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Education

After a Difficult Year, University of Akron Faculty Have New Long-term Contract

photo of Dolli Quattrocchi-Gold
KABIR BHATIA
/
WKSU
Last July, members of the University of Akron's faculty union rallied the school to support academics over athletics.

University of Akron faculty have a new, six-year contract after a contentious year of negotiations and layoffs.

The Board of Trustees on Monday unanimously approved the contract, which has been overwhelmingly accepted by union members, who say it provides much-needed stability.

University President Gary Miller says the deal links university performance and compensation – an idea proposed by the union.

“For the first time, it puts us in a position where we all – everybody – is concerned with not only the quality of our programs, but also enrollment, and our strategic direction.”

The union has been critical of the school’s spending on athletics -- an issue not addressed in the contract. Miller says, in about a month, an athletic review workgroup will make recommendations about the finances surrounding the university’s sports programs.

“One of the things we [had] lengthy conversations -- with the negotiating team – about had to do with the finances of athletics; and how that really cannot solve the situation that we're in now. I think there's an agreement on the Board -- and an agreement on-campus -- that we need to trim costs and increase revenues in athletics. And there's also an agreement that we need to continue forward with our Division I program because the value proposition is so important to the institution.”

The school and the Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors began negotiating a new contract last year, just as the coronavirus pandemic began. Soon after, close to 200 faculty members were laid off, union members protested, and an arbitrator sided with the school.

The layoffs were completed through a "force majeure” clause in the old contract. Miller says that phrase has been removed, but the clause remains -- with some modification.

“We were able to retain our ability to reduce force if we need to, but we now also include the non-tenure track faculty; we have a process that we all agreed to.”

The union had asked for benefits for the people laid off last year, but Miller says the university “did not want to move forward with that.”

Statements from President Miller -- as well as AAUP head Pamela Schulze -- are available here.