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Faculty members aired grievances with Ohio U’s budget crisis at forum

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Many faculty members gathered at a public forum Thursday night in Porter Hall to examine data on Ohio University’s administrative spending and voice their desire to protect the jobs of college professors and faculty amid a university-wide budget crisis.

The room was almost full, with faculty members streaming in as the presentation began. 

The Ohio University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) hosted the event. The chapter’s President Loren Lybarger and its Vice President Julie White, both faculty members at Ohio U, represented the organization at the event. 

Jim Mosher, associate professor of political science at Ohio U, presented data on how the university allocated money generated through revenue over the last few decades.

According to the analysis Mosher provided, in-state tuition has continued to increase since the 1980s, but faculty salaries have remained stagnant. Revenue gained from tuition increases were not allocated to areas of teaching in the university, he explained to fellow faculty members. 

Since 2011, 350 administrators were hired at Ohio U — a 45% increase in administration positions, he said.

Mosher’s data showed an 88.2% increase in administrators from 2011-2017, but there was only an 8.8% increase in faculty during that time. 

“We had four or five really good years where the money was coming in,” Mosher said. 

Ohio U experienced a drop in enrollment of incoming freshmen by 752 students since 2015. Many faculty members expressed concern that, as enrollment drops, more professors could be fired and the quality of students’ education would drop as class sizes increase to compensate for the lack of staff.

“If you increase the number of students really rapidly, you have to lower standards, and that’s what they did a lot in the 2000s,” Mosher continued.

David Ridpath, associate professor of sports management, shared insight on the role of athletics in the budget. According to Ridpath, students are paying “about $1,300 towards athletics” a year. While Ohio U said about 5% of the budget is devoted to athletics, Ridpath explained that almost $20 million of athletics funding comes from students’ tuition. 

“If there are going to be cuts — and there are going to be cuts — everyone has to share the burden,” Ridpath said. 

The forum opened for questions and faculty members immediately addressed the Ohio U administration’s budget refinement. 

Jennifer Fredette, an associate professor of political science, was the first to voice her discontent with the university’s efforts. She asked the faculty when they will take a stand against the administration’s demands.

“We as a faculty are going to have a really hard time ever really beating the rational budget game,” Fredette said.

Others added to the discussion, expressing ideas of potential unionization and possible consequences of the budget crisis in the coming months. Susan Burgess, a professor of political science, said “people are quite likely going to be fired,” and faculty members’ workload will increase as a result. 

“People are not going to have jobs at the end of May. Then the question comes what are as we as faculty willing to do to actually combat that,” Daniel Moak, an associate professor of African American studies, commented.

While many professors were eager to question the administration’s efforts in curbing the budget crisis, others mentioned there are important changes already being made. 

Robin Muhammed, chair in the college of arts and sciences and associate professor of African American studies, invited forum attendees to a day-long engagement session with administrators to generate conversation about the budget crisis. 

“The footfall for some of these changes has already arrived,” she said. “One of the concerns that I have is that we will not show up.”

That discussion will be held in the Ohio University Baker Student Center on Thursday, Nov. 21 beginning at 10:30 a.m.

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