Some University of Akron faculty members are deeply concerned about the direction and leadership of their college, according to a survey released by the faculty union Friday.

The survey results specifically call out Interim President John Green and Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Rex Ramsier and allege a culture of harassment and fear.

The results come as the university searches for its next president, a process board chairman Joseph M. Gingo said in a statement is "nearing completion."

For Green, 54% of the survey respondents ranked him as "fair" or "poor" on whether he treats faculty with respect.

On the same question, 94% ranked Ramsier "fair" or "poor." The union did not provide a breakdown of the number of faculty who responded either "fair" or "poor." Faculty members were asked if each leader's performance was outstanding, very good, good, fair or poor.

Pamela Schulze, president of the Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the results show significant concern, particularly about Ramsier.

"The results were a bit surprising even to us, frankly," Schulze said. "We knew people were unhappy, but I mean, you can’t get over 90% of the faculty to agree on anything."

University officials pushed back on the survey, noting it represented only 15% of the total faculty. That percentage includes adjunct professors; 40% of full-time faculty members responded.

"While some members of the faculty apparently are unhappy with certain decisions that Dr. Ramsier has made, those decisions are based on careful and thorough reviews of data and information related to whatever the issue might be, including grievances filed in keeping with the UA-AAUP contract," Vice President of Communications and Marketing Wayne Hill said in a prepared statement.

"In summary, Dr. Ramsier is fulfilling the duties that the board assigned to him as part of the university’s management rights and responsibilities, including negotiating the next collective bargaining agreement with Akron AAUP," Hill said.

The statement included comments from Gingo, who said the board "supports the leadership and work" of Green and his administrative team. Ramsier has made decisions with "tangible outcomes" and created a path forward for the university, he said.

"With so much recent forward progress being made, and so much at stake for our university, I fail to understand how the Akron-AAUP communication serves the best interests of UA, its students, and its stakeholders," Gingo said.

He also questioned why the survey was released months after it was conducted.

The survey was issued in March but was posted to the union's website Friday. Schulze said she's previously shown the results to Green, Ramsier and several members of the board of trustees, but nothing has changed.

"I've exhausted all of my other options," Schulze said. "I really tried."

Faculty also raised concerns about major decisions made with an interim leader in place.

The university faces significant financial challenges and recently offered buyouts to nearly half the faculty. Several programs are being phased out in favor of others that are strengths for the university or that have less regional competition.

A search committee has been meeting behind closed doors since June to pick the university's next president. Hill said he could not elaborate on Gingo's statement that the process was nearing completion. The trustees have committee meetings next week and a business meeting scheduled for Aug. 14.

In releasing the survey, the union also posted some of the anonymous comments from the survey.

One faculty member accused Ramsier of "single-handedly destroying our university."

"Fire the provost asap," another wrote, referring to Ramsier. "As a tenured faculty I am actively looking to leave UA."

One respondent said many efforts by Ramsier, like a revision of faculty's workloads, are "sorely needed." But there is "widespread, persistent inconsistency in how faculty are treated, policies implemented, and decisions made," the same person wrote.

Schulze called the work environment "toxic" and said it heavily affects faculty morale.

"We've been working so hard to not let our stress affect our classrooms, affect our programs," she said. "But I just don’t know how things can get better if this situation is not addressed."

 

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet