Faculty cuts debated PDF Print E-mail
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor   
Friday, 01 February 2013 12:00
Cutting 100 faculty may help Bowling Green State University's budget - but it will hurt students, faculty and the school's reputation, according to BGSU Faculty Union Association President Dr. David Jackson.
Administration officials dismiss the claim that BGSU can't continue to offer a quality education with fewer faculty. In fact, they said Thursday that the cuts will allow the university to provide a better educational experience at a lower price to students and higher wages for remaining faculty.
So, first, the students ...
The cuts will likely mean fewer classes offered and more students in those remaining classes. Neither benefits students, Jackson said.
If each of the 100 faculty being cut teaches an average of eight classes a year, that adds up to 800 fewer classes annually, starting this fall.
Some students already struggle to complete their required courses in four years due to the infrequency of some classes being offered. The cuts would only worsen that issue, Jackson said.
"That's 100 fewer to offer students the classes they need," he said.
The remaining classes would undoubtedly have more students, which is not conducive to a better education, he said.
Statistics presented by the faculty union compare student to faculty ratios for comparable universities in Ohio. BGSU and Miami University have lower overall ratios, while Kent and Ohio University have higher ratios.
Jackson argued that BGSU should strive to maintain those lower faculty-student ratios.
"We need to differentiate ourselves from our competition. Everyone's building new stadiums and new dorms," he said. But not every school offers smaller classrooms and more contact with faculty.
Numerous studies show the benefits of smaller classes, including a lower chance of students getting lost in the crowd, fewer distractions and more individual attention from faculty, Jackson said.
The benefits can continue beyond college, when faculty can write meaningful references for students they actually know.
The ratio divides will become even broader if BGSU reaches the administration's goal of increasing enrollment by 6,000 by the year 2020. This semester's enrollment is 18,445.
"It just seems like a giant contradiction to us," Jackson said.
BGSU officials, however, said the cuts will result in only small increases in each class size, most growing by just two or three students, according to BGSU President Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey.
"That is still one of the lowest in state," Mazey said of the proposed faculty-student ratios.
Many classes at BGSU presently have far fewer students than allowed by capacity limits, the president said. In other classes that already have maximum student loads, the caps may have to be raised, Mazey said.
But Mazey and Provost Dr. Rodney Rogers said that new teaching techniques using more technology can be just as effective in larger classrooms.
"It's not always the teacher in front the classroom anymore," Mazey said.
"There are ways we can be more efficient but not lose in the quality of the education," Rogers said.
An additional benefit to students would be more affordable tuition, which can then make BGSU more attractive to prospective students, Mazey said.
"In today's world, we have to be worried about the cost of higher education and the cost to our students," she said.
"In the end, I think it will be better for the students and the faculty," Rogers said.
Next, the faculty ...
The faculty union and administration have different full-time faculty totals. The union's number of 848 represents teaching faculty. The administration's number of 932 takes into account all faculty, including deans and administrators such as Mazey and Rogers.
The administration has said the majority of the 100 will be leaving through attrition or retirement, and the remaining will be non-tenure faculty working with one-year contracts. Jackson said the characterization of the one-year contract faculty as short-term is misleading. Many faculty work their entire careers with one-year contracts, he said.
"I think that was an attempt by the administration to muddy the waters," he said. "That was extremely misleading."
However, the administration numbers state that about 140 of the more than 300 non-tenure track faculty members are on one-year contracts. Approximately 80 of those have been at BGSU two years or less.
Mazey and Rogers said the university is top-heavy with faculty, with teachers not being cut even as enrollment has declined in the last few years.
At the same time, faculty salaries have lagged at BGSU.
"Our faculty salaries are very much below market right now," Mazey said. When faculty leave BGSU for other universities, the low salaries here are frequently cited as the reason, she said.
"We have to be competitive to keep people here."
Fewer faculty will allow the university to boost salaries, according to Rogers. "We're investing in faculty," he said.
It has not yet been determined if the remaining faculty will be required to teach more classes, Mazey said.
It is possible that some of the more than 300 general education courses offered may be cut.
"That's a lot of choices," Rogers said.
Further efforts will be put on helping students graduate in four years, Mazey said. "We will revisit curriculum and ensure students can get out with 120 credits."
And finally, the university's reputation ...
Jackson believes hiring quality faculty in the future may be tough for BGSU.
"They want to make a commitment to the institution, but they don't want it to be one-sided," he said of faculty. "Who would want to come to a place where there's no job security?"
But Mazey and Rogers contend that higher salaries will make BGSU more attractive to future faculty.
Existing faculty members, however, are frustrated about the reasons behind the reductions.
"There have been no faculty involved in the decision making," Jackson said. "They have not been consulted at all."
The faculty has been told, Jackson said, that changing student needs necessitate the cuts. However, he said he requested the data showing those changes and has not been given any information from the administration.
Jackson also questioned any financial need for the cuts.
"Not a word has been issued by the university justifying these cuts for financial reasons," he said.
The faculty reduction is expected to save about $5.2 million of the university's annual budget. According to Jackson's calculations, BGSU has approximately $17 million on hand and another $200 million in assets - making the cuts unnecessary.
And if there is a need, why should faculty "bear the entire cost of fixing a perceived budget problem," he asked.
But BGSU Chief Financial Officer Sheri Stoll said other cuts over the last five years have been spread across the university, including early separation, mandatory furloughs for non-faculty, contracting for dining services, and consolidating of many functions.
Stoll disputed Jackson's financial numbers, saying BGSU's monthly obligations add up to as much as $12 million for payroll and $7.5 million for payroll taxes alone. And while the university had $152 million in net assets last June, the term "unrestricted" is misleading.
"They have all been allocated and dedicated for certain purposes," she said.
The administration contends that a restructuring of faculty and courses is necessary to stay competitive and meet student needs.
And cooperation from faculty as the university transitions is needed, Mazey said.
"We've got to grow, let's just put it on the table," she said. "We really need the faculty to work with us."
Meanwhile, Jackson has hopes the administration will not go through with the cuts.
"There's always a chance for people of good will to change their minds," he said.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 February 2013 10:34

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