Miami professors form advocacy group

Miami employs about 700 professors.

Some professors at Butler County’s largest employer — Miami University — say they’re forming a new advocacy group because they feel ignored when major decisions are made on campus.

Miami was once Ohio’s only public college without a collective bargaining union or advocacy chapter. That’s going to change April 29, when the the college launches an American Association of University Professors advocacy chapter.

The move has the support of roughly 100 professors on campus, said Kate Rousmaniere, an educational leadership professor. Miami employs roughly 700 tenure or tenure track professors who teach at one or more of the three campuses.

“In general, Miami has been a good place to work so faculty have not been concerned about issues of equity or university governance,” Rousmaniere said. “In recent years that’s changed, in part, due to financial stresses and to the way decisions are made across campus.”

Those professors specifically want to learn how Miami is spending money, Rousmaniere said. Leaders with the American Association of University Professors plan to help members of the advocacy chapter decipher the university’s budget, for example.

“There’s been concern with the way the budget has been handled, use of money in certain parts of the university but not for other parts,” Rousmaniere said. “A key target point is intercollegiate athletics.”

This newspaper’s recent investigation found that nearly half of the fees — $997 — Miami students pay subsidize the athletics program, for example.

Karen Dawisha, a political science professor who’s the co-president of the new chapter, also described a “building frenzy” at the university that’s amounted in $641 million in debt. Meanwhile, she said, pay for non-tenured faculty is not comparable to pay at other Ohio colleges.

Administrators, who commented through email, with the university said they consider input from professors when making changes on campus.

“The complexities and uncertainties facing higher education absolutely demand that our faculty continue to be engaged fully with administrators in charting Miami’s future,” said Phyllis Callahan, the provost of the college, in a statement. She cited the faculty-run University Senate as an example of ways professors can voice concerns.

Some professors have felt left out, however, over conversations surrounding changes at the regional campuses in Hamilton and Middletown as well as the university’s decision to add an extra, short semester on the academic calendar during the winter session.

“There was a general sense that the university — as with many universities — has adopted a top-down approach to decision-making,” Dawisha said. “The faculty voice was not one that was routinely solicited early on.”

The advocacy chapter will formally launch 5 p.m. April 29.

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