On Wednesday, President Scott Scarborough plans to announce a $10 million gift for the University of Akron from alumni Gary and Pat Williams, which sources say has been in the works for years and was nearly derailed by controversy surrounding the current administration.
Barely two weeks into the Spring 2016 semester, the administration has seen enrollment continue to shrink, with particularly concerning numbers for incoming freshmen, despite well-publicized marketing efforts, including lauded commercials featuring NBA star LeBron James. Meanwhile, construction at the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education, where enrollment has plummeted by more than 11 percent, has taken so long the university fired the contractor.
Last week, The Devil Strip broke the news that the university is quietly negotiating a deal with a for-profit company, Higher Education Partners, to create satellite campuses all over the country, perhaps by acquiring some of the 135 locations currently belonging to ITT Tech, a troubled for-profit chain of colleges. Though sources say Higher Education Partners CEO Michael Perik was outside the room during the first meeting of Scarborough’s advisory council of local CEOs, neither Summit County Executive Russ Pry nor Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan had been consulted by the university president about the plans until after the story was posted. Because the talks have occurred in secrecy, with the private companies requiring individuals to sign non-disclosure agreements, the deal could have been finalized and put into motion before the public was even made aware.
Elsewhere on campus, despite repeated claims that last summer’s layoffs wouldn’t directly impact the academic mission of the university, up to 105 members of the faculty won’t be returning for the Fall 2016 semester. That’s because many (and perhaps all) of UA’s temporary/visiting professors (TVL), who work full-time and receive benefits but are not in the labor bargaining unit, have been told their year-to-year contracts won’t be renewed. However, the university says that’s not because of an intentional cost-saving move. Though spokesman Wayne Hill couldn’t say how many TVLs would not be returning in the fall, he says the move was made in consultation with the deans and department chairs. The plan is to hire more tenure track and non-tenure track professors. That being the case, only 55 TT and NTT positions have been announced so there are no plans to replace each lost TVL position. Whatever credit hours are not covered by the new hires are expected to be picked up by part-time, adjunct staff.
The “no confidence” resolution being considered Thursday lays out a litany of complaints, including:
- Declining enrollment while other Ohio universities are growing.
- Miscommunication of the budget situation, describing UA as having a “$60 million budget problem”
- The 42 percent decline in donations over the summer of 2015.
- The 72 percent of faculty who stated in fall 2015 they do not have confidence in Scarborough’s ability to lead UA.
- Scarborough’s attempt to increase student fees.
- Generally failing to involve faculty in major decisions, from “rebranding” the university to the uptick in outsourcing and his questionable hiring for the CAST dean and the Honors College dean.
The resolution is the result of an ad hoc committee formed after the November 6 faculty senate meeting.
Dr. Bill Rich, faculty senate chairman, says, “If the Faculty Senate adopts the resolution on Thursday, it will be sent to the Board of Trustees. It will be up to the Board of Trustees to decide what to do in response to the resolution.”
Hill says the university has no comment on the pending vote.
Read the resolution in full below.