Written by DAVID DUPONT, Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 06 December 2013 12:05
As the long Faculty Senate meeting wound to a close Tuesday, President Sheri Wells-Jensen reflected on the conversation that had dominated the proceedings.
|File photo. BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
"This discussion was a long time coming," she said.
That discussion had Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey, face-to-face, engaging members of the faculty in a courteous, yet contentious debate.
The spark for the conversation was the announcement of the non-renewal of contracts for 30 non-tenure tract full-time faculty members.
But even that number is subject to debate. It does not include faculty members who have one-year terminal contracts.
If those faculty are included, the union maintains, the numbers increase to 40.
"Some very productive people have lost their jobs," said Peter Blass, of the Chemistry Department. "They're very good teachers ... they're what brings people to BGSU ... I can't see how this will not affect the quality of education at BGSU."
"We'll work to make sure that doesn't happen," Mazey said.
Bill Albertini, of the English Department, said that the average salary of the non-renewed faculty "was less than the bonus" Mazey received last month.
"What I would say," Mazey replied, "is I signed a contract prior to my arrival and that was part of the contract."
She repeated the contention that BGSU has a low faculty-student ratio and that in the face of budget strains the university must make cuts.
Money needs to be found to bring faculty salaries up to be on par with those at similar institutions. Bringing salaries up "to the market" was the top priority expressed by faculty, she said.
That includes, Provost Rodney Rogers announced, a market adjustment pool that will be distributed to faculty in January. Faculty will see, he said, annual raises ranging from $13 to $3,000 with some faculty receiving no increase.
How that money was distributed was negotiated by the Faculty Association and the administration, he said.
In his report to the senate from the Faculty Association, Lawrence Coates, of creative writing, said that given faculty salaries represent only 22.9 percent of the budget, that left other areas where cuts could be made.
When asked by Julie Haught, of the English Department, how many faculty will be employed in fall 2014, Rogers said he couldn't say. "That number continues to fluctuate."
It depends on enrollment in specific programs, he said. It depends on whether faculty leave at the last minute for other positions..
"It all depends on what our needs will be."
The university has hired an outside consultant, Accenture, to look at possible operating efficiencies. Mazey said the company will give a report on is findings next Wednesday, but cautioned the report would not include any specific recommendations.
One of the central issues facing the university is enrollment.
Rogers said enrollment was down for spring compared to last year. That's no surprise given the freshman class was smaller.
However, at this point, it appears more of those freshmen are planning to stay around for a second semester, Rogers said.
Mazey urged faculty to come out for Preview Day to try to entice prospective students to attend BGSU.
But some faculty feared the damage is done.
William O'Brien, of the Psychology Department, said he was afraid the cuts put the university in "a death spiral."
He said his son attended BGSU because of the low class sizes and access to faculty members. The cuts threaten that, he said.
Albertini said he was unsure of the administration's plan "to make this university strong ... to make people want to send their children here."
Mazey said there was a shared responsibility. "It's up to us to recruit and retain students."
Coates said that the reduction in faculty, including the more than 70 cuts last year, threaten to increase class sizes and reduce the number of classes offered. That will make it more difficult for students to register for the courses they need to complete their majors.
Mazey point to figures presented by Rogers a month ago that showed little increase in class size.
"If there's a downward spiral," she said, "we're not seeing it."
O'Brien urged the university to be bold. He said that he recently served on an accreditation team for a university, which he couldn't name for confidentiality reasons, that faced even greater reductions in funding than BGSU.
But instead of hunkering down, the school hired more faculty and expanded programs.
Wells-Jensen said she heard in the discussion was "a cry" for more talk between the faculty and administration, a fear that budget concerns "are killing hope and innovation."
"We fear we're on the edge," she said.
Union members plan to make their presence known at today's Board of Trustees meeting.
Coates concluded his report from the union by saying that the disagreement over issues "does not mean we don't share the same goal to provide an excellent and affordable education."
Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2013 12:08