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Published: Saturday, 9/29/2012

Faculty fights for a better BGSU

BY DAVID J. JACKSON

In October, 2010, Bowling Green State University faculty voted overwhelmingly to form a union. Two years later, we still don't have a contract.

Although progress at the bargaining table has been discouragingly slow, faculty members remain united in fighting for a better BGSU.

Finishing the contract now will protect the quality of education for BGSU students by enabling the university to attract and keep the best professors, securing faculty control over our curriculum and teaching methods, and protecting the academic freedom and job security of all professors.

We did not go into our profession because we expected to get rich. We became educators because we love to work with students, as they develop skills and grow into successful young men and women.

I have taught at BGSU for 14 years. I continue to be amazed by the intense commitment of my colleagues to the success of their students, inside and outside the classroom.

At the same time, I've seen dozens of talented faculty leave BGSU for other universities. BGSU faculty rank 11th among Ohio's 12 public universities in salaries. Our university spends relatively little on benefits per faculty member. So it's all too easy for other universities across the country to take faculty away from the students of Ohio.

Salary and benefits are not the only things that allow universities to attract and retain good professors. Because of their expertise in their fields, professors are uniquely qualified to make decisions about what needs to be taught and how best to teach it.

BGSU faculty are working to protect this concept of shared governance in our contract. This is not about power for its own sake; rather, it is about respecting faculty influence over the quality of education our students receive. We insist that faculty retain control over our curriculum and methods.

We are fighting for academic freedom and job security, which are inseparable. There is a myth that tenure guarantees a professor a job for life. Nothing could be further from the truth.

BGSU professors are evaluated every year of their careers, and can be fired for failing to perform their job responsibilities. Tenure is simply an expectation of re-employment, created and maintained to protect a faculty member's academic freedom to pursue research and develop innovative pedagogy. If we can be fired for what we say and write, then there is no academic freedom.

We also are fighting for the nearly 40 percent of BGSU faculty who are not eligible for tenure. These hard-working faculty teach most of the courses at BGSU, and do so very well.

Yet they may be dismissed without cause when their contracts lasting one year to three years expire. Academic freedom -- and basic decency -- require job security for these faculty members. We are fighting to include that protection in our contract.

Students deserve to take classes from professors who are not in constant fear of losing their jobs for no reason. Professors must have the security to try innovative teaching methods and to speak their minds.

Students may choose to attend a university because of the quality of its dormitories, cafeterias, and recreation centers. But when they graduate four years later, they realize that the quality of instruction in the classroom and attention outside the classroom have made a BGSU education so valuable.

BGSU faculty need a contract that recognizes this and that values the contributions of all faculty in service of our students' education.

David J. Jackson is president of the Bowling Green State University Faculty Association.



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