Fighting Cuts at BGSU

The year has gotten off to a tumultuous start at Bowling Green State University, where members of the AAUP-affiliated faculty union have led protests against funding cuts and been involved in intensive contract negotiations.

In January, BGSU’s administration announced that it would eliminate more than 10 percent of the university’s faculty positions, a move that immediately drew strong condemnation from the BGSU Faculty Association (BGSU-FA), the faculty union. A statement put out by the union alleges that the measure, which will save the institution about $5 million, will make the faculty bear the brunt of state-imposed funding cuts. Funding for administrative salaries, new buildings, and a costly athletic program will be unaffected.

More than three hundred students, faculty members, and alumni led a protest soon after the cuts were announced. The protesters delivered a petition opposing the plan, with over five thousand signatures, to university president Mary Ellen Mazey.

The administration says that the cuts will not affect class sizes, but the union disputes that claim, citing a separate plan by President Mazey to increase enrollment even as faculty positions are eliminated. “We will be losing somewhere between five hundred and eight hundred classes to be taught next year,” says BGSU-FA president David Jackson. “That means that the classes that we still have will have more students in them, there will be fewer classes, and then classes that students need to graduate may not be offered as frequently.”

While the fight over cuts continues, the faculty union and the administration reached a tentative agreement in March on a first contract. The agreement came after more than twenty hours of intensive, back-to-back negotiating sessions and nearly two years of bargaining (the union won recognition in October 2010 and began bargaining in July 2011). AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum congratulated the union, saying, “It has been a long and hard fought struggle, first to win recognition, then to ensure the defeat of Senate Bill 5, which would have overturned the results of the election, and finally to negotiate a first contract.”