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Arbitrator Sides with U of Akron on Faculty Layoffs

September 21, 2020
 
 

On Friday, an arbitrator sided with the University of Akron in its termination of nearly 100 unionized full-time professors.

Some of the terminated faculty members had since chosen to retire, but the result means that the 67 who did not will not be able to return to their jobs. Full-time faculty were selected for termination regardless of rank or tenure, the faculty union has said.

The arbitration case concerned the university’s use of a force majeure clause in the union contract. This clause allowed the administration to make layoffs regardless of tenure or rank.

The administration argued that the coronavirus pandemic and financial implications for the university were “catastrophic circumstances” that allowed for the use of the clause.

The arbitrator ruled in favor of the university but also said fired faculty must have callback rights for three years and first right of refusal if a short-term or adjunct position opens up to replace them.

“The results are an attack on tenure, due process and all the legal protections that should be guaranteed by collective bargaining. This is terrible news for our institution,” the union, the Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said in a statement. “We do not accept that elimination of faculty or faculty positions was warranted or necessary. No other institution in Ohio took this step. It is clear to us that the university did not have to do this, but wanted to do it.”

Akron president Gary Miller said the university would now halt further faculty retrenchment.

“The COVID pandemic dramatically changed our plans. It required us to resolve an eventual $50 million fiscal problem in a single fiscal year,” he wrote in a statement. “We are grateful for this decision and look forward to moving ahead with our plans to secure the financial future of the university.”

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