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Faculty Senate presses Ohio U president on pay raise

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Ohio U President Duane Nellis

Faculty Senators are not pleased that the Ohio U Board of Trustees awarded President Duane Nellis a pay raise amid the university’s ongoing budget crisis. 

Faculty Senate expressed concerns about the pay raise and large bonus Ohio University President Duane Nellis received amid a university-wide budget crisis at the body’s Monday night meeting.

The Ohio U Board of Trustees approved a resolution nearly three months ago that granted Nellis a $72,000 bonus, as well as a $7,000 pay raise, totaling a yearly salary of nearly $489,000, according to The Athens News.

Following Nellis’ introductory speech at the meeting — where he addressed goals for the year — members quickly changed the subject and slammed the president with questions regarding the university’s growing financial setbacks.

Jackie Wolf, promotion & tenure committee chair, was the first to initiate the budget deficit conversation and push back against Nellis’ pay raise.

“I’m just wondering how in the middle of a financial crisis, you can accept the bonus?” Wolf asked Nellis.

Bill Owens, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, also expressed discontent with Nellis’ raise.

“There’s a concern that it sends a wrong message to, not only to faculty, but to the state,” Owens said. “They really need to understand that the values of corporate America should not be our values.”

Nellis defended the Board of Trustees’ decision to grant him the bonus, explaining that the board felt his work as university president warranted the reward. In an attempt to further validate his commitment to the university, the president said he and his wife, Ruthie, often donate to the institution.

He attributed the university’s poor financial situation to an increase in students transferring credits from high school through programs such as College Credit Plus and Advanced Placement. These options allow students to take fewer classes in college.

The College of Arts and Sciences, for example, recently faced a nearly 20% decrease in student credit hours, Nellis said.

The university’s financial troubles also stem from a steady decrease in transfer students and shrinking freshman class sizes, Chaden Djalal, Ohio U’s executive vice president, said

We need to look very carefully at downsizing in areas where we no longer have demand,” Nellis explained. “We have to make difficult decisions while we invest in areas where we can grow and think creatively about new curriculum.”

Bill Reader, a professor in the Scripps College of Communication, suggested that the budget crisis could be diminished if the university hired from within, rather than conducting external searches for new administrators. These searches can cost up to $250,000, Reader said.

“There are perfectly qualified people in this university at the faculty level,” Reader said. “Especially if we’re looking at decreasing faculty in certain departments, I would suggest the university show loyalty to these people.”

The Educational Policy & Student Affairs Committee introduced a resolution to create accelerated graduate pathways policies — a program that could help graduate students earn their degree faster. Some faculty senators fear this could lead to students spending less time at Ohio U, which would further the budget crisis.

Accelerated graduate pathways would not be mandatory, and majors have the freedom to change certain policies.

“It seems like (the student) could double dip, where students can take a class that would go for an (undergraduate) and (graduate) degree,” Diana Schwerha, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, said.

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