Presentation Given to October 10th 2017 Meeting of the Wright State University Board of Trustees by Geoffrey Owens.

Let me begin with a disclaimer. Except where I say otherwise, all the facts and figures I present today come directly from the administration. So, if you believe any of my data are incorrect, Then FIRST it’s almost certainly because the administration has presented information in an opaque, misleading, or outright inaccurate fashion; and SECOND, we always stand ready to correct any factual mistakes in our statements. Please contact union officers so we can correct any inaccuracies.

Prior to 2013, things were going well. Revenues always exceeded expenses. But then, we drifted from our core mission. We shifted funding away from academics.  Expenses grew and soon exceeded revenues. Despite warnings from the AAUP, the problem only grew. We now still find ourselves in a position where expenses need to be slashed. And the cuts were made in all the wrong places, further weakening the core mission of this university.

We have 71 fewer bargaining unit faculty now than three years ago. And compared to three years ago, the University is spending $4.2 million less annually on bargaining unit faculty alone. Yet, the Dayton Daily News recently reported that the University had 70-80 vacancies, saving the University $3.25 million and that it would have an additional 100 vacancies after this year, saving an additional 4.25 million. How can the University have only 70 vacancies if there are 71 fewer full-time faculty?

Moreover, these data imply that the average compensation for a vacant position is somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000. [If the Board is correct that 100 vacancies save 4.5 million a year, and we take into consideration a 31 percent benefit rate, that is how we come up with the average salary of those vacancies averaging about $34,000 per year].

The average salary of the 68 people hired in 2016 and 2017 as “exceptions” to normal hiring practices, or “named in grant”, was $81,822. With benefits, they would average $107,923 in compensation. In making these calculations, we excluded ‘interns’ making less than$100 [yes, I mean one hundred dollars]. We also endeavored not to count any individuals twice, although on a spreadsheet that was shared with the Faculty Senate many were listed twice because they had been promoted, moved to different positions or given different titles over a period of years. Virtually none of those “special” hires are faculty, and their salaries are far higher than those for the reported vacancies.

There is an obvious conclusion. In your attempts to eliminate positions to balance the budget, you are focusing on low paid faculty and staff positions critical to running a university, and not on the administrative bloat that has brought this institution to its knees. And never mind the fact that this board authorized a budget increase of $1.6 million to subsidize intercollegiate athletics, effectively rewarding athletics for their continuous overspending. This extreme misallocation of precious revenue sends a clear message to the citizens of Ohio that Wright State University values Bonuses over Books, Rebounds over Research, and Free Throws over Free Thinking.

Let’s look at another example: we understand that discussions in University Hall speak of “unexpected losses” in summer school revenue amounting to about $2 million, due to lower summer enrollment [and please note that we had to revise this figure to a 4.8 million dollar loss over the summer, in light of new information brought to our attention this morning]. For faculty, these losses came as no surprise at all, because the administration slashed summer course offerings. But simple arithmetic based on readily available cost and income data show that a class with only 5 students would break even in most cases, meaning that enrollments above that number would essentially generate net revenue.[1][2]

However, when deans were ordered to cut expenses, they tended to cut classes with fewer than 15 students. Fewer classes mean fewer tuition-paying students, resulting in lower revenue for the university. To put it another way, cancelling or otherwise failing to offer all those summer classes allowed deans to meet budget targets, but was both fiscally foolish and a disservice to our students, either by delaying their graduation or by forcing them to look for classes elsewhere. But nobody in University Hall seemed to care.

Unfortunately, in dealing with the budget crisis, the administration seems to have forgotten that there are different kinds of expenses. Some expenses like teaching classes generate revenue and also happen to be central to the university mission. Many millions in other expenses produce less or even no revenue, and quite frankly, lots of that expense just does not support our core mission.

For too long this administration and board have had misplaced priorities, allowing expenses to grow out of control by “investing” in supposed revenue generating schemes that ignore and in fact harm the core mission of this institution.[3] Sadly, most of these schemes have actually lost money for the University. Our biggest fear right now is that the administration and board are so focused on a single number, our Senate Bill 6 score, that you will do anything to avoid fiscal watch even if it means causing additional damage to our students and our community.

If we do not change course, we risk leading Wright State University into a death spiral from which we may never recover. This, ladies and gentlemen, is not rocket science — it is simple math of the kind that each of us uses almost daily to balance our checkbooks.

Thank you!

[1] See “Cracking the Nut,” Part 10 http://www.wright.edu/administration/aaup/Cracking-the-Nut-Part-10.pdf

[2] If the average BUFM makes $85,283 then teaching a 3 hour summer school course on average costs $7,107. Even if you add in the retirement benefit for faculty, the average cost is $8,100. The cost of 3 credit hour course for an in-state undergraduate is $1,183 (@$394 per credit hour), and higher if we include out-of-state and graduate students. If you get $0.37 per dollar of tuition in state subsidy, then the total revenue per in-state undergraduate student is $1,621. This implies the break-even enrollment in an undergraduate class is about 5 students.

 

[3] See “Cracking the Nut,” Part 11 http://www.wright.edu/administration/aaup/Cracking-the-Nut-Part-11.pdf

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Author: martinkich

I am a Professor of English at Wright State University's Lake Campus, where I have been a faculty member for more than 25 years. I have now served multiple terms as the President of the WSU chapter of AAUP, which now includes all full-time instructional faculty, and as the Vice-President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP. I have also served several terms as an at-large member of the Executive Committee of AAUP's Collective Bargaining Congress. In addition to serving as co-editor of the Academe blog, I am also a member of the editorial board of Academe and have been a guest editor for an issue of the magazine on collective bargaining strategies. As co-chair of the Ohio Conference's Communication Committee, I began to do much more overtly political writing during the campaign to repeal Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which would have eliminated the right of faculty to be unionized. I have sustained that activism, and at the risk of stating the obvious, I have very much enjoyed contributing to the Academe Blog and to our chapter blog. I also maintain several other blogs to which I have re-posted, by topic, my posts to the Academe blog, as well as some other items.

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