Here is the deposition of Ashland University President Carlos Campo. Once again, this is tied to the lawsuit that six former tenured faculty members have filed against the university, claiming that their termination was a breach of contract (which essentially means they’re claiming their firings were done in violation of Faculty Rules and Regulations).
There are a few things that stood out to me in this deposition.
• The university is arguing that it terminated faculty because of “the formal restructuring of a program or department not mandated by financial exigency.” This is one of the three reasons given in the Faculty Rules and Regulations for terminating tenured faculty.
Campo actually argues, though, that simply terminating a faculty member is indeed restructuring.
In fact, many of the courses that were taught by the tenured faculty who were fired are still being taught, but now they’re being taught by adjuncts. No majors or minors were eliminated. No departments were eliminated. The College of Arts and Sciences did actually start combining departments in late 2015, several months after the faculty were terminated, but it was clear (to me at the time) that this was being done to protect the university in a possible lawsuit, a lawsuit that was ultimately filed a few months later. The college did save a bit of money because of this. Since they combined departments, they didn’t have to have as many chairs the meager stipends that department chairs get.
Still, how does one explain a new department of Philosophy, Math and Computer Science?
• Campo claimed to have never read the 1982 Settlement Agreement that stemmed from faculty members being treated unfairly by what was then Ashland College administrators. In fact, that mediated settlement agreement was in many ways the document that ultimately gave power to the university’s Faculty Rules and Regulations.
You can read that agreement for yourself here: 1982 Settlement Agreement
• Even though Campo claimed to have never read the settlement agreement, he argues that it doesn’t have any power because it was a document tied to Ashland College, not Ashland University. He essentially argued that Ashland College and Ashland University were not the same institution. The name was changed in 1989 to more accurately reflect what the institution had become.
• These terminations were done purely for financial reasons. In the year prior to Campo arriving on campus (academic year 2014-15), the university had somewhere close to $65 million in debt, versus just $41 million in its endowment (info according to AU’s IRS 990 form from that year). The university was also trying to refinance that debt, but since Moody’s had downgraded its credit rating to near junk bond status in 2014, it was finding it hard to find bond holders willing to refinance.
Campo actually testified that after the university’s academic programs completed its prioritization process, that information was turned over to the Board of Trustees who then told Campo to cut 15 percent of the faculty compensation budget. There was nothing from the BOT about academic programs or departments to be eliminated. They simply wanted to cut about $3 million.
• Which leads to another one of Campo’s arguments, and that’s that some of the restructuring that was done was to the university’s budget (remember, the FRR says that it must be an academic program or department that must be restructured, not the university budget). Campo even claimed that with the money saved by cutting tenured faculty, he could spend more on university athletics. Which AU did recently, when they started ESports as a varsity team, hired a coach and created a scholarship for FortNite players.
This should be distressing for anyone in higher education. What Campo is arguing is that he can terminate a faculty member anytime he wants, so long as he’s thought about it for a long time.
If Ashland University prevails in this lawsuit, then tenure there is dead.