Bowling Green Faculty Fights Cuts, Negotiates Contract

By Christopher Simeone

The year 2013 got off to a tumultuous start at Bowling Green State University, where members of the AAUP-affiliated faculty union led protests against funding cuts and became involved in intensive—and ultimately successful—contract negotiations.

In January, BGSU’s administration announced that it would eliminate more than 10 percent of the university’s faculty positions, a move that immediately drew strong condemnation from the faculty union, the BGSU Faculty Association (BGSU-FA), which is also the AAUP chapter. A statement by the union alleged that the measure, which would save the institution about $5 million, will make the faculty bear the brunt of state-imposed funding cuts. Funding for administrative salaries, new buildings, and a costly athletics program would be unaffected.

More than three hundred students, faculty members, and alumni led a protest soon after the cuts were announced. The protesters delivered a petition opposing the plan, with more than five thousand signatures, to Bowling Green’s president, Mary Ellen Mazey.

The administration said that the cuts would not affect class sizes, but the union disputed that claim, citing a separate plan by President Mazey to increase enrollment even as faculty positions were eliminated. “We will be losing somewhere between five hundred and eight hundred classes next year,” said BGSU-FA president David Jackson. “That means that the classes that we still have will have more students in them, there will be fewer classes, and then classes that students need to graduate may not be offered as frequently.”

While the dispute over cuts continues, the faculty union and the administration reached a tentative agreement in March on a first contract. The agreement came after more than twenty hours of intensive, back-to-back negotiating sessions and nearly two years of bargaining (the union won recognition in October 2010 and began bargaining in July 2011). AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum congratulated the union, saying, “It has been a long and hard-fought struggle, first to win recognition, then to ensure the defeat of Ohio’s Senate Bill 5, which would have overturned the results of the election, and finally to negotiate a first contract.”

The union ratified the contract in April, and the board is set to vote on it in May. Check the websites of the AAUP and the AAUP-CBC for more details.

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