77 percent say BOT hasn’t upheld its responsibility and 80 percent has ‘no confidence’ in university’s strategic plan
by Chris Horne
It’s been a rough summer for the community at the University of Akron. Deep budget cuts, positions “abolished” and 161 people laid off, programs dismantled, ideas for “grand” capital projects, significant outsourcing, controversial rebranding and marketing efforts, extravagant spending on the president’s residence, reinvestment in the debt-laden football program, upset alumni and donors, candidates for athletic director who dropped like flies, dubiously hired deans with questionable credentials, and academic support for 4200 students relegated to 15 “success coaches.”
Monday morning, the University of Akron’s faculty union released the results of a recent survey that show the vast majority of them are unhappy because of “growing concerns about the recent actions and future plans of the administration at The University of Akron.”
Nearly 80 percent of the faculty surveyed say the University of Akron is worse off than it was a year ago. Only 6.2 percent say they have confidence in the strategic plan for the university, which the Board of Trustees has supported throughout President Scott Scarborough’s tenure, and 72 percent say they are not confident the president is leading the university in a positive direction.
The survey, conducted by the UA chapter of the American Association of University Professors, featured responses from 73 percent of the university’s full-time faculty, which participated from all the colleges across campus.
Asked for a response the reported lack of confidence in his strategic plan, President Scarborough released the following statement:
“We worked closely with the faculty of the colleges as they developed their strategic plans and we charted the university’s strategic direction based on those plans. We recognize that change is always difficult for everyone involved, but making needed changes is what had to be done at The University of Akron to become a more distinctive university and to establish a sustainable economic model going forward. We will continue working with the college deans and the faculty to implement those plans to help achieve our shared goal of providing an even better and more valuable educational experience for our students.”
However, the faculty appears to have a different impression of the working relationship with the administration. Only 5 percent said they think “shared governance” is working at UA.
A 2009 column by Gary A. Olson for the Chronicle of Higher Education describes shared governance as “a delicate balance between faculty and staff participation in planning and decision-making processes, on the one hand, and administrative accountability on the other.”
Olson also notes that all legal authority flows from the university’s governing board, which in the University of Akron’s case is the Board of Trustees. Only 4 percent of faculty responded that they believe the governor-appointed trustees were living up to their responsibility overseeing the university.
At 93 percent, the highest percentage of respondents came from the newly renamed LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education. The lowest percentage came from the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering from which only 26 percent of faculty responded.