Trustees, AAUP dispute fact-finder report

By Whitney Vickers -

FAIRBORN — The Wright State University Board of Trustees issued a resolution of its “last, best offer” and voted in a public session Jan. 4 to immediately implement the terms and conditions of the proposal. The American Association of University Professors Wright State University Chapter in response filed a strike notice Jan. 7 with the Ohio SERB.

Trustees noted it was necessary to move the university forward beyond negotiations that have proceeded for nearly two years, encompassing more than 20 formal meetings, the efforts of a mutually agreed upon federal mediator, and those of a separate mutually agreed upon, independent state arbitrator, known as a fact-finder, according to Wright State.

“The university cannot continue on the path to financial sustainability by maintaining the status quo,” Shrader said. “Our other Wright State employees understand this, and have accepted reasonable concessions. We are asking the faculty to do the same.”

On Oct. 29, the parties received the fact-finder’s report, a compromise proposal to help settle the contract dispute, according to Wright State. The university noted that neither party got all that they were seeking and that trustees voted unanimously to approve the report as the next contract. AAUP-WSU members, however, rejected it. With the union rejecting the compromise report, the fact-finder’s recommendations are deemed not binding, and therefore again the parties could not bring the matter to a close.

“Throughout this bargaining process, while navigating significant financial recovery, we’ve been focused on the fiscal sustainability of the university now and in the future,” said Doug Fecher, chair of the board of trustees. “We want to ensure that Wright State remains what its more than 15,000 students and the region need it to be — a thriving public research university supporting our two campuses.”

Fecher added that the trustees’ priorities in this bargaining process have centered on short and long-term financial sustainability for the university, while also honoring the university’s excellent faculty members and their dedication and commitment to Wright State students.

Since 2016, Wright State said it has been navigating a financial crisis in which the university was required to address a $30 million structural budget deficit caused by years of un-budgeted and uncontrolled spending that used $130 million in reserves. The financial recovery included three rounds of staff layoffs and sweeping budget controls and cuts across the university. Those efforts have provided some short-term relief to the university’s financial situation.

“They have refused to negotiate at all since our members overwhelmingly rejected the fact-finder’s report in early November,” Kich said. “Despite their repeated promises to negotiate, and our repeated offers to do so, the board has elected to impose a contract that damages our students and makes academics a low priority.”

The working terms and conditions for AAUP-WSU members detailed in the trustees’ resolution seek changes to the contract that affords the university the short and long-term relief it needs to recover financially, according to Wright State. Repeatedly stating in his recommendation that measures had to be taken, the independent, mutually agreed upon fact-finder also called for this type of relief in his report.

During the bargaining process that spanned nearly two years, both parties tentatively agreed upon the vast majority of the next contract’s articles. The trustees’ terms and conditions accepts all of those tentatively agreed upon provisions.

The working terms and conditions does address and provide closure for the handful of other important outstanding articles that had not yet been tentatively agreed upon through the collective bargaining process.

“We can return to the bargaining table when the university is back on solid financial footing,” Shrader said.

By Whitney Vickers

Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.

Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.