Home Letters to the Editor Letter to the Editor: Ohio U favors profit over people

Letter to the Editor: Ohio U favors profit over people

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Letter to the Editor

Nicolas “Nic” Marc-Andrew Paredes, a 2019 Ohio University alum and a former Student Senate historian/assistant chief of staff, sent this Letter to the Editor in response to budgetary cuts at Ohio UniversityPlease note these views do not reflect those of The New Political. 

Why is Ohio University making cuts to integral departments while keeping faculty and students in the dark?  The university already suffers from a bad reputation among the general population and stakeholders due to past mistakes and blunders, so why does this institution continue making bad decisions for the sake of a “tight budget”? The university claims to care about the “Bobcat family,” but it’s becoming more abundantly clear that all it cares about are profit margins and owning-class politics.

Ohio University’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) informed the public a few months before that they had concerns about the university’s planned budget cuts. A majority of the concerns surrounded “Group 2″ faculty — teaching staff without a tenure track.

Roughly $8 million of the $19.3 million in budget reductions were targeted at the College of Arts and Sciences, even though the school serves an extremely large portion of the university population. The chapter even proposed alternative pathways toward a budget reduction that would still save a majority of these faculty members. The administration obviously did not take these recommendations into consideration.

The major takeaway that Carly Leatherwood, an Ohio U spokesperson, had to say in response was that other institutions around the country are “working to adapt to a ‘shifting market,’ and [she] said that Ohio U is no different.” In short, this official spokesperson for the university just referred to massive neoliberal and neoconservative efforts to privatize and deregulate the education sector as a “shifting market.” And she nonchalantly admitted that Ohio U would not do anything drastically different from other institutions. 

She wants students, faculty, staff and alumni to know that the university will not put forth any type of fight to save our institution. They’re willing to sacrifice the heart and soul of this institution to maintain their profit margins and administrative hierarchy.

Out of all the days to do so, the university “issued lay-off notices to 140 [AFSCME Local 1699 union] employees” on May 1, which is International Workers’ Day. Again, Leatherwood offered a milquetoast neoliberal talking point that the university “recognizes and regrets the difficult impact this will have on [its] valued employees.” If you and the university actually cared about workers, their families and the community, you should raise wages, increase benefits, give them seats on the Board of Trustees and selection committees, make unions mandatory and universal, and stop union-busting efforts that are integral to the operations of Ohio U’s administration. 

Stop lying and spitting in the face of the faculty, staff and students that gave everything to the university. We are the reason you have your bourgeois administrative positions in the first place, so show us some respect. We don’t need you. You need us.

Since we are on the topic of cuts to faculty and staff to save money for a tight budget, it is important to remember the financial burden President Duane M. Nellis places on this institution. The median household income in Athens County between 2014 and 2018 was $37,778. President Nellis made $475,000 after initially signing on. Former President McDavis made $500,000 at the end of his tenure. 

Although Ohio University Board of Trustees Chair Janetta King wrote the current president’s compensation proves the Board’s trust in him, it fails to address how a white man from Texas could make almost the same amount as the previous black president at the end of his tenure. The current president also spends $72,000 per year on housing and his car. On top of it all, Nellis’ wife makes $35,000 per year just for having a ring on her finger. If this isn’t the pinnacle of owning-class neoliberal politics, I do not know what is.

But I should go easy on the current administration. Interim Provost Elizabeth Sayrs and President Nellis “both agreed to take a pay cut of 15% to their base salaries.”  Now, Nellis will only make $415,953. It must be really hard on him to make ends meet during this pandemic. How will he and his family survive in his mansion in the secluded South Side of Athens? At the same time, the workers his administration laid off will never have the same access to luxury and safety. Give me a break.

This is definitely not the first the university has screwed over faculty, staff and students. From the Baker 70 to the firing of previous LGBT+ Center Director delfin bautista, the administration has proven time and time again it values stakeholders and profits over anything else. Its gross obsession over budgets and playing the same game as other neoliberal institutions shows that faculty, staff and students need to unify under one banner to tear down the current order of bourgeois hegemony running rampant throughout this university. 

The student body on campus has proven it supports the faculty and staff in their efforts to resist Ohio University’s budget cuts. Protests have been an integral part of the university’s community for almost a century. We need to keep this tradition alive and well now more than ever. If you consider yourself a Bobcat, whether past, present or future, you need to step up to the plate and fight against the neoliberal hegemony of this institution.

The university loves making controversial and detrimental decisions when Ohio U is in a lull and a majority of the population is away for break. It tries as hard as possible to maintain damage control, but it usually just sweeps things under the rug when a new semester or class rolls around. Ohio U slapped us all in the face during a global pandemic and on International Workers’ Day. No matter how hard it tries to liven us up and convince us it is on our side with milquetoast neoliberal reforms, it has once again taken the mask off and proven it is the socio-economic and political enemy.

But, what can faculty, staff and students do about this situation? The answers are easy, but the path ahead is extremely difficult with so many institutional forces against the future Bobcat family. Faculty and staff have proven to the public they are ready for unionization and nonviolent, direct actions against the university. Bobcats have to support them every step of the way and engage in meaningful dialogue with professors and workers outside of class and daily operations. They are people, too. 

Graduate students have proven with their most recent Graduate Student Senate election that they are ready for more nonviolent, direct actions against the university and a representative body that actually holds the university’s feet to the fire. There is a lot of hope for them, and they need Bobcat support. 

The undergraduate student body is relatively fragmented and its representative body has been serving as an administrative apologist and reformist body for the past four years. Bobcats need to run for these positions, radicalize student organizations and make sure their voices are heard and never ignored. This is solidarity in action.

I have one final message to the university: If you want to avoid public backlash and future declines in applications and attendance, stop cutting important departments without cutting administrative operations equally and include faculty, staff and students in the decision-making process of this institution. If you refuse to do so, you will find out this university will fail before the close of this decade. The damage these cuts create far outweighs the temporary financial relief.

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