Ohio Higher Ed

A Monthly Blog

Compiled By Marty Kich

AAUP-WSU home page

AAUP-WSU blog page

[Click the links to pdf’s of the full articles.]

This month’s lead item is Sheldon Gelman’s report on the IUC’s involvement in the drafting of Senate Bill 5.  Gelman is a law professor at Cleveland State University and gathered a great deal of information on the topic by making a public-information request for documents and correspondence related to the bill. The article, “Adopting Senate Bill 5: The Role of the Public University Presidents,” will appear in an upcoming issue of the Albany Law Review, which holds the copyright. The article provides a fascinating, if disturbing, analysis that refutes the idea our university administrations were standing on the sidelines as the legislation took shape. The following paragraph should whet your appetite to read the entire article: “Ohio’s presidents effectively replaced traditional conceptions of ‘the university,’ ‘the faculty’ and the ‘administration’ with a standard labor law model, one restricted to the categories ‘management’ and ‘employees’ -- both of which operate under presidential direction. The presidents did so, I argue, in an effort to transform higher education institutions into what Benjamin Ginsberg calls ‘the all-administrative university.’ Consistent with that view, the presidents identified their institutions with themselves, equating presidential authority with institutional freedom and creativity.”

An October 31 bulletin from the University of Toledo chapter details the “Fat Contracts” given to that university’s upper administrators ahead of the referendum on Senate Bill 5.  Writing just ahead of the referendum vote on Senate Bill 5, the author of the bulletin, Linda Rouillard, states: “The people who do the heavy lifting on this campus and across Ohio stand to lose their right to insist on a safe, productive, fair work environment, but those individuals who already have the most lucrative contracts only risk getting more obscene salaries, perks, and benefits.” Before dismissing this assertion as politically charged or even hyperbolic rhetoric, read the piece in which Rouillard breaks down the ways in which six administrators at the university will receive almost $12 million in compensation over the next five years.

The November 22 issue of the University of Akron’s chapter newsletter leads with a similar piece, “Strategic Priorities: Add Two More to the University’s 1%.” The author of the piece notes: “The talk has, in fact, been more agreeable, of late, with grand plans announced for future increases in faculty and staff positions [in instructional areas]. The talk is new, but recent actions seem all too familiar,” and those actions have served to confirm the continuing reality that at the University of Akron, as at the other public universities across Ohio, “economic life is clearly increasingly bifurcated.”

If each AAUP chapter in Ohio began to compile and to report this sort of information on new administrative hires and increases in administrative compensation, the effort might go a long way toward curbing the growth in both areas within our institutions, especially if that information were shared more publicly, across our institutions and beyond our institutions.

At Ohio State, a meeting of the Public Safety Committee was rather oxymoronically closed to the public. An article in the university’s student newspaper expressed the student journalists’ objections to being locked out of the meeting, and those objections were subsequently echoed in a Columbus Dispatch editorial on the incident. In the wake of the slaughter of the escaped wild animals near Zanesville, Governor Kasich had established an advisory committee to recommend changes to state law that might prevent a similar incident from occurring. Interestingly, the initial meeting of the committee, also concerned with public safety, was not open to the media or the public. In response, the Dispatch published another editorial, complaining about the seemingly unnecessary secrecy.

Outside of Ohio, the new AFT/AAUP chapter at the University of Illinois at Chicago continues to face legal obstacles as it seeks to establish itself and to define the framework within which it can negotiate with the university’s administration. A news item from the chapter details the funds spent by the university to dissuade faculty from voting for the union to begin with.

The decline in the state funding of public colleges and universities continues to make news.  In January, the Chronicle of Higher Education provided a color-coded map to illustrate the percentages of decline in state support across the fifty states. In the October 9 bulletin from Restructuring Public Hi Ed, Teri Yamada outlined the ten consequences of the decline in state support:  tuition increases; less student support; more out-of-state students; student migration; less time to explore; more adjuncts and less academic freedom; de-facto privatization; private-style variations in pricing; the increasing role of soft money; and fewer graduations at both the two-year and the four-year levels. In the November-December issue of Academe Online, Elizabeth D. Capldi addresses many similar issues in “Budget Cuts and Educational Quality: Policy-Makers—and the Public—Need to Know the Potentially Devastating Effects of Cuts to Higher Education.”

This decline in state support has indeed been directly linked to the dramatic increases in tuition costs and levels of student debt at what were previously very affordable public colleges and universities. On November 15 and 21, Inside Higher Ed published two fairly detailed pieces of the connections between student debt and student participation in the “Occupy” movement: “Occupy Student Debt” and “Refusing to Pay.” Both articles contain some eye-opening statistics and some very thoughtful observations by the students themselves.  On November 25, Noel Randewich’s article “Occupy Movement Inspires Rise in U.S. Campus Activism” was published at CommonDreams.org. Randewich notes that a similar level of discontent and activism on university campuses in the U.S. has not been seen since the 1960s. On November 28, writing in the wake of police brutality against students at several University of California campuses, Jennifer Doyle contributed the article “Silent Majority: California’s War on Its Students” to the online edition of The Nation. Doyle links the escalating physical abuse of students engaged in non-violent protest to the seeming lack of concern over the increasing financial burden being carried by many of those students to attain the sort of education that has long been considered a prerequisite to achieving the American Dream. And on November 30, Salon published Sarah Jaffe’s article “Who’s Making a Killing off Student Loans?” The question is rhetorical, for, in this detailed expose, Jaffe identifies the banks and other financial institutions that hold the bulk of the student loan debt in the U.S. Although these institutions include the “usual suspects,” there are a couple of surprises—and the numbers are certainly eye-popping and mind-numbing.

On November 22, Nation of Change published Christopher Petrella’s article “The Public in Republican: The Privatization of Prisons and Universities.” Given the as yet vaguely defined proposal to create “Enterprise universities” and the still-under-study proposal to sell Ohio prisons to private operators, the linkage between the privatization of the two very different kinds of public institutions is both timely and provocative. Two broadly related and equally provocative articles treat very different issues related to the privatization of public university education. Published on November 22 in Academe Online, Les Back’s “Intellectual Life and University of Commerce” explores how the emphasis on fiscal austerity in Great Britain is fundamentally changed the conception of a university education. In Great Britain, a public university education had, until quite recently, been free to any student who earned admission. In contrast, in Latin America, the only truly “public” universities are supported by municipalities, while the most elite institutions to which most student aspire to be admitted are “private,” even though some are self-supporting while others rely on public support. The protests in these countries are over the decline in state oversight of “private” institutions supported by public funding—a very different kind of twist to the issue of privatization, which is described in Pamela Sepulveda’s article “Student Protests Spread throughout Region,” published by Nation of Change on November 25.

On November 24, the New York Review of Books published Anthony Grafton’s review article “Our Universities: Why Are They Failing?” The books reviewed in the essay include: Naomi Schaefer Riley’s The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For; Benjamin Ginsberg’s The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters; Jerome Karabel’s The Chosen: The Hidden Story of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton; Christopher Newfield’s Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class; William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos, and Michael S. McPherson’s Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities; Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses; Anthony T. Kronman’s Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life; and Nancy Folbre’s Saving State U: Why We Must Fix Public Higher Education.  Just the titles themselves should tell you that this is fairly meaty stuff, even in review, and not necessarily what you ought to be reading if you are feeling at all ambivalent about your life’s calling.

At the risk of piling on the grim news, on November 23, inside Higher Ed reported that in 2010-2011, American colleges and universities made 100,000 new hires, but 50,000 of those hires were to part-time positions. In total, about one-third of those employed at colleges and universities are now employed part-time.

Finally, in case you missed them, you might want to read an article that I wrote for the October issue of our chapter newsletter: “‘Enterprise Universities’: Uncertain Means to Achieve Ambiguous Goals.”