BGSU mulls low morale of faculty
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 07 February 2014 10:58
In delivering the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee report to Faculty Senate Tuesday, Michael Schultz reported the numbers that spell out the university's current fiscal woes.
|File photo. Faculty Senate meeting at BGSU's McFall Center. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Schultz, a general studies writing instructor, went through the declines in state funding, the change in formula and the declines in enrollment that have stymied Bowling Green State University's finances.
Then he got personal. He talked about what he values as a teacher. He talked about seeing the faces, some "terrified," of first-year students on their first day of college classes.
Some, he said, have never written an essay over two pages. Then 15 weeks later he watches them leave, far more confident than when they arrived.
"It's all about the teaching," Schultz said.
That was his own answer to the question he'd like everyone in the university community to answer: "What do I value about what I do at BGSU?"
Schultz said that what he sees as the low morale among faculty comes from a number of factors.
He noted the changes in university leadership with the third president in five years, leading to "instability in leadership and direction."
This came at a time the country was experiencing a "great recession."
The university had gone through a period of "neglect of buildings," which hindered the university's ability to attract students.
All that comes at a time when the university will have reduced its teaching force by about 100 positions, mostly non-tenure track, but some tenure track as well.
"All these things are converging at the same time and (that) creates an environment where people just come out swinging," he said.
That was evident again at the meeting, which ran well over its allotted two hours, even as chairwoman Sheri Wells-Jensen reminded senators of the impending snow storm.
The key question was how the university can enroll more students and keep those students here once they are admitted.
Since 2007, enrollment has decreased from 19,108 in 2007 to an estimated 16,800 next year.
With state funding rewarding the number of students who graduate, that poses a major fiscal problem for the university, contributing to an anticipated deficit that could be as much as $10 million in the next two years.
The university retained only 71 percent of its students, which by itself resulted in a loss of $750,000, the report said.
The report also noted that the university is "losing high-end and low-end students based on GPA."
Losing the students doing well academically is "something we need to address," Schultz said.
Also at the meeting, the senate approved a resolution calling on the administration to present to the senate "a responsible and forward looking strategic plan to effectively and reliably manage the financial operations of the University" and "to fulfill its obligation to work closely with the Faculty Senate and other accountable parties to articulate jointly a vision of an effective educational environment at BGSU."
The resolution passed 49-4 with three abstentions.
In his remarks, Provost Rodney Rogers said he voted in favor of the resolution. "We'd welcome engaging you in this discussion."
He also noted that the retention rate from fall to spring semester was improved from last year, though the more important number will be how many students the university brings back in fall. The goal is a retention rate of 90 percent.
President Mary Ellen Mazey noted the two graduate certificate programs - in social and interactive media and international-intercultural communication - approved by the Faculty Senate at the meeting are the kind of programs the university should be offering as a way of increasing the number of degrees it grants.
Rogers said the administration is trying to expand the pool of students it serves. That includes improved transfer arrangements with Owens Community College and BGSU's Firelands campus. It includes investigating more online offerings as well as attracting more international students and older students.
He reported that the GPA of this year's freshman class was up to 2.78, from 2.65, on a scale of 4.
But the bitterness was evident when Mazey said that faculty was told during negotiations that pay increases intended to bring them up to the same level as their peers in similar institutions would result in fewer jobs.
Lori Liggett, of telecommunications, said "the union would never trade off jobs for higher faculty salaries."
Joel O'Dorisio, vice-chair of the senate who was also on the negotiating committee, also denied that was brought up.