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February trustees meeting brings faculty and emotional goodbyes

A crowd made its way into the Marcum Hotel to listen to the board of trustees' reports on strategic planning and tenure and promotion.
A crowd made its way into the Marcum Hotel to listen to the board of trustees' reports on strategic planning and tenure and promotion.

On Friday morning, Feb. 23, more than 60 people packed themselves into the Marcum Hotel conference center and spilled out into the hallway for the board of trustees’ meeting. Most of the attendees were faculty who were showing support for the Faculty Alliance at Miami University (FAM), or their peers who were receiving promotion and tenure.

The meeting began with five speakers addressing the board about Miami’s faculty union as well as its librarian union. Kazue Harada, an associate professor in the German, Russian, Asian, and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures department which is one of the areas targeted as Miami eliminates majors, was one of the speakers. 

Harada introduced herself as a “recent U.S. immigrant who was sponsored by Miami University.” She expressed concern that the All-Faculty Committee for Evaluation of Administrators had been suspended by the board. She then urged the trustees to work with the union.

“I am addressing Miami’s and higher ed’s pressing need for change. These changes are real and serious,” Harada said. “This is not a manufactured crisis.”

Kate Rousmaniere, a professor of educational leadership and Oxford Township board of trustees member, approached the board to discuss the university’s decision to cut 18 majors.

“We know that of the 45 people on President [Gregory] Crawford’s ambitious THRIVE initiative, only six, or 13%, are full-time faculty,” Rousmaniere said. “We also know that of some of the majors that are being considered for abolition at Miami, some of them cost the university nothing because the faculty who work in them are already teaching these classes for other programs.”

Miami’s plans to update or transform these majors were addressed in a MiamiTHRIVE presentation from Brent Shock, vice president for enrollment management and student success. MiamiTHRIVE is a strategic planning program for the university.

During the presentation, Shock said that public perception of higher education was declining, with fewer students believing a bachelor’s degree would be beneficial. Shock also cited other universities that were eliminating programs, including Wright State University, which recently cut 34 programs. Shock demonstrated optimism that MiamiTHRIVE was working to better Miami’s programs.

“I’ve read the North Hall and South Hall had to bring their own firewood to heat their stoves to heat their residence halls … Those resident halls still exist and are heated by geothermal,” Shock said. “I think for me that represents the fact that Miami University has moved forward, has succeeded, has changed, has adapted to the times and has thrived over the last 200 years that we’ve been offering classes. So I don’t believe that our story is far from finished.”

During the meeting, Miami Provost Liz Mullenix introduced the 44 librarians and faculty who were up for tenure and/or promotion. This included 14 faculty who were promoted to full professor, one who was promoted to full professor with tenure, two faculty who were given tenure, 19 who were given tenure and promotion to associate professor, one librarian who was promoted to principal librarian and seven librarians who were promoted to associate librarians.

The meeting also included three goodbyes, two to trustees and one to student body president Nyah Smith. Smith gave an emotional speech that brought her to tears about her time at Miami, talking about doing classes in her bedroom during the COVID-19 pandemic and questioning if Miami was the place for her.

She discussed some of her highs at Miami, such as making university history as part of the first all-Black ticket for the student body president, and some of her struggles, such as when she had to get a job as a front desk ambassador at Armstrong Student Center to help pay off the rest of her tuition.

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“We live in a world of inequities and injustice. However, I encourage you all to not lose sight or track of continuing to be better, doing the work and showing up for all of those that make up our community, even at a time where it is becoming increasingly difficult for institutions of higher education to participate in this work,” Smith said. “The thought that there's still work to be done does not frighten me though.”

The goodbyes also included John Pascoe and Jack Fazio, whose terms as trustees concluded with this meeting. As Pascoe said goodbye, he announced he would start the Pascoe Family RedHawk Racing Fund to support members of the RedHawk Racing organization.

Photo by Luke Macy | The Miami Student
Board of trustees chair Mary Schell presented Jack Fazio with a stole recognizing his service on the board.

Fazio, a student trustee member for two years, reflected on his Miami experience and talked about a family friend named Bill who inspired him to come to the university. Fazio explained that Bill had polio and didn’t get the typical high school experience, but that changed when he got to Miami.

“He began to become the man that I would look up to so much,” Fazio said. “All because one school and its students had stopped telling him no and had truly accepted him.”

Fazio said Bill wore a lot of Miami gear and never got to see Fazio commit to the university. Fazio then revealed that the Miami tie he had been wearing to every trustees meeting was a gift he had received from Bill after his death and was a tribute to the man who inspired him.

The board of trustees’ next scheduled meeting is for May 15-17.