Some Guarded Good News from Ohio—When Any Good News Is Certainly Worth Celebrating

This post is an elaboration on a message that was sent to the members of our chapter at Wright State University, which itself was collaboratively drafted and developed from a message distributed by the chapter leadership at the University of Cincinnati. (In these kinds of things, it is “collaboration” and “sharing,” not “plagiarism.”)

We have had good news from Columbus:

Late on Monday afternoon, the House Finance Committee removed  the “Yeshiva” language from HB 64! That language would have eliminated the collective bargaining rights of more than 10,000 faculty at Ohio’s public colleges and universities by reclassifying them as managers.

We offer a big thanks to everyone who worked to make this happen.

A very heartfelt and personal thank you to all of our chapter members who came to President David Hopkins’ office on Monday morning and stood outside while I met with him. By your presence this morning, you demonstrated our collective resolve in this crucial political battle.

A very big thank you to everyone in our chapter and in our conference—and beyond–who made phone calls, left voicemails, and sent tweets and emails to the Ohio House Finance Committee– thousands of them–over the past few days.

A very big thank you to my colleagues on the Board of the Ohio Conference of AAUP—in particular, the Conference President John McNay, who testified before the Finance Committee last Thursday and who consistently demonstrates the power of quiet courage and firm convictions, and our Executive Director Sara Kilpatrick, who has been such tremendous asset to the Ohio Conference of AAUP that it would be inconceivable to face these kinds of challenges without her.

A very big thank you to Howard Bunsis and Julie Schmid for their willingness to provide whatever support from the national office that was needed. And a thank you to the members of the CBC Executive Committee for all of the support that they offered at the Midwest Regional meeting this past weekend in Cincinnati. You made all of us from Ohio feel part of something bigger than our Conference, and the depth of your concern and commitment was palpable.

A very big thank you to our labor allies from We Are Ohio with whom we worked to overturn the infamous Senate Bill 5 in 2011 and who continue to work with us in coalitions that protect workers’ rights, advance the aspirations of ordinary people, and advocate for recognition of the inherent and continuing value of our public services and our public institutions, including our public colleges and universities (e.g., see today’s letter from Ohio AFL-CIO).

A very big thank you to the Democratic members of the Ohio House who stood collectively against the language that would have eliminated our collective bargaining rights.

A big thank you as well to those Republican legislators who opposed that language—and not just because it was likely to stir considerable controversy—but because it is not something that the legislature should be focusing upon, and especially not in such a dubiously expedited manner.

A very big thank you to President Hopkins for publicly voicing his opposition, as Wright State President, to the language that had been added to HB 64 that would have eliminated our collective bargaining rights. Dr. Hopkins made this statement at Monday afternoon’s Faculty Senate meeting and pledged to work to get the language removed.

When groups, such as our faculty unions and our administrations, have an essentially adversarial relationship, both sides need to work in a very consistent and determined way to find some common ground–in our shared commitment to our institutions and in our broader common interests and our shared values. Occasionally, there are opportunities for one side or the other to build a store of good will that mitigates the sometimes overwhelming sense that we have less and less in common. President Hopkins has certainly taken advantage of one of those opportunities in standing with us on this issue. I respect him very much for doing this politically difficult thing at the moment that it needed to be done.

We all need to take the time today and tomorrow to reach out to our friends, family members, students, and other allies who assisted over the past few days in this effort. Their support undoubtedly made a huge difference.

But it is not over, and not all is well. Witness Senate Bill 5 from 2011, last year’s attempt to increase faculty workloads by language inserted in the state budget bill, and now this latest attack on our collective bargaining rights-–and these examples are just from Ohio! We would be naïve to believe that university faculty can continue being largely apolitical, or that AAUP-WSU or OCAAUP should stay above the political fray. This is not a matter of partisan politics, but of recognizing that, increasingly, our fate is being determined in Columbus.

Truthfully, our Conference and our chapters were woefully unprepared for the fight to repeal Senate Bill 5, but we somehow rather quickly managed to organize our resources and to escalate our efforts, and we ultimately contributed all out of proportion to our size to the effort to defeat it.

We were much more prepared to respond to this potentially disastrous legislation, but we all immediately recognized that we should have been even more prepared than we were. We recognize what needs to be done, but we get so bogged down in the day-to-day and week-to-week matters to which we must attend that we make only incremental progress on insuring that what ought to be in place is, in fact, fully and functionally in place. We can no longer afford to be so casual about protecting our academic freedom, our right to shared governance, and our economic security—or about protecting the collective-bargaining rights that make it much easier to accomplish the rest.

After a week such as this past one, we all clearly need a break, but if we simply wait for the next crisis to stir us out of our daily preoccupations, instead of preparing ourselves as much as possible to meet it, we will be demonstrating the very casual attitude toward learning that sometimes exasperates the hell out of us when we witness it in our students, and especially our more gifted students.


3 thoughts on “Some Guarded Good News from Ohio—When Any Good News Is Certainly Worth Celebrating

  1. Pingback: Ohio Lawmakers Abandon Latest Threat to Faculty Unions – The Ticker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education

  2. Pingback: Culling the Faculty… Part II | The Academe Blog

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