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By a Wide Margin, Bowling Green Faculty Vote for AAUP Union

October 20, 2010

BGSU Faculty Association: David Jackson
Ohio State Conference of the AAUP: Rudy Fichtenbaum

Columbus, Ohio – The Bowling Green State University Faculty Association (BGSU-FA) chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) declared victory today in its two-year campaign to unionize both the tenured/tenure-track and full-time non-tenure-track faculty at both of its northwest Ohio campuses. Approximately 85 percent of the 800 voting-eligible faculty members cast ballots over a two-week mail-in voting period that ended October 12. The final vote count today was 391 to 293 in favor of unionization.

The win represents a significant victory for faculty at BGSU and nationally; it is believed to be the largest combined faculty union to organize at a research institution in the US since the University of Akron faculty voted for collective bargaining in 2003. At a time when university administrations are forcing drastic cuts in faculty salaries and benefits despite tuition hikes and record enrollments, the positive vote also reflects academics’ growing alarm over the erosion of faculty shared governance in university decision-making about programmatic changes, curricula, and university spending.

AAUP president Cary Nelson states, “The faculty at Bowling Green have sent a message to the country—that shared governance and a quality education are best guaranteed by a legally enforceable union contract.”

The election was triggered last February when 59% of the full-time faculty petitioned for a vote. The BGSU administration delayed the election by trying to split the faculty, arguing against non-tenure-track faculty members’ inclusion in the proposed unit, but in June, just before the matter was litigated before the Ohio State Employment Relations Board (SERB), the university changed its position and agreed that the unit was, in fact, appropriate. The SERB issued an election order in August. Balloting began September 28.

Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress, comments: “Collective bargaining is an appropriate mechanism for improving the educational environment at an academic institution.  In these difficult economic times, the faculty at Bowling Green have recognized that working collectively is the best path to success for the students and faculty.”

The BGSU-FA began its organizing drive in the summer of 2008, compelled by a decade of revolving-door upper administrators who routinely dismissed the findings and recommendations of faculty welfare, grievance, and university planning committees. Faculty concerns that drove the campaign included salaries that have consistently ranked 11th among the state’s twelve public four-year institutions, the university’s declining numbers of tenured faculty, programmatic changes made without adequate faculty input, and the lack of job security for the growing numbers of BGSU faculty hired off the tenure track.

This marks the third time the BGSU faculty has held a vote on unionization. In the last election, in 1994, the university administration’s pledges to improve salaries and shared governance without the need for collective bargaining contributed to the election loss. Today’s victory for collective bargaining is in part a reflection of the administration’s failure to make good on those promises in the intervening years.

"The faculty at BGSU have voted to strengthen their voice in shaping their university's priorities, to enhance educational quality and academic freedom in ways that prioritize the institution's core academic missions, and its public purposes.  Their vote speaks to the power of the faculty collectively to negotiate a better university; and it speaks to the continued power of the principles and practices of the AAUP," says Gary Rhoades, AAUP general secretary.

BGSU now joins seven other Ohio four-year public institutions whose faculty unions are affiliated with the AAUP. 
The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education. The AAUP has about 48,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Media Contact: 
Rudy Fichtenbaum
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, October 20, 2010