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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2010

BGSU spending to fight union opposed

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green State University students disturbed by the administration's use of tuition funds to fight a unionization effort say they want an apology - and their money back.

The group has launched a petition drive seeking an apology, a refund, and more "transparency and accountability" from the school officials. They point out that both the Undergraduate Student Government and the Graduate Student Senate took neutral positions on whether about 800 full-time faculty members should be represented by the American Association of University Professors in collective bargaining for pay, benefits, and working conditions.

BGSU Spokesman Dave Kielmeyer said Wednesday that the university has spent about $41,500 on fighting faculty unionization - nearly $30,000 in legal fees and $11,500 on communication. He confirmed the expenses were paid with general operating dollars, 67 percent of which comes from student tuition. "In our viewpoint, it's a perfectly legitimate expenditure and just part of normal operations at BGSU," Mr. Kielmeyer said.

Revelations that the university was using tuition dollars for the campaign against the union were brought to the undergraduate group, which on Monday approved a resolution against "misuse of tuition funds for the purpose of funding a political advertising campaign" and insisting "on either the cessation of the campaign or its funding with tuition dollars."

Justin Albright, chief administrator for the group, said, "We passed a resolution on neutrality, and we felt if we weren't going to get involved, our money shouldn't be involved either. We already decided it isn't our fight, so don't use our money."

At-large Senator Derek Sword, a junior from Dayton, called the expenditures unethical, saying, "They've overstepped their bounds with our money."

Mr. Kielmeyer defended the university's actions, saying BGSU had a responsibility to faculty, students, and Ohio taxpayers "to make sure our faculty has the information they need to make an informed decision."

To handle legal issues associated with the organizing effort, he said, BGSU retained attorney David O'Connell of the Marshall & Melhorn law firm in Toledo. His bills totaled $29,817 as of Sept. 20, Mr. Kielmeyer said.

Communication expenses to date, he said, were about $3,000 for three mailings to affected faculty members, $2,500 for advertising in the campus newspaper, and $6,000 to communications consultant FLS Marketing Inc. of Toledo.

Mr. Kielmeyer said the university sent out a final mailing to faculty members just prior to the voting period, which began Sept. 28 and continues through Tuesday. "Certainly we've heard the students' concerns, but we feel we have an obligation to make sure faculty are informed about the issue," he said. "I don't anticipate any more communications from us. Our viewpoint is the time for discussion and debate is over. It's time to vote."

On campus Wednesday, some students said they hadn't heard about the issue, while others said they'd seen it on the news and found it troubling.

"That is kind of upsetting especially since they just raised tuition $300," said Steven Brinkman, a senior education major from Whitehouse.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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