Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Friday, February 08, 2013

Unions ask President Ono to intervene

From the President’s Desk
AAUP, AFSCME & SEIU members ask President Oho
to help move negotiations forward

On December 18, 2012, seventy-six letters from members of AAUP, AFSCME and SEIU were delivered to President Santa Ono. The individually composed letters asked President Ono to help move the AFSCME and SEIU negotiations toward a fair and
reasonable conclusion.

"We were hoping for some kind of response,” said Carolyn Schwier, president of the UC local of SEIU. “But we also understand that President Ono may not want to make any kind of public statements while the contract negotiations are still going on."

As we enter into a new round of bargaining between the AAUP and the UC administration, it would be natural to be apprehensive. Contract negotiations for both the SEIU and AFSCME have stalled, with the administration wanting full control over health care and offering sparse wage increases, if any. In any environment, this bodes ill for being able to attract and retain the quality employees who are the foundation of any organization’s success. What this means for AAUP negotiations remains unclear. In addition, the seismic shifts in both the President’s and Provost’s offices in recent months, could give one pause that “beyond here there be dragons.”

There is much, however, that has not changed; and despite recognized challenges, there is basis for cooperation between the UC administration and the AAUP in moving the university forward in achieving the worthy goals of UC2019 and the Academic Master Plan. Both UC2019 and the AAUP recognize that faculty excellence is central to the mission and success of the University of Cincinnati as it moves into its third century. Over the past three bargaining rounds (since 2003), both sides have taken a tough negotiating stance but with an eye toward progress that benefits the University as a whole. Major changes to the faculty compensation structure, a much-improved grievance procedure, and a new expedited review process for off-tenure-track faculty members are only a few of the successes achieved through those negotiations.

As Provost and now as President, Santa Ono has emphasized the importance of academic excellence in both teaching and research as the central mission of the university. All through the necessary attention President Ono has dedicated to UC Athletics, he has repeated that his goal is that Athletics be eventually self-supporting so that more university resources can be dedicated to UC’s core academic mission.

In a recent article in Median Magazine, for example, President Ono has championed the Liberal Arts in opposition to a growing market-demand attitude about college disciplines (“College Cost and the Myth of the Liberal Arts,” October 5, 2012, (available at; functions best using Foxfire or Google Chrome). In that article, Ono laments the short-sightedness of those who claim that the blame for rising college costs be laid at the door of subject areas that can’t bring in enough raw dollars. Against those complaining of faculty salaries contributing to excessive college costs, Ono remarks that “faculty are not better paid on the whole than their counterparts in commerce and industry, relatively few of whom have invested similarly (in time, money and lost wages) in their own educations. Many, especially the part-time, adjunct or lecture-track faculty who now shoulder much of the teaching load, are paid radically less. Cherry-picking one or two highly-paid chaired professors and extrapolating to the professoriate at large is misinformed at best, dishonest at worst.”

President Ono also takes a healthy approach to the university achieving rank-distinction. While still putting forth organizations such as the American Association of Universities as the peer groups against which we will measure ourselves, in his 1-10-13 memo to the university Ono declared that “if our ascent results in AAU membership, we’ll take it. If not, we’ll continue to strive for excellence with purpose and pride. But never will we allow a distinction to become our destination.” 

I share many of President Ono’s convictions, and I know that all UC faculty stand ready to help in any way possible to make these convictions a reality.

While I share these convictions, there are many challenges we face if we are going to attract and retain quality faculty in the future. For example, UC does not compare well to AAU schools in faculty salaries. In a survey of 93 research institutions conducted by AAU member The University of North Carolina, using 2011-2012 AAUP salary data, UC ranked 86th, 84th and 91st in Full, Associate and Assistant Professor salaries, respectively (see for full data). Among the 57 AAU schools in the survey, UC ranked last in Full, second to last in Associate, and second to last in Assistant Professor salaries. These numbers certainly are not good news for our ability to compete for talent with our peer institutions.

My seminary training also compels me to recall, “where your money is, there your heart will be also.”

Contract negotiations begin on March 1. That’s where all of this becomes exceedingly real for all of us. The university has a responsibility to manage its budget well, of course, but must it be at the expense of the academic mission of the university? Is that truly our only option? If so, then the laudable goals of 2019 will in the end be so many words on so much paper. President Ono, heartily supported by the faculty, is leading the University of Cincinnati into its third century of promoting academic excellence in both teaching and research as the key to the university’s continued success.

The AAUP at UC has also championed academic excellence as the key to the faculty’s future; so we have much to agree upon. The question is, can we use the upcoming negotiations to make those goals a reality, in the way that negotiations have been used over the past 10 years to make progress on other fronts?

Academic excellence rests in large part on attracting and retaining quality individuals through competitive compensation and benefits. Contract negotiations provide the crucible in which the university can show that it has the courage of its stated convictions.

                        — Greg Loving, President
                              AAUP-UC Chapter


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