Remarks by President Gary L. Miller following Akron-AAUP ratification
Last week, the Akron chapter of the AAUP, which represents our full-time bargaining unit teaching faculty, approved with overwhelming support a new bargaining agreement. Earlier today, in a unanimous vote, the Board of Trustees also approved the agreement.
I want to take a few minutes to discuss with you this important moment in the more than 150-year history of The University of Akron.
The work of the union and University negotiating teams over nearly eight months required enormous energy, willingness to learn from one another and, most especially, a deep shared commitment to this university and its future. While those observing from the outside may have been inclined to see a university in turmoil during this time, those of us working together over the past months saw something very different. What we saw was a strong university, a university with grit, a university with a deep understanding of its history as an essential partner in this community, a university that, at its core, understands its obligations to the city of Akron and its students. What we saw was a university that rose to meet the extraordinary challenges of our time — perhaps the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced.
Great universities are not afraid to do what is hard at the most critical moments. Great universities look beyond their troubles to the bright future that lies ahead. The hard work we have done together since April proves that The University of Akron is a great university.
The bargaining agreement we have all endorsed is more than just a labor contract. It represents an intentional effort by all of us to join together — as students, staff, faculty and administration — to take on the most pressing challenges before us and to seize the many opportunities that await us.
The agreement we have all approved unites us in a number of important goals, with a common resolve to work together to make this university even better.
- The agreement is built on a shared understanding of our financial circumstances, a promise of financial transparency and a commitment to do what it takes to understand the complexity and dynamics of our situation.
- The agreement joins the entire institution together in the common goal of institutional growth. We will do this by working together, by being innovative and, most importantly, by celebrating and rewarding the extraordinary work of all members of our campus community.
- This agreement gives us the time to focus our attention on institution-wide efforts to strengthen programs, build interdisciplinary approaches and create unique opportunities for our students.
- More than anything, this agreement demonstrates to this community and to those who consider joining us as students or partners that we have the resolve to overcome unique forces arrayed against us.
There is no doubt that this agreement puts us in a position to meet our challenges. But it also provides the foundation we need at this unique time to seize the many opportunities before us. And we have already begun to do just that.
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, we began a process of strategic action planning to determine the immediate steps we would take to move the University forward. A faculty, staff and student planning group issued a preliminary report including a number of compelling ideas. Unfortunately, we had to suspend our consideration of those ideas in order to deal with the pandemic.
Last October, the provost re-initiated the strategic action process. During the time many of us have worked together to reach an agreement, another group of faculty, staff and students, led by our colleague Steve Ash from the College of Business, reviewed last year’s preliminary planning report and assessed our environment.
Last week, this group released for campus discussion and feedback a recommendation that the University focus its energy and creativity on three important and immediate goals:
- First, it is recommended we should refine our budget model to incentivize enrollment growth across the University, including those areas associated with cross-unit collaboration.
The goal here is to push precious resources closer to faculty and students and to encourage interdisciplinarity, for which the University has built a strong reputation.
- Secondly, using the lessons we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should strive to improve course delivery, academic success, and student learning, well-being and satisfaction.
This strategic action is at the very center of our mission as an opportunity-focused urban research university. The Faculty Senate has already had several productive discussions about this goal and has approved changes in our rules to move this along.
- Finally, we should embrace the great variety of higher education needs in our region by developing a one-stop professional and continuing education office that consolidates and improves support for all non-credit initiatives.
This strategic action recognizes the University’s long-standing importance to the development of talent in a dynamic urban economy.
The strategic working group also focused our attention on two important long-term goals:
- to identify methods to ensure the well-being of our faculty, staff and students and
- to conceive of frameworks that will drive us to being an enduring university that anticipates and meets the needs of future generations of students.
You have been asked to provide feedback on these ideas, and I hope you will do so.
With the approval of a new bargaining agreement that merges our common interests and commits us to transparency and understanding, and with a set of compelling short- and long-term actions recommended to us by our colleagues, we now have a unique and precious opportunity to move forward together to quickly realize our vision as a world-class urban research university built on opportunity, service and partnerships.
Over the past year, this university has faced perhaps the most difficult challenges of its 150-year history. It would have been easy to have fallen victim to recrimination and blame. It would have been easy to simply refuse to learn, to change and to trust. Instead, we chose courage, understanding and acceptance. We chose to believe in the best of our institution, our students and one another. There will no doubt be rough times ahead, but I believe we have learned how to transcend these difficulties and continue to move forward.
I am so proud of this university and the people who have committed their lives to it. For every student who considers coming here for a college degree, for every one of our over 180,000 alumni who love this university, for every business or non-profit organization considering partnering with us, for those members of this community who may have given up on us, I show you a university with uncommon resolve, grit and love of place.
On behalf of The University of Akron, I invite you to join us in the exciting work that lies ahead — for we cannot rise, unless we rise together.
Thank you all!
Joint statement from Gary L. Miller, president, The University of Akron, and Professor Pamela Schulze, president, Akron-AAUP
March 1, 2021
The University of Akron Board of Trustees and the University of Akron Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (Akron-AAUP) have ratified a new six-year bargaining agreement. We are proud of the hard work of our respective negotiation teams and of the commitment of the faculty and administration to reach this agreement.
The new agreement is built on a shared commitment to this University, its students and the Akron community. We look forward to a new era of transparency, commitment to shared governance, and a common understanding of the challenges and opportunities the University faces. The agreement preserves and strengthens faculty rights while providing the University the necessary flexibility to navigate uncertain times. Most importantly, the agreement provides the security and stability required for the University community to strengthen our academic programs and meet the needs of our current and future students.
With this agreement, the University can turn its attention to the important strategic action planning now underway. We ask our colleagues across the University to join us in a renewed commitment to collaborate to ensure a strong future for The University of Akron.
Pamela Schulze, President, Akron-AAUP
Gary L. Miller, President, The University of Akron
Statement from University of Akron Board of Trustees Chair Joseph M. Gingo
On behalf of The University of Akron Board of Trustees, I want to express how pleased we are that the agreement has been ratified with such resounding support. This three-year contract with its three-year extension allows the University and its bargaining unit faculty to move forward together in a more transparent and collaborative way. I thank the membership of the Akron-AAUP and the University’s administration for their collective efforts throughout this process. The newly ratified agreement brings stability to the institution and a renewed spirit of cooperation that ultimately will be of tremendous benefit to our students.
Joseph M. Gingo
University of Akron Board of Trustees Chair