The Faculty Referendum

By Brian Brennan

In 1972, the faculty of Youngstown State University voted in a two-part referendum, which pitted the venerable campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors against the new and dynamic YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association. The outcome continues to influence present-day labor relations at YSU.

AAUP was founded in 1954 to defend academic freedom, tenure, due process and faculty prerogatives in university governance.

The organization saw itself as being first and foremost a professional organization, preferring the use of moral persuasion to advance individual faculty concerns; collective bargaining was viewed only as an additional means of achieving its goals.

Each AAUP chapter was autonomous, with very little — if any — centralized organizational or legal support.

YSU-OEA was formed in 1971 in response to the changing managerial climate on campus. For many years, faculty policy had been determined chiefly within the confines of each individual academic department.

As time passed, the administration became increasingly centralized. Many felt that the traditional, genteel ways of conducting business were becoming less effective as the administration grew more monolithic.

In addition, faculty gains through collective bargaining at other institutions pointed to a need for greater advocacy.

YSU-OEA faulted AAUP for its relative lack of resources. In a crisis, YSU-OEA could always request help from the OEA in Columbus, as well as from the National Education Association in Washington.

By comparison, AAUP appeared to lack “muscle.” YSU-OEA also opposed AAUP’s inclusion of administrators and part-time faculty on its membership rolls — YSU-OEA only represented full-time teaching faculty.

AAUP viewed the “industrial mentality” of YSU-OEA with utter disdain — the faculty consisted of professionals with degrees; their academic gowns were made of satin, not denim!

In addition, AAUP saw OEA as a teachers union working primarily for the benefit of Ohio’s public school employees. Since OEA had yet to negotiate a contract with any of Ohio’s colleges or universities, AAUP’s concern was valid. Today, OEA’s emphasis on K-12 still generates criticism among its members in higher education.

At the end of February 1972, the situation came to a head. A referendum was organized at the request of both associations and took place in two parts. The first ballot held on May 22 through 23 resulted in 71 percent of eligible faculty voting in favor of collective bargaining.

When the votes were counted after the second round May 30 through June 1, YSU-OEA emerged as the faculty’s sole bargaining agency, garnering 58 percent of the vote. The accounting firm of Ernst & Ernst certified the results.

YSU-OEA continues to defend the interests of the faculty.

Later, two additional campus unions were spawned under the auspices of the Ohio Education Association. These represent the university’s hourly civil service employees, the YSU Association of Classified Employees, and much of its degreed staff, the YSU Association of Professional and Administrative Staff.

AAUP soldiered on as a membership organization, but went into decline and faded away. The last membership roster on file in the University Archives was compiled in 1990 with 12 members listed — two of whom were unconfirmed.

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One thought on “The Faculty Referendum

  1. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was founded in 1915, NOT 1954. I write as a former national president of AAUP.

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