On June 10, 2015, members of Stark AAUP executive leadership attended the SSC Board of Trustees meeting to further address the concerns outlined in our previous statement regarding the college’s announced plan linking employee compensation to student enrollment. For anyone who was unable to attend the meeting, the statements made by our chapter Secretary and Treasurer are provided below.
Stark AAUP is pleased and grateful for the opportunity to bring these concerns openly to the Board for consideration, and we encourage all members of the SSC community to continue to join us in voicing concerns and questions on this important issue. Any additional updates, discussion, and responses from Board members and College administration will be shared here as they are received.
Update 7/28/15: Despite an open invitation and requests for further conversation, there have been no additional responses or discussion from either the Board of Trustees or any representative of the College administration on the issues raised regarding these compensation plan concerns. This is once again a quite disappointing statement of institutional priorities.
Stark AAUP Secretary, Martina Sharp-Grier:
Distinguished Board Members, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Gibson-Shreve, thank you for providing an audience to Stark AAUP this evening. My comments will be brief, in that they frame what my colleague and fellow professor will say.
In April 2015, Stark AAUP forwarded correspondence to both Stark State College administration and yourselves regarding the compensation package that had recently been presented to us. In the letter, we voiced our concerns regarding not only the package itself, but also the process by which it came to be. Our concerns remain strongly held. Please note that despite faculty compensation remaining relatively unmoved over the last two years, our hesitation with the package lies not with the monetary outlay, as we are fully aware of the financial constraints associated with operating our venue during this time of reduced enrollment; rather, we are troubled by the linkage of faculty pay to student enrollment, which is affected by many factors beyond our purview, including:
- Newly implemented financial aid policies which, in some cases, will disallow students timely access to monies which they use not only to attend classes, but to sustain themselves while they do.
- Processes for enrollment calculation, which have often served to muddle the waters of instructor ability to ascertain just which students have registered for classes.
Despite these barriers to the maintenance of enrollment, faculty have been dangled the carrot of a .5 percent increase in pay based on just that – student enrollment. The creation of a compensation plan that holds faculty financially responsible for enrollment sends a potentially dangerous message. Literature (Hearn, 1999; Nelson and Lynch, 1984) suggests that faculty compensation packages couched in neoclassical labor market theory – based on productivity – are not only ineffective, they are contraindicated, in that they may send the message that filling classrooms is more important than educating students.
As an educator, I personally am aggrieved by this message, in that I respect my students, their desire and ability to learn, and this institution too much to reduce the Stark State College experience to numbers of students in classrooms. Moreover, as educators, Stark State College faculty are charged with providing students an education not only reflective of industry standards, but also which echoes the criterion set forth by the Ohio Board of Regents. We fear that the invocation of productivity pay for faculty performance is ripe for the reduction of rigor in the classroom by those fearful of not reaching the benchmark of student enrollment.
In addition to the concerns regarding the package itself, we are troubled by the process through which the package was developed, one which disallowed the full faculty body input during crucial times. Faculty input was solicited only days before the compensation plan was announced, and faculty at large were not provided details of the plan being considered in order to make an educated decision regarding the feasibility/viability of the plan itself. In short, this plan was enacted without consent of the full body of faculty and staff; yet, we are all affected by and beholden to it. Our voices were not heard during this process.
It is for these reasons that we come to you this evening – we seek not to formally grieve the process, but to provide insight – from the perspective of those individuals who are providing the education that is the very reason for our institution’s existence – into what we feel has become a tenuous academic situation. We ask that you hear us, and that you consider the standpoint of those who ultimately are affected by this decision.
Stark AAUP Treasurer, Amy Woodland:
Dr. Jones, Dr. Gibson-Shreve, and Distinguished Members of the Board of Trustees,
I want to start by thanking you for the opportunity to speak with you this evening. I appreciate your time and your consideration. I am a full-time member of the department of English and Modern Languages, and I have served this institution for the last 3.5 years in this capacity. During my tenure, I have had the privilege of teaching hundreds of our students, and I recognize that I am but a small perception in a much larger context. However, I believe that the nature of my classroom and the work we do there has afforded me a particularly clear view of our students and their needs.
In meetings around campus, we hear the message, “More with Less,” trumpeted repeatedly. There is no group at Stark State College who understands this mantra more than our student body. Our students live lives in crisis. They are combat veterans struggling with the effects of PTSD, single parents who rely on government subsidies while they attend school full time, parents who find themselves on the brink of eviction because their student hours have been cut unexpectedly, and men and women who live without electricity or running water because they lack the financial resources to maintain those simple necessities. These instances are not arbitrary, nor are they fictional. They are real examples of students I worked with this past academic semester, and they are the students of Stark State College.
Understandably, we, as an institution, focus our attention on how to retain and enable our students to complete their pathways successfully. After all, they choose Stark State College as their pathway to individual success, however they choose to define that term. Yet while we place focus on enrollment and retention, we neglect what so many of our students require to accomplish their goals: support. They need to know they can eat, get to school, have childcare, and have a bed to sleep in at night. These are real concerns that they have, and if we paused long enough to ask and listen to them, we may learn what it is that they need to chip away at the obstacles in their way.
During the last board meeting, you had the opportunity to hear from two women who represent the best of Stark State College. The previous board meeting minutes stressed that both expressed how critical their instructors’ support had been for them, a message we use to market our college—that students get the attention and quality education they deserve here. In a recent survey of faculty and staff, members overwhelmingly indicated that they find the greatest source of contentment with their jobs in the work that they do with their students. These messages are clear: those of us who choose to teach do so because we love what we do, and that passion shows in the students who learn from us. For this, I am proud to call myself a member of the Stark State College faculty.
In meetings, we often hear that it is imperative that we, as an institution, consider the return on Investment that we provide to our students. I am here to ask that you consider the College’s investment—and its subsequent return—in us as faculty and staff.
Recent faculty and staff compensation packages were presented to members of the Stark State College community with the element that a .5% increase to our base pay will now be linked to the College’s enrollment. Throughout the compensation meeting that I attended, our “value” as faculty and staff was reiterated; however, I left that meeting questioning both the explicit as well as the implied meaning in that message.
Within my classroom, I know my value. As any other educator will tell you, I do my best to give my students the tools they need to succeed. In my classroom, my students know that they are listened to; in my office, they know they are cared about.
You see, Board Members, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Gibson-Shreve, I do not come to work every day for you. I come for them—my students. And I humbly ask that you consider our value and that you choose to initiate a plan that demonstrates you are investing in us. One that shows you value us and what we do and what we give not only to the college but to the thousands of students who walk our halls each and every day.
You have asked us to subscribe to the College’s vision and mission of valuing people. I am asking you to do the same. Thank you for your time.