The AAUP-UC chapter leaders believe strongly that the University of Cincinnati’s budget should prioritize UC’s mission to serve the public good through teaching and research. This is why we have been promoting a Fight for 51% campaign urging university leaders to allocate the majority of UC’s budget to the core academic mission. Now, as we face the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this effort to refocus on academic priorities takes on even more urgency.
At the Faculty Senate meeting on 5/14/20, Bob Ambach, Senior Vice President for Finance & Administration, presented a budget plan indicating the need for a “reallocation” (cut) of $75.9 million. This was discussed as a 20% reduction out of a base of $379 million. However, some important context was missing, as noted in the following four points.
- The university’s total budget is much larger than what was discussed. The UC Budget Book indicates a total budget in excess of $1.36 billion. Removing $308 million in restricted funds (endowments, ear-marked gifts, etc.), this still leaves over $1 billion. The proposed cut would be between 7% and 8% of this larger base — not 20%. We do recognize that the Budget Book provides projections, not actual expenditures, and that Board of Trustees approval may be required to shift certain funds. We look forward to seeing more information on actual spending and the availability of funds.
- Budget proposals are still being generated under the framework of Performance-Based Budgeting (PBB). In an AAUP survey of represented faculty during AY 2018-19, we found that only 3% of faculty thought that PBB provided sufficient resources to their academic unit, and 70% agreed that “PBB has negatively affected the core academic mission.” PBB was scheduled to be phased out this coming year, but it appears to be hanging on. It is not clear why the administration continues to use a budgeting approach that failed to provide sufficient resources to academic units even before the COVID-19 crisis.
- A large portion of the estimated budget shortfall is based on assumptions that the university will incur a $43 million cut in support from the state of Ohio and will lose $24 million in tuition revenue due to declining enrollments. However, no decisions have been made at the state level about next fiscal year’s budget, and summer enrollments have reached an all-time high. The situation is fluid, and any budget reductions need to be contingent so that jobs are not lost, or programs irreparably harmed, based on assumptions that turned out to be incorrect. Perhaps the UC administration has developed budgets for many scenarios, but these have not yet been shared with faculty.
- It is not clear what plans are being made for reductions to spending on athletics and administration. The subsidy to cover the annual deficit in athletics has grown to a staggering $29 million. Siphoning that much money out of the academic side each year was not sustainable even before COVID-19. Perhaps the UC administration has plans to reform the athletic budget so it no longer drains academic resources, but these plans have not yet been shared with faculty. Similarly, we have not yet seen plans for reversing the growth in administrative positions and salaries. In our 2018-19 survey, 79% of faculty thought the university was spending too much on athletics, and 71% thought there were too many administrators. It stands to reason that faculty would have even greater concern about these misplaced spending priorities in the midst of a financial crisis.
With the above context in mind, and in a spirit of collaboration, the AAUP-UC and Faculty Senate are convening a Joint Committee to collect data and propose solutions to the financial challenges facing the university. This committee, comprised of two faculty appointed by the AAUP, two appointed by Faculty Senate, and hopefully members of the administration as well, will be charged with working expeditiously to: 1) Fully understand the implications of this crisis; 2) Propose solutions; 3) Advocate for the core educational and research mission of the university.
To be effective, this committee’s work must be completed before the June 23rd Board of Trustees meeting, as the fiscal year begins on July 1. We recognize that the financial crisis caused by COVID-19 is real, but we seek to find constructive ways forward. We would rather take this opportunity to reimagine the future in a positive way that reaffirms our core mission, than let our fear of uncertainty undermine the university we all love. One of the courageous leaders of the 20th century, Bishop Desmond Tutu, observed: “A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.” We now have a unique opportunity to choose to recalibrate UC’s budget priorities, but this will only happen if faculty engage in the process of shared governance.
Shared governance is more than merely “being informed” of a decision. Shared governance is the work of a community to engage in dialog with facts and contexts to make the best plans for the community as a whole.
We are not powerless in this unless we choose to be. We can instead choose to participate in the conversation of shared governance, and by participating, change the shape of our priorities and our future. This is what organizing is. This is the work we can do when we all work together. We are the University.
By Steve Mockabee, PhD., and Phoebe Reeves, M.F.A
COVID-19 Questions and Answers
Any change in wages or any aspect of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) would have to be negotiated by AAUP-UC and the Administration. To date neither has proposed re-opening the CBA. Further, a financial exigency has not been declared at UC and no retrenchment has been proposed. AAUP-UC is determined to be as transparent as possible during this difficult period. We will notify the Bargaining Unit if there is any proposal that would alter the CBA or affect Faculty.
AAUP-UC and the Faculty Senate have convened a Joint Committee to collect data and propose solutions to the financial challenges facing the university. In the spirit of shared governance, the Joint Committee proposes to work with the Administration and the Council of Deans to:
- Fully understand the implications of this crisis;
- Propose solutions;
- Advocate for the core educational and research mission of the university.
All of AAUP-UC’s actions, as well as the actions of the Joint Committee, are designed to preserve the core academic mission. This includes working in solidarity with adjunct faculty and the staff members that are critical to this mission.
AAUP-UC has conducted two university-wide town halls and is conducting more at the college level. If you are interested in a town hall for your college, contact your college’s Associate Council member or email the Chapter office.
Thank you to the many, many Faculty members who have joined AAUP-UC over the last two months. The Chapter is now at a high point in terms of the number of members and the percentage of membership. If you have not already done so, please join AAUP-UC today. You are receiving this communication as a member of the Bargaining Unit; however, being a member of the Bargaining Unit does not mean you are a member of AAUP-UC.
The protections provided by the AAUP-UC and the CBA have become strikingly clear in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. It is only through robust and engaged membership by a majority of UC Faculty that the AAUP-UC will be able to succeed in limiting the financial impacts of the crisis. >Click HERE to join or email the office to determine if you are a member.
By Connie Kendall Theado, Ph.D