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Could a fall break be coming to Ohio U?

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Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin. Photo by Connor Perrett.

At the November Faculty Senate meeting, senators discussed the possibility of a fall break, budget concerns and issues with the advisory committee for the university’s free speech policy.

Fall break?

Chris Schwirian, a senior lecturer at Ohio University, gave a brief presentation asking his fellow senate members for feedback on Reading Day and the potential for a fall break for students. Ohio U does not have a fall break, and Reading Day fell on a Tuesday this year.

Schwirian’s presentation gave three potential options: Ohio U can leave Reading Day as it is, get rid of Reading Day altogether or have a one to two-day fall break but start fall semester earlier in the year.

Some Ohio U faculty are concerned that most students don’t accomplish anything academic on Reading Day. Additionally, classes that only occur once a week suffer from missing a class, making the day off difficult for some faculty to prepare for. Discussions are being held to potentially exempt labs and once-a-week classes from Reading Day.

More discussion on freedom of expression

Bernhard Debatin, a faculty senate member representing the Scripps College of Communication, commented that he is unhappy with how free speech discussions have been going. Debatin believes that the current Presidential Policy Advisory Group committee is missing a specialist on First Amendment questions and a robust representation of faculty and students. The group is currently composed of the five chairs of Ohio U’s senates and officials from the administration that serve to monitor public feedback on new policies.

“It is backward that it is dominated by people in either administrative positions or special interest groups such as police departments or legal affairs or event services. These are important groups, but they are not policy-making groups,” Debatin said.

“This policy looks the way it does — as an Orwellian free speech policy — because it was written from the perspective of ‘How can we cover our rear-end as a university so that we don’t get sued?’ and not from the perspective ‘How can we have a free speech policy that starts with the first amendment?’ Why is it secret?”

Budget and hiring concerns

Janetta King and Dave Scholl, the respective chair and vice chair of Ohio U’s Board of Trustees, answered questions from senators concerning Ohio U’s “do more with less” attitude about the university’s budget.

The senate posed questions concerning Ohio U’s increasing tendency to hire Group II faculty and the potential long-term effects of such a process on the university’s ability to attract both undergraduate and graduate students.

Most of the discussion focused on how to best allocate a shrinking budget. Senators also discussed Ohio U’s research mission and commitment to hiring Group I professors to inspire students who are given the opportunity to work more closely with leading researchers.

Group I faculty include three ranks: assistant professor, associate professor and professor. Generally, Group I professors conduct research and teach classes. Group II faculty, another category of faculty at Ohio U, include the ranks of lecturer, associate lecturer and senior lecturer.

House Bill 363

House Bill 363 directly affects free speech on university campuses. The bill seeks to make the act of a university rescinding an invitation to a speaker unlawful. Furthermore, the bill states that space must be rented out to a speaker regardless of the cost.

The Ohio Faculty Council (OFC) expressed concern that a speaker has the ability to schedule an event at Ohio U that would not necessarily further the university’s mission.

“It’s not about students speaking out,” Beth Quitslund, a member of the OFC, said.

“It’s about allowing people to come into campus whether or not the institution has the funds to cover it and whether or not it furthers the mission of the institution.”

Universities across the country have recently faced controversy over whether to allow white supremacist speaker Richard Spencer hold events. The Ohio State University would not allow the event, citing safety concerns, and is now facing a federal lawsuit for restricting free speech.

Other Reports

  1. During the provost’s report, interim provost David Descutner said that a new provost is expected to be decided upon by July 1 and provided updates on candidates for various administrative positions. Descutner also said there would be discussions on a possible 7 percent across-the-board cut. This raised concern for some senators in regards to how the budget will fund their department.
  2. Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin said a recommendation will be sent to Pres. Duane Nellis to make a task force on diversity and inclusion a permanent fixture in university governance.
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