Now we know just where President Roderick McDavis stands on S.B. 5, thanks to Andrew Zucker’s reporting at The New Political:
Ohio University (OU) President Roderick McDavis, who sits on the presidents’ council as a part of the IUC [Inter-University Council], supported the original version of the bill that would have banned collective bargaining for all public employees, and does not oppose it in its current form, according to his Chief of Staff, Becky Watts. …
Watts said that President McDavis was “not opposed to SB-5” because it would give the university “greater flexibility” in addressing its budget crisis. …
Watts said that McDavis believes that SB-5 would maintain the status quo at OU.
“SB-5 would support a continuation of the shared governance model [between employee groups and student senate] that we have in place at Ohio University,” she said. “Shared governance is an important aspect of the culture of Ohio University.”
In actuality, S.B. 5 will undermine the status quo. While OU+AAUP is still seeking to clarify the precise ramifications of the bill (if passed in its present form) for faculty, it obviously undermines our ability to pursue collective bargaining. S.B. 5 also will have a detrimental effect on those OU staff members who currently enjoy union representation. They will no longer be able to collectively bargain for health insurance and other benefits.
Meanwhile, shared governance itself is threatened by high-ranking administrators’ insistence that the Faculty Senate is merely an advisory body. Shared governance is also weakened when our leadership insists that the Faculty Handbook imposes binding regulations on faculty conduct while conferring no limits on administrators’ discretion (e.g., when it comes to raising health care premiums beyond the caps currently set in the Handbook).
In no way is a university president obligated to oppose collective bargaining simply by virtue of his position. Consider the example of Wright State’s president, David R. Hopkins, who recently sent told his campus in an email:
“I was raised in a union family and, as president and provost, have found our union leadership to be of the highest quality. I appreciate all they have brought to us, and I believe we are a stronger institution because of their dedicated commitment to their membership.”
Ohio University could use that kind of cooperative spirit. Instead, President McDavis has chosen to take a position that will ultimately weaken the university. As OU+AAUP Vice-President Julie White told The New Political:
“I don’t think it’s the place of a college president to become at all involved in a lobbying effort of this kind, one that his employees all understand as an attack on their work conditions and their wages,” she said.
White was most troubled by mixed messages coming from the OU administration.
“We have been hearing from the president and the provost about the importance of us all pulling together across the university community to deal with this fiscal crisis,” she said. “To hear that they are actually offering up the salaries and jobs of workers and faculty — to so clearly manage this cut on our backs and not theirs — suggests to me that the message that we all need to pull together is less than genuine.”
Through his words and actions, President McDavis also reveals a narrow conception of collective bargaining. For those of us at OU+AAUP, the goal of collective bargaining would not be to enrich professors at the expense of all other stakeholders. It would be to provide backbone to the idea of shared governance, making it more than just an advisory function. It would give the Faculty Handbook the character of a mutually binding contract. It would protect our core academic mission by preventing administrators from seeing a decrease in the academic workforce as an easy way to achieve cuts. And in hard times such as these, collective bargaining could offer a basis for creative solutions that would spread the pain fairly while preserving solidarity and community.