Four tenured faculty members at Wilberforce University have filed 14 complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, charging the school’s administration unlawfully placed them on sabbatical.
The complaints, which were filed Aug. 19, accuse the school of unilaterally violating its labor contract, unfairly disciplining the instructors and changing the terms and conditions of employment. All four are officers of the school’s faculty union.
Sources say that the professors involved include Richard Deering, union president and a longtime critic of several administrations. Deering referred questions to the union’s lawyer, Ted Copetas, who also declined to comment.
Sources say that the four professors were told they’d remain on leave until they met three requirements: obtaining 18 hours of coursework in the fields they teach, publishing at least one article in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal and delivering a scholarly paper at an academic conference.
The sabbaticals mean one-third of the school’s 12 tenured faculty have been placed on leave.
University officials also could not be reached for comment. But in an Aug. 3 press release, President Algeania Freeman announced a new “sabbatical program” for faculty. The release said that the program would help the school maintain its accreditation, which is in jeopardy.
According to the press release, the program will ensure faculty fulfill academic criteria set by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the agency that accredits colleges and universities in Ohio and other Midwestern and Southwestern states. The HLC requires faculty have at least 18 hours of academic courses in the discipline they’re teaching.
The release also says that the sabbatical enable faculty to satisfy several stipulations of the union contract that demand continuing scholarly activity and contributing to their academic disciplines through scholarly research.
The filings hint at continuing conflict at an institution known for a contentious relationship between faculty and administration. Members of the Wilberforce University Faculty Association joined students protesting former President Patricia Hardaway, who was Freeman’s immediate predecessor. The group said Hardaway was allowing the school to deteriorate financially and academically. Hardaway resigned in December 2013.
In 2012, the union also filed a complaint with the Ohio State Attorney General about the university’s Board of Trustees and its governance of the school. The allegations included the board overcompensated former President Floyd Flake, who earned more than $300,000 annually in salary and benefits. That complaint was dismissed.
Freeman was appointed president last year, after a search that saw several top candidates withdraw from consideration. She has a reputation for restoring fiscal stability while alienating faculty, staff and students. During her tenure as president of Martin University in Indianapolis from 2008 to 2010, seven members of the school’s 16-member Board of Trustees resigned, and students protested after she fired a popular instructor.