Faculty support for collective bargaining falls short

Anna Staver

Faculty Senate voted against supporting a bill that would allow part-time faculty, including graduate and teaching assistants, the right to collective bargaining, Monday.

The bills currently before the Ohio legislative body would remove the legal barriers that prohibit these groups of professors from coming together to bargain as one group with the university, for things like higher wages and health benefits.

Provost Robert G. Frank opposed the idea of the senate supporting the bill because of financial and political reasons.

“The estimates are that the state is $6.5 to $8 billion in debt and the university has very limited opportunities to have flexibility in our budget,” Frank said. “It would put us in an untenable position right now if we had a third bargaining body to deal with.”

Frank also said that given the recent political shift, he didn’t think it would be a good idea to be seen in support of an issue he believes the new government will oppose.

“It makes a statement about Kent State that we don’t need at a time when we are about to under go budget cuts,” Frank said.

Given the new political makeup of Ohio, sociology professor Jarrod Tudor said he “doubt[s] very seriously that this legislation will go forward.”

Tudor also said he believes extending collective bargaining to graduate and teaching assistants might result in these programs’ disappearance. He said it would be the first item a chair would cut out of their budget.

English professor John Stoker said he felt the issue was important to support, if only symbolically.

“To me, that’s a basic human right to organize collectively,” Stoker said.

But psychology professor David Riccio said that while he supports the idea of extending collective bargaining to part-time faculty members, he “would have serious concerns about a graduate assistant having collective bargaining.”

Several members of Faculty Senate echoed his opinion.

In contrast, philosophy professor Deborah Smith said she was a graduate assistant at a university that extended collective bargaining to their assistants.

“I was able to get health care which I wouldn’t have had without it,” Smith said.

Four members of Faculty Senate abstained from the vote.

“This is a perfect reason why administrative people shouldn’t be on Faculty Senate,” said Pamela Grimm, chair of the Marketing Department.

She said she supports the idea in principle, but as a department chair, she recognizes the financial impact of such a bill to her bottom line.

It is unclear whether this session of Ohio’s congress will bring forward these bills for a vote, but Kent State’s voice will be noted in opposition.

Provost’s selection process for new position causes commotion

The recent appointment of a new associate provost has many members of the faculty crying foul.

Provost Robert G. Frank appointed Wanda Thomas, former Dean of Trumbull Campus, to the new position of Associate Provost for Systems Integration last week.

Her new position on Kent Campus will be to create systems and policies that make it easier for students to transfer from the regional campuses and community colleges to Kent Campus.

Faculty Senate’s issue is not with the provost’s choice, but with how she was chosen. Frank chose Thomas for the position without a search committee.

“The policy is grey,” Frank said, regarding the selection process for associate provosts. “It just depends on how you view it.”

Frank said he chose to appoint Thomas due to time concerns and because he viewed the appointment as a re-shuffling rather than a new hire.

But several members of Faculty Senate disagreed.

“I read the charge to our committee on university policy,” said Tracy Laux, professor of mathematical science. “Somehow I feel like I’ve failed by not having an opportunity to participate. How am I supposed to insure that search procedures are adhered to?”

George Garrison, Pan-African studies professor, said that while he is sure Thomas is a qualified candidate, he was concerned that historically the provost’s office has made appointments in this manner, and it has resulted in a lack of racial equality.

“One of my ongoing concerns has been the lack of African Americans in key positions,” Garrison said.

After the initial discussion, the issue was brought up again during the presentation by Alfreda Brown, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“We may be getting qualified people here, but we’re not casting a wide enough net,” said philosophy professor Deborah Smith. “And my concern is that it does not enhance our diversity.”

Contact Anna Staver at [email protected].