Russi hosts winter faculty forum

By Mike Sandula

In the Gold Rooms of the Oakland Center, OU President Gary Russi addressed a crowd of about 150 for an open faculty forum 4 p.m. Thursday.In his opening remarks, Russi stressed a commitment to faculty and touched on a number of issues.

Addressing last summer’s athletics department raises, Russi said the athletics budget stands alone from the general fund budget and the raises stemmed from two sources: the Summit League improvement plan and clauses in individual contracts.

“Any assertion that the increases were deliberately made just prior to the budget year in order to deceive the community is patently false,” Russi said.

Russi said documents from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education pertaining to the committee’s onsite visit and the accreditation report are available in Kresge Library.

As with all donations to the university, Russi said his $100,000 gift, which is still in process, was a “personal and a family decision.”

Russi also touched on a 1999 settlement agreement that saw the appointment of an Interim Dean. The AAUP charged that Russi ignored the processes of the College of Arts and Sciences constitution.

“It has been suggested for some time that the administration is seeking to ignore or bypass constitutional processes,” Russi said. “This claim could not be further from the truth.”

Russi said he’d like to continue addressing issues in this manner, but said he’s displeased at some of the rhetoric that’s circulated campus.

“I just read the AAUP Oakland newsletter, and am concerned that the tone suggests that the administration is not trying to work with the AAUP to advance the best interests of Oakland University,” Russi said.

Russi concluded his opening remarks by saying a lot of progress has been made recently, but acknowledges that there’s still room for improvement.

To start off the question and answer portion of the forum, Frances Jackson, AAUP’s grievance officer, said that anyone who’s not a bargaining unit faculty member should leave as to enable a more open discussion. Provost Virindir Moudgil denied this request.

Jackson went on to say faculty wants more than a list of accomplishments and that the real issue is a lack of confidence in Russi’s ability to lead and communicate effectively.

Faculty members pressed Russi on a number of issues, including the lack of faculty liaison to the board of trustees and the way the 2009 AAUP faculty bargaining agreement was handled.

Russi was also asked what his oft used phrase “protecting the academic core” means. He said it’s about securing partnerships and raising resources that support faculty research.

Dissatisfaction over the relationship between faculty and the general council’s office was also expressed.

Russi concluded by saying a change in support of faculty can be expected.

“If that’s not seen, I’d like to know,” Russi said.