in the abstract, when it comes to the actual programs that might be affected, they prioritize public services over deficit reduction. In a recently released survey by the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Republicans said that the government should focus on reducing the deficit. Yet when asked about specific programs, a majority of respondents, including Republicans, rejected spending decreases for programs such as education, Social Security, agriculture and roads and bridges. Our challenge is turning the voices that we don’t hear regularly in the media into a vocal majority.

When we … set up the debate as one of saving money versus spending money, we lose. Drawing from the Oregon example, we must approach the discussion in a different way, creating a conversation about what is really worth paying for.

Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans want well-run and adequately funded social programs and public institutions.  They want top-notch schools and universities that are affordable for everyone, not just the rich.  And, as the example of Oregon shows us, they are willing to pay for them once they understand what is at stake.  Dean reminds us that “Oregon had a history of antitax votes, with residents capping property taxes and repeatedly rejecting efforts to raise the state income tax or create a sales tax.”  But in 2009,

the state legislature… enacted measures that would raise taxes on corporations and households earning more than $250,000 per year in order to preserve critical public services. In January 2010, after opponents forced a public referendum on the tax measures, proponents waged a resolute and ultimately successful campaign that allowed lawmakers to keep essential public services off of the chopping block.

What we have in Ohio is not a budget crisis but rather a failure to have an honest discussion about the importance of our public institutions, especially our schools and universities, and what it takes financially to support them.  We are being sold a dangerous fiction–that we can cut our way to success.  But what will be the measure of this success?  An exploding wealth and knowledge gap exacerbated by skyrocketing tuition at the “charter universities” that could very well replace the public institutions we now have?

It does not have to be this way.  There are other futures possible, and Oregon has pointed the way.

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McDavis Wants to Deregulate OU

As discovered by the New Political and discussed in our last post, OU President Roderick McDavis supports Senate Bill 5, the proposed legislation that  severely limits public employee collective bargaining rights and reclassifies university faculty as “management”–a provision that effectively prevents faculty from unionizing.  President McDavis also “signed a letter to Ohio Gov. John Kasich last December, as a member of [the Inter-University Council’s] council of university presidents, that requested more flexibility in dealing with regulations to public universities.”

President McDavis, in short, not only likes the idea of making it illegal for faculty to form a collective bargaining unit but also wants to deregulate OU, an idea that lines up neatly with a scheme Gov. Kasich has concocted to turn Ohio’s public universities into “charter universities”–basically, private institutions subsidized by taxpayer money.  Language for such a provision could be inserted into the SB 5 before the bill goes to the House for a final vote.

Charter universities are potentially disastrous for students. In essence, a charter university means that the State of Ohio will give less money to our public institutions in exchange for less regulation on them. We know that regulation isn’t always a bad word; in fact, the regulations that exist on public colleges and universities are important ones, like the ability to place tuition caps and have government oversight and accountability of how taxpayer dollars are being spent. No tuition caps plus less state funding equals infinite tuition increases. In Virginia, which underwent similar restructuring in recent years, tuition has increased by double-digit percentages. This year, Virginia Commonwealth University increased its tuition by 24 percent. This is going to make it even more difficult for the average Ohio family to send their children to college. Either students will choose not to attend college, or they will graduate with an even greater amount of debt – both of which will equate to less spending potential in the economy.

Our public universities were meant to serve all Ohioans, not just those wealthy enough to afford a post-secondary education.  Privatization, an idea President McDavis seems to embrace, undermines this fundamental trust to the detriment of bright, talented students whose only mistake was not to be born rich.

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