Central State University AAUP Chapter

By Kelly Hand

The AAUP chapter at Central State University, a public historically Black university in Wilberforce, Ohio, dates from 1953, when the institution was called Central State College. Central State traces its origins back to 1887, when the Ohio General Assembly established the Combined Normal and Industrial Department at Wilberforce University, which had been founded before the Civil War to educate African Americans. In 1947, the department became a separate institution, called the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce, and it bore the name Central State College from 1951 until 1965, when it became a university. In its early years, the AAUP chapter, as a community of scholars, worked with the administration to hire faculty members, using data from the national AAUP’s “Self-Grading Compensation Survey” (a predecessor of the Association’s current annual survey) to set standards for promotion and compensation. In 1985, the Central State University AAUP chapter (AAUP-CSU) became a collective bargaining chapter—and one of the first faculty unions to form in Ohio following passage of state enabling legislation.

Despite efforts in the 1890s to secure land-grant status and federal funding through the Second Morrill Act of 1890, Central State was designated as a land-grant institution only in 2014 as part of a compromise farm bill. Led by its ninth president, Jack Thomas, and the provost and vice president of academic affairs, F. Erik Brooks, CSU is the only public historically Black university in Ohio and one of only a handful of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the Midwest. Land-grant funding enables the creation of new research-focused faculty lines that support the university’s goal to become a Research 2 institution in the Carnegie Classification system. CSU expanded online programs during the COVID-19 pandemic and added non-tenure-track teaching faculty lines in response to enrollment increases. The chapter represents all full-time faculty and librarians with instructional or research responsibilities. Currently in the second year of a three-year contract, which runs through August 2024, AAUP-CSU has worked with the university administration to address the increasing array of faculty position types. Ongoing concerns for the chapter and its members include the implications of divergent faculty roles for tenure and promotion, shared governance, and academic freedom.

We learned more about AAUP-CSU from current and past members of the chapter’s executive committee, including chapter president Leanne Petry, vice president J. Brendan Shaw, recording secretary Vincent Haddad, corresponding secretary Jeremy Holtgrave, treasurer Genevieve Ritchie-Ewing, contract manager Anthony Arment, AAUP state conference representative Mitch Eismont, members-at-large Paula Redman and Erin Smith-Glenn, and emeriti members and former chapter leaders Dave Rubin and Lugene Bailey, who have continued to play a significant role in recent contract negotiations.

What does Central State’s unique history as a public HBCU mean for faculty members, and how does it influence AAUP-CSU’s sense of mission?

The institution’s historical significance as a safe haven, originally for those migrating from the South, is still meaningful as more and more African American students enroll in HBCUs and as more students and employees from various demographics choose the unique cultural environment of HBCUs. Prior to desegregation, CSU was the only publicly funded in-state option, and it continues to serve many students of lower socioeconomic status. In spite of relatively low departmental budgets and faculty salaries, we want the university to succeed so that we can help our students succeed. The union’s mission is to improve conditions for faculty members—with respect to academic freedom and shared governance as well as financial concerns—and thus to ensure that conditions on campus are conducive to student education. Collective bargaining has created an avenue for fulfilling CSU’s historical responsibility to African Americans in Ohio, the nation, and the world.

How is AAUP-CSU responding to the opportunities and challenges that come along with the influx of land-grant funding and new investments in research activity?

CSU is the first institution to have secured land-grant status in a long time. The challenge is to build infrastructure and hire faculty under restrictions designed for long-term land-grant institutions and not for new land-grant status. The union has worked to make sure that the research faculty, who initially had contingent appointments dependent on external funding, have the same rights as the regular faculty members. In our last contract, we succeeded in ensuring that research faculty have the option to convert to tenure-track positions. Along with additional funding and research activities comes institutional responsibility for increasing community partnerships and extending resources to leverage existing collaborations and build capacity in the region.

How has the expansion of online learning at CSU affected the balance of tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members and the respective priorities of the administration and AAUP-CSU?

As online programming grew rapidly, the administration wanted no limits on the number of non-tenure-track faculty. To address this, our contract includes language about new teaching faculty lines, in addition to the regular faculty and research faculty lines, that enable the administration to hire faculty with a higher teaching load in three-year renewable positions. We bargained for a provision that makes reappointment periods longer after the second reappointment. All teaching faculty lines, including those for the online programs, are full-time positions with salaries and benefits.

The contract also stipulates that no more than a third of full-time positions in any department can be teaching faculty positions or other full-time term appointments. Term appointments are nonrenewable, and those positions end at the close of the three-year term or must be converted to tenure-track positions, as they usually are. Our priority was to maintain the balance between tenure-track and non-tenure-track positions and to preserve tenure-track appointments. CSU still has far too many part-time positions.

Which aspects of your current contract are notable successes for the chapter? How might the chapter build on those successes for the next contract campaign?

In addition to provisions limiting non-tenure-track positions, we won significant increases in salaries and a pot of money to address salary inequities.

We also have a new article in the contract that defines online learning after having previously had only a memorandum of understanding about distance learning designated in the appendices. The article provides an option for maintaining our intellectual property and for owning our course content if we opt out of receiving the extra pay that faculty are otherwise eligible to receive for the development of new courses. The administration must give faculty members the right of first refusal before contracting externally for the development of a new course or “course shell” that other faculty members would teach.

We were unable to ensure that research faculty members are integrated into existing academic departments along with other tenure-track and non-tenure-track teaching faculty; the administration was adamant about keeping them in a separate department or academic unit. This is something we hope to continue negotiating in our next contract.

How does AAUP-CSU envision the role of collective bargaining and the faculty voice in shaping a positive future for higher education?

The answer goes back to why we pursued collective bargaining in the first place. To provide a good education, we need to be part of the university’s decision-making process, which means fighting for shared governance. We also need a faculty that is reasonably well-paid so that we can be competitive in attracting and retaining good faculty members.

Everyone in the bargaining unit is also a member of the university senate, which includes all faculty members and some administrators who hold faculty titles and rank. The senate and the union work together to advance the mission of the university.

Our members’ interest in our students and their futures and the support we provide to each other, as a close-knit group of about 112 in the bargaining unit, make our union culture strong. We work with students of lower socioeconomic status and academic preparedness but set the same bar for graduation for everyone. Our deep dedication to shared governance facilitates student achievement and helps to ensure that the institution continues to operate and function at a high level.