Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 26 November 2013 12:04
The faculty union is promising to challenge the Bowling Green State University's decision not to renew the contracts of 30 non-tenure track positions.
The university made the announcement of the cuts Monday in a letter to faculty.
Provost Rodney Rogers said Monday that the cuts will save the university $1.4 million. The bulk, 26, will come from the College of Arts and Sciences, with two coming from the College of Business and single cuts from the College of Education and Firelands College. Rogers said the cuts were spread out among the college's various departments.
The university was required to notify non-tenure track faculty who have seven or more years at BGSU by Dec. 1, with later deadlines for those with less service. However, all 30 faculty members were notified now. Rogers said eight people had seven or more years of experience, nine had four to six years of experience, and 13 had three or fewer years of experience.
The notification was "prudent and out of courtesy," he said. "If we didn't feel there was budget to hire them and have them return, we wanted to give them as much notice as possible."
Rogers said the context for this latest move is that "President (Mary Ellen) Mazey has made a commitment to do what we can to manage any kind of increases in the cost of higher education."
The administration, he said, is concerned about the rising level of student loan debt. The university must balance, he said, strong academic programs but also ensuring a Bowling Green degree is still affordable."
These cuts come a year after 73 non-tenure track faculty were let go.
The difference, said David Jackson, president of the BGSU-Faculty Association, is this year there is a faculty union.
He said the union's next step is to identify those faculty whose contracts were not renewed and study the language in the non-renewal notices. "We'll contact those colleagues and put together cases for potential grievances."
"We will use every aspect of the contract and Ohio law we can to challenge these terminations," Jackson said.
University administrators contend the cuts come to address a looming budget deficit, stagnant state aid and a smaller freshman class.
In fall 3,753 freshmen enrolled at both the Bowling Green and Firelands campuses, down 1.5 percent from the previous year. Fewer freshmen mean fewer classes and faculty needed, and less revenue for the university. And that effect continues as the class moves toward graduation.
In part, Rogers said, that may be offset if fewer of those students, who represent the best academically prepared class, leave BGSU. "We are working to retain students and have them persist towards degree completion at a higher rate, and we think we'll see some gains in that area. At this point we're not planning that will be enough to offset the size of the freshman class."
Also, Rogers said, that as agreed by both sides in last year's contract negotiations, the university is devoting money to raising the salaries of tenure track. "We've invested in faculty over the last year and a half with market adjustments." The goal is to bring faculty salaries to the average of BGSU's peer institutions.
Jackson said the union believes BGSU is in more sound financial shape than administrators maintain.
Fewer faculty, Rogers said, has not resulted in an appreciable increase in class size at the university. At this month's Faculty Senate meeting, he presented figures that showed that average class size increased by less than one student per class.
Jackson contends, however, that those figures are skewed by the inclusion of one-on-one independent study, which is more akin to advising.
Non-tenure track faculty, Jackson said, typically teach four classes a semester. The non-renewals will inevitably mean "fewer classes and larger classes."
The union contends the university is making more use of part-time adjunct faculty. "Part-time faculty do a great job teaching," Jackson said. But given they often work at more than one institution, they are unable to make the connections with students that full-time faculty can.
University spokesman David Kielmeyer said this morning that the number of part-time faculty has held about steady since 2010 when 550 were employed. This year, he said, there are 529 part-time faculty.
Rogers also said BGSU has one of the lowest ratios of students to faculty in the state.
The university has about 870 faculty members, 260 of those are full-time, non-tenure track. The 30 non-renewals don't necessarily mean the faculty total will be reduced by that amount. Some contracts were non-renewed because faculty are returning to teaching from research leaves and some tenure track positions are being filled.
Jackson said that represented only a "handful." Pointing to the longevity of many of those non-renewed, he said they were "more than just temporary" positions.
He said the association would keep up political pressure on the administration and Board of Trustees.
That will include having union presence at Preview Day for prospective students and their parents Dec. 7.
He agreed faculty are in a difficult position, because if they deter some students from enrolling, that only means less revenue for the university. "On the other hand, students should know what they're getting from BGSU."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 15:16