To the University of Akron Board of Trustees:

We the undersigned, all of whom have earned the title of Distinguished Professor as conferred by the University of Akron Board of Trustees, are deeply concerned that the university has lost track of its core mission: the excellent education of our students.

We asked last month to meet with representatives of the trustees but received no response. The following is what we would have said if we had had a chance to meet.

When the Faculty Senate overwhelmingly votes no confidence in President Scott Scarborough, when the department chairs call for a leadership transition, when the faculty union is preparing a strike authorization, when community leaders sponsor newspaper ads saying “Scarborough Must Go,” and when the Akron Beacon Journal calls for change at the top after months of highly critical letters and commentaries, it is time to listen and act.

President Scarborough was brought in promising to increase enrollments, increase revenues and improve the national profile of the University of Akron. All of his actions have had exactly the opposite effect, decreasing enrollments, decreasing revenues and seriously harming the university’s reputation. The “plan” the administration is currently following seems perversely designed to lose the best students and faculty and waste valuable resources. This must be stopped immediately, before irreparable damage is done.

It is well documented that the number of potential freshmen paying their deposits for fall semester and the number of donors to the university are both radically down from last year. Demographics cannot be the explanation, for enrollment is rising at both Kent State and Cleveland State.

The explanation is easy to find. The president’s initiatives have driven away both students and donors. Students, parents and alumni have expressed overwhelming dissatisfaction with our “rebranding” as a polytechnic, an initiative now being quietly dropped after close to a million dollars was spent.

The 160 employees summarily let go last July are the neighbors, cousins, aunts and uncles of both alumni and potential students, who are now rethinking their connection to the university. The public announcement that graduate assistance would be limited to just a few programs, although rescinded at the last minute, has seriously reduced the number of graduate applications.

Freshman advising has been outsourced to Trust Navigators, a company with no experience in the field, whose head is now under financial investigation.

Meanwhile, the university’s reputation is being dangerously harmed by the loss of faculty. As the trustees know, a high-quality university requires high-quality faculty, and yet the number of tenured/tenure-track faculty is down by 10 percent just in the last year; indeed, it is at the lowest level in 30 years.

Some of the most productive faculty in engineering and polymers are actively seeking new employment. The president asserts that we can be like MIT, a university with twice the number of tenured/tenure-track faculty although only 40 percent the number of students, even while he replaces retiring professors with instructors and part-timers without advanced degrees. A university cannot substitute a slogan or façade, as the president appears to be doing, for real quality.

Most disturbing of all, there are now persistent rumors that the university is planning to partner with ITT Tech, a poorly regarded vocational school under investigation for fraud. For the president even to contemplate taking on the management of 130 storefront “branch campuses” all across the country, along with unprecedented levels of debt, without involving the faculty in a decision that could completely upend all our programs, indicates that shared governance no longer exists.

We distinguished professors have devoted decades to the university and seen many presidents come and go. We and our colleagues, who share our concerns, deplore the direction the university is heading. Faculty have many new suggestions to offer, well-reasoned approaches to try, pitfalls to avoid, and yet our voices have been ignored.

Although the president has characterized the faculty as resistant to change and unwilling to face today’s realities, the only changes the faculty resist are those leading to potential ruin — as on the path UA is now following.

We ask that you begin the process of rebuilding the University of Akron by seeking input from throughout the campus and community. Please let us know when we can meet.

Shelley Baranowski — emerita

Andrew Borowiec — emeritus

Constance Bouchard

Minel Braun

Roberta DePompei — emerita

Kathleen Endres

Carol Flexer — emerita

Jon Hawes — emeritus

Avraam Isayev — emeritus

Walter Hixson

Thein Kyu

Robert Lord — emeritus

Isadore Newman — emeritus

Larry Snider

Wiley Youngs