Roderick McDavis Supports S.B. 5, Opposes Collective Bargaining

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.”

(Read the whole article here.)

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.”

(Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education)

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.”

(Again, please read the whole article here.)

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.

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Lobbyists for OU Pushed to Curtail Faculty Negotiating Rights

The day before S.B. 5 passed, a massive omnibus amendment was added that restored limited collective bargaining rights (on pay but not on benefits) but also drastically restricted university faculty’s ability to be included in a bargaining unit. Those restrictions – known as “Yeshiva” language, after a 1980 Supreme Court case that essentially gutted faculty organizing rights at private colleges – define most faculty as managerial employees, unable to be represented by a union. (On the likely impact of this language, see this analysis in Inside Higher Ed.)

Wondering where this eleventh-hour idea came from? Now we know, thanks to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Leaders of faculty unions in Ohio are bristling at the revelation that an association of the state’s public universities was behind a controversial proposal that would strip most public-college faculty members of collective-bargaining rights by reclassifying them as management-level employees.

Bruce E. Johnson, president of the association, the Inter-University Council of Ohio, confirmed in an interview on Tuesday that he had suggested the measure to members of the state Senate. It was approved by the Senate last week, as part of a broader overhaul of Ohio’s collective-bargaining laws now pending in the state House of Representatives.

“We are anticipating significant budget cuts, and so we view this as a rational step in terms of moderating our expenses on campus,” Mr. Johnson said. “It is a leverage issue. It enables us to have more influence on scheduling issues and faculty-pay issues.”

In other words, lobbyists representing our university – or at least, representing our leadership – actively engaged in union-busting activities. The Chronicle article continues:

Mr. Johnson, who formerly served as a Republican lieutenant governor and state senator in Ohio, said the university presidents who led his association did not specifically direct him to propose the reclassification measure. But, he said, they had expressed a desire “to have more flexibility as it relates to the management of state institutions” and, accordingly, had authorized him to advocate for an earlier version of the bill, which contained a flat-out prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees. He said he interpreted such actions as amounting to authorization to propose the reclassification of most full-time members of public-college faculties.

“Our interest is to negotiate with labor and not to negotiate with management,” Mr. Johnson said. As things currently stand, he said, faculty members at most public colleges in the state have both unions and roles in managerial decisions, so that any time college officials are negotiating with faculty unions, “there is management, frankly, on the other side of the table from you.”

Do you feel like management? Me neither. And yet, if you even engage in activities related to curriculum planning, you might well be classified as a manager.

Johnson’s statement is disingenuous because if S.B. 5 passes in its current form, university administrators won’t be negotiating with faculty. The bill’s Yeshiva language seems intended to ensure that any surviving faculty unions will be weak or nonexistent. Besides, if administrators have any interest in negotiating with faculty (instead of ruling by fiat), why did the association support the original version of S.B. 5 that would have banned collective bargaining outright for state employees?

Also, “flexibility” and “leverage” sound like shorthand for bidding goodbye to shared governance.

The Inter-University Council of Ohio’s lobbying efforts raise a host of troubling questions:

  • What position does President McDavis take on the lobbyists’ activities? Where does our Board of Trustees stand?
  • How can such lobbying activities be reconciled with repeated email appeals to OU faculty for donations to support the university’s lobbying presence in Columbus?
  • How was this lobbying funded? Did any of the monies come from funds to which faculty unwittingly contributed?
  • Were taxpayer dollars used in any form to support this lobbying?

We deserve answers to these questions. OU+AAUP urges our president, provost, and trustees to provide them.

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OUmatters: Great New Blog by Joe McLaughlin

Joe McLaughlin, president of our Faculty Senate, has started OUmatters, a new blog on the issues facing Ohio University. So far, it’s terrific: reflective, well-informed, and honest about our budgetary crunch. In other words, just what you’d expect.

Have you been wondering why Athletics is not being asked to take a hit in next year’s budget? The new system of responsibility-centered management (RCM) is at least partly to blame. Joe explains why this is so in his inaugural post, “General Fee Needs to Be Rebalanced,” and explores the implications of this in his latest, “On Shared Sacrifice and the ‘Student Experience.'”

Of course, the skeptics among us might question why – if RCM will inevitably have a disproportionate impact on the academic units – it’s being introduced precisely now as budgets are being slashed. RCM is not a financial imperative. It’s an approach to money management that Cutler Hall has already once considered and abandoned. In other words, it’s a political choice.

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On Budget Woes and Leadership Lows: Steve Hays at the Teach-In

This is what happens when you ask a humanist to talk about budget issues: You get Yeats.

You also get a vivid picture of a leadership failure that has allowed athletics and other non-academic spending to eclipse academics, in an imbalance severe enough to draw national media attention. (And yes, you also get plenty of cold hard dollars-and-cents figures.)

Ohio University’s skewed budget priorities came under the lens of OU+AAUP member and Professor of Classics and World Religions Steve Hays at this Wednesday’s teach-in. Here’s his PowerPoint presentation with voice-over – a sobering call for our leaders to reassess our university’s direction.

For more detailed information and printable materials, see also Steve’s website. Thank you, Steve, for providing leadership on these issues even when hardly anyone was listening. People are starting to listen now.

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PBS Reports on Topsy-Turvy Funding Priorities at OU: Athletics over Academics

OU+AAUP has long argued that our upper administrators and trustees need to recommit themselves to our core mission: education. Athletics – while a worthy part of college life – should not be immune to cuts while academic units have been told to plan for 10% smaller budgets, maybe worse.

At the last Faculty Senate meeting, senators were told that health insurance costs will be shifted onto employees to the tune of $2.5 million per annum. Severance incentives will cut deeply into our faculty and other staff, impairing our ability to offer our students an excellent education. When asked how we can maintain the quality of education, the provost told faculty senators: Quality is up to you. Yet Athletics is merely being asked to set a 3.5% higher target for external fundraising. (We’d link directly to the provost’s plan, but it’s behind a password-protected firewall. OU employees and students can find it here under Deficit Reduction Plan, February 16, 2011.)

The PBS news magazine, Need to Know, recently visited Ohio University to report on how athletic expenditures are squeezing the academic budget at large public universities. To be sure, this is a national trend. To be sure, OU overspends on other areas – such as high-level, corporate-style administration and its private plane – not just on athletics. Still, this is a sobering look at how our university’s priorities are skewed. (Don’t miss the comments of long-time OU+AAUP member John Gilliom and – nearly at the end – the analysis of David Ridpath, whose research on the athletics arms race helped draw PBS to our campus in the first place.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.
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“You Say Cut Back? We Say Fight Back!” Teach-in and Rally Energize Students and Faculty

Wednesday’s teach-in (co-sponsored by OU+AAUP) and today’s protest rally were a smashing success. The New Political has a nice rundown of the teach-in (attended by over 400 students and faculty), as does Jim Phillips at the Athens News. Today, undeterred by ill-timed rain, hundreds came out for a protest rally and march. (See the A-News for a good account of the rally – and also [edited to add] The New Political.)

The march wound through East Green and Court Street, ending in front of Cutler Hall with a message for our upper administrators:

“No if! No buts! No education cuts!”

“You say cut back? We say fight back!”

OU+AAUP members marched and chanted side by side with the students and other supporters from the faculty, staff, and community.

(Video courtesy of  The Post.)

Today’s protest, like the teach-in, energized participants – and inspired us to keep fighting in the face of S.B. 5 and administrative intransigence. This feels like the beginning of a powerful alliance among students, faculty, and other workers.

Students gather to discuss “what next?” after the teach-in.

Here’s the banner for the teach-in and protest.

OU+AAUP vice president Julie White speaks at the rally.

More scenes from today’s rally and march:

Photos courtesy of Judith Grant and Louis-Georges Schwartz.

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Opposed to SB 5? Please Contact Jimmy Stewart

The Columbus Dispatch is portraying Jimmy Stewart – who represents Athens in the Ohio Senate – as a potential fence-sitter on SB 5:

Sen. Jimmy Stewart, R-Albany, would not say whether he supports the bill, but he stressed he is searching for some middle ground with “some of my labor friends.”

“I’ve generally been pro-labor. But I do understand there are legitimate concerns from the sponsor and folks who have testified,” Stewart said.

(Read the whole article here.)

If you favor state employees keeping their right to collective bargaining, please contact Jimmy Stewart and tell him so! The campaign against SB 5 needs all of our voices:

Phone: (614) 466-8076
Senate Building
1 Capitol Square, 1st Floor
Columbus, OH 43215


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