POSTED BY MARTIN KICH Those of you who follow this blog have probably noticed that last spring I suddenly became a much less frequent contributor to this blog. The reason for my absence has been fa…
We are told that there is an enrollment problem at Wright State University. Let’s see if that holds up to scrutiny.
The three years that are outliers in the WSU Enrollment Chart shown above left–2009, 2010, and 2011–have swollen enrollments due to the Great Recession, Ohio’s choice to focus federal rescue dollars on supporting the retraining of laid-off workers, and the advent of semesters in fall 2012. Otherwise, enrollments at WSU have been remarkably stable. To see a genuine enrollment problem, consider the Akron Enrollment Chart shown above right. (The two charts are scaled in the same way: from 70% of the peak enrollment, rounded up to the nearest thousand, up to the peak.) The comparison is perhaps best seen when one combines the two charts into one, as shown below. By any reasonable standard, WSU has no enrollment crisis (but Akron does).
Given that our university has reported negative cash flows and declines in reserves since 2013, it should, again, be clear that enrollment declines were not a cause of that deficit spending. Nor will more “flexibility”—the gutting of our contract and workload agreement—enable the administration to resolve the real issues with our budget. Arguably, such “flexibility” will simply do the opposite—allow the administration to continue to ignore some of the real causes.
Enrollment data sources: Through 2016, page 3 of https://www.ohiohighered.org/sites/ohiohighered.org/files/uploads/data/statistical-profiles/enrollment/headcount_institution_campus_07-16.pdf
For 2017, table on page 1 (main campus) plus table on page 2 (Lake) of https://www.ohiohighered.org/sites/ohiohighered.org/files/uploads/data/statistical-profiles/ph_rpt_2017_master_0.pdf
Total annual savings from loss of Bargaining Unit Faculty positions just from AY2015-2016 to AY2017-2018: $4.1 million
State of Ohio Report on Administrative Productivity Measures—i.e., Administrative Bloat for 2016 (the most recent year reported):
If Wright State spent the median percentage on administrative salaries in 2016, we would have saved $17.3 million that year.
Summary: The administration/Board still has no concrete proposals for the next contract, and they refused to meaningfully participate in third party mediation. However, they indicate they intend to look at reducing faculty pay and benefits. They also want to explore provisions to make it easier to fire tenured and continuing appointment faculty without cause, and to weaken due process. Finally, they signaled that they want to increase teaching workloads.
We have made no progress at all in mediation sessions. Therefore, we told the lawyer hired by the Board of Trustees to serve as its chief negotiator that we would participate in the scheduled October 20 mediation only if, 48 hours in advance, in accordance with the ground rules signed by the parties in January, he provided us with actual proposed CBA articles that he would negotiate about. To put it more bluntly, we were unwilling to drive to Columbus and waste a third day only to find that the Board-chosen chief negotiator was again not prepared to actually negotiate specific articles with us.
Just before the 48-hour deadline, this lawyer sent us a narrative “presentation” of the Board’s position with respect to resuming negotiations. Since this “presentation” contained no specific CBA proposals whatsoever, we promptly informed the mediator that we would not attend the October 20 session.
The narrative presentation, while containing no specific CBA proposals, does outline the Board’s position regarding the status of each CBA contract article — and the separate workload agreements as well!
Before continuing, it is important to understand that before beginning negotiations, the parties have always agreed on the ground rules to govern the negotiations. This year was no exception; you can see a signed copy of these ground rules at
In particular, rule 4 “Document Exchange” required the parties to propose all changes to non-economic articles by March 10 — which the parties did in fact do — and to exchange proposals on a specified list of five economic articles on April 7. The negotiations were thus confined to the non-economic articles the parties had exchanged by March 10 plus the five specified economic articles.
Now, back to the “presentation.” It states
The Administration reserves as “open items” various Articles that contain provisions that have economic impact and have been presented to date by either party but, given the change in financial circumstances of the University, may and/or will be modified, rejected, accepted, or countered by the Administration during the future economic bargaining phase of negotiations (and not during this non-economic phase). Further, any current Articles with economic impact that have not been presented to date by the Administration also remain open and reserved for the future economic bargaining phase of negotiations, and “new” Articles yet to be proposed by the Administration on yet to be introduced economic topics remain open and reserved for the future economic bargaining phase of negotiations.
This is nothing less than a unilateral re-write of the ground rules. In particular, the Board’s position is that it can unilaterally declare virtually any CBA article as open for negotiation, signed ground rules notwithstanding. We categorically reject any attempt by the Board to re-write the rules governing negotiations, and we emphatically reject the Board’s wish to open virtually any CBA articles for negotiations.
One of the more outrageous examples of their attempt to unilaterally re-write the ground rules is the following statement from its “presentation”:
As the parties also need to address the issue of combining the NTE and TET contracts, to avoid confusion the Administration deems the NTE contract provisions as open (unless a TA has been reached) until the parties discuss and/or agree upon a way to most effectively and efficiently address this issue.
What does it mean to say the NTE contract is “open”? It means that the Board can propose modifications of all provisions that cover NTE faculty, even if they had previously not proposed any changes.
Another outrageous example pertains to the workload memorandums of understanding (MOUs). The Board’s “presentation” lists these MOUs as open for negotiations. But the workload MOUs are not part of the CBA. In fact, the dispute resolution process is different for the CBA and the workload MOUs. In the case of the CBA, unresolved issues go to a fact-finder who recommends language to resolve outstanding issues; and, if either side rejects the fact-finder’s report, faculty have the right to strike. In contrast, if either party wants changes in the workload MOUs and agreement cannot be reached, the differences go to binding arbitration.
Now why might the Board want to change the workload MOUs? To increase faculty workloads so they can reduce the number of faculty — faculty who continue to teach our students and perform research with distinction! Meanwhile, at the October 20 meeting of the Board’s Finance Audit and Infrastructure (FAI) Committee, the administration’s top three managers of money and property — whose annual base salaries alone are about $0.75 million — continue to report that spending at WSU is still not under control.
Outrageous examples continued: The “presentation” also lists a new economic article but with no specifics – not even a title! The Board is asking us to negotiate a matter to be named at a later date, and you can bet that it will target your paycheck, your health benefits, or both.
Regarding Faculty Governance Article 10, they want to “Modify Administration proposal to further provide flexibility and inherent management rights in faculty involvement in governance provisions.” What does this mean? Article 10 now guarantees the existence of a Faculty Senate. Do they want abolish the Senate? Article 10 also requires administrators to explain reasons for decisions that are made contrary to BUF recommendations. This provision is designed to hold administrators accountable for their actions. Has that provision been targeted by the Board?
In Article 14 Discipline, they want to “Modify Administration discipline proposal to further provide for a less formal more practical process allowing the Administration more flexibility, but still protecting employee due process.” In Article 15 Termination and Unpaid Suspension, they want to “Modify Administration termination and unpaid suspension proposals to further provide for a less formal more practical process allowing the Administration more flexibility, but still protecting employee due process.” At their core, these two articles guarantee that a faculty member accused of wrong doing receives due process. Weakening these protections is a step toward at-will employment, in which an employer can discipline or even fire an employee with impunity.
Finally, consider Article 17 Retrenchment. The administration made no proposal regarding this article by the deadline specified in the signed ground rules. But the “presentation” lists this as another one of the many articles as open for negotiation. Now, this article prevents summary dismissal of BUFMs — thus guarding both our academic freedom and the University’s academic integrity — and provides severance pay when the administration can in fact justify retrenchment-related dismissals. Not many months ago, the Board eliminated bumping rights for classified employees and cut severance pay for unclassified employees — unilaterally because neither group is protected by a Collective Bargaining Agreement. At the October 20 FAI Committee meeting, the administration would not rule out additional staff layoffs. We can see where the Board wants our protections under Article 17 to go. It is virtually guaranteed that they want to weaken BUFMs’ job security, rolling back protections for NTE faculty on continuing employment agreements, and making it easier to abolish academic programs and to lay off tenured faculty.
What does all this mean for the Bargaining Unit Faculty?
One way or the other, the Board will try to divide the Bargaining Unit Faculty, pitting NTE and TET faculty against one another.
But we are one faculty and we will not be divided!
At this point, the EC believes we need to focus on preparing for fact-finding. It is unlikely that the fact-finder’s report will recommend language amounting to a unilateral rewrite of key provisions of our CBA. But the unlikely still might happen. So we should be prepared to reject a report that is unfair. Likewise, if the fact finder’s report is acceptable to the RCMs, the Board might reject it. In either case, we should be prepared to strike.
We believe that a very credible threat of a strike is the best way to avoid a strike, which should be a last-resort option. But it is possible that a strike may be the only way to avoid a complete gutting of our contract. If you believe that the risks inherent in a strike are a reason not to strike, you should reconsider your position. If the administration guts our contract, more risks than you are trying to avoid will become the permanent condition of your employment.
It is now more important than ever that we stand united. The Board has repeatedly shown neither respect for faculty nor concern for our students. After all, faculty working conditions are student learning conditions! We understand that the University is facing a financial crisis, but WE didn’t cause it. Over the last five years, the salaries and benefits of full-time teaching faculty have accounted for 16%-17% of the total institutional budget. In the first two of those five years, we received zero raises, and in the last three years, our raises have been offset by attrition. Over those three years, we have lost 71 positions, with the total faculty in our bargaining unit declining from 659 to 588. The Board has acknowledged that the over-spending has not been on instruction, and yet we have already contributed a great deal to resolving the budget issues created by reckless spending on non-instructional initiatives and positions. We and our students generate the revenue for this university. Without us and our students, this University not only does not function — without us and our students, it has no reason for being.
This Summer, the Senate focused on increasing our international footprint through the work of a newly-constructed International Education Advisory Committee. Additionally, we collaborated with the students and staff of the Student Success Committee to bring forward plans to significantly reduce the student-borne expense of textbooks. Finally, Senate leadership finalized proposed modifications to the Faculty Constitution to streamline its processes and normalize the oversight of graduate affairs.
This Fall, the University Academic Policies Committee is considering over a dozen academic policies, including those required to assure that instructional Faculty meet HLC guidelines. The University Curriculum Committee will begin using the new Curriculog system launched in August to streamline processing academic courses and programs. The Undergraduate Curriculum Review Committee continues to lead efforts to assure that our General Education (“Core”) Curricula meet their intended student outcomes and satisfy accreditation requirements. The Senate approved a new grading system to more accurately track student participation and to aid in accurate reporting for federal financial aid. In short, Faculty are fully engaged in fulfilling and expanding our
academic and research missions.
President Schrader has only been with us a short time, but she has taken steps to learn our academic programs and to engage with our students though 33 departmental visits prior to the start of the term. Provost Sudkamp continues to earn our confidence in his administration of our academic mission. The general sense of the Faculty Senate is guardedly optimistic with respect to our top leadership.
Trustees, you took some painful, but necessary, steps to cut our budget, provide oversight, and stabilize our budget. Our faculty and staff genuinely desire to support the university in this hour of need, but it is surprisingly difficult to chart a positive path in the present cloud of uncertainty.
There is a growing frustration among our faculty and staff who interact most closely with our students because of uncertainty regarding how each new measure will impact our instructional and research mission. Too many of these decisions are communicated with a focus on expense reduction and without expressed consideration of overall impact on revenue and revenue capacity.
In times of transition and challenge, clear and timely communication are imperative.
Further, we sense that many existing and potential students are becoming apprehensive about the future of the university. This concern is only reinforced by budget cuts removing many small but highly visible support mechanisms for students.
Academic programs have endured significant cuts, both in terms of base budget reduction and in unfilled vacancies as outstanding personnel leave and are not replaced. These additional vacancies are opportunistic, not strategic; thus the losses are not well distributed among units. This approach to budget reduction has stressed some valuable units close to their breaking points and may ultimately lead to a further reduction in revenue.
It is evident that we cannot continue to cut our way out of our fiscal crisis. Additional across-the-board cuts will have a negative impact on revenue and our mission. We need to identify academic units that have the capability and capacity to grow and ensure they are properly resourced. We need to identify valuable programs that are in danger of being starved. We need to properly resource service units that feed our academic pipeline. We need a plan, a timeline, and a process that is clearly communicated to the community for each new initiative. We need to stop making final-hour across-the-board budget cuts and start making reasoned decisions on where we will make targeted cuts, where we will invest, and make guarantees that inspire trust, confidence, and stability.
Faculty, too, are deeply troubled by the stalled negotiations of the Collective Bargaining
Agreement. This inaction contributes to potentially crippling uncertainty. This environment has already caused some of our most productive faculty and staff to look elsewhere; continued uncertainly will undermine our ability to recover. We urge you to immediately move forward on contract negotiations with AAUP-WSU in good-faith and with full effort. Please make every effort to demonstrate the respect that the University has for its valued faculty and staff by not drastically changing their conditions of employment overnight.
The Faculty understand the importance of avoiding Fiscal Watch and are now, if anything, overly expense conscious. Faculty are cooking food at home to bring to student welcome events. Faculty are using personal cell phones to reduce the costs of office phones. Faculty are spending extra hours on recruiting events and raising funds to support student activities. We will continue to contribute at all levels, big and small, to help the University.
We work with you, for the good of our students and the University. President Schrader and Provost Sudkamp have promised to lead us towards a new era of transparency, productive campus conversations, and sincere commitment to shared governance. You can expect that from us, and we will expect that from you.
- Question for the administration and Board: what kind of relationship do you want to have with the union — that is, with the Bargaining Unit Faculty?
- One possible answer is a relationship characterized by open lines of communication between the parties, founded on jointly nourished trust and mutual respect. That’s the kind that has prevailed most of the time since collective bargaining began in 1998.
- But in recent months, the administration and board have repeatedly and unilaterally acted to undermine the parties’ constructive relationship. That’s incredibly unwise. You need to change course right away. There is a BIG iceberg dead ahead.
Due to time constraints imposed by the Board, Dr. Vance’s actual remarks were a considerably abbreviated version of what’s below.
What kind of University do the administration and Board of Trustees want Wright State to be?
To put a finer point on it, what kind of relationship between the union – the Bargaining Unit Faculty (BUFMs) – and the administration do you want to have?
That is such a crucial question. After all, the core mission of any real university is to teach students and to push forward the frontiers of knowledge – to undertake research, a.k.a. scholarship. To teach students and to undertake scholarship. That is exactly what BUFMs do.
So, what kind of relationship do you want between the BUFMs and the administration?
One kind of relationship is characterized by open lines of communication between the parties, founded on jointly nourished trust and mutual respect. That happy circumstance did not at all prevail when collective bargaining began in 1998, and change did not occur instantly. But over the years, the union and the administration got it together, established and maintained a constructive relationship, and pulled off a remarkable string of achievements — collaborative achievements — that both parties are rightly proud of.
Those collaborative achievements are far too many to describe or even list. So, let me mention just a few.
There are now written criteria for how faculty must perform to earn merit raises or tenure or promotion. These criteria have provided a revolutionary improvement over the bad old days-–pre-collective bargaining–-when as likely as not, raises and tenure and promotion were awarded on an arbitrary or capricious or discriminatory basis. All these criteria have been agreed to by majority votes of the relevant BUFMs, by the relevant dean, and by a committee of six people, the Faculty Governance Committee, three of whose members are appointed by the administration and three by the union. For nearly twenty years, FGC has been approving bylaws (or sending them back for required improvement), and that body has never had to take a vote. FGC has always arrived at consensus decisions about what these crucial performance criteria should be.
There are oodles of other examples in which one party approached the other with a problem to solve–- maybe an everyday problem, or one that entails big money, or one involving highly sensitive, very delicate personnel matters. Again, one party has approached the other and found in the other party a willingness to communicate honestly, to work together with trust and mutual respect. You can’t believe how many hard problems the parties have resolved in that way, and how many needless headaches have been avoided.
So: what kind of relationship do you want to prevail between the administration and the BUFMs? One answer is a relationship characterized by open lines of communication, trust, and mutual respect.
Now it takes two to tango. It takes two parties that both want to enjoy open lines of communication, trust, and mutual respect. That’s the way it has been here at WSU a large majority of the time for the better part of two decades.
But in the very recent past, the favorable relationship I have just described has been repeatedly and unilaterally undermined by the administration or Board or both.
A first primary example: the Board refused to provide a seat on the Presidential Search Committee for the union–-the Bargaining Unit Faculty.
Second: after negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the administration and the union began in January, the parties signed off on written ground rules to govern negotiations, and the parties made concrete progress on more than a few issues on which one party or the other wanted a change to the previous CBA. But all progress stopped cold in late March or early April. Since that time, the administration has outright refused to negotiate. In fact, exactly six months ago tomorrow, the administration reneged on its written promise to exchange proposals with the union about economic articles (that is, articles on salary, benefits, and the like), and there has been no movement whatever to correct that.
Third: President Schrader has said no to more than a few opportunities to meet union representatives and talk about this, that, or the other important matter. The most recent instance pertains to a matter that arose at a mediation session in Columbus on September 15. The administration stated that it wanted us to listen to its description of certain unspecified but ominous-sounding “global issues” surrounding the present negotiations, and to do so completely off the record. We are quite certain that the administration meant bluntly, “We want to engage in regressive bargaining”–-that’s an unfair labor practice–- “and for AAUP-WSU to give up significant parts of the current CBA, parts that impede administration ‘flexibility’ in managing WSU.” However, we had seen repeatedly that the administration’s negotiating team had no authority to actually negotiate and that its chief negotiator had been disingenuous about that basic fact, even when addressing the mediator directly. So, our team replied that we would be willing to meet about “global issues” provided President Schrader and Board Chair Fecher attended. That was three weeks ago, and we are still waiting for an answer.
Fourth: the administration has been willfully and regularly uncooperative in the enforcement of the CBA and in providing information to the union needed to negotiate a successor CBA. Rather than getting a reasonably prompt, responsive reply to a request for information, the union is likely to get nothing whatever, or a message from one of the administration’s attorneys excusing the absence of a reply on thus-and-such section of Ohio Revised Code. We can’t even find out how much money the administration has been paying the national law firm one of whose senior attorneys it hired to be its new chief negotiator about six months ago, almost exactly at the same time the administration announced it wasn’t going to hire any more outside consultants!
The overall picture is that for some time now, repeated signals from the administration or Board or both tell the BUFMs that we (the Board-administration) are willing to discard the constructive, collegial relationship that parties have attained and jointly nourished over the better part of twenty years. That’s incredibly unwise. You need to change course right away. There is a BIG iceberg dead ahead.