21 January 2019
President Cheryl Schrader and Members of the Board of Trustees of Wright State University:
I am writing to urge the Board of Trustees and the administration of Wright State University to begin to negotiate in good faith with the Wright State chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), as doing so is in both the short-term and the long-term interests of the entire Wright State campus.
The Board of Trustees has not been negotiating in good faith thus far.
In order to negotiate in good faith, there must first be a recognition that those who are being most directly negatively affected by the current financial situation—i.e., the teaching faculty, the staff, and the students—had little to no role in creating this crisis, and that the Board of Trustees bears the far higher burden of responsibility.
The Board of Trustees must acknowledge that its own outside labor attorney’s brief to the fact-finder painted a hyperbolically bleak picture of the state of the university, which was later—given the report’s release to the media—publicly walked back by the Board. Why, then, after such a public walk-back, is the Board drawing on these same already disavowed hyperbolic claims to try to argue the merits of the Board’s stance in current contract negotiations? This is inevitably what happens when directors are strategically attempting to portray a crisis in order to justify cuts. The Board of Trustees misplayed its hand, and others are paying the price for this.
The budget woes faced by Wright State University are almost wholly the fault of the Board. The Board in the past four years has squandered more than $150 million: more than $130 million in reserves went to non-academic initiatives and enterprises, and at least $20 million spent on off-campus properties. These funds were squandered because the Board made a gamble that did not pay off: the investments not only never produced the promised additional revenue streams, but they have also become huge drains on the university budget. I am all too well aware of this dynamic from having seen it up close in a number of college settings. This is what happens when administrators do not make decisions on the basis of sound pedagogical reasoning and refuse to listen to those who know best what will serve the academic needs of the community: current faculty members and current students. The members of the Board of Trustees are also implicated in some conflicts of interest in having chosen these investments over other, more sustainable and wise investments that would have served Wright State.
The compensation and benefits of the full-time teaching faculty constitute a mere 17 percent of the university’s budget. I understand that that percentage has been very consistent over the last ten years—even over the last two years when the total budget has been cut by tens of millions. Indeed, since January 2016, the faculty has taken a net loss of 92 full-time faculty positions. So, spending on faculty lines has clearly not created the budget problems, and those problems cannot be solved in any significant way through the faculty contract.
As a member of AAUP at nearby Earlham College, I stand with the members of the AAUP chapter at Wright State University and hereby call upon the members of the Board of Trustees and of the administration who bear the responsibility for this crisis to a) acknowledge their responsibility as such; b) begin to negotiate in good faith, on the basis of such an acknowledgment; and c) consider immediate resignation, if the above conditions cannot be met.
Joanna Swanger, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Director, Peace & Global Studies Program
Richmond, IN 47374
(765) 983-1660 / firstname.lastname@example.org