Crisis in Public Higher Education: Ohio

By N Ufot

On Marrch 31, Ohio governor John Kasich signed a bill curtailing most union rights for public employees. The bill contains an especially troubling provision that defines as “management,” and thus as ineligible for collective bargaining, all public college and university faculty members who either “participate in decisions with respect to courses, curriculum, personnel, or other matters of academic or institutional policy” or “individually or through a faculty senate or like organization, participate in the governance of the institution, are involved in personnel decisions, selection or review of administrators, planning and use of physical resources, budget preparation, and determination of educational policies related to admissions, curriculum, subject matter, and methods of instruction and research.” Under this provision, any faculty member whose institution has a faculty senate could be barred from unionizing.

What’s next? In Ohio, citizens have the opportunity to veto a law before it takes effect, so the AAUP’s Ohio conference has banded together with large and small public-employee unions in an effort to get a referendum for a veto placed on this November’s ballot. In order to place the referendum on the ballot, those opposing the law must get 6 percent of the electorate to sign a petition within ninety days after the law was signed. The law will not take effect during this period, and if opponents of the law are successful in getting the referendum placed on the ballot, the law will remain on hold until after November’s election.

“Polls in Ohio and nationwide show that the majority of the public believes public employees have a right to collective bargaining,” says Dave Witt, a professor at the University of Akron and an active AAUP conference leader. “Consequently, we have joined forces with the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio Education Association, and the other public-employee unions because we see this as a fight we can win.”

However, the task is staggering: about 300,000 signatures must be collected in order to provide the roughly 230,000 required plus a margin of safety for any that are invalid or challenged. All eleven unionized AAUP chapters in the state, in addition to nonunion chapters and individual AAUP members, are dedicating themselves to this task. If you can help, please contact the AAUP’s Ohio conference at ocaaup@ocaaup.org.