Imagine a governor proposing that all firefighters, or all police, or all [insert favorite public employment here] work 10% more, for no additional compensation.  Most people, I hope, would think such unilateral increase of work for no pay un-American, a breaking of a contract between employers and employees.  But yesterday, John Kasich our darling governor proposed exactly that for Ohio public university faculty, as he has twice before (don’t worry, it won’t be approved; I’ll explain below).  Why?  One might say that he’s trying to solve the problem of the high cost of education, but as his staff knows full well, this measure would gain minimal savings.  It’s actually about something else: hostility to public workers in general and professors in particular.

In his biennial budget, Kasich our darling governor includes a requirement for institutions “to increase the institution’s aggregate faculty workload by ten per cent in the combined areas of instruction, advising, and research. ”   That’s right, everyone’s to work 10% more.  But faculty already are working to capacity; most I know work 50-60 hours a week.  So the very idea is no less absurd than Nigel Tufnel’s amp in Spinal Tap (thanks to my friend Ted, for suggesting the allusion).  Furthermore, faculty compensation is actually not a large percentage of university budgets.  At BGSU my august university, it’s around 17%.  Even if faculty at BGSU my august university were to work 10% harder, one couldn’t cut faculty by 10% (some units are smaller than 10 faculty, faculty have different specialties, etc.).  Maybe faculty could be cut 5%.  Overall then, that would mean a .85% cut in overall university costs, or in BGSU my august university’s case, a little over $2 million.  Admittedly, that’s a lot of money, but state support to BGSU my august university has dropped by tens of millions over the past decade.  If the governor really cared about public education, he’d put more public support into higher education, rather than try to do it on the cheap off the backs of faculty.

This proposal betrays several attitudes and misconceptions about faculty, higher education, and workers.

  • There are still many legislators and others who assume that because faculty are only in classes a few hours a day, they’re not working.  Coming from representatives who only spend a few hours a week in session but work constantly, this is a particularly strange assumption, but there it is.
  • There’s still the misperception that faculty salaries are a leading cause of increased college costs.  That’s bunk, but it’s out there.
  • Kasich our darling governor continues his general hostility to workers, especially public employees, as exhibited in his failed push to effectively abolish public-employee unions in 2011.
  • There’s no real desire to cut costs for lower-income students: Kasich’s new budget includes yet another tax cut for the rich.  If he valued education, instead of lowering state revenue, he’d put current revenue into… wait for it… scholarships for low-income students.

And I promised I’d tell why it won’t happen, just as similar proposals have been rejected in committee: because Ohio State will again oppose it on the grounds that, lo and behold, such strictures hurt its ability to be a top university.  I’m glad that Ohio State gets what it wants in this regard, at least.  My fear is that sooner or later, the legislature will just save Ohio State, but not the rest of us.

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