Letter to the editor: Faculty discontent over presidential search process, administrative practices
April 18, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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To the incoming president:
Most of us (your professors) don’t feel that the process of this week’s open forums is a sincere attempt to get our input. This may offend some on the Board of Trustees, but our Board should recall that it told us an open format was chosen because of the low morale and the distrust we have experienced for over a decade between Oakland’s faculty and administration.
I can safely state on behalf of faculty that the open search idea only went about half as far as it might have. Ultimately, ONE faculty member graciously served on the search committee, but there was no communication process in place between that faculty member and the rest of the faculty. That’s a tough job. We appreciate her willingness to advocate for faculty.
I resorted to simply letting all faculty know about the ongoing issues that we were dealing with as OU’s American Association of University Professors over the last several months so that the search committee’s faculty member would have all the information at hand to support any discussions during her work on the search committee.
I cannot judge intentions, but I can note perceptions. Maybe time is forcing the process to be rushed — a realization that wow, it’s final exam week. Faculty are paid for the academic year, so many will leave soon to work on their scholarship and fields of study, unless they do lab research on campus. Should we be surprised that the faculty are unhappy with a 48-hour warning about the next visitor, and have no time to think about the candidate? Should we be offended if students may feel the same? I think that Board members want to do well by Oakland, but they have ended up with a search that is perceived not much differently than a closed one.
As I complete my two-year term as OUAAUP president and we enter final-exam week, I contemplate the state of affairs regarding the two most important groups at this or any other university — students and the faculty who teach them. As a previous AAUP vice president, contract-bargaining team member and now president, I have seen hopes dashed on key issues affecting both of these groups. I am sad to report that the morale of faculty at this university is low. The next president of OU needs to accept that reality. Here, there are issues with student services that remain broken, yet they are not expensive to fix. We have professionals in administration giving themselves an average 9.6-percent raise, while at the same time telling faculty that OU cannot afford to do something similar for them. We have a grievance with outside arbitration because the university insists on having a merit system for faculty but it avoided providing feedback to faculty as to why they reduce merit scores, and thus their annual raise.
So, whoever you are, next OU president, I hope you are willing to fix some of these issues. The employees you rely on to make the product and deliver it to your most important customers are skeptical.