Canaries in a ‘Toxic Mine’

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tags: higher education, universities, COVID-19

Ohio University had budget woes long before the pandemic. Professors were fighting probable cuts to instruction even as the coronavirus bore down, so they welcomed a March email from President M. Duane Nellis saying that cuts to personnel were on pause.

The reprieve is apparently over. According to accounts from affected professors and their colleagues, some program and department chairs have begun notifying tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members that their contracts will not be renewed.

That’s in addition to 140 layoffs of unionized maintenance and other personnel announced last week in what some have called a “May Day massacre.”

The university has acknowledged the union layoffs, linking them to state funding losses and $18 million in student housing, dining and parking fee refunds related to the pandemic. But administrators say no final decisions about faculty nonrenewals have been made.

“As deans have been developing their plans and discussing with school directors and department chairs, we are aware that some faculty have been told their positions are under consideration by college leadership as part of college budget reduction plans,” Carly Leatherwood, university spokesperson, said via email. “At this point, no faculty have received formal letters of notice of nonrenewal. Plans have not come forward to the provost's office for final approval.”

Professors on the bad end of the news and their supporters say it feels final, however.

“I think they meant that in the very technical sense of nobody having gotten letters yet,” said Patricia Stokes, a long-serving instructor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies who learned last week that the two full-time, non-tenure-track teaching jobs in the program -- including hers -- are slated for elimination. “But in every meaningful way, this is a death knell to a thriving, fully enrolled program with devoted, incredible alumni and it’s just so sad and I’m so angry.”

Read entire article at Inside Higher Ed

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