The Kent State Board of Trustees voted unanimously to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement between the university and the tenure and tenure-track faculty members at its meeting on Wednesday. 

“We are committed to providing the best wages and most generous benefits possible to all our employees while remaining fiscally responsible,” said Todd Diacon, Executive Vice President, Provost and President-elect. “We know we were able to accomplish this goal with this contract.”

The agreement, which covers four academic years, includes a 2% raise each academic year, except for the 2019 to 2020 year, when the raise will be 2.5%. The added .5% will counteract the increase in health care benefits costs. A merit awards pool of funds in year 2021 to 2022 will be 2%.

On June 14, members of the faculty union, the American Association of University Professors, voted to accept the agreement. 

Chief Negotiator of the Kent State chapter of AAUP Deborah C. Smith announced the results of last weeks vote in an email to the tenure and tenure track faculty members of AAUP-KSU. 

Smith said of the members who voted, “96.12% voted ‘yes,’” and said with a voter turnout of a little over 66% it was “a fairly strong showing for a vote conducted while faculty are off contract.”

Additionally, the Board voted to approve tuition rates and special program fees for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year. 

The approved tuition rates will increase by $185, or about 3.5% annually, for incoming in-state freshman. Under the Tuition Guarantee program, tuition, room and board will remain the same for those incoming students for the next four years. 

Tuition will increase 2% for students who aren’t covered by the Tuition Guarantee program, according to the press release.

“Setting tuition is one of the most important things we do as an administration and as a Board of Trustees,” said President Beverly Warren. “It’s a serious consideration, a consideration of value, a consideration of affordability and accessibility… so we really value this opportunity to provide students and their families with the dream of a college degree.”

To offset the approved increases in tuition, the Board approved a $2 million increase in scholarships and grants for students with financial need.

Included in the approved special programs fees was a $20 mental health and substance abuse fee each semester for both undergraduate and graduate students. The money will be used to add new mental health professional positions and fund the expansion of mental health training programs. 

According to a press release sent out after the meeting, all approved tuition rates from Wednesday’s meeting are subject to the governor’s approval of the Ohio state budget.

In attendance at Wednesday’s meeting was newly appointed board member and mayor of Aurora, Ann Womer Benjamin. Benjamin was appointed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and will replace Margot Copeland, whose term ended on June 21. 

The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for September 11, 2019.

Abigail Miller is the managing editor of KentWired. Contact her at amill241@kent.edu.

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