The University of Akron, billed as Ohio’s Polytechnic University, has witnessed continuous struggles since last year. Local news outlets have been busy reporting on the challenges facing the university. Below are a few of the latest stories.
· Karen Farkas, Cleveland Plain Dealer, reported today (Mar 4) that the University of Akron faculty could vote for a strike authorization if new contract negotiations go south. Faculty have been in contract negotiations for a year. Farkas stated, “If approved, the vote would authorize the leadership of UA’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors to call a strike if deemed necessary. About 600 faculty members are represented by the union. No immediate action is expected because negotiations continue.” To read about the details, please click here UA Faculty news.
· (Mar 3) Ohio state officials has ordered The University of Akron to refund students a total of $4.1 million dollars for an improper “facility” fee increase. According to the Cleveland Scene, “The facility fee was increased from $18.55 to $28.50 per credit hour to fix a $60 million hole in the budget. All students pay a facilities fee for up to 12 credit hours each semester. The fee pays for debt service charges on bonds for building student facilities. But tuition and general fees at public Ohio universities are currently under a two-year budget freeze.The state reviews fees each year and determined the school’s facility fee boost was a no-no, as it’s a “general fee.” UA students will receive $238.40 by the end of the Spring 2016 term.
· According to Chris Horne, The Devil’s Strip, an Akron blog, TrustNavigators, a student success/career coaching firm hired by President Scott Scarborough to improve student retention, sent a threatening email to a student because of a missed appointment with a success coach. To read the email, click on this link, The Devil’s Strip. After the email went viral, TrustNavigator issued an apology to the student. Success by threat is not a good strategy.
· In February, The University of Akron’s Faculty Senate voted “no confidence” in the leadership of President Scott Scarborough. As reported by Marilyn Miller of the Beacon Journal, “Members of the Faculty Senate voted 50-2 in favor of the resolution that expressed their lack of confidence in the policies of the administration and Scarborough’s leadership.” In 2015, the university eliminated 200 positions that included department closures under the leadership of Pres. Scarborough. You can read about the closures here as reported by InsideHigherEd.com.
Although colleges and universities are non-profit entities, they are not immune to challenges in staffing or fiscal responsibility just like any large corporation. However, the major difference here is challenges within university hierarchy will ultimately affect the lives of students. Indeed, the well-publicized issues facing the University of Akron is concerning for current students as well as prospective students and alumni. Thus all parties must understand that internal and external conflicts such as those facing the University of Akron are quite prevalent within higher education.