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September 21, 2023

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Faculty, students protest at Board meeting; use personalized signs

The Board of Trustees meeting had a higher turnout than normal, as roughly 100 faculty and students gathered to protest recent faculty cuts.

The protesters gathered before the meeting holding signs, some of which had facts about actual faculty whose contracts were eliminated.

“Each one of these signs will tell you something about a faculty member,” said David Jackson, president of the Faculty Association.

The protest was in response to the administration’s decision to not renew the contracts of 30 non-tenure faculty. There are also 12 additional faculty not returning who were on one-year, non-renewable contracts. The initial 30 reductions will save the University $1.4 million.

“We think it’s detrimental to the quality of a BGSU education,” Jackson said, noting the objective is to convince the admininstration to rescind the cuts. “This is serious. People have the right to know the facts.”

The protest also had the support of Rudy Fichtenbaum, the president of the American Association of University Professors and an economics professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. 

The AAUP is an organization dedicated to ensuring academic freedom for faculty and shared governance, according to its website. 

“I’m here today to support them and their struggle to maintain high quality education for students at BGSU,” Fichtenbaum said. “When it comes to keeping faculty in order to serve students, it seems [the administration] thinks the faculty is somehow expendable.”

Once the meeting began, the protesters sat in the audience holding the signs above their heads.

Some of the board members acknowledged the protesters before adjournment. The overall message they sent was that the cuts were done after much deliberation as a way keep with enrollment trends.

“For those unhappy with the decision to rightsize,” said Trustee Betty Montgomery, “It wasn’t done without thought.”

University President Mary Ellen Mazey stressed that the decision was to keep cost of tuition down for students.

“We have made some very difficulty decisions at BGSU and we’ll continue to do that,” Mazey said.

But when Sheri Wells-Jensen, an associate professor of english and faculty senate chair, addressed the board, she called for looking for other ways to be fiscally responsible.

“These are not in any sense extras, not people we can trim away and remain who we are as a University,” Wells-Jensen said. “What we cannot manage are cuts to who we are.”

Wells-Jensen’s report was followed by applause and cheers from the faculty supporters that delayed the board from continuing the meeting.

The administration also reduced faculty this past fall by 73.

“We thought the 73 last year would be the end of it,” said junior Michael Hart, president of the College Democrats. “We’ve got to fight again.”

Hart came to the event both to show the administration that good faculty is important to students, and that these cuts negatively affect faculty lives.

“They mentor us, they show us where we want to go in life,” Hart said. “These are real lives, families.”

Other items of note

During the meeting the board appointed Marie Huff as the dean of the College of Health and Human Services. Huff is a professor at West Carolina University. Huff will also have tenure in the Department of Human Services.

The board approved Aye Ziggy Zoomba as an official fight song of the University along with “Forward Falcon” and approved amendments to parts A, B-I, and B-II of the Academic Charter.

The amendments eliminate any redundancies and conflicts that are also found in the Collective Bargaining Agreement passed in May. The CBA will prevail in these instances, according to the resolution.

The board also green lighted South Hall renovations, the future home of the School of Media and Communication.

William Bachelder, speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, was in special attendance at the meeting and addressed the board.

“The legislature, as you know, and the governor [John Kasisch] have been extremely pleased with the steps you have taken on this campus,” Bachelder said. “Thank you for all your sacrifices.”

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