The Executive Board of the American Association of University Professors has recently discussed the budget and redesign processes occurring at OSU. In this communication we would like to address some of our concerns and make some preliminary recommendations.
(1) To begin, we are not convinced that the redesign itself has been sufficiently justified to the faculty. An optimistic view is that the reorganization will result in educational and research improvements across the university. But many faculty may hold a more pessimistic view that the process is essentially designed to eliminate programs and reshape the institution in terms of non-academic interests. What is needed is greater justification for the redesign. Exactly why is the redesign necessary? If limited resources are a major reason, how will the redesign save money? If educational and scholarship goals are constrained under the current organization, what are these limitations, and moreover, how will the proposed reorganization alleviate them?
(2) A second and related concern involves the possibility that the redesign will re-prioritize the mission of the university. For example, Provost Whiteís initial letter to the university suggested that studentsí learning will receive the highest priority. While most faculty will agree that studentsí interests must be advanced, many will point out that OSU is a research institution and that scholarship (the development of knowledge) is as important as the transmission of knowledge. More generally, there are many more subtle shifts in priorities that may prove problematic in the future, and some very important small-size missions may fall through the cracks. We also note that many faculty are likely to be rather cynical regarding new priorities arising from an approach which begins by taking athletics off the table. What is needed is a redesign process that recognizes and balances the two central OSU missions: teaching and scholarship. If any of the universityís priorities are to be re-ordered, the rationale and justification must be spelled out in detail, and carried out within the context of a campus-wide discussion. Care must be taken not to equate the importance of a program with its capacity to provide resources.
(3) A third concern again deals with priorities and arises from the trend of shifting resources from the academic to administration realms. We are relieved that recent campus discussions have addressed this issue, and some sort of 60/40 split would be a step in the right direction. But we note that efforts to correct the problem will prove ineffective if the reorganization does not provide a means of distinguishing and monitoring the relative allocations between these two realms. There must be a valid and reliable measure of the resources allocated to the administration as opposed to academics.
(4) Our last two concerns arise more directly from the AAUPís
central principles. We are generally worried about inadequate faculty
input and governance in the redesign process. The existing committees
(the Budget Reconciliation and Redesign Work Groups) do not have diverse
faculty representation. If future decisions are made to cut programs,
the role of faculty input is unclear. If faculty are ultimately laid
off, we worry that such decisions may occur without sufficient faculty
consultation. We also worry that budget cuts will affect a
variety of underrepresented populations across the university and the state.
Faculty should be provided as much input as possible, and each component of the redesign should be agreed to by the faculty. Our logic here is quite simple: It is the faculty who are responsible for developing and transmitting knowledge. Moreover, it is the faculty who have the best knowledge of current and future developments within their disciplines. If this is truly a redesign for the 21st century, as President Risser suggests, it would be a huge mistake not to take advantage of this tremendous knowledge base on campus. Effective reorganization cannot be done in a short time frame without thorough faculty input. To redesign the university in the best possible way, all the time and energy required to access facultyís knowledge should be taken.
(5) The last concern arises from the most central AAUP principles regarding tenure. Across the last decade, there has been a gradual decrease in the number of tenure-track positions relative to non-tenure-track positions. Quite clearly, there is a real risk that the redesign will accelerate the appointment of more expendable and less expensive fixed term positions. The redesign must take every effort to recognize and honor the benefits of the tenure system. Tenure is designed to advance education and research by promoting a ìfree search for truthî. As more non-tenure-track appointments are made, the benefits of the tenure system will become progressively diluted. Faculty membersí academic freedom will suffer, as will their commitment to students, their department, and the university as a whole. It should be noted that presenting such a move as ìtemporaryî does not attenuate these problems, as we all know that temporary solutions often become permanent.
In conclusion, the AAUPís principles of academic freedom and faculty
governance can be seen to be especially relevant during times of change.
The reorganization must make every effort to honor these principles.
Doug Derryberry, for the
Executive Board of the OSU Chapter
American Association of University Professors