Students protest faculty layoffs during Liberal Arts Symposium on Wednesday
“Say goodbye to your favorite professor.”
Students chanted “say goodbye to your favorite professor” in the Liberal Arts building Wednesday afternoon in response to the 40+ layoffs UCO President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar announced in a recent budget meeting on March 24.
The UCO Liberal Arts Symposium was taking place in the same building during the time of the protest.
This was not without risk, as UCO’s student code of conduct says that sanctions may be placed on students that “disrupt” a “planned event.”
Seconds before chants began, student organizers threw flyers from the upper balcony on the third floor, fluttering to the bottom level.
“I hope this protest helps the administration understand the concerns and fears not only from faculty but from students as well,” said Hannah Ash, a student at UCO, in a statement.
The recently announced changes include higher academic fees as well as a reduction in professors resulting in a higher student to professor ratio.
“We came to UCO with the promise of small class sizes, qualified professors, and cost effective tuition. Firing 40 tenured professors will not only jeopardize these promises mentioned previously but also the accreditation of UCO. #RIPUCO40,” Ash wrote.
There is a Twitter account for the movement at the handle @ripuco40 where updates will be shared, Ash said.
Neuhold-Ravikumar said in the budget meeting Thursday as well that “optimization” of full time faculty’s “available capacity” will take place, meaning a higher workload for professors.
The 40 positions to be eliminated will include the possibility of firing tenured and tenured-track professors. In addition, Neuhold-Ravikumar said, at present 18 vacant positions have been identified, and vacant positions will be eliminated before filled ones.
“I just really want to be involved with a lot of professors that I really care about, and the way that they’re being treated is not really fair. And I really want to make sure that they kind of get the voice and the support that they deserve,” said Tix Tennant-Hill, a funeral science major at UCO.
“It really shows the community that a lot of the professors have built with the students here, that so many of the students are willing to come out and do this type of thing in protection of them,” Tennant-Hill said.
The protest lasted about five minutes before dispersing.