Faculty Union | Illustrated by Kayli Thompson | The Wright State Guardian
The Wright State University (WSU) chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) raised concerns about the accuracy of budget projections and work history of WSU Chief Operating Officer Greg Sample in an email sent by the AAUP-WSU Executive Committee on Nov. 1.
The AAUP-WSU stated that in May, Sample had projected a loss of $30 million for fiscal year 21.
Given this projection, the AAUP-WSU says that the employees of the university should supposedly share in the sacrifice and concede wages or future raises. However, after the faculty union decided they would wait for the actual numbers to come to light, the projections were then shifted to show a loss of $12.5 million instead.
“When we hear that there has been a new announcement to chairs and deans that a discovery has been made of money and budget issues, we know that pretty soon afterwards, there will be a request for some kind of cuts and concessions,” said AAUP-WSU President Dr. Noeleen McIlvenna. “I just want to remind everyone of this pattern that has been laid out, and to have people think critically about this rather than believe that once again the sky is falling.”
The AAUP-WSU also says that in May, Sample claimed the FY20 budget was $11 million in the red. Because of this, the Board of Trustees insisted that financial concessions from faculty were crucial to stave off the downfall of the university.
Weeks later, Sample announced that the actual statement would show WSU to have profited $1.9 million, despite the coronavirus pandemic and a structural deficit.
“Oftentimes department Chairs will accept things at face value, and agree to this cut or that cut,” McIlvenna said. “This can be very dangerous to the academic mission that is set in front of us.”
McIlvenna says that the Trustees have been attacking tenure at the university for three years.
“In their lives as bosses in private industry, they can just fire at will,” McIlvenna says. “They’ve come in and tried to be managers of an institution that is a public good, and has tenure. It’s frustrating to them, and they don’t understand it.”
While the AAUP-WSU raises concerns about inaccurate budget projections, WSU says that it’s important to remember that budget projections are made based off of information available at that time, and that concerns raised about FY21 budget can be attributed to the coronavirus disrupting business operations.
“The key factors impacting the FY21 budget revision are a better-than-anticipated enrollment, which resulted in a better-than-expected projected revenue,” said WSU Director of Communications Seth Bauguess. “And additionally, the state of Ohio actually cutting the state share of instruction allocation by only 4.5% when the state had originally indicated to expect a cut of 20%.”
“Enrollment was likely to drop steeply and the state was telling it’s colleges and universities to also expect a steep cut to state funds, referred to as state share of instruction,” Bauguess said.
The university says that miscalculations on revenue generated by the Nutter Center and dorms, a part of auxiliary revenue, exist only because the budget was created in June, in which time the university believed that on-campus activity would be higher than the university is currently experiencing due to coronavirus protocols.
In response to the AAUP-WSU statement on Sample’s FY20 budget miscalculations, Bauguess says that in May, Sample made the Board of Trustees aware of slowing down the university’s spending.
“Discretionary spending from across campus was severely limited,” said Bauguess. “Many employees participated in furlough efforts, many positions went unfilled and stayed unfilled. The campus community demonstrated great resolve and the sum total of their collective efforts preempted ending 2020 with a significant deficit.”
“In the end, once the books were closed and investment income and other lagging financial factors were accounted for, the result was a savings of $1.9 million which was exceedingly valuable to the university as the university rolled out its FY21 budget which called for about 100 employee layoffs, more furloughs, the elimination of three WSU athletic teams, further expense reductions and an overall deficit budget,” said Bauguess.
The lack of trust between the AAUP-WSU and the Board of Trustees is something that students have taken note of in recent years.
Former WSU Raider and now alumnus John Ocampo remembers the faculty strike of 2019 like it was yesterday.
“That was especially hard for me,” Ocampo said. “As soon as word got around from professors that the strike may occur, you could tell everyone including the students were panicking.”
The uncertainty of financial problems can take a mental toll on the ability of students to study and maintain the grades they spend so much time to achieve.
“I had a really hard time wanting to pay attention in class, or even getting to class not knowing what would happen next,” Ocampo said. “I’m hopeful for the Raider community, and I hope that those who are in charge of it can find some peace in the near future. The students who are there right now deserve it.”
The next Board of Trustees meeting in which finances will be discussed is scheduled to take place on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 at 9 a.m.
To view this public session, visit: https://www.wright.edu/board-of-trustees/meetings/meeting/396426