Sunsetting of majors reflects “no confidence vote”

Julia Hines

Letter to the editor

On Friday, May 15, AU’s Faculty Senate almost unanimously approved a vote of “no confidence” in Dr. Campo’s abilities as president of the university. Faculty Senate President, Dr. Bonfiglio, wrote that Dr. Campo has “repeatedly demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to collaborate with the Faculty, communicate with the Faculty, or foster an atmosphere of trust and respect,” according to Ashland Source’s article on the vote.  

 Only a little over two months later, the university announced the decision to cut at least twenty undergraduate programs. While this decision has been attributed to COVID-19, students, faculty and staff alike have been saying for years that the administration is apathetic towards its own academic programs. 

As an English & Creative Writing alumna who recently graduated this past spring, I spent most of my classes in Bixler, the so-called “center for the humanities.” With water-damaged ceiling tiles—when the tiles aren’t already missing—and a consistently grimy ground floor that almost always floods in the summer, it’s no looker. On that same ground floor, there are (the only) unisex bathrooms in the building, the Multiliteracy Center and many faculty/staff offices. I could go on and on about all the various things the building needs fixed, but to avoid belaboring a point, for a university working on an initiative of “accent on writing,” it seems that they couldn’t care less about the students and faculty/staff who work there. This especially holds true when one looks at the tour guide manual and sees Bixler under the “Do Not Show on Any Tour” list.

In addition, one of the most egregious and well-known examples of the administration’s apathy is the Center for the Arts (CFA). Tour guides are also encouraged not to show CFA, though on the document, it’s listed under “Show if they ask or are interested.” In practice, tour guides are advised not to show it at all. Take all the water damage from Bixler, add leaking toilets and ceilings, plus an elevator everyone calls the “hellevator” for its incredibly terrifying jerks and halts. During my freshman year, for one of our choir sectionals, we were told to go find a space to practice. I don’t remember who, but someone mentioned using the “hellevator,” so all 8 of us got in. It took roughly 3-5 minutes for the elevator to go from one floor to another. At one point, we were worried it wouldn’t even make it, and we’d be stuck. The building also houses the office for the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Submitted by: Julia Hines

As someone who has many theatre friends—current students and alumni—I’ve often heard about their struggles in trying to work comfortably in that building, but somehow our theatre program consistently brings in audiences big enough to sell out shows. I’d wager a bet that it has to do with the amazing faculty, staff and students who run those shows, yet all but one theatre faculty/staff was fired this year because their positions were no longer “prudent to university operations,” according to an email a professor received. 

 If firing the majority of the faculty/staff wasn’t enough, AU’s theatre major was cut in the recent slashing of programs. When asked about it for a Times-Gazette article, Dr. Campo claimed, “The students made this decision more than we did. If students were coming to Ashland in droves for the theater program, it never would have been sunset … So while the board started this action, it was really students who decided by their registrations where they really want to focus and want to study. And that’s what we’re going to stay focused on.” 

Again, I’d like to reiterate that tour guides are encouraged not to show CFA, the building that theatre majors would spend most of their time. Why would prospective students choose a program the university has no pride in? Why does Dr. Campo blame students for not choosing a program that the university ignores? Perhaps if the Board of Trustees or Dr. Campo would advocate for donations to renovate CFA to create a better workspace that could actually rival other theatre programs, students would choose to come to Ashland University. Of course, that puts the responsibility on the administration rather than on a group of students who are paying them to do their jobs. 

Dr. Campo has shown time and time again that he has little respect for the university’s faculty, staff, or students. From destroying trust to the point that the Faculty Senate voted no confidence in his abilities, to his claims that students are the reason programs are cut, he has shown he values donors who will help him make another athletic center more than the people who make a university a place of education. 

When members of the Higher Learning Commission came to campus during 2018-2019, I distinctly remember students (including my own friend group) talking about how, if one of the officials came up and asked us about our experiences at Ashland, we would feel the need to lie so that AU could have its accreditation reaffirmed. The reasons had nothing to do with faculty and everything to do with the administration. 

I love Ashland University, and that’s why I care so much about the comments and decisions Dr. Campo has made. As the university that gave me my education, my friends, and so many experiences I’ve grown from, Ashland University deserves better than a president who blames his students. Staff deserve better. Faculty deserve better. Students deserve better. 

Because of this, I’m calling on Student Senate to either hold their own vote to determine whether they have confidence in Dr. Campo’s abilities, or to endorse Faculty Senate’s vote of no confidence. To current students: tell your senators how you feel. To current senators: listen to your peers.

It can feel impossible to stand up to an administration you think holds all the power to your education, but since Dr. Campo wants to blame students for the cutting of so many programs, it seems that students must have more power than we think. When there’s no trust or respect between an administration and the student body, there can be no progress, especially for a university who’s prided itself on the “Accent on the Individual.” 

Additionally, I’d like to point out a great example of people using anonymous means to raise awareness. The @dearashland account on Instagram collects anonymous stories from current students and alumni who have experienced distressing things at Ashland. So far, there have been stories about racism, sexism, homophobia and many more issues. With each story, the account “tags” Ashland University, hoping that maybe someday, students will be heard.