Monday, December 21, 2009

Walter Hixson: A critical look at UA's priorities

WALTER HIXSON'S op-ed piece in Sunday's' Beacon Journal was more than a shot across the bow of the University of Akron administration. It hit the bow.

Hixson is a distinguished history professor who serves as president of the UA American Association of University Professors that is in overextended contract negotiations with the
school's front office. Some might argue that in his union role he would be expected to attack the administration for its alleged financial shortcomings. But that would merely summarily deny the validity of his criticism without giving it a wide- screen analysis.

Here are a few points in the Hixson column that should remain on the table:
The university's priorities have shifted from its self-proclaimed "landscape for learning" to a "landscape for earning". In the meantime, Hixson asserts, the new landscape "benefits a bloated administration and local contractors but no longer serves the best interests of the university to teach them."
Money budgeted for teaching and research has declined from 37 pct. in 2004 to 34 pct. in 2009. At the same time, student tuition as part of the university's income has risen from 32 pct. in 2002 to 43 pct. today. UA is also ranked near the bottom of salaries of associate and full professors - 10th and 11th among Ohio's state-supported schools.
So what do we make of this? Is UA failing as an attractive campus for educational talent that is heading somewhere else? Is it losing its competitive edge as it further engages in a massive building program on the campus rather than human talent?

As a rule, university administrations think corporately and resist responding openly to public criticism other than, at best, a canned statement from a beleaguered media information department.

Don't the points made by Hixson and other critics (yes, there are others) call for a forthcoming response from President Proenza and certainly from the Board of Trustees that has ratified the administration's initiatives ? Has the UA become top-heavy with management with vice presidents reporting to vice presidents?

Is there anyone on the board willing to take a serious look at the financial as well as image problems? Hixson's Sunday column should serve as the road map for anyone still in doubt about UA's need for accountability. After all, it is a public university.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Internally, UA refers to the AAUP as "a faculty union," language adopted to marginalize the representatives elected by more than two-thirds of the University's 720 faculty to represent it. President Proenza said to the Chonicle of Higher Education after that election in 2002 that he would fulfill his promise of antagonism to the union. So, why doesn't the AAUP respond with real hardball? Surely someone should ask why the president of our public university would appear on the dais of the Summit County Republican Party and be praised publicly by its chairman. It ain't because he believes in unions.